Gov. Bobby Jindal's Shrimp Task Force met for the second time last week in search of answers that could help harvesters and processors rebound from one of the most challenging times in the industry's long history in Louisiana. Domestic inventories have piled up to equal about half of the annual U.S. consumption rate, cheap imports are dominating the marketplace, recovery from recent hurricanes is ongoing and prices for raw material continue to increase.
While task force members heard ideas about hiking the excise tax on barrels of imported shrimp, pushing a new branding program and increasing quality inspections, the suggestions that had bureaucrats shifting in their chairs and forcing laughs involved moving the shrimp industry from the purview of the Wildlife and Fisheries Department to the Agriculture Department. It's not far-fetched — the Agriculture Department already oversees crawfish, another form of aquaculture, and it already has teams of inspectors and a nationally recognized branding program for its products. That said, political realities would never allow such a move to happen.
"We have no enforcement arm to do that kind of thing," Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says, "but you will see a longstanding relationship formed with our department and the shrimp industry. There are a lot of ways we can cooperate." Even if the proposal somehow makes it to the Legislature, it probably won't clear its first committee hurdle. "That's just not going to happen," adds Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. — Jeremy Alford