Alabama catfish farmers will vote Jan. 22 on continuing the state’s catfish checkoff program for an additional five years at an increased collection rate. The proposal would increase the amount collected from 50 cents per ton of catfish feed sold to $1 per ton to fund additional research projects.
Of the increased funding, $50,000 will go to Auburn University for research on catfish Aeromonas disease. Caused by a bacteria, the disease is currently incurable and causing dramatic catfish losses for Alabama farmers.
“We hope researchers will find a cure or a vaccine to prevent the disease,” said Perry County catfish farmer Paul Wheeler, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Catfish Committee. “Aeromonas doesn’t kill baby fish; it kills grown catfish. It’s devastating. Not only are farmers losing catfish, but they’re losing all the investment they put into raising the fish.”
Alabama’s Aeromonas outbreak started in the summer of 2009, according to researchers. In five years, it’s estimated the disease is responsible for more than $12 million in catfish losses across the Southeast.
“Catfish farming is a major part of Alabama’s economy, especially in Black Belt counties, but a cure for this disease must be found to keep catfish farming viable,” said Federation Catfish Division Director Rick Oates.
The Federation State Catfish Committee supports the increased checkoff, which was first approved in 1989 to fund research, educational and promotional efforts. Continuation of the program was unanimously approved in 2010 and 2005.
Catfish farmers who purchased feed in the past year, but not less than 30 days prior to the referendum, are eligible to vote. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22.
Visit tinyurl.com/CatfishPoll15 for a list of polling places.