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Chairman Costa Opening Remarks at Subcommittee Hearing on Reviewing Animal Pest and Disease Prevention and Response Capabilities

Washington, May 21, 2019
WASHINGTON – House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chairman Jim Costa of California delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee on reviewing animal pest and disease prevention and response capabilities.

[As prepared for delivery]

“Thank you for joining us today to review the challenges presented by animal pests and diseases, and the ability of USDA to respond to those challenges. It’s an important topic and I have followed these issues on behalf of the farmers and ranchers in my district throughout my career. I take the responsibility to oversee USDA’s response to these outbreaks nationwide very seriously in my role as Chairman of this subcommittee.

“Livestock and poultry farmers are facing tough times because of trade wars and challenging markets. Some have even been faced with natural disasters and other challenges. The last thing they need is to have to deal with a devastating animal disease outbreak. USDA-APHIS veterinary services play a critical role, working with a host of stakeholders in preventing, monitoring, and responding to disease outbreaks in livestock operations large and small nationwide, so I’m glad to welcome Under Secretary Greg Ibach and Dr. Burke Healey to the Committee today.

“As we speak, poultry farmers in California are dealing with an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease. Since May 2018, USDA has confirmed over 400 cases of the disease, with all but two of those cases occurring in California flocks. I had one of the effected egg farmers in my office last week, who told me that he has lost more than 100,000 chickens to the disease.

“A case of the disease appeared close to my home in the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California’s poultry industry, but luckily it was detected and stopped. The poultry industry knows all too well what happens when a disease gets out of control. Remember we are only a few years removed from an outbreak of avian influenza that claimed more than 50 million birds and cost farmers millions to eradicate.

“By no means are poultry farmers the only ones at risk. Around the world today, pork producers are concerned about African swine fever, which has caused the loss of at least 20 percent of China’s hog population – with more likely to come – exacerbated the already hobbled demand for U.S. feed grains in that country and which could wreak havoc on the U.S. if it ever reached our shores.

“We are also always conscious of constantly circulating threats to cattle and other species like foot and mouth disease, cattle fever tick, screwworm, and others.

“As a conferee for the 2018 farm bill, it was a priority of mine to make sure livestock and poultry producers had new tools to prevent these diseases from ever taking hold, and the right resources to fight them if they ever did. During that process, we created two new programs, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank; and we reauthorized the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

“I’m also proud of the bipartisan, House-led effort to secure $300 million in new funding for animal pest and disease prevention and control.

“Today, I look forward to hearing how implementation is going on those and other important programs. I also want to hear more on the status of APHIS’s efforts in preventing and responding to the threats I’ve mentioned, as well as the many others that keep America’s farmers and ranchers up at night. This is critical work and I am committed to staying in touch with USDA and the livestock and poultry sectors to make sure we get our strategy right.

“With that I’ll recognize my Ranking Member, the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Rouzer, for any opening remarks he’d like to make.”
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