Sen. Smith Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Safeguard American Food Exports and Protect Farmers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Chris Coons (D-DE), introduced bipartisan legislation to protect farmers in the event of animal disease outbreaks.

The Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would give the USDA clear authority to preemptively negotiate regionalization agreements for known animal disease threats, ultimately preventing unsafe agriculture exports from getting shipped around the globe and keeping trading markets open for American farmers with disease-free livestock.

“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,” said Sen. Smith. “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.” 

“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,” said Sen. Braun. “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.” 

“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,” said Sen. Wicker. “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.”

“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,” said Sen. Coons. “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.”  

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.

Regionalization is 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 Safe American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would 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.

You can find the full bill text here.