Livestock Producers Say US Ag Needs Vaccine Banks and NAFTA

Isabella Le Bon

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Bob Buchholz, American Sheep Industry Association (House Agriculture Committee streaming  of public hearing 3/21/2017 2:00pm)
WASHINGTON D.C.—American livestock producers expressed concern with the Trump Administration’s revision of the 2018 Farm Bill to Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee members on Tuesday.

The hearing, lead by David Rouzer (R-NC), was devoted to perspectives from leaders of the poultry, sheep, beef and pork industries. The livestock industry representatives mad arguments for several adjustments to legislation, such as federal aid for vaccine banks, large supplies of materials needed to create vaccines to prevent disease. They also communicated concern regarding President Trump’s plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump’s budget proposal, which includes cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture funds, was also addressed in relation to future farm bill revisions.

Demands for more funding may face resistance considering President Trump’s recent 2018 budget proposal announcement. The planned cuts of $4.7 billion to the USDA are considerable, averaging 21 percent of the department’s total budget.

“What I would suggest is like anything, balance your budget; you may have to chip dollars from one department to the other.” Carl Wittenburg, chairman of the National Turkey Federation said.

Rural America’s farmers overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump. Almost twice as many people in rural farm states voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton.

Farmers rely on federal aid to deal with catastrophes like the highly pathogenic avian flu virus (AI), commonly known as bird flu, and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD); both of which have seen recent outbreaks in the US. The AI virus has required federal aid to reduce the costs incurred on farmers from poultry deaths and associated consequences of the AI virus. And, FMD has gained attention from governments around the globe as it becomes harder to control.

Wittenburg discussed both these issues in his testimony to subcommittee members in which he made discussed vaccine bank development.

“As the committee embarks on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, NTF is asking for the addition of a forward-looking, mandatory Animal Pest and Disease Prevention Program and Foot and Mouth Vaccine Bank designed to limit the impacts of foreign diseases on American livestock and poultry producers,” Wittenburg said.

This year at least four cases of the same strain of AI virus have been confirmed by the USDA. The first two, in Tennessee, were followed by cases in Alabama and Kentucky. Japan and Taiwan have already announced they will block poultry imports from Tennessee.

“According to [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service], the 2015 avian influenza outbreak cost taxpayers $1 billion in response, clean up, and indemnity costs,” Wittenburg said.

According to this same report, the 2015 outbreak resulted in the depopulation of nearly 50 million birds. And the $1 billion in costs did not include economic impacts.

“We join with others in the livestock industry in supporting the creation and maintenance of an FMD vaccine bank and continued research,” said Bob Buchholz, representative for the American Sheep Industry Association. “We also urge Congress to provide the authority and $150 million a year in mandatory funding for USDA APHIS to protect the U.S. livestock industry from an FMD outbreak.”

Demands for more funding may face resistance considering President Trump’s recent 2018 budget proposal announcement. The planned cuts of $4.7 billion to the USDA are considerable, averaging 21 percent of the department’s total budget.

Vice president of the National Pork Producers Council David Herring, who also advocated for an FMD vaccine bank, credited research and development to the industry’s recent conservation successes.

“The pork industry has done some amazing things in the last 25 years,”said Herring on the importance of research. “We’ve reduced our carbon footprint and water consumption by forty percent.”

Costs to farmers via USDA budget cuts are not the only issue the agriculture industry now has with the new White House administration. President Trump has vowed to renegotiate NAFTA, leading to threats of backlash tariffs from the Mexican government.

Mexico is a top purchaser of American agricultural products, from rice and wheat to dairy, poultry and meat products. Mexico has already threatened to apply retaliatory tariffs to U.S. corn imports.

All livestock producer representatives at Tuesday’s hearing noted Mexico as a crucial market to their respective industries.

“And while interruption in any one market would be troublesome, it would be catastrophic if there were a disruption in trade with Mexico and/or Canada, the U.S. pork industry’s No. 1 and No. 4 markets by volume, respectively and No. 2 and No. 4 by value,” Herring said in his testimony.

Craig Uden said 31 percent of the beef industry’s exports go to Mexico and Wittenburg said his industry relies on Mexico to purchase 65 percent of turkey exports.

“NPPC strongly urges the Trump administration and Congress to maintain NAFTA’s zero tariff on pork trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico,” Herring said.

American agriculture groups sent a letter to the Trump administration in January highlighting increased values of exports to Mexico and Canada since NAFTA’s implementation in 1994.

In regards to TPP, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the trade agreement. Ranking member Jim Costa (CA-16) raised issues with the new administration’s recent TPP exit and trade rhetoric.

“As important as marketing is here at home, our producers ability to export their goods is very important in California,” Costa said. “We obviously produce more than we can consume in so many of the commodities that we produce and that’s why I feel very strongly we must not, not retreat from international trade agreements. And I’m very concerned about the administration’s comments as it relates to NAFTA; its impacts with our trading partners in Mexico and in Canada and our ability to work with our partners in Asia. Last week the Trans Pacific Partnership met in South America without us. I think that was a mistake, for us.”


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Isabella is a journalism major, francophile and health nut who loves dark chocolate, Otis Redding and Spanish cured ham. She loves traveling and dinner conversations that last until the wee hours of the morning.

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