Food safety is for naught if animal diseases are not kept at bay. The federal Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program is funded through the so-called Farm Bill. And 120 groups representing animal agriculture late this week let Senate conferees know the 2018 Farm Bill does not provide enough money to prevent animal diseases.

Differing versions of the 2018 Farm Bill have already passed the House and Senate and conferees working in a conference committee have been working on a compromise for the past three weeks. So, the process is down to the wire. The official name of the legislation is “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.” It will set funding levels for 2019-2023.

“An outbreak of a foreign animal disease, such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) or Avian Influenza (Al), has the ability to cripple the entire agriculture sector and create long-lasting ramifications for the economic viability to U.S. aquaculture, livestock, and poultry production,” says the Aug. 15 letter. “It is critical that the new Farm Bill provide permanent, 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.”

The letter signed by virtually every state and national group involved in animal agriculture. About half of all farm cash receipts in the United States involve animal agriculture and over half when receipts for crops used for animal feed are included in the totals.

Both the House and Senate version of H.R. 2, the number assigned to the2018  Farm Bill, includes funding for the animal disease programs. The letter does not mention an exact figure for “full funding,” but it does outline what is needed from a programmatic viewpoint.

It says it is “essential” that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), state animal health officials and stakeholders involving in animal agriculture sufficient funding for:

  • Early detection, prevention, and rapid response tools to address any potential disease outbreak;
  • Robust laboratory capacity for surveillance and diagnostics to enable timely action; and
  • 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 letter continues. “The arrival of highly pathogenic Al (avian influenza)  in our country in 2014 clearly demonstrated the implication of these diseases, both financially and from an animal welfare standpoint. In that outbreak, the direct cost of taxpayers was nearly $1 billion, while the cost to the poultry industry was more than $3 billion.”

According to the letter, livestock producers fear FMD,  described as “the most significant transboundary animal disease in the world and perhaps the greatest economic threat to U.S. animal agriculture.” Experts say an “uncontrolled” FMD outbreak in the U.S. would result in a 10-year loss pegged at almost $200 billion.

The letter ends by simply urging the Senate conferees to include the “necessary funds” in the 2018 Farm Bill to develop “the gold standard” in animal disease programs.

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