Spanberger Presses USDA to Tackle “Exorbitant” Egg Prices, Protect Virginia Poultry Flocks from Avian Influenza

Last Week, VDACS Confirmed the First Commercial Poultry Flock in Virginia with Avian Influenza

From December 2021 to December 2022, Egg Prices Increased by Nearly 60 Percent Across the Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee — today pressed the U.S. Department of  Agriculture (USDA) to recognize the threats posed by Avian Influenza to Virginia producers and to take more steps to help lower egg prices at the grocery store for Virginia families.

According to last week’s Consumer Price Index, the price of eggs increased by nearly 60 percent from December 2021 to December 2022. This increase marks the sharpest price increase of any item at the grocery store. One major contributor to these skyrocketing prices has been the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influence (HPAI) in American poultry flocks. Last week, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the Commonwealth’s first case of HPAI in a flock of commercial turkeys.

In the face of major challenges faced by Virginia consumers and businesses because of high egg prices, Spanberger sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for more attention to the negative impacts of high egg prices. Additionally, she requested a briefing on USDA’s efforts to protect poultry farmers’ flocks, respond to HPAI outbreaks, and ultimately bring down prices for consumers.

“As of December 2022, the price of eggs was up nearly 60 percent compared to December of the previous year,” said Spanberger. “As a mother of three children, I know how important this nutritious food staple can be to families, and how fast a family can go through a carton of eggs. These costs add up for families.”

Spanberger continued, “I respectfully request a Congressional briefing on the Department’s efforts to provide relief to farmers whose flocks have been impacted, as well as the Department’s efforts to prepare other poultry farmers on the appropriate biosecurity efforts to protect their flocks. In addition, the briefing should clarify to whether the Department requires additional funding or authorities from Congress to respond to these outbreaks and provide robust support to state agencies and industry partners.”

Click here to read her letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

I write today to express my deep concern about the impact of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on poultry farmers suffering economic losses and all Americans who are paying exorbitant prices for eggs. I want to thank the Department for its response to this crisis and request a briefing as detailed below.

On January 19, The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) confirmed the first commercial poultry flock with HPAI in Virginia. As a result, 25,000 birds were depopulated. I sincerely appreciate the Department’s work with VDACS and industry partners to deploy a joint incidence response.

HPAI has led to the death of about 58 million birds in the United States since the start of 2022. These deaths cause severe disruptions to the egg supply chain and economic losses for poultry farmers. While poultry farmers receive USDA payments for the birds and eggs lost due to an outbreak, farmers are not compensated for birds that die before the confirmation of HPAI or for lost income from barns and hen houses being idle after an outbreak.

HPAI outbreaks across the country have impacted the national egg supply and contributed significantly to rising egg prices. Over the last year, many Americans have experienced sticker shock at the grocery store as the price of eggs has skyrocketed. Some stores have even capped the number of cartons that customers can buy due to shortages. In 2022, the price of eggs rose more than any other grocery item. As of December 2022, the price of eggs was up nearly 60 percent compared to December of the previous year. As a mother of three children, I know how important this nutritious food staple can be to families, and how fast a family can go through a carton of eggs. These costs add up for families.

I respectfully request a Congressional briefing on the Department’s efforts to provide relief to farmers whose flocks have been impacted, as well as the Department’s efforts to prepare other poultry farmers on the appropriate biosecurity efforts to protect their flocks. In addition, the briefing should clarify to whether the Department requires additional funding or authorities from Congress to respond to these outbreaks and provide robust support to state agencies and industry partners.

American poultry farmers across the country work hard to ensure we have a robust domestic supply of chicken, turkey, and eggs. I appreciate the Department’s work to contain these outbreaks, prevent future outbreaks, make impacted farmers whole, and lower egg and poultry prices for Americans. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working together on this priority issue.

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