ARLINGTON, VA. — On April 5, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released an updated Veterinary Services (VS) 16-4 form, addressing concerns about US animal food manufacturers being barred from exporting products amid animal disease outbreaks. The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) expressed its support of the update, claiming that it helps protect processors’ abilities to export animal-based products.

“The VS 16-4 form has been one of those issues that keeps me up at night,” said Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA. “Our ability to export animal-based products is a top priority for the AFIA and we very much appreciate APHIS for taking our call to action seriously.”

According to the AFIA, almost all animal-based feed, pet food and treat products are exported from the United States using VS 16-4. Currently, the United States is a leader in agricultural exports. In 2022, animal feed and pet food processors exported more than $7.4 billion in product, including $2.5 billion in pet foods and $4.9 billion in feed and feed ingredients. The US agriculture value chain accounts for 20% of the country’s economic activity, as well as contributes $8.6 trillion in economic output and $202.2 billion contributed to exports, according to the AFIA.

With this mind, the AFIA is determined to help protect exports, as any disruption would greatly impact animal feed and pet food producers throughout the United States.

The previous VS 16-4 form stated that “rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, African swine fever, and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia do not exist in the United States of America.” The update moves this statement from the letterhead to the additional declarations section, enabling APHIS to strike a specific disease from the form in real time without going through extensive review processes.

The AFIA, as well as its members and partners, “applied pressure” on APHIS to make the update.

“Without the update, chaos would have ensued in the animal food marketplace,” Cullman said. “For example, there should be no reason for a poultry-based product to not be able to be exported if the United States has a swine based foreign animal disease, but that is what would have happened if APHIS did not make this change.”

While the update certainly helps the animal food industry, the AFIA claims more work needs to be done to fully protect animal-based product exports. The association will continue to collaborate with APHIS to only list animal diseases relevant to certain commodities. For example, bovine pleuropneumonia should only be listed in the bovine products form and not in the swine or poultry product forms.

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