A bipartisan bill introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives would codify the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) role in negotiating regionalization agreements that allow livestock, poultry, and other animal products from unaffected areas of the country to continue to be safely exported in the event of an animal disease outbreak.
Although USDA already works with the United States Trade Representative to develop these agreements, this legislation explicitly expresses congressional support for establishing regionalization agreements and promoting robust agricultural trade policies before any animal disease impacts our nation.
The Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced June 12 by U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) and Jimmy Panetta (D-California), also establishes a notification system within the Import and Export Library to prevent U.S. producers from being impacted by changes in trade status of agricultural commodities and alert the proper agencies, organizations and State Departments of Agriculture that there have been changes in import or export status.
“Animal disease outbreaks can cause massive disruptions for American producers reaching global markets, even when threats are localized in another part of the country,” Panetta said. “I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would empower the USDA to pre-emptively negotiate regionalization agreements that would reduce trade impacts and market disruptions on disease-free producers in the event of an outbreak. Doing so will ensure our producers can continue to meet global food supply demands while maintaining the high food safety standards consumers deserve.”
“Animal-based feed and pet food are an integral yet often overlooked part of the food supply chain. We fully support this bill and efforts of the U.S. government to pre-emptively take steps now to prevent this situation and protect our economy,” said AFIA President and CEO Constance Cullman.
In a press release, NARA said “regionalization is a critical tool to protect agriculture exports, and pre-emptively negotiating regionalization agreements will help minimize market disruptions to disease-free producers in the event of an outbreak such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or African swine fever (ASF). Additionally, this legislation puts regionalization agreements ‘front-of-mind’ with USDA officials.”
NARA also notes that adding reporting requirements to the bill would be a helpful tool for negotiators to use to prioritize their work and track progress.
“NARA fully supports this legislation aimed at prioritizing animal disease preparedness in negotiations with our trading partners. We need to pre-act, not react when it comes to finding solutions to keep export markets open," NARA President and CEO Kent Swisher said.
Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin echoed Swisher’s comments.
“Pre-emptively negotiating regionalization agreements for known animal diseases, like HPAI, makes sense. This bill takes a critical step to ensure turkey products can effortlessly be exported during a disease disruption and reduce financial strain to the turkey industry,” Irwin said.
A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in March by U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware).