Listening to testimony during Monday’s meeting of the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force are Cathy Breaux of the Louisiana Workforce Commission; Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina; Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain; and David Guilbeau, director of the Department of Health and Hospitals’ Commercial Seafood Program.
Photos by Jeremy Alford
Louisiana Shrimp Task Force members heard the usual clarion calls for new branding techniques and increased inspections last week, but their regular meeting also gave way to sometimes-bitter exchanges between harvesters and processors. The bad blood between commercial shrimpers and the outfits that buy what they pull in runs deep and is firmly rooted in money.
Some fishermen believe these industry middlemen are fixing prices and conspiring to drive down dockside prices. Many are also still smarting that processors, of which there are now about 17 in Louisiana, have received double the amount of money as compared to fishermen from a federal tariff on imported shrimp — a battle that was waged nearly a decade ago for a tax that’s no longer being collected. “That’s what we got for working together,” shrimper Ronnie Anderson of Houma told the task force during the public comments portion at the meeting’s end.
About an hour prior to that, as the task force handled its regular agenda, Anderson attempted to show members a set of photos he alleged contained proof of wrongdoing by a processor and involving packaging. The move quickly drew Eddie Hayes, an attorney for the American Shrimp Processors Association, to voice an objection from his seat. “I’m not your lawyer,” Hayes told Anderson, “but I would not advise you to do that.”
Another just as intense — and obscure — moment occurred after Danny Babin of Houma, who represents processors on the task force, asked that an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office be requested on whether a processor could stop doing business with a harvester involved in a lawsuit alleging price-fixing. “I don’t want to pay someone who may be suing me,” Babin said of the request, which was unanimously endorsed by the processor advisory panel he represents.
Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina said he heard stories about shrimpers — there are roughly 3,000 licensed in Louisiana — meeting with a law firm regarding what he thought could potentially be a “class action.” When he asked if any of the shrimpers present would be willing to divulge something regarding the gatherings, loud and deliberate chuckles erupted from the middle of the audience where shrimpers sat huddled together. But no answer was provided.
State Rep. Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, told task force members later that the New Orleans law firm of Herman, Herman, Katz and Cotlar had recently met with shrimpers at the Larose Civic Center and asked them to bring three years’ worth of trip tickets, which reveal catch totals and other relevant information. “They were on a fact-finding mission,” Gisclair said with a laugh.
In related action, the task force heard a list of ideas that could result in legislation during next year’s regular session. Commercial fishermen have been protesting and lobbying elected officials to do something about the low price of shrimp, which is chiefly being driven by imported product. While that’s clearly a federal issue, there are a number of proposals being floated that could be addressed on the state level.
Processors, for instance, voted to request legislation that would increase the shrimp excise tax by 25 cents a barrel to go toward marketing efforts and to require restaurants to disclose where their shrimp come from on their menus. Harvesters, meanwhile, want the state to increase funding for testing imports for health reasons, a well-known argument mounted against foreign shrimp producers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal created the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force last month, and it had only met once before last week’s meeting. During this interim, two of its subcommittees — the Shrimp Harvester Advisory Panel and Shrimp Processor Advisory Panel — also met for the first time. It was clear during this week’s meeting, however, that the harvesters and processors had not yet sat down together. “There’s nothing stopping the two advisory panels from meeting,” Pausina said after an off-the-cuff exchange between Anderson and Babin over prices.
No formal date was set, or agreement reached, but both sides expressed a willingness to try and work together, despite animosities and what has become generational angst. “I think most people should realize that it took us almost seven years just to get to this point where we’re talking,” said Lafitte fishermen Clint Guidry, who represents shrimpers on the task force. “This is our last hoorah. What we do here determines whether we have a shrimp industry to give our children.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.