Catfish farmers address industry issues

Published 4:09 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Catfish farmers and others vested in the industry held a meeting Wednesday at the Demopolis Civic Center to discuss losses like rising feed prices and sinking profits.

“This meeting is really about survival,” Bill Hemstreet, a representative for the Alabama Fish Farming Center. “It is a chance to brainstorm ideas on all sides of the industry so we can work together to solve the problems and move forward.”

Partly because of drought in the Midwest, the catfish industry has seen rising feed cost. The industry is also competing against less expensive imports from Asia.

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“We have to make progress because in the past few years we have lost acreage in Mississippi,” Hemstreet said.

Terry Hanson, associate professor at Auburn and economist, said hog farmers faced similar problems in 1998.

“The problem we are seeing is (farmers are) producing fish, but (there’s) no outlet,” he said.

Some of the ideas discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included the need for direct marking and branding.

One meeting attendee said, just as golden arches have come to indicate McDonald’s, there is a need for branding for U.S.-farm raised catfish.

Moving forward, there will be smaller meeting in the near future to plan implementation of some of the ideas.

“This meeting, to us, is an emergency,” Hemstreet said. “We have to get everyone on the same page and work together.”