A bipartisan group of 37 senators, led by Sens. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.), wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue calling for the swift reopening of the Chinese market after U.S. exports of chicken and turkey were banned in 2015.
China instituted the ban in 2015 after the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a wild duck, and the ban continues to be enforced today, in contradiction to World Organization for Animal Health standards.
“Poultry is produced in almost every state. For communities and states that rely on a thriving and growing poultry industry, these agreements are essential to a strong and vibrant future,” the senators' letter to Perdue said.
The U.S. is the largest poultry producer in the world and the second-largest poultry meat exporter, with nearly 18% of total product shipped to foreign markets. At its peak, the value of poultry exports from the U.S. to China was $71 million for turkey and $722 million for chicken.
“The poultry industry provides thousands of high-quality jobs in our rural communities, and the reopening of the Chinese market would provide a huge boost for these rural areas. We encourage you to remain focused on the next steps to officially reopen the Chinese market as soon as possible,” the senators added.
They said they are encouraged that China has begun its animal health audit of the U.S. poultry industry. Once the audit is completed, they are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture "to remain diligent in seeking final Chinese approval for U.S. poultry’s first successful shipment as quickly as possible,” the letter said. “Poultry products are often part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, and our farmers would very much like to be able to offer their products during that time.”
In a joint statement, the National Turkey Federation and the National Chicken Council said, “Poultry producers are pleased to see a third of the Senate ... call for swift progress to end China’s ban on U.S. poultry. It is critical that we continue to develop an open trading relationship with the Chinese. The Senate’s strong statement on behalf of American poultry products makes clear balance and fairness must exist for a two-way open market with China.”
Joining Warner and Cochran in signing the letter are: Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), John Boozman (R., Ark.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), Tom Carper (D., Del.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D., Cal.), Al Franken (D., Minn.), Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Kamala Harris (D., Cal.), Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), John Hoeven (R., N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), Tim Kaine (D., Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Mike Lee (R., Utah), Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Jerry Moran (R., Kan.), David Perdue (R., Ga.), Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), Mike Rounds (R., S.D.), Tim Scott (R., S.C.), Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Luther Strange (R., Ala.), John Thune (R., S.D.), Thom Tillis (R., N.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) and Todd Young (R., Ind.).