If crawfish farmers and crustacean aficionados are looking for a banner-bearer, they need look no further than rookie Rep. Fred H. Mills, Jr., a Democrat from Parks. The spunky Cajun is sponsoring what promises to be two of the most controversial mudbug-related bills during the upcoming regular session that opens March 31.
For an appetizer, Mills is serving up House Bill 501, which would transfer the management and regulation of wild-caught crawfish from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The latter already oversees pond operations and spearheaded an international trade suit during the 1990s, which has long left many in the industry wondering why the Ag folks don’t oversee the whole shebang.
Mills' main course, however, can be found in House Bill 266, which would force restaurants to notify their customers if the crawfish they’re serving is from a foreign country. If the law passes, all eateries - from Commander’s Palace to the mom-and-pop shop down the street - would have to update their menus.
Shrimpers tried the same trick a few years ago, but were aggressively shot down by the influential Louisiana Restaurant Association. Mills should expect more of the same, especially since his bill calls for fines of up to $500 or jail time of 90 days for first-time offenders.