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Womack Calls for Level Playing Field for U.S. Poultry Producers in U.K. Trade Negotiations

Womack leads bipartisan group of House members, including the Arkansas delegation, in urging the prioritization of poultry producer market access during U.S.-U.K. trade negotiations

Washington, DC – March 10, 2020….Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3), Co-Chair of the Congressional Chicken Caucus, today led a bipartisan letter with 46 of his colleagues urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to prioritize fair market access for hardworking American poultry producers during upcoming trade negotiations between the United States and United Kingdom (U.K.). The group outlined trade barriers U.S. producers currently face and called for the inclusion of U.S. poultry products in any new trade agreement. 

The letter states that while U.S. poultry is among the best—and safest—in the world, the European Union (E.U.) has unnecessarily banned U.S.-exported poultry for decades. With the U.K.’s departure from the E.U., our nation must seize this opportunity and restore a critical trading market for the American poultry industry. 

Congressman Womack said, “Third District farmers and poultry producers help feed and fuel families and our economy. Breaking down trade barriers in vital markets will unleash opportunity and allow more people from across the globe to access wholesome food. The Administration has prioritized standing up for American agriculture, and it’s paramount that we embrace this economic opportunity with one of our closest allies.”

“With almost one in five pounds of chicken being exported, a robust and expanding overseas market is extremely important to the economic health and well-being of the U.S. chicken industry,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “Including U.S. chicken is critical in any new trade agreement with the U.K. – an agreement that should not be hampered by artificial trade barriers. I want to thank Congressman Womack for his leadership on this issue and for the members who signed the letter for their commitment to expanding U.S. chicken exports.”

Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation, said, “America’s poultry producers are committed to raising high-quality, nutritious products. We appreciate Rep. Womack’s support of Arkansas turkey producers and processors through his leadership in calling for opening the United Kingdom to imports of U.S. poultry products as part of upcoming trade negotiations. Greater access to export markets for the U.S. turkey industry supports jobs and communities throughout Arkansas.”

Womack was joined on this letter by Representatives Robert Aderholt (AL-4), Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Dan Bishop (NC-9), Mike Bost (IL-12), Buddy Carter (GA-1), Ben Cline (VA-6), Doug Collins (GA-9), James Comer (KY-1), Rick Crawford (AR-1), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Drew Ferguson (GA-3), Chuck Fleischmann (TN-3), Bob Gibbs (OH-7), Michael Guest (MS-3), Jim Hagedorn (MN-1), Andy Harris (MD-1), Vicky Hartzler (MO-4), Kevin Hern (OK-1), French Hill (AR-2), George Holding (NC-2), Trey Hollingsworth (IN-9), Richard Hudson (NC-8), Bill Huizenga (MI-2), Dusty Johnson (SD-At-Large), Fred Keller (PA-12), Trent Kelly (MS-1), Billy Long (MO-7), Frank Lucas (OK-3), Roger Marshall (KS-1), John Moolenaar (MI-4), Markwayne Mullin (OK-2), Steven Palazzo (MS-4), Martha Roby (AL-2), Mike Rogers (AL-3), David Rouzer (NC-7), Austin Scott (GA-8), David Scott (GA-13), Adrian Smith (NE-3), Jason Smith (MO-8), Greg Steube (FL-17), Tim Walberg (MI-7), Jackie Walorski (IN-2), Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), Bruce Westerman (AR-4), Rob Woodall (GA-7), Ted Yoho (FL-3).

Poultry is the largest segment of Arkansas's agricultural industry, creating and supporting over 150,000 jobs, including thousands of family farms. The Natural State ranks second in the nation in chicken production and third in the nation in turkey production, with the Third District being the fifth highest producing poultry district in the United States. Renewed access to U.K. markets will allow for increased export opportunities that support robust local and national agriculture economies.

The full text of the letter can be found below and here:

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
U.S. Trade Representative
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

Thank you for all the work the Administration has done to open markets around the world and maintain a fair playing field for the U.S. poultry industry. We also appreciate all the hard work you, your colleagues, and the Administration have dedicated towards promoting and establishing a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States. With the imminent launch of trade talks between the U.K. and the U.S., we the undersigned stress the importance of including U.S. poultry products in the agricultural chapter of any new trade agreement with the U.K.

As you may be aware, as part of the European Union (E.U.), the U.K. adhered to the E.U.’s food safety standards established in 1997 that banned U.S.-exported poultry due to standard antimicrobial washes used in American poultry production. However, with its departure from the E.U. on January 31, 2020, we are in a position to negotiate an agreement with the U.K. that resolves this unscientific ban once and for all.

U.S.-produced poultry is safe, and inspections throughout the entire poultry production process ensure consumer safety. Antimicrobial spray washes are used in the production process to improve food safety. All rinses, including chlorine, must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their use is limited to specific amounts. This is just one step in the process – the USDA also inspects all poultry produced in the U.S. Additionally, only an estimated 10% of the processing plants in the U.S. use chlorine throughout production. Scientific research, including that of the European Food Safety Authority, confirms using chlorine-washed poultry does not pose any human health concerns, nor is it present in the final product. The U.S. food safety system is second to none, and it is built on extensive scientific research to assure safety of the product and the process.

As the second largest exporter of chicken and largest exporter of turkey, the U.S. sends poultry products to more than 120 countries around the world. Adding a new market like the U.K. will continue the momentum gained by opening markets like China and Japan to our poultry industry. Lifting this ban will set the stage for future agreements, such as with the E.U., and reinforce the Administration’s stance that U.S. farmers and ranchers are an integral part of the American economy that should not be left behind.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue and for considering this critical request during future trade negotiations with the U.K. We look forward to your response.


Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011. He serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Budget and is a member of the House Appropriations defense and transportation, housing and urban development subcommittees.