Bird Flu: States Brace for Fall Return

    A fall outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu tops the minds of state agricultural directors, who called on Congress and the Obama administration to ensure there are enough resources to respond to another destructive spread of the virus.

    The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture voted Tuesday to ask Congress and the administration to focus on the risk of another outbreak. The group stated, “After months of intense coordination among state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and industry stakeholders.”

    H5N2 avian influenza swept through turkey and egg-laying operations in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and other states last spring. As was mapped out, the virus was first picked up by wild birds in the Pacific Flyway before carrying over to wild birds in the Central Flyway. Ducks and geese generally tolerate the virus, but domestic birds become more ill and die. The virus led to the death of more than 48 million birds on 223 operations in nine states, according to USDA.

    The fear now is that migratory birds comingling in Canada will not only again hit Midwest flocks, but also shift the flu over to the Atlantic Flyway this fall, hitting the eastern and southern poultry industries.

    According to NASDA, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Michael Strain introduced the action item called “full funding and staffing of animal health diagnostic laboratories and the tools needed to set up effective incident command structures to support biosecurity protocols, depopulation, and disposal of birds.”

    Barbara Glenn, CEO of NASDA, stated, “The next 60 days will be a critical rally period to pull together federal, state, and local resources to prevent and mitigate our next HPAI outbreak. Without a coordinated effort, lost market access will be harder to restore and our poultry producers and rural communities will suffer.”

    USDA has hired 90 more veterinarians and also started stockpiling as much as 500 million doses of vaccine for the flu, though USDA has been working with industry to get export acceptance for trading partners.

    NASDA urged policymakers to re-evaluate and improve the indemnification calculation for this incident.

    “Although this devastating disease has not brought any human food safety concerns, HPAI has wreaked havoc on family farms and small businesses throughout the countryside. We must have an expeditious indemnification process in place that reflects present day values to salvage operations across rural America.”

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