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Conference panel approves 2018 Farm Bill

12 December 2018, at 12:00am

Pork producers – and all livestock farmers – are poised for a significant victory after passage by a Senate-House conference committee of a 2018 Farm Bill that includes mandatory funding for animal disease prevention and preparedness.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is urging lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to approve the new five-year agricultural blueprint. NPPC has been a leading voice for the animal health and disease preparedness funding.

"This is a huge win for the livestock industry," said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio.

"The ability to respond to foreign animal disease emergencies is critical to safeguarding the well-being of our animals, our economy and the safety of our food supply."

Under the new Farm Bill, the US Department of Agriculture will be able to use funds for a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank; for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease surveillance and diagnostic support; and for state efforts to prepare for any foreign animal disease outbreak.

Surveillance and diagnostic funding is critical to prevent the spread of diseases, such as African swine fever, for which vaccines don’t exist.

The US pork industry, for example, is working with USDA on efforts to prevent African swine fever from entering the country and preparing to deal with the disease, which is spreading in Asia and Europe, should an outbreak in the United States occur.

The 2018 Farm Bill includes mandatory animal health and disease preparedness funding of $120 million for the first four years of the bill.

At least $5 million per year must go to the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program in the form of state block grants, and the remaining dollars can be allocated across the vaccine bank, NAHLN and state block grants.

Additionally, NAHLN is authorised for another $30 million per year for all five years of the bill. The fifth year of the bill includes another mandatory $30 million for all three programmes, but at least $18 million must go toward the state block grants.

The bill also authorises appropriations for the vaccine bank and the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program for sums determined to be necessary.

In addition to the animal health and disease-preparedness provisions, the bill includes funding for the International Market Development Program, which includes the Market Access Programme and the Foreign Market Development Programme that support export markets for US farm goods.

These programmes are funded at not less than $200 million and not less than $34.5 million, respectively.

"NPPC supports the Farm Bill approved today by House and Senate conferees and looks forward to its swift passage in both chambers," Mr Heimerl said.

As reported by NPPC