(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.
During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”
The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do. The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »
While in China, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will participate in the meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Hangzhou on Thursday. He will be joined by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The JCCT serves as an important forum for Cabinet-level officials from both countries to resolve trade concerns and enhance economic opportunities and cooperation in several areas, including agriculture. Vilsack met with his counterparts in Beijing for bilateral discussions before arriving in Hangzhou. Prior to tomorrow’s JCCT, Vilsack will meet with U.S. government officials, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and several Ministers, to discuss what they hope to achieve during the meeting.
The United States and China are the largest agricultural producers and the world looks to our two countries for leadership in the trade arena. Since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, it has become the United States’ fourth largest market for agricultural exports and U.S. agricultural exports have reached more than $13 billion. We can attribute much of this dramatic growth to the market liberalization and adoption of standard rules that accompanied China’s accession to the WTO.
With market opportunities this large and two-way trade at more than $400 billion last year, we are bound to experience issues that require coordination. The JCCT provides a forum for the United States and China to discuss and resolve mutual trade concerns. As agricultural trade between our two countries grows, it is imperative that we have a transparent regulatory framework in place that both ensures food safety and prevents needless trade disputes.
One current issue that will be addressed during the JCCT are China’s H1N1-related restrictions on U.S. pork products, despite repeated guidance from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that the H1N1 Influenza A virus is not transmitted by food. The USDA has fully engaged its trading partners to remind them that these international organizations have indicated that people cannot get the flu from eating pork or pork products. Other significant issues affecting trade with China-avian influenza and pathogen standards for meat and poultry products- will also be discussed at the JCCT.