“All of us have become more sensitive in recent years to the potential threat of bioterrorism. We have become aware of the threat to property and biosecurity posed by activist groups that engage in unlawful break-ins, targeting both laboratory and animal production facilities,” he said, testifying on behalf of the United Egg Producers. Because of that, he said, “to make large amounts of information about site locations, population numbers, and other parameters available to the public does not seem advisable.”
He added that obviously, NAIS data need to be available to state and federal authorities, and there are circumstances—such as an actual disease outbreak—when some of the data “probably would become public.” However, Truex said, “producer participation in what remains a voluntary system will be quite limited unless Congress acts to protect the confidentiality of NAIS data.”
Truex also said that it is “extremely important” to control low-pathogenic avian influenza because it is “directly relevant to our efforts to control highly pathogenic avian influenza. LPAI can mutate into highly pathogenic forms, he said. Whether flocks are destroyed or vaccinated, it is important to take control measures quickly whenever there is an outbreak of LPAI. Truex requested that Congress include in the 2007 farm bill indemnities for LPAI be paid at 100% of the assessed production value of any birds that must be destroyed, and also cover expenses involved in vaccination, cleaning and disinfection and other measures that state or federal officials may require to be taken by producers in an outbreak.
On another issue, Truex said that “our members have witnessed increasing concern about air emissions from our operations [and] our industry is assisting in the collection of accurate, reliable, and representative data on actual emissions.” But producers need to know how to mitigate air emissions, not just measure them, he said. Fortunately, he said, a number of promising technologies offer potential, such as feed addition, manure amendments, housing design and configuration, even bird genetics. As a result, he said that the 2007 farm bill should authorize a program of research on air emission mitigation technologies, emphasizing on-farm applications, with particular attention to the technologies’ efficacy in reducing emission rates, operating feasibility, and affordability.
Truex also told the committee that UEP opposes any inclusion in the farm bill of provisions—such as one bill introduced (H.R. 5557)—that would require federal food procurement to be conditioned on animal welfare standards. In the case of the egg industry, he said, the legislation appears to require all federal purchases to be limited to cage-free or free-range eggs, or similar production systems.
“As an organization, we are not opposed to these systems, and indeed some of our members operate them. But eggs produced in this way are typically two to three times as expensive as conventionally produced eggs.” The result of this legislation —not just for eggs but other animal products as well—would be either to increase federal procurement costs or to “reduce dramatically” the quantity of animal products procured under federal programs.
For a copy of Truex’s testimony, go to: http://agriculture.house.gov/press/109/pr060920.html. Note: It may take four to six weeks after testimony before it is available on the site.