The Animal Agriculture Coalition (AAC) on Feb. 28 submitted its recommendations for the farm bill to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
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"This past year Congress grappled to pass a farm bill that benefits all agriculture interests," said Damon Wells, chairman of the Animal Agriculture Coalition. "It is critical that farm policy bolsters the long-term ability of U.S. animal agriculture to be competitive in the global marketplace and provides consumers around the world with safe, wholesome, affordable food that is produced in a sustainable manner. AAC's recommendations will go a long way to achieving this objective."

Congress needs to invest more resources on animal health, livestock, poultry, and aquaculture production, as well as in new animal products research. Expenditures for animal health are just 7 percent of those which are designated for human health research. Investment in animal health and production innovation for the world's 25 billion chickens and turkeys, more than 1 billion cattle and sheep, 750 million pigs and goats, and more than 1 billion companion animals is grossly insufficient. To that end, the AAC believes that research and education productivity is hampered by insufficient funding for both the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture's Agriculture, Food and Research Institute. To help bolster research, AAC supports establishing a Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research to supplement the U.S. Department of Agriculture's basic and applied research activities.

AAC recommends reauthorizing several existing programs, namely the Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Program, the National Poultry Improvement Plan, the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, the Animal Health and Disease Research Program, the Trichinae Certification Program, and the National Aquatic Health Plan. The Coalition supports new authorizations to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services; a new program to support research on animal drug needs in minor species; as well as a sheep production and marketing grant to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products. AAC also supports a pilot study to assess the nature and extent of damage caused by feral swine.

AAC recommends that Congress optimize surveillance and surge capacity of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network by increasing the authorized funding needed to support the network. Obsolete individual surveillance labs need to be modernized to bring about diagnostic capabilities to conduct surveillance of the U.S. livestock population for all major foreign animal diseases of concern on a species by species basis.

"It is necessary for Congress and the federal government to renew its commitment to animal agriculture research and extension programs that translate into an affordable, high-quality food supply for consumers, said Wells. "The AAC urges Congress to pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill this year, as the agriculture industry cannot weather another temporary extension."

The Animal Agriculture Coalition is comprised of most major animal and animal-related commodity organizations as well as allied organizations representing veterinary medicine, animal science and various livestock sectors or animal agriculture interests in the United States. It looks forward to working with you to ensure that farm policy benefits all agriculture interests.