Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, led their colleagues in a bipartisan push for more funding to help address the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak as Congress considers the FY23 budget.
“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.
As of May 6, the HPAI outbreak has impacted around 19 sites across Iowa, affecting 13 million birds – more than any other state, a statement from Grassley's office notes. The HPAI outbreak has impacted around 69 sites across Minnesota, with a flock inventory of approximately 2.8 million birds, mostly turkeys, Klobuchar's office reports.
These are the first positive HPAI cases since the 2015 outbreak that killed more than 50 million birds, accounting for 12% of the egg laying hen population and 8% of the turkey inventory. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 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 letter adds.
“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,” the senators concluded.
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," the senators write..
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.
In addition to Grassley and Klobuchar, the letter was also signed by Sens. Thom Tillis , R-N.C., Tom Carper, D-Del., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga, Mark Warner, D-Va., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Chris Coons, D-Del., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
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.