Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Humane Farming Association commend today’s introduction of the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness for Farm Animals Act (H.R. 243) led by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN).
This legislation would enhance the welfare of America’s farm animals by ensuring that producers take appropriate measures to protect livestock from the harmful impacts of adverse weather events as a prerequisite for receiving taxpayer-backed aid. Each year, hundreds of thousands to millions of farm animals perish in the United States during extreme weather events and natural disasters.
In 2020, for example, more than 100,000 poultry in Louisiana reportedly died as a result of Hurricane Laura. In 2021, hundreds of thousands of farm animals perished during a deep freeze in Texas. One poultry company, Sanderson Farms, reported that 455,000 of its chickens froze to death during the winter storm, were crushed by barn roofs that collapsed due to heavy snow and ice, or otherwise died from lack of food or water. The company euthanized an additional 545,000 chicks due to plant closures from the storm.
“As extreme weather events become more frequent, it is essential that livestock operations develop viable disaster plans to protect vulnerable farm animals,” said Dena Jones, director of AWI’s farm animal program. “This bill has the potential to reduce suffering for countless animals in the United States and we are incredibly grateful to Congressman Cohen for his leadership.”
Producers are eligible to receive federal compensation for a range of farm animal losses that occur during adverse weather events through the US Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). According to federal data, more than $496 million was paid out to producers under the program from 2008 to 2021. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 removed the cap on individual payments issued under LIP, meaning there is no longer a limit on how much eligible producers can receive when seeking reimbursements through the program. According to records obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests reviewed by the Humane Farming Association, LIP compensated producers for nearly 6.7 million poultry deaths and more than 277,000 livestock deaths from 2013 to 2017.
The Emergency and Disaster Preparedness for Farm Animals Act aims to reduce losses while promoting fiscal responsibility by ensuring that recipients of payments under LIP and the USDA’s Emergency Loan Program have disaster preparedness plans in place.
“Millions of farm animals die each year during extreme weather events and natural disasters, costing taxpayers millions in indemnity payments to producers for their losses,” Cohen said. “Our bill simply requires producers to have plans in place to mitigate those disasters and the effects they have on their livestock. It is a prudent remedy to a solvable problem, and ultimately will save animal lives. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“The Humane Farming Association (HFA) is gratified that Congressman Steve Cohen has introduced this critical legislation,” said Bradley Miller, HFA’s national director. “It will require that all producers receiving USDA Livestock Indemnity Program compensation develop detailed emergency disaster plans to protect their animals during natural disasters. These plans would be required to be in place and on file with the USDA before harsh weather strikes and before compensation is made. This important measure would not only help save the lives of millions of animals, but would save millions of taxpayer dollars as well."
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
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The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.
The Humane Farming Association (HFA.org) is dedicated to the protection of farm animals and operates the nation's largest farm animal sanctuary. Founded in 1985 and over 270,000 members strong, HFA is nationally recognized for its integrity and its groundbreaking anti-cruelty campaigns.