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Animal health critical in next farm bill

Tri-State Neighbor - 6/16/2018

We are particularly encouraged that the committee appears poised to accede to our request to prioritize funding for animal health programs for our nation's aquaculture, livestock and poultry producers. An outbreak of a foreign animal disease such as foot and mouth disease or avian influenza has the ability to cripple the entire agricultural sector and have long-lasting ramifications for the economic viability of U.S. aquaculture, livestock and poultry production.

It is critical that the new farm bill provide full funding to address these risks to animal health while likewise bolstering the long-term ability of U.S. animal agriculture to be competitive in the global marketplace and provide consumers around the world safe, wholesome, affordable food produced in a sustainable manner.

As you are aware, the Animal Agriculture Coalition has called on Congress, in the 2018 Farm Bill, to establish and fully fund a permanent three-pronged program to deliver the sufficient development and timely deployment of all measures necessary to prevent, identify and rapidly respond to the potential catastrophic impacts that an animal disease outbreak would have on our country's food security, export markets, and overall economic stability.

It is essential that the U.S. Department of Agriculture'sAnimal and Plant Health Inspection Service, state animal health officials and stakeholders involved in animal agriculture have:

(1) early detection, prevention and rapid response tools to address any potential animal disease outbreak;

(2) robust laboratory capacity for surveillance; and

(3) a viable stockpile of vaccine to rapidly respond to the intentional or unintentional introduction of a high consequence disease like FMD.

We cannot wait. The arrival of highly pathogenic AI in our country in 2014 clearly demonstrated the implications of these diseases, both financially and from an animal welfare standpoint. In that outbreak, the direct cost to taxpayers was nearly $1 billion, while the costs to the poultry industry were more than $3 billion.

Livestock producers are particularly concerned about the potential introduction of FMD. FMD is at this time the most important transboundary animal disease in the world and presents the greatest economic threat to U.S. animal agriculture. Recent studies indicate the cumulative 10-year loss due to an uncontrolled FMD outbreak would be $199.8 billion.

We are aware that in these early stages of farm bill development, proposed funding levels for this new critical program may not reach the levels we believe are necessary. While we are encouraged by what we believe to be the initial proposal, we urge you to continue to identify additional funding sources so that we can ultimately establish in this farm bill a fully funded, permanent animal disease prevention, detection and rapid response program.

More than 100 organizations related to animal agriculture signed this letter, which was sent to the House Agriculture Committee. The letter and list of signers is at https://bit.ly/2Lwi1SK.

 
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