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Erin Brown / Grand Vale Creative

Farm bill needs to support animal health

Agweek's Sept. 5 article on the first farm bill conference meeting (Farm bill conference committee members from the region give their take on first meeting) highlights our regional lawmakers' collective commitment to supporting local ranchers and farmers. One of the best ways they can fulfill that commitment is by fully funding an innovative approach to animal health in the farm bill.

Right now, animal agriculture faces significant threats from animal diseases — such as avian influenza or foot-and-mouth disease — that could decimate local livestock and poultry. To protect food animals from disease outbreaks, we need to improve our disease detection and response capabilities.

Thankfully, Congress has an opportunity to do so in the upcoming farm bill by implementing full and permanent funding for three complementary programs: a new Animal Pest, Disease and Disaster Prevention and Response Program, to coordinate disease responses between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state officials and on-the-ground veterinarians; the existing National Animal Health Laboratory Network, to enable rapid disease detection during an outbreak; and a livestock vaccine bank with immediate attention to foot-and-mouth disease.

As a longtime mixed-animal veterinarian practicing in Minnesota, I can tell you firsthand how important these programs will be to our farmers and ranchers. Animal agriculture supporters owe a thanks to all the lawmakers — including our home-state lawmakers Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. — who are continuing to champion these initiatives in the farm bill process.

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