|Catfish ID bill advances|
A proposal that would require Louisiana restaurants to reveal the country of origin of any catfish on the menu passed through the state House of Representatives last week.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, who called the measure "an important step" to protecting the state's $30 million catfish industry.
State Sen. Neil Riser said the bill is a two-fold benefit for the state.
"Number one, it protects our people against foods that might be toxic," said Riser, R-Columbia. "Number two, it protects the catfish farming industry, which is a huge industry in my district."
If the bill becomes law, all restaurants serving catfish would be required to prominently announce the nation of origin of any catfish on their menu.
State Sen. Francis Thompson said the bill "levels the playing field a bit" for Louisiana catfish producers who have to compete with cheaper, foreign fish.
"Louisiana producers have to continue to secure a larger share of the market," said Thompson, D-Delhi. "If they're competing with a cheaper product, it puts them at a disadvantage."
Ellington said if the bill passes the Senate, it would give area catfish farmers a much needed boost in restaurants without harming those establishments.
"It just requires the country of origin of the catfish to be disclosed," Ellington said. "If they are going to serve catfish from outside the United States, they have to tell the people buying it."
Thompson said the bill was about consumer awareness and food quality.
"There may be nothing wrong with them, "But, by the time they get here from Vietnam, after freezing and shipping, the fish just doesn't taste as good as domestic catfish."
Meanwhile in the state Senate, a proposal to adjust the state's worker's compensation system is making its way through.
Riser introduced Senate Bill 303 in the hope of ensuring workers receive needed medical treatment in a timely fashion.
"Right now, someone could be injured and, before they get the medical attention they need, because of legalities, lawsuits and such, it could be weeks before they get the medical treatment they need," Riser said.
Riser said the proposal was the result of a lot of cooperation between labor leaders, industry and the medical community to address known issues within the state's current worker's compensation system.
The ultimate goal of the proposal, however, was to get injured workers out of the system in an efficient manner while still providing needed care.
"This bill is to take care of the injured individual, to get them medical attention they need, and return them to work as soon as possible," Riser said.