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Dishonest marketing of catfish imports

I've invested some money in a catfish farm and your article about catfish labeling caught my attention. I know there has been an on running dispute regarding the importation of fish into the United States as catfish.

I don't mind imported anything, provided there is proper labeling indicating what the consumer is actually buying. This is just part of my overall approach to life, which runs against the financial interests of many groups.

This extends to such things as use of hormones and other chemicals in the production of meat. Again, I've nothing against the use of these items, provided I have the information available at the time of purchase to make my decision.

It might make a difference to me if the treated meat costs a dollar a pound more. Or maybe it won't. It might make a difference today and won't tomorrow. I just want honesty on the part of the providers.

I think there is a big difference between Vietnamese fish raised in the Mekong and fish raised in ponds here in the United States.

It is dishonest to market these fish in a way to imply they are farm-raised catfish.

Of course, the political arguments broke down to these absurd discussions about what is a catfish. These arguments missed the whole point. The fish from Vietnam are not perceived by the market as good as those raised in farm ponds; that's why they go to great lengths to hide their true origins.

I will be interested to see if the law requiring labeling is actually enforced.
Jack A. Simmons
Denver, Colo.

Saving Louisiana's rice production

I began farming right out of high school in 1979. Farming is in my blood. I remember following my Dad and Grandfather in the fields, thinking how much fun it was. There is always something to do on a farm.

Well, it's not fun any more and there is too much to do with very little money.

Our problem did not just happen overnight. It began some 30 years ago. Louisiana used to be the largest rice producer in the United States.

In fact, Crowley was at one time the rice capital of America.

Back in 1970, Louisiana rice farmers planted 525,000 acres, more than any other state.

Texas was second with 469,000 acres, followed by Arkansas with 468,000 and California with 333,000s. Mississippi planted 52,000 acres, while Missouri had only about 5,000.

Rice acres were controlled by acreage allotments. We could not plant more than our allotment without facing penalties.

After the 1973 rice crop (when, by the way, rice was sold for $30 per bbl), our government thought rice could be exported overseas by shiploads.

Rice allotments were suspended, and in just two years, acres increased 30 percent. By 1976, the first government deficiency payments on rice production were paid.

By 1980, rice acreage in Arkansas increased 278 percent to 1.3 million acres. Mississippi increased acreage 500 percent to 250,000 acres. Louisiana increased only 17 percent from 1970 to 1980.

For the past 30 years, our government has been trying to fix the problem with different farm bills. Today, prices are at 40-year lows, Louisiana is losing farmers, and history is being rewritten.

Louisiana rice growers need to come together and fight for our industry before we lose too many farmers. If we lose our farmers, we lose our communities.

The present farm bill is not the answer. It encourages over-production while still trying to depend on export markets. We have good domestic markets that are not being taking advantage of.

Our domestic markets are being subsidized by government payments at world market prices.

We need to subsidize only export markets, not domestic markets. This would save taxpayers money and not encourage over-production.

We can no longer bring rice producers down to third world countries and expect us to compete with mules and donkeys. If Louisiana rice growers can come together with producers in mind and not take compromises anymore, we might just be able to save our industry.

I do not want to be a part of history that did not stand up and fight for what our fathers and grandfathers fought for: to be able to do what we love to do — just farm the land!
Tommy Sarver
Rice farmer
Acadia Parish, La.

No reason to delay disaster assistance

Editor's Note: The following was written to area congressmen and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. It is being printed in Delta Farm Press with the permission of the author.

I am writing this letter in regards to the disaster bill, which was recently passed. I applaud your efforts for providing much-needed disaster assistance. By doing this you provided the greatest stimulation and economic boost that the agricultural economy could have received.

I spoke with the Farm Service Agency and they said it would be August before signup would begin. I did anticipate a two- or three-month wait because of the workload that FSA already had, but August is a long time from now.

We are talking about losses that a farmer sustained about two years ago. That's an awful long time to make a farmer wait on money he deserved two years ago. Most of these farmers are just hanging on by a thread and cannot even get a crop loan this year. Some may have to go out of business if they have to wait until August.

So I respectfully ask that if in any way possible, can we implement the process sooner? If we used the 2000 disaster program regulations and guidelines, the only thing we would have to do is maybe update the software. You would not have to write a complete new program.

This could probably be done in the next 30 days. Probably 90 percent or more of your farmers will be signed up in the other farm programs in the next 60 days. So there's no reason to delay the disaster signup that long.

Farmers need to and will sign up within the next 60 days because when April and May hits they have to be in the fields working.

I'm asking this on behalf of all the farmers who suffered losses because they are struggling and hurting now. You have passed the bill and funded it; so let's not delay putting it in place.

I know we are facing difficult times now with all the uncertainty of war, but we must not lose our focus on our domestic issues and affairs that we face everyday. The agriculture industry is suffering more than any other industry out there today, so let's not make matters worse by delaying aid already passed and funded. With a little help from everyone I know we can implement this program sooner.

Thanks for everything you have already done. I know your plates are full, and so far you've done a marvelous job, but we are still in the struggle to survive and maintain. Let us all continue to pray, put forth our best efforts, and maintain our faith in God, and I know and believe that together we shall overcome.
Abraham Carpenter Jr.
Grady, Ark.

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