Senators request more aggressive approach on HPAI countermeasures

Legislative Watch: More research on wild bird deterrents, vaccines, biosecurity; USDA criticized for canceling cattle inventory report; $22M for underserved, veteran farmers.

Eric Bohl

May 10, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

Amid growing concerns with the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza into mammals, a bipartisan group of 17 Senators wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week urging a new approach. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) led the coalition, which also included the two top lawmakers on the Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-Minn.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.).

The letter asks Vilsack to use a “collaborative federal response, heightened surveillance and additional resources to support vaccine research.” To date, governmental officials have been hesitant to pursue vaccination strategies due to concerns over potential impacts on foreign trade. The Senators assert that the time has come to conduct more aggressive research into all options for stopping the HPAI outbreak.

“The evolving risk this outbreak poses demands a broad, coordinated approach from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, state and local partners, and researchers,” the Senators wrote. “Previous outbreaks have benefited from a consortium strategy wherein the USDA brought together the brightest minds in epidemiology and animal health research to lessen the potential economic and societal cost of the spread. We ask that the USDA take a similar approach – including additional research on wild bird deterrents, vaccines, and advanced biosecurity practices – when combating the current outbreak.”

Lawmakers criticize USDA for canceling cattle inventory report

A bipartisan group of 73 members of the House and Senate sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack questioning the agency’s decision to cancel the July Cattle Inventory Report, the Cotton Objective Yield Survey and all County Estimates for Crops and Livestock. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service announced the decision in early April, blaming budget cuts.

“The reports slated for discontinuation are highly valuable to the entire U.S. agricultural sector, and particularly for cattle, cotton, and grain,” the letter said. “While we recognize that NASS has seen a modest year-over-year appropriations reduction, we hold that the costs to industry will be more adverse than the cost savings NASS may realize through cessation of these reports.”

The letter was led by Tracey Mann (R-Kan.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.), both members of the House Agriculture Committee. The group requested that Vilsack “work with Congress and industry stakeholders to seek alternative means of cost cutting” and continue publication of the reports.

USDA announces $22M for underserved, veteran farmers

On Tuesday, USDA announced it will award $22.3 million to help underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers own and operate successful farms. The funding comes from USDA’s 2501 Program and will be channeled through community-based and nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and tribal entities. 

The 2501 Program has operated for over 30 years to help underserved farmers and ranchers through training and technical assistance. It was originally authorized in the 1990 farm bill “to help underserved farmers, ranchers and foresters who have historically experienced limited access to USDA programs and services,” according to the program’s official website. 

The 2014 farm bill expanded the 2501 Program to also serve veterans. According to USDA, since 2010 the program has awarded 615 grants totaling more than $194 million. Applications for the program are due July 5 and can be submitted through

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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