By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

The USDA-NASS reinstatement of its trout report came as a pleasant surprise to Idaho's trout industry.

The agency decided to ax the report, along with 13 others it would eliminate or reduce, in mid-October, but announced it was reinstating the report, along with nine others, on Dec. 9.

"It's good news (but) it certainly was a surprise to me. I thought that was a done deal," said Gary Fornshell, University of Idaho extension aquaculture educator in Twin Falls.

The annual report includes number of trout farms; the number, pounds, and value of fish and eggs produced; the point of first sale; and losses by cause by state and 16-state total.

It is used by Fornshell and other extension personnel to look for trends in the industry and educate the public on the economic impact of Idaho's aquaculture industry, he said.

"I think they're pretty important," he said.

The statistics are also used by industry to show its economic value when dealing with policy issues and is used by academia when asking for research funding, he said.

Reinstatement of the report would suggest there was some pushback from industry, he added.

The reports were eliminated because of budget considerations, and were reinstated after a NASS review found other cost savings, according to the agency.

"That's good. It speaks well for NASS. We also recognize the U.S. government does need to do things better. They don't have enough money," said Randy MacMillan, vice president of research and environmental affairs for trout producer Clear Springs Foods in Buhl.

MacMillan also serves on the board of directors for the National Aquaculture Association and is the liaison between the Association and U.S. Trout Farmers Association.

Clear Springs doesn't use the data on a day-to-day basis, but it is useful for long-term planning and tracking trends in the industry, he said.

It is also useful to regulatory agencies for determining such things as effluent requirements, guidelines for drug use, tracking disease, and animal traceability. And it gives the industry credibility when it takes its needs before federal agencies, he said.

Fish-feed producer Rangen Inc. in Buhl uses the report to keep track of trends in the aquaculture industry, but it's not the primary document the company relies on for planning, said Joy Kinyon, aquaculture division manager.

"We review them (the reports), they're part of the package, but we're more geared toward our specific customers rather then the general numbers,' he said.

The trout report will follow its previously scheduled release date, Feb. 24. NASS also reinstated its catfish reporting.

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