HPAI and biosecurity dominate discussions at UEP meetings

February 3, 2022

Nearly 200 UEP and UEA members and industry stakeholders gathered in Atlanta for the UEP meetings last week. While the recent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) detections and recommendations for heightened biosecurity were a focus of discussions in the briefings, other significant accomplishments and issues were also presented.

  • Kathy Bryan, UEP director of communications, Marc Dresner, AEB director of integrated communications, and Hinda Mitchell, UEP PR Consultant, presented an overview of the HPAI Crisis Communications Plan. An HPAI Preparedness Webinar to walk producers and their staff through the plan will take place on February 10 at 1 pm ET.
  • Fidel Hegngi, Senior Staff Veterinarian at USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, presented a Global HPAI Update. He discussed recent detections of HPAI in wild birds in the U.S., USDA Wild Bird Surveillance plans and several APHIS resources for producers.
  • The Fire Mitigation Task Force completed and released the Fire Mitigation Report.
  • The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) met with the Producer Committee for Animal Welfare and continues its analysis of the UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines, with final recommendations expected in May.
  • New UEP Certified Training videos will be available on the portal in April.
  • Lifecycle Assessment survey results are being analyzed by the Egg Industry Center, with a final report published this summer.
  • The Government Relations Committee chose six topics for potential position papers for UEP’s May Congressional visits.
  • The UEP Board approved virtual Area Briefings for 2022.

Committee Briefings

Dr. Craig Rowles

After opening comments by Chair J.T. Dean in the Animal Welfare Briefing, Dr. Craig Rowles, Chair of the Fire Mitigation Task Force, shared several best practices from the newly released Fire Mitigation report. Organic Subcommittee Chair Sandra Lausecker stated USDA will release the new organic rule in March. UEP’s VP of Animal Welfare, Dr. Larry Sadler, reported that the Scientific Advisory Committee continues work on the UEP Certified Cage-Free guidelines with recommendations expected in May. The new training videos will be available on the portal in April. UEP President Chad Gregory provided an update on cage-free legislation. See Current Hen Housing Requirements by State and the State Hen Housing Summary.

Chair Karyn Kreher opened the Food Safety Committee Briefing, and Oscar Garrison, SVP of food safety regulatory affairs, updated the committee on the Massachusetts and California laws requiring eggs from cage-free housing as of January 1. Massachusetts has not issued regulations but requires a certification document. California regulations are pending, but the California Department of Food and Agriculture has stated it intends to enforce the provisions of Proposition 12 for products entering the state and sold in California.

Jeff Hendricks

Jeff Hendricks, USDA Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) Shell Egg Supervisor, provided program updates and asked that producers provide AMS with their biosecurity policies, so these are on file. He encouraged producers to use the egg processing sanitation training modules available from Purdue Extension. Hendricks reminded producers that USDA egg graders are required, per a Memorandum of Understanding, to notify FDA of facilities that do not meet GMPs or have repeated violations of AMS requirements.

In the Government Relations Briefing, Chairman Rob Knecht, along with UEP's Washington team of Randy Green and Louie Perry, reviewed the six topics selected by the committee for possible position papers:  Immigration/Labor/Supply Chain, Truthful Labeling, Cybersecurity, Food Inflation, Cage-Free Transition, and HPAI (if needed). Perry updated the committee on changes to the May Legislative meetings, including vaccination requirements and possible virtual congressional visits. Green provided a regulatory outlook on issues including egg imitators labeling and the FSMA farm definition. Jeff Hendricks summarized USDA 2018-2021 egg purchases and reviewed vendor requirements.

During the Animal Health and Biosecurity Briefing, chaired by Sherman Miller, the committee discussed HPAI with members, emphasizing the need to plan ahead and contact state vets to review depopulation and disposal options. Dr. Larry Sadler reviewed the American Veterinary Medical Association standards for depopulation in an HPAI emergency. Rebecca Eifert Joniskan, president of the Indiana Poultry Association, presented information about the outbreak of egg drop syndrome in Indiana and the steps taken to eradicate the disease.

Doug Mack chaired the Environment Briefing. UEP environment consultant Tom Hebert introduced Rod Snyder, Agricultural Advisor to the EPA Administrator, who discussed his role as liaison between agriculture groups and EPA. Snyder said the agency requests specific feedback on WOTUS, the emission factors and climate and sustainability issues.

Hema Prado

UEP Environment Consultant Tom Hebert stated EPA is in the middle of a five-year review of rodenticide, and it has issued questions regarding its use, due Feb 4. EPA is considering designating rodenticides for restricted use. Hebert encouraged all producers to provide him with answers to the questions to include in UEP comments.

Hebert introduced Hema Prado, the American Egg Board (AEB) Director of Sustainability. Shared initiatives with AEB include the Lifecycle Assessment, to be released this summer, and the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs (US-RSPE) framework to measure and report sustainability.

AEB is working with the Egg Industry Center (EIC)  to evaluate the models used to calculate air emissions standards. AEB and UEP staff discussed the EIC initial findings with EPA earlier this month, and Prado expects the EPA draft models to change based on the information provided.