Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer: Foot and Mouth Disease

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing: Foot and Mouth Disease: Are we prepared?

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Washington, February 11, 2016 | comments
Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee hearing. Today we will be evaluating our preparation in the event of an introduction of a highly contagious animal disease: Foot and Mouth Disease - or FMD. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to be here and I want to thank, in particular, our witnesses for their participation and valuable insights.

I agree with the sentiment expressed by Chairman Conaway last November in the first of a series of hearings on American Agriculture and National Security— that, in fact, our national security and agriculture are closely intertwined. The security of our nation depends on our ability to ensure that (1) the food coming into our country is disease and pest free, (2) on our ability to guarantee that farmers and ranchers have the needed policy tools in place to continue producing food and fiber, and (3) depends on our ability to meet the nutritional needs of those both within and outside our own borders.

FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease, which causes illness in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals with divided hooves. While not a public health or food safety threat, FMD remains a worldwide concern because of its ability to spread quickly and cause significant economic losses.

I’m concerned that an outbreak of FMD in the United States would have catastrophic consequences for the multi-billion dollar livestock industry, delivering a very harsh economic effect that would be felt far beyond animal agriculture. In fact, I have seen a recent estimate focusing on the pork industry, estimating an annual impact of $12.8 billion dollars.

While many countries across the globe are dealing with FMD in their livestock populations, the last case in the United States was in 1929. Because FMD is one of the most difficult diseases to control, and because it still occurs in many parts of the world, the efforts to prevent and manage an outbreak here in the U.S. are robust. The USDA, along with its partners in the states and the industry, has done tremendous work to protect this country from FMD.

We recognize that the size, structure, efficiency, and extensive movement inherent to the United States and North American livestock industries will present unprecedented challenges in the event of an outbreak. If an FMD outbreak occurs here, the disease could spread rapidly to all regions of the country through routine livestock movements—unless we detect it early and eradicate it immediately.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9, issued by former President Bush provides for “Defense of United States Agriculture and Food.” This directive establishes a national policy to defend the agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. HSPD 9 directs that “the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the [Secretary] of Homeland Security, and in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, shall work with State and local governments and the private sector to develop a National Veterinary Stockpile (NVS) containing sufficient amount of animal vaccine, antiviral, or therapeutic products to appropriately respond to the most damaging animal diseases affecting human health and the economy and that will be deployable within 24 hours of an outbreak.”

While there has been a considerable amount of work done to defend against FMD, today we’ve asked this distinguished panel of witnesses from the industry to talk about that progress, the vaccine capabilities we currently hold, and possibilities for continued improvement. I look forward to your insight.

In the near future, we will be continuing this series of hearings, wherein we will be discussing these and other animal and plant health issues with Federal agencies.
I now yield to the subcommittee ranking member, Mr. Costa, for his opening remarks.
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