WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a motion to proceed to conference on the farm bill, which is numbered HR 2 and titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The House also passed a Democratic motion to instruct conferees to insist on 10-year permanent funding for an animal vaccine program. The House bill has permanent funding, but the Senate bill has only an authorization for appropriations.
That recorded vote was 392 to 20.
The motion to proceed also makes it possible for the House to appoint conferees. The Senate must also proceed to conference and appoint conferees.
In a statement prepared for delivery on the House floor, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said, "The mood in farm country is bad. It's bad because of the administration's trade war; it's bad because of declines in farm income; and it's bad because of volatile weather like the floods in the southern part of my district. Farmers and ranchers are staring a historically bad year in the face, and another hit would mean devastation for many of them."
"And that's exactly what an animal disease outbreak would cause. Minnesota is the nation's largest producer of turkeys," Peterson said.
"Following an outbreak of avian influenza in 2013 and 2014, it is estimated that poultry producers in my state lost $113 million in existing production, approximately $3 billion nationally, and it cost taxpayers almost $1 billion.
"Hungry consumers are affected too. The price of a dozen eggs in 2015 was double what it was before the outbreak.
"This isn't just a poultry problem. Foot and Mouth Disease, PEDv, Cattle Fever Tick and other diseases present a serious threat to the viability of livestock operations and the communities and supply chains across the country that depend on them. Outbreaks mean culling animals and suspending production, and because fewer animals come into processing facilities, layoffs in local communities.
"Disease outbreaks also impact farmers who grow feed. One study estimates that a future outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease could cost corn growers $44 billion and soybean growers nearly $25 billion.
"And there's a national security aspect to animal disease preparedness. The bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense found that our current commitment to animal disease outbreaks leaves us vulnerable to attacks on our food supply.
"If we are serious about addressing these outbreaks, we must invest in preparation and response tools to tackle these diseases early. That level of effort is impossible without long-term funding certainty," Peterson said.
"Currently, the House bill provides $450 million in mandatory funding over five years for programs including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, and the National Animal Vaccine Bank," he said.
The Senate provides an authorization for appropriations, but no mandatory funding.
"While the Appropriations Committees deserve credit for providing some funding for these programs in their bills, animal health is not a short-term issue or an issue we should short change," Peterson said.
"APHIS, state officials, and producers need to know that adequate funding for these programs is going to be available for their work to pay off.
"Animal disease programs are important investments in the health of our nation's animals, our people, and the security of our food supply. As part of their work on the farm bill, conferees should insist on 10-year, mandatory funding for Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Programs to provide the certainty that both farmers and consumers need.
"I am submitting for the record a letter in support of these provisions from the Animal Agriculture Coalition, which represents livestock producers and animal health professionals nationwide.
"I urge my colleagues to support this motion to instruct, and I reserve the balance of my time."
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