Some supermarket catfish comes from Vietnam, and catfish imports are severely restricted. These restrictions have been nurtured over the past 15 years by Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and his allies from adjoining states. The senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee works hard to keep imports, from Southeast Asia and mostly from Vietnam, off American tables. Mr. Cochran almost lost his seat in the Senate two years ago and he may owe survival to the catfish.
He has managed to move responsibility for catfish inspection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generally responsible for fish, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where it looks after beef, pork and poultry. (They’re big in Mississippi, too.)