EDITORIAL: Fair shrimp tax

By NEMS Daily Journal

Three Mississippi lawmakers – U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of the 4th District, all Republicans – were prime influencers in a vote Tuesday by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to approve a five-year extension of antidumping duties protecting U.S. shrimpers from unfair import practices.
The Mississippi lawmakers argued that the antidumping duties imposed in 2005 remain necessary to protect the Gulf Coast shrimp industry, which has been battered by hurricanes, the recession and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The antidumping tariffs apply to frozen warmwater shrimp imports from Brazil, China, India, Thailand and Vietnam. The ITC voted 5-1 on Tuesday to extend the current duties until 2016 on all five countries.
”The ITC correctly recognized that the antidumping duty order is needed to give the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico a chance to compete, survive and prosper,” Cochran said. “Shrimping is not an easy business, but it is a time-honored way of life on the Gulf Coast.”
“The decision to continue antidumping orders on foreign shrimp is a significant victory not only for the Mississippi shrimping industry but also for American consumers,” said Wicker. “After the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, a serious recession, and the Gulf oil spill, American shrimpers and seafood processors deserve a chance to preserve their way of life.”
Palazzo, who represents the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said the industry can continue to recover “unimpeded.”
Shrimping is a major food production industry in our state. Mississippi shrimp production totaled about 10 million pounds in 2009, a 26 percent increase compared to 7.8 million pounds in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. The 2009 season was valued at almost $13 million, and the industry had an estimated $115 million economic impact on the state.
“It gives us the opportunity to continue to play on a level playing field,” said C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association, whose members produce about 75 percent of the shrimp in the Gulf.
The ITC action took only a few minutes, but it was preceded by hours of testimony and findings of adverse impact by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Commerce Department found that removal of the tariffs would have led to a renewal of “dumping” shrimp from the other five shrimp-producing nations.
While shrimp industry officials acknowledge that American shrimpers cannot meet nationwide demand, a fair market can keep the American industry in business against the cheaper production in other nations.