Coons co-introduces bipartisan HPAI legislation
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced last week the Healthy Poultry Assistance and Indemnification Act alongside 11 of their Senate colleagues.
The bipartisan bill would expand the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service compensation program to all poultry growers and layer operations within a highly pathogenic avian influenza control area, rather than only those whose flocks are infected.
Last year, the American poultry industry was hit with its worst-ever HPAI outbreak.
The outbreak affected 47 states and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to poultry growers and layer operations, driving food inflation even higher for Americans’ most cost-effective animal protein sources.
“Delaware has the largest per capita chicken industry in the country, and Delaware’s independent family farmers and poultry growers are all too aware of the harm avian flu can cause after last year’s outbreak,” Coons said. “This bipartisan bill would ensure that every farmer who does their part to contain an outbreak is fairly compensated for their financial harm, and it simplifies the compensation process so farmers can get back on their feet quickly after losing their flock. As co-chair of the Senate Chicken Caucus, I urge my colleagues to support this bill that will ensure a robust poultry supply chain, keep food costs low, and assist our hardworking farmers.”
Under current APHIS policies, all poultry farms located within 10-kilometer radius of a HPAI case are disallowed from placing flocks until the virus is contained. Afterward, all growers who have positive tests in their flocks receive compensation from the USDA, but not those within the 10-kilometer control area whose flocks don’t contract HPAI.
As a result, while these growers undergo many of the same financial struggles as those whose flocks contract the virus, they aren’t compensated for their compliance with efforts to help contain HPAI. This bill would rectify that so all growers in the control area are duly compensated, according to the sponsors.
Wicker said, “As every farmer knows, unexpected events can take a heavy toll. Recent avian flu outbreaks hurt poultry growers and layers, and control areas made it harder for them to recover. This legislation would compensate workers in affected zones so they can get back to producing quickly.”
In addition to Coons and Wicker, it is cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin, D-Md., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., John Fetterman, D-Pa., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
The bill has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Chicken Council, United Egg Producers, Delmarva Chicken Association, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delta Council, Delaware Farm Bureau, Mississippi Farm Bureau, Maryland Farm Bureau, South Carolina Farm Bureau, Iowa Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Michigan Farm Bureau, Georgia Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Virginia Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farm Bureau, North Carolina Farm Bureau, Missouri Farm Bureau, Tennessee Farm Bureau, Alabama Farm Bureau, Indiana Farm Bureau.
“Empowering the USDA to compensate the full set of chicken growers whose incomes are affected by avian influenza outbreaks is smart policy, and DCA’s members are pleased to see this progress in the effort to make that policy the law,” said Holly Porter, executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association. “We greatly appreciate Senator Coons, Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, and the rest of the HPAI Act’s cosponsors for recognizing how many family farmers raising chicken are impacted by HPAI cases, even when their farms are not the ones at the center of an outbreak.
“No one in Delmarva’s chicken community wants to see another HPAI case, but should it occur, this bill would ensure farmers in the control zone are compensated for their lost income due to compliance with efforts to contain the spread of the disease. We’re urging Congress to pass this legislation on behalf of farmers who forgo income to keep the food supply safe for everyone.”