Officials cheer reopening of Russia to U.S. poultry exports

Flanked by members of the poultry industry, at Allen’s Family Foods in Seaford, and joined by Ed Kee, Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper this week applauded the announcement by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the United States and Russia had reached agreement to resume exporting U.S. poultry products to Russia.

Coastal Point • Monica Scott: U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Chick Allen, Ed Kee, Bob Turley and Dean Walston react to President Obama’s announcement that the United States can export poultry to Russia again.Coastal Point • Monica Scott
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Chick Allen, Ed Kee, Bob Turley and Dean Walston react to President Obama’s announcement that the United States can export poultry to Russia again.

The senator explained that the announcement came after weeks of effort by U.S. senators and the Obama administration to persuade Russia to lift trade barriers against U.S. poultry. Carper, U.S. Sen. Ted Kaufman and 23 other senators wrote Obama a letter on the eve of a meeting with the Russian president, in advance of the G-8 summit in Canada, to emphasize the importance of lifting the barrier.

Russia had halted all U.S. poultry exports in January of this year “over the use of chlorine rinses in the production process.”

“Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia our single largest export market,” the senators wrote in their letter to the president. “The poultry industry in this country represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States and has a significant impact on countless other communities across the country.

“Since 1990, Russia has imported U.S. poultry that was processed using chlorinated water, to reduce pathogens and enhance food safety. Throughout this period, Russian authorities did not express any concern,” the letter said.

The senators went on to say that Russia was importing from other countries that they understood to be using the same processes, without a guarantee that they are not using chlorinated solutions – such as Brazil – adding that it wasn’t clear that safety was the issue at all.

“This disparity appears to be contrary to the Russian government’s assertions that its actions are being taken out of concern for the safety of its population,” they wrote.

The senators added that they “believe the United States and Russia should work together to promote trade between our two countries and lower barriers that undermine the bilateral relationship.”

Kee addressed the crowd this week, saying that the state of Delaware is eighth in the country in the production of broiler chickens, and Sussex County is No. 1, per capita.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “On behalf of the governor, we appreciate the work of the senator and the work that all of you do. It means so much to our economy and for jobs.”

Kee added that efforts like those of Carper and Kaufman and the other senators help to allow the industry to stay profitable and sustaining the livelihood of many on the Delmarva Peninsula.

“If it’s not profitable, everything else falls by the wayside. Profitability sustains jobs, the environment and so much more,” Kee said.

Chick Allen of Allen’s Family Foods added that it “is an industry issue,” and the senator concurred, explaining that even chicken processers that don’t export to Russia are affected as it “takes away 5 to 10 percent of the demand,” thus hurting the industry as a whole.

Carper had spoken with Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary Gary Locke of the U.S. Department of Commerce to follow up on their letter to the president about the need to address the issue.

“I want to thank President Obama and his administration for their successful efforts to address Russia’s unfair restrictions against American poultry,” said Carper. “Russia is Delaware’s, and America’s, largest market for chicken exports.

“Today’s announcement to end Russian restrictions on U.S. poultry is a win for Delaware’s poultry industry and the farmers who depend on it for their livelihood. My colleagues and I have been working tirelessly with the administration to resolve this issue and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to secure this victory for Delaware’s – and America’s – poultry industry and farmers.”

“This is great news. I applaud President Obama for raising this important issue during talks with Russian President Medvedev,” added Kaufman in a statement. “[The] agreement will once again allow the United States to export our chickens to Russia – reopening a critical market for poultry producers in Delaware and across the country.”

Carper concluded by saying that “this is the way democracy is supposed to work. Whether in Seaford or Sussex County or on the Delmarva Peninsula … as wonderful as the folks at Allen are, and Mountaire, Perdue or Amick, it’s hard for one company to have that kind of impact. However, you’ve been able to leverage that impact with the help of your congressional delegation. Together, with the great help of our president, we got it done. And that’s something to squawk about.”