Representatives Andrew Clyde (R-GA) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA), along with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter this week to USDA urging the department to advocate for the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) to change its definition of “poultry.”

The current WOAH definition fails to appropriately distinguish commercial poultry involved in international trade from backyard or wild birds posing little transmission risk. The definition also does not distinguish between various poultry species, such as broilers, turkeys, layers, or ducks. Thus, when an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) occurs in one species, U.S. trading partners have the right to block imports of all poultry species.

“I want to thank Reps. Clyde and Bishop, and Senators Coons and Ernst, for their leadership on this important issue,” said NCC President Mike Brown. “For too long, our trading partners have used this outdated definition of ‘poultry’ to block U.S. broiler exports upon detections of HPAI. As such, NCC fully supports these efforts to establish a distinction between commercial and other poultry flocks.”

For example, China currently maintains bans on 14 U.S. states with zero active outbreaks. The letter also notes that Georgia’s poultry industry is facing an estimated annual loss of $300 million due to an isolated outbreak in a small duck flock that would never have entered commerce nor have been destined for export. More examples include North Carolina losing approximately $113 million due to trade bans, Indiana processors’ daily revenue loss is in the hundreds of thousands, California producers losing up to $80 million per year due to poultry product bans, and Arkansas overseas revenues falling by over $44 million year-over-year.

“Yet, there has been little progress in changing this definition,” the letter read, “even as U.S. producers face mounting losses from unwarranted bans over isolated HPAI detections.”

The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) has proposed a reasonable definition change that would recognize neighbors gifting backyard poultry eggs to others as non-commercial. It would also exclude birds that are raised to be released at hunting preserves from being considered poultry for international trade purposes.

“We firmly support this pragmatic change,” the letter said of WOAH adopting the definition of poultry proposed by USAHA. “After over a year of inaction from WOAH, we strongly encourage you to advance this reasonable proposal to limit subsequent trade disruptions. America’s agricultural competitiveness depends on having fair, up-to-date global animal health rules, which would provide our producers with a level playing field.”

The full letter can be found here.

House signatures include Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC), Rick Allen (R-GA), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Jim Banks (R-IN), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Troy Carter (D-LA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Mike Collins (R-GA), James Comer (R-KY), Jim Costa (D-CA), Don Davis (D-NC), Mike Ezell (R-MS), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Michael Guest (R-MS), Andy Harris (R-MD), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Lisa McClain (R-MI), Rich McCormick (R-GA), Max Miller (R-OH), Barry Moore (R-AL), Greg Murphy (R-NC), Wiley Nickel (D-NC), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), John Rose (R-TN), Deborah Ross (D-NC), David Rouzer (R-NC), Austin Scott (R-GA), David Scott (D-GA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Chris Smith (R-NJ), David Valadao (R-CA), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Steve Womack (R-AR).

Eight U.S. Senators also signed the letter, including John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Supporting organizations include the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Amlan International, Cantrell Mechanical Solutions, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tyler Harper, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Poultry Federation, JBS Foods/Pilgrim’s Pride, Mar-Jac Poultry, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, U.S. Animal Health Association, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, and Wayne-Sanderson Farms.