U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley Lead Bipartisan Push for Funding to Address Avian Influenza Outbreak

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U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, led their colleagues in a bipartisan push for more funding to help address the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. As of Friday, the HPAI outbreak has impacted around 69 sites across Minnesota, with a flock inventory of approximately 2.8 million birds, mostly turkeys.

“HPAI has been detected in 32 states across the country and has killed over 36 million birds. Although the virus poses minimal risk to human health, it has serious implications for U.S. poultry producers, rural communities, and our agricultural economy,” the senators wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders. “Given the recent outbreak, the ongoing increase in confirmed HPAI cases, and the likelihood of further spread, we urge the Subcommittee to make funding for the APHIS avian health program a high priority. These funds are critical to continue HPAI response measures.”

In addition to Klobuchar and Grassley, the letter was also signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Klobuchar has long worked to provide Minnesota farmers with the resources to weather livestock diseases and economic disruptions. Last month, she, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), and Governor Tim Walz (D-MN) received a briefing from state and federal agriculture officials on the status of the HPAI outbreak in Minnesota. In April, she urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help Minnesota farmers respond to the influenza outbreak.

During the 2015 outbreak, Klobuchar led bipartisan efforts to ensure USDA had the resources necessary to fight the outbreak and compensate farmers for lost birds. In 2018, she successfully pushed to include a provision within the Farm Bill that created an animal disease and disaster response grant program to help fund projects to address risks to animal health, livestock export markets, and industry economic stability.

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Chairman Baldwin and Ranking Member Hoeven:

As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we request robust funding to address the ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak.

Since it was first confirmed in February 2022 in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana, HPAI has been detected in 32 states across the country and has killed over 36 million birds. Although the virus poses minimal risk to human health, it has serious implications for U.S. poultry producers, rural communities, and our agricultural economy.

These are the first positive HPAI cases since the 2015 outbreak that killed more than 50 million birds, accounting for 12 percent of the egg laying hen population and 8 percent of the turkey inventory. The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in partnership with state and local agencies, has responded quickly and applied the experience gained from the 2015 outbreak to better inform on-the-ground, rapid response efforts.

The APHIS avian health program is responsible for avian influenza surveillance, reporting, and control efforts, as well as distributing indemnity payments to affected poultry producers. As the number of confirmed HPAI cases has increased, APHIS has ramped up its action in response, using significant resources to do so.

The President’s budget request for the APHIS avian health program was $65 million for FY 2023, which reflects a small increase from the enacted level of $63 million in FY2021 and 2022. Given the recent outbreak, the ongoing increase in confirmed HPAI cases, and the likelihood of further spread, we urge the Subcommittee to make funding for the APHIS avian health program a high priority. These funds are critical to continue HPAI response measures.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Source: Senator Amy Klobuchar  Photo credit: UC ANR