The Mississippi gulf coast shrimp industry is closely watching a number of proposed bills in Congress that could have a big impact when it comes to imports. MPB's Evelina Burnett reports, Mississippi shrimpers caught 8.8 million pounds of shrimp in 2013, but the majority of shrimp Americans eat comes from overseas.
Golden Gulf Coast Packing Company owner Richard Gollott has been in the shrimp business for more than 30 years. During that time, shrimp consumption in the U.S. has doubled – but most of the shrimp we eat is now imported from abroad, mostly southeast Asia. These imports have brought prices down but, Gollott says, it's also made life difficult for American shrimpers.
"It's a double-edged sword," Gollott says. "Yes, a lot more people are consuming shrimp, but being on the other end, where I see people losing their houses and their cars and their life - that's not good. It needs to be a level playing field, that way everyone can make it."
The shrimp industry has argued some foreign governments are unfairly subsidizing shrimp imports. David Veal with the American Shrimp Processors Association says a bill introduced last month, called Leveling the Playing Field, would improve the ability of the commerce department and international trade commission to make sure U.S. industries are treated fairly.
"This problem is not a problem just for the shrimp industry," he says. "It's a problem for the steel industry, and the American tire industry, the American honey industry - and dozens of industries where imports are devastating an American industry for one reason or another. Not that we mind competing with a foreign business - it's competing with a foreign government that's the problem."
A separate bill introduced in Congress last week would require that one-fifth of all imported shrimp be inspected. Currently, less than 2 percent is tested.