Summary of USDA Meetings

April 2019 in Maryland and Washington DC

By Todd Laudenslager, Mahantongo Game Farms

In April, I was asked to attend two important USDA meetings on behalf of the NAGA, as well as report back on them to the membership. The first meeting was held on April 17, 2019, at the APHIS Headquarters in Riverdale, Md. The primary agenda of the meeting was to reveal their updated H5/H7 LPAI Indemnity & Compensation Policy. Interestingly, the policy was originally introduced in Atlanta, Ga., on March 27, 2018. Fortunately for us, the USDA has not been in a hurry to adopt a policy that isn’t well supported by our industries. They’re continually working to improve its contents and have welcomed criticism from all the poultry sectors.

The second meeting on April 23, 2019, was an annual event held in Washington DC, at the USDA Building. Approximately a dozen representatives of individual poultry sectors met to discuss far-reaching topics from world trade agreements down to very basic things relating to how the USDA can improve to serve us better. This meeting was an invaluable opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the highest leadership personnel in the USDA, as well as the most influential poultry industry persons.

Despite our natural instinct to stereotype the government as “out to regulate us to death,” I’ve found most people at the meetings to be very approachable and genuine. The NAGA has been in attendance since 2016 when our past President Sam Ballou was our representative. Since then, I’ve been happily attending this invitation-only meeting on behalf of the NAGA. It’s quite a privilege to have a seat next to influential leaders of our major poultry industries.

According to the most recent draft of the LPAI Indemnity Policy USDA-APHIS would pay indemnity for birds and compensation for cleanup and disinfection in cases where controlled marketing is not possible. This is a major windfall for our industries. The current draft will be the policy in the event of an incident unless USDA deems it necessary for it to be revised.

Last year, we were extremely nervous because the USDA did not have money to pay for such outbreaks and was discussing elimination of the indemnity. In response to efforts by the NAGA, Congress funded indemnity for LPAI and directed USDA to continue the program. Click here for the latest draft of the policy.

While the policy hasn’t been finalized, it almost certainly will require poultry farms and their employees to adhere to a strict biosecurity plan to qualify for indemnity. It’s just sound business to do so, anyway. Farms that produce less than 25,000 birds annually would be automatically eligible for indemnity and compensation.

The USDA will consider solutions to an outbreak on a case-by-case basis, and your local state agency personnel will play a key role in this. Since our industry presents its own unique set of challenges, it’s extremely important that you build individual relationships with these people in your state, and in surrounding states. It’s a known fact that if someone knows even a little about who you are and has a positive impression of you or your business, they are much more likely to treat you favorably.

In addition to cultivating state agency relationships, our industry has been aided by the tireless efforts of scientific members like Dr. Carol Cardona at the University of Minnesota doing the risk assessment and analysis on our industries.

With her help, our “Secure Upland Game Bird Supply Plan” will prove that our industry isn’t a risk to ourselves or other poultry sectors. Our data has shown that 87% of all the past upland gamebird LPAI cases in the U.S. were on single premises; compared to only 42% of turkey and chicken cases. More importantly, there has never been a confirmed case of a gamebird infecting other poultry.

OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS FROM THE USDA MEETINGS

  1. APHIS will coordinate a meeting with the poultry and the pet food industries to discuss working together in the event of an LPAI outbreak.
  2. APHIS will organize a meeting with the poultry industry and the Center for Veterinary Biologics to discuss licensing flexibilities to address industry concerns regarding new and emerging pathogens. We discussed the lack of availability of the pullorum-typhoid antigen manufactured by Charles River.
  3. APHIS will consider how to fill the vacant NPIP position in Conyers, Ga., including a short-term position or inter-program transfer.
  4. APHIS will provide the industry with an epidemiologic summary of the LPAI incident that occurred earlier in 2018, which is detailed on their website under the LPAI section.
  5. APHIS is conducting a Business Process Improvement (BPI) project to streamline AI reporting that will be finalized in 2020.
  6. APHIS plans to add 10 additional labs to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) in addition to the currently existing five facilities.

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