Will local shrimpers ever benefit from tariffs?

Another side to the Byrd Amendment …

Daily Comet Thibodaux, LA

The federal government may be crawfishing on its commitment to collect tariff payments for commercial fishermen.

Domestic crawfish producers filed their own anti-dumping petition in the late 1990s out of fear that foreign competitors could shutter the local marketplace. Chinese tail meat was so inexpensive during the period, in fact, that dozens of Louisiana processors — many in Acadiana — did end up going out of business.

When the Department of Commerce initiated tariffs on the foreign competitors in 2001, the move brought some relief to domestic interests. Louisiana’s crawfish industry has received $25.4 million since that time.

If the repeal passes, however, that same money would end up going to the U.S. Treasury in coming years.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom, who partly oversaw the crawfish tariff initiative, said he hopes Congress will not only preserve the current Byrd Amendment but even consider expanding it to include crawfish farmers, not just processors.

“We fought long and hard to get the tariffs in place, and the money collected rightfully belongs to the industry,” Odom said.

But unlike their crawfish brethren, Louisiana shrimpers have yet to receive a dime.

Scott St. Pierre, a Galliano-based commercial shrimper, said he has grown increasingly discouraged. Like others, he scrambled to fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for Byrd Amendment money but was disappointed by the end result.

“A check for zero dollars,” he said. “Are they not collecting the tariff? I don’t know.”

the Byrd Amendment has only benefited a handful of large companies around the U.S. — five companies received nearly 40 percent of the total distributions over four years

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