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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Tom Harkin, Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and The Honorable Saxby Chambliss, Ranking Member

Senator Clinton Calls on Feds to Provide Funding to Control the Spread of the Deadly Fish Disease, VHS, in Great Lakes Region

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined several of her colleagues in urging the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to provide assistance in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill to states whose aquaculture and fishing industries have been blighted by the deadly fish disease, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). In a letter to Committee Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, the lawmakers stressed the need for language to be included in the Farm Bill that would ensure assistance is provided to Great Lakes states for testing, monitoring, and enforcement of VHS guidelines.

"The effort made by the USDA and APHIS in combating the spread of VHS and other animals and diseases that threaten the Great Lakes and many smaller New York water bodies is encouraging, but I am still very concerned about the negative impact that the virus continues to have on the environment and on businesses in our state," said Senator Clinton. "The APHIS order simply did not provide the necessary resources to get the job done, and it is unfair to think that states like New York should shoulder the entire burden of testing, monitoring, and enforcement. Our fisheries and marine industries are vital to New York's economic wellbeing, and that requires maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the Great Lakes. Adding language to the Farm Bill that authorizes assistance to states like New York that border the Great Lakes is critical in controlling the VHS problem."

In October 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued an order to prevent the spread of VHS, which stopped the interstate movement within the Great Lakes states of more than 3 dozen species of live fish that are susceptible to the disease. However, these states do not have adequate capacity to perform the necessary quantity of testing in an expeditious and efficient manner, and the APHIS order did not provide any assistance to states to help with required testing, monitoring, and enforcement. As such all of these responsibilities have been placed on the Great Lakes states and tribal management authorities. The authorization of additional federal funds will provide the necessary assistance to states and monitoring agencies that are working to isolate, and curb the spread of the disease in the Great Lakes region.

A copy of the letter to Senators Harkin and Chambliss is attached

September 11, 2007

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
328A Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss
Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
328A Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member:

In October 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued an order to prevent the spread of a very deadly fish disease called viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). This disease and efforts to contain it have had serious impacts on our aquaculture and fishing industries, and we are writing to ask that you include authority in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill to provide assistance to states for monitoring, testing, and enforcement.

The 2006 order stopped the interstate movement within the Great Lakes states of more than 3 dozen species of live fish that are susceptible to VHS. If fish are certified to be VHS-free, they may be shipped across state lines. Unfortunately, the Great Lakes states do not have sufficient testing facility capacity to test the volume of samples in a timely way. When APHIS issued the order, it did not provide any assistance to states to help with testing, monitoring and enforcement. Further, the Office of Management and Budget recently denied a request by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) emergency money for cooperative agreements between the USDA and state agencies to conduct surveillance in order to determine the geographic and species distribution of the disease and to establish an education campaign focused on recreational activities which might spread the disease and on compliance of the current order. Therefore, all of these responsibilities would be placed on the Great Lakes states and tribal management authorities.

We want to ensure that VHS is contained and perhaps even cured, and we hope that this can be done without severe economic impacts to the aquaculture industry, states, or tribal management authorities. We believe that the needed authority which will provide assistance to states for monitoring, testing, curing and enforcement, and we urge you to include this language in your legislation.

Sincerely,

Debbie Stabenow
George V. Voinovich
Carl Levin
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Russell D. Feingold
Charles E. Schumer
Sherrod Brown
Herb Kohl
Richard J. Durbin
Norm Coleman


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