WASHINGTON — On Dec. 21, the Pet Food Institute (PFI), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and North American Renderers Association (NARA) issued a letter to the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), asking the agency to publish a new user fee notice. According to the associations, the fees would enable APHIS to more adequately serve the animal and pet products industries.

The letter was signed by Dana Brooks, president and chief executive officer of the PFI, Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA, and Kent Swisher, president and chief executive officer of the NARA, and was addressed to Kevin Shea, administrator of the APHIS.  

As detailed by PFI, AFIA and NARA, APHIS has not increased user fees for its Veterinary Services (VS) department in over ten years. The agency is currently battling animal diseases, including highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and African Swine Fever (ASF), and understaffing issues, which has left gaps in daily export certificate work for the animal product industry, according to the associations.

Additionally, US exports of animal products, including pet food, have increased at a double-digit rate over the past five years, according to the associations. APHIS’s staff negotiate export requirements with trading partners, as well as issue export health certificates, conduct facility inspections, and more to ensure export approval.

“The agency is underfunded and is unable to provide the resources needed,” the letter explains. “This lack of resources impacts US exports in animal products through lapses in facility approvals, leading to millions of dollars in lost sales for US companies. APHIS VS leadership have exhausted every administrative avenue they can to alleviate the delays, but at the end of the day it is a lack of funding to hire an appropriate level of staff to meet the level of demand.”

To alleviate this issue, PFI, AFIA and NARA are asking APHIS to publish a notice increasing user fees that would provide the agency with funding so it can continue to support the animal industries. According to the associations, the fees would allow APHIS VS to modernize its IT infrastructure, more efficiently manage export submissions and track the status of approvals, as well as enhance the overall predictability of the agency’s services.

“In a time when the United States has an agricultural trade deficit, US agriculture needs a well-funded, reliable export program to continue to grow US exports,” the letter concluded. “We thank APHIS VS leadership for their continued commitment to creating a predictable trade environment for US animal product companies.”

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