Catfish Products Among Commodities USDA Will Buy to Support American Agriculture, Nutrition Assistance Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), today expressed confidence that Mississippi catfish producers and processors will benefit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to purchase $30.0 million in surplus food for distribution to food banks and community support programs.

Hyde-Smith, as she has in previous years, recently pressed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use his authority to purchase surplus U.S. commodities for distribution to domestic food assistance programs.  The USDA on Monday announced it will purchase $470 million in surplus food, including catfish, poultry, sweet potatoes, and other goods.

“The coronavirus has depressed the market for catfish and other commodities, and Secretary Perdue is right to exercise his power to use an existing program to purchase surplus food that can be directed toward food banks,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Mississippi producers and processing facilities will benefit from this action which is really a win-win for them and for people who need help getting food during these difficult days,” she said.

Perdue is using his authority under “Section 32,” a permanently-authorized program, to make emergency purchases of surplus U.S. commodities for distribution to domestic food assistance programs.  The program is funded through a 30 percent appropriation of the previous year’s customs receipts collected by the U.S. Government from imported products.
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will provide details for produces on its Selling Food to USDA page, and solicitations will be posted on the Open Purchases Request website once available. 

In early April, Hyde-Smith led an outreach to Perdue asking him to use emergency supplemental funding and other authorities to assist farm-raised fish producers and processors.

Mississippi is the nation’s leading catfish producing state, with 208 operations and eight processing plants.  In 2019, the industry generated $172 million value of production, according to the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.