Senators Coons, Wicker to introduce legislation to increase reimbursement during HPAI disease outbreaks

U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced the Healthy Poultry Assistance and Indemnification (HPAI) Act alongside 11 of their Senate colleagues. This bipartisan bill would expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) compensation program to all poultry growers and layer operations within a highly pathogenic avian influenza control area, rather than only those whose flocks are infected.

“Delaware has the largest per capita chicken industry in the country, and Delaware’s independent family farmers and poultry growers are all too aware of the harm avian flu can cause after last year’s outbreak,” said Senator Coons. “This bipartisan bill would ensure that every farmer who does their part to contain an outbreak is fairly compensated for their financial harm, and it simplifies the compensation process so farmers can get back on their feet quickly after losing their flock. As Co-Chair of the Senate Chicken Caucus, I urge my colleagues to support this bill that will ensure a robust poultry supply chain, keep food costs low, and assist our hardworking farmers.”

“As every farmer knows, unexpected events can take a heavy toll,” said Senator Wicker. “Recent avian flu outbreaks hurt poultry growers and layers, and control areas made it harder for them to recover. This legislation would compensate workers in affected zones so they can get back to producing quickly.”

Senator Coons and Senator Wicker are the Co-Chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus.

“I want to thank Senators Coons and Wicker for introducing this bipartisan bill that will help protect one of our most important assets – our farmers,” added National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “This legislation recognizes the fact that highly pathogenic avian influenza can have a detrimental effect on any farm in an outbreak control zone, not just the farm that tests positive. NCC is proud to support this bill.”

Under current APHIS policies, all poultry farms located within 10-kilometer radius of a HPAI case are disallowed from placing flocks until the virus is contained. Afterward, all growers who have positive tests in their flocks receive compensation from the USDA, but not those within the 10-kilometer control area whose flocks don’t contract HPAI. As a result, while these growers undergo many of the same financial struggles as those whose flocks contract the virus, they aren’t compensated for their compliance with efforts to help contain HPAI. This bill would rectify that so all growers in the control area are duly compensated.

Last year, the American poultry industry was hit with its worst-ever HPAI outbreak. The outbreak affected 47 states and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to poultry growers and layer operations, driving food inflation even higher for Americans’ most cost-effective animal protein sources.

In addition to Senators Coons and Wicker, this legislation is cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Specifically, the HPAI Act would: 

  1. Expand USDA-APHIS compensation to all poultry farmers in an HPAI control area. The program currently only compensates farmers whose flocks test positive, not those in the control area who are disallowed from placing flocks until the virus is contained, which sometimes takes months.
  2. Simplify the calculation of indemnity. The payments to farmers will be calculated based on the average income they earned from the last five flocks. This method is more transparent and ensures that farmers will not face a cash shortfall in the face of an HPAI outbreak in their area.

A one-pager is available here. A complete list of endorsements is available here. Bill text is available here.

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