NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sen. Charles Schumer says a proposal to cut $500 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget could hurt the department’s efforts to fight bird flu — and that could mean even higher prices for eggs.

The New York Democrat said at a news conference Sunday outside a Manhattan supermarket that the average price of eggs is up nearly 50 percent this year because of bird flu.

“So many items depend on egg prices,” Schumer said. “So this affects restaurants, it affects store owners and bakers, as well as consumers.”

Nationwide, about 10 percent of all laying hens have been infected.

The senator said a congressional proposal to cut $500 million from a USDA fund will starve the department of the money it needs to combat the epidemic. He urged Congress to stop the proposed cuts.

“In one of the dumbest moves Washington has made, at a time when bird flu is going through the roof, they’re dramatically slashing the one program we have to prevent it, the one program we have to stop its spread,” Schumer told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

The senator said vaccination development and bio security measures could be slashed.

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