Wednesday, Senators Mike Braun, Tina Smith, Roger Wicker, and Chris Coons introduced The Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. This first-time introduced bipartisan legislation is aimed to provide clear authority to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), FSIS, and Foreign Agricultural Service to preemptively negotiate regionalization agreements for known animal disease threats, ultimately protecting unsafe agriculture exports from getting shipped around the globe.
“Indiana is a top ranked poultry-producing state, being first in the country for ducks, second for layer chickens and table eggs, and third for turkeys. During the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak last year, our Hoosier poultry producers relied on trade regionalization agreements to ensure that their safe food products made it to market. Spending most of my life around the farm, I know just how devastating animal disease outbreaks can be. The SAFE Act will help farmers focus on animal health, rather than finding a market for their safe food products, by giving USDA the authority to negotiate proactive trade agreements.” – Sen. Braun
“I hear from Minnesota farmers all the time about the toll avian flu outbreaks have on families and the economy. Animal disease outbreaks can unnecessarily disrupt trade and hurt our exporting ability. This bipartisan bill would allow the USDA to proactively negotiate regionalization agreements with our key trading partners. It’s a common-sense step that would help our farmers weather any future animal disease outbreaks.” – Sen. Smith
“Poultry farmers across the country have been reeling from an extended outbreak of avian flu, and it is imperative that all exports not be halted. This legislation would give USDA the authority to negotiate regionalization agreements to ensure America’s agricultural producers are not shut off from the global market.” – Sen. Wicker
“Regionalization is an important tool for protecting agriculture exports when outbreaks occur, and the broiler industry in Delaware has benefitted from these agreements since the last highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak in 2016. There is still more work to do, and I support efforts to improve the enforcement of existing regionalization agreements between the U.S. government and its trading partners.” – Sen. Coons
“State departments of agriculture play a critical role on the frontlines of foreign animal disease prevention, mitigation and recovery, and we appreciate this bipartisan effort to enable farmers and ranchers to more easily export safe food products to our trading partners,” NASDA CEO Ted McKinney said. “More collaboration and communication among federal partners enables state agriculture departments and U.S. farmers to better prepare and respond in the case of an outbreak and ultimately leads to stronger animal health and welfare across the U.S. NASDA thanks Senators Braun and Smith for taking up this important effort.” – National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (CEO Ted McKinney)
“Indiana Farm Bureau supports the Safe American Food Exports Act introduced by Sen. Braun to address known animal diseases. With Indiana being one of the top poultry-producing states in the country, our poultry industry was hit hard by last year’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Federal red tape prevented our producers from exporting safe food to their longstanding customers abroad. This legislation will encourage proactive regionalization negotiations at USDA and prevent producers from having the rug pulled out from underneath them in the future.” – Indiana Farm Bureau
“Livestock health is critically important for family farmers and ranchers. Maintaining and ensuring livestock health is a priority for Farmers Union, and I would like to thank Senators Smith and Braun for bringing this important issue to the forefront. NFU is proud to support this bill.” – NFU President Rob Larew
“Indiana’s poultry farmers appreciate Senator Braun’s efforts to encourage USDA to proactively pursue regionalization agreements with our foreign trading partners through the Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. The SAFE act would also create a system to keep producers informed of changes to the export library. This additional layer of transparency will allow us to be better prepared for an animal disease incident. Ensuring predictable foreign trade and having clear lines of communication supports our development and maintenance of key export markets for Indiana poultry and poultry products.” – Indiana State Poultry Association
“The ongoing Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak has wreaked havoc on the turkey industry and export market disruption is one of the many components of the outbreak said Leslee Oden, Sr. Vice President of Legislative Affairs, National Turkey Federation. NTF commends Sens. Braun and Smith for introducing the SAFE Act to aid in updating valuable regionalization agreements with key trading partners as members of the turkey industry continue to persevere through these challenging times.” – National Turkey Federation (SVP of Legislative Affairs Leslee Oden)
“America’s egg farmers commend Senator Mike Braun and Senator Tina Smith for their strong leadership on behalf of animal agriculture,” said Oscar Garrison, senior vice president, food safety regulatory affairs, United Egg Producers. “By building flexibility in the trade negotiation process, establishing notification requirements, and encouraging advance planning for trade negotiations in the event of an animal disease incident, this legislation will benefit egg producers through deliberate dialogue around fundamental import/export language and regionalization of trade policy in key export markets.” – United Egg Producers (SVP of Food Safety Regulatory Affairs Oscar Garrison)
“We thank Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) for spearheading a bill that will ensure our export markets for animal-based feed and pet food products remain open in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak on U.S. soil. Animal-based feed and pet food are an integral and often overlooked step in the food supply chain, so it is critical that the U.S. government preemptively take steps now to prevent this situation and protect our economy.” – Constance Cullman, AFIA president and CEO
North American Renderers Association (President and CEO Kent Swisher): “North American Renderers Association supports the SAFE Act 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 lauds Senator Braun’s efforts to elevate the need for regionalization agreements with our trading partners to avoid unnecessary market closures.” – American Feed Industry Association (President and CEO Constance Cullman)
Read the full bill text here.
The United States is the world’s largest agricultural exporter, accounting for approximately 10 percent of total exports by value in 2020. In 2022, American dairy, livestock, and poultry exports were valued at $37.8 billion—accounting for approximately one-third of meat products and one-fifth of dairy products produced in the United States. The bulk (two-thirds) of these dairy, livestock, and poultry exports were bound for five markets: Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Canada.
Given the importance of export markets to American dairy, livestock, and poultry producers, trade disruptions—like animal disease outbreaks—can be devastating. Animal disease outbreaks, especially for highly pathogenic diseases like foot and mouth disease (FMD) or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), can completely halt exports in the absence of regionalization agreements with export markets.
Congressional Research Service defines “regionalization” as “the principle that allows for parts of a country to be declared free of a certain disease and enable the continuation of trade when other parts of the country are not disease-free.” The United States and its trading partners have pursued regionalization agreements for decades to reduce the negative trade impact of animal diseases on disease-free producers. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also keeps a database of import and export requirements for covered products: the Import and Export Library.
2022 HPAI Outbreak: Indiana and Minnesota are two of the top poultry-producing states in the country. Indiana ranks first in the country for ducks, second for layer chickens and table eggs, and third for turkeys. Minnesota ranks first in the country for turkeys—producing 18 percent of the country’s turkeys. Due to their size, Indiana and Minnesota’s poultry industries were hit hard by the 2022 HPAI Outbreak.
During this outbreak, producers were clear—they needed to spend their time protecting health and safety, not resecuring export markets for their products. In the opinion of these producers, USDA should—when practicable—spearhead preemptive negotiations with our key export markets to reduce the economic impact of animal disease outbreaks.
The Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act addresses this gap by providing clear authority to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), FSIS, and Foreign Agricultural Service to preemptively negotiate regionalization agreements for known animal disease threats. This language expresses clear Congressional intent in support of proactive agricultural trade policy.
During the 2022 HPAI Outbreak, a Hoosier turkey producer who had successfully petitioned for an addition to the Import and Export Library in 2015 discovered that the language had been removed, unbeknownst to them. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. To address this issue, the SAFE Act also requires FSIS to notify State Departments of Agriculture, lead State agencies for animal health, and the original petitioner when language is removed from the Import and Export Library.
Endorsements: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, Animal Health Institute, Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana Dairy Producers, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana State Poultry Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Chicken Council, National Farmers Union, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, North American Renderers Association, United Egg Producers.