Farmers in Iowa, especially in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, which I represent in Congress, continue to be devastated by highly pathogenic avian influenza. Out of the almost 100 million birds that have been affected by HPAI across 48 states since this outbreak began in 2022, nearly 25% have been in my home state – devastating producers, destroying flocks, and impacting entire communities.  

Just recently, in Sioux County, my home county, there were nearly 4.5 million birds that were destroyed because of HPAI, and several dairies in the area have tested positive as well – decreasing milk production and creating more uncertainty in the surrounding countryside for our poultry producers.

Representing the district that ranks first in egg production, sixth in turkeys, and top 25 in dairy production, HPAI represents an ever-present danger for our farmers that is the epitome of a “not if, but when” situation. Since the 2015 outbreak, strong biosecurity measures have been put in place, but that has not stopped the spread from wild birds, and many questions remain unanswered over how exactly HPAI finds its way into our production facilities.

On top of that, the threat of African swine fever remains one of the biggest concerns of every producer in my district – the largest hog-producing district in the country. In a study conducted by Iowa State University in 2020, it is estimated that the pork industry could lose over $50 billion if an ASF outbreak occurred within the U.S., and 140,000 jobs could be eliminated over a decade. It is impossible to imagine the everyday impact on our rural communities should something like ASF enter our borders.

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This devastating HPAI outbreak, combined with the perpetual threat of African swine fever or foot and mouth disease entering our country, highlights the urgent need to pass a farm bill.

At a time of massive uncertainty for our rural communities, we should not kick the farm bill any further down the road. The House Agriculture Committee – led by Chairman Thompson – did our part on May 23, when we passed the Farm, Food and National Security Act by a vote of 33-21 out of committee, with four Democrats supporting the bill, and sent it to the House floor for further consideration. 

This bipartisan legislation increases investments in the three-legged stool of animal health by almost $2 billion over ten years – which includes the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. Not only does the Farm, Food, and National Security Act invest in preparation, mitigation, and response efforts through the three-legged stool, but it also safeguards domestic agriculture by helping train dogs and their handlers, called the Beagle Brigade, to detect foreign animal diseases at our ports of entry.

These vital investments are just one small part of why we should not be delaying the passage of the farm bill. Our farmers, producers, and rural communities are counting on us to work together, and politics should not get in the way of helping fight against these deadly animal diseases. I urge all those involved to come to the table, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get a farm bill signed into law before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Congressman Randy Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.