Iowa ag secretary seeks more funding to fight animal diseases

Iowa ag secretary seeks more funding to fight animal diseases

Secretary Bill Northey requests $500,000 to be used to add a veterinarian and other staff to strengthen response to disease outbreaks.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Monday the state needs to add $500,000 to the Iowa Department of Agriculture's budget to better react to animal diseases such as bird flu, which destroyed about 33 million laying hens and turkeys in Iowa this year.

In a budget hearing with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Northey said last spring's avian influenza outbreak was the "worst animal health emergency in U.S. history, and unfortunately, Iowa was at the center of it." Northey says the money would be used to add a veterinarian and other staff to respond to animal diseases.

FUNDING NEEDED: Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey wants $10 million for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and $500,000 for avian influenza response efforts. He asked for the funding increase at a budget hearing with Gov. Terry Branstad as part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture's fiscal year 2017 budget request.

Northey also told Branstad and Reynolds at the public budget hearing that he would like to boost the state's spending on the Iowa Water Quality Initiative to $10 million in the fiscal year 2017 budget. The state is spending $9.6 million this fiscal year.

Iowa needs to be better prepared to handle future disease outbreaks
Northey requested a $500,000 appropriation to aid in preparing for and potentially responding to a future foreign animal disease outbreak, such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) or "bird flu." The funds would be used to increase the capacity of the animal industry bureau in the state ag department and provide the agency with resources to better equip and prepare for future responses.

"The USDA has identified the recent avian influenza outbreak as the worst animal health emergency in U.S. history and unfortunately, Iowa was at the center of it. Animal agriculture adds so much to our state and the requested funds would help our state ag department continue to prepare for another animal disease situation that may develop, whether it is avian influenza or another disease," Northey said.

Need to find more resources to encourage more conservation work
The $10 million request for the Water Quality Initiative would allow the state ag department to continue offering cost-share funding statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices, expand work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, and continue to develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in water quality efforts. The department received $9.6 million for the current fiscal year for the Water Quality Initiative.

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"We appreciate the strong support we have received from the governor and the Iowa Legislature for the Water Quality Initiative and we are encouraged by a number of conversations identifying sustainable funding for water quality efforts going forward.  It is important we build on the momentum that has been generated while those conversations continue," Northey said.

State cost-share money attracts matching funds from farmers
Northey also requested $7.5 million for conservation cost-share. For over four decades, Iowa's soil conservation cost share program has encouraged the adoption of soil and water conservation structures and practices to protect and preserve our state's natural resources. Last year alone, the state's $9.8 million investment generated $12.8 million in matching funds from Iowa farmers and landowners to support conservation practices.

In the meeting with Branstad, Northey also requested $1.92 million to close ag drainage wells in Iowa. The requested funding would allow the state ag department to finish a project closing 17 agriculture drainage wells in the state.

The final request for additional funding that was presented was $150,000 from the Technology Reinvestment Fund to begin the process of updating the Iowa Commercial Pesticide License and Certification Database. The current database system was developed in 1987 and is unsupported by current Windows computer operation systems. The ag department's Pesticide Bureau has annually collected more than $5 million in fees in recent years that are used to support the Groundwater Protection Fund in the Iowa DNR and more than $1 million returned to the State's General Fund.

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