Legislators say USDA should continue avian flu relief efforts

Legislators say USDA should continue avian flu relief efforts

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza remains a production issue and USDA should continue assisting producers, legislators say

A group of 29 lawmakers led by House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said last week that USDA has provided help to poultry farmers affected by avian flu and should continue to do so as the seasons change and large outbreaks could reappear.

Related: APHIS report takes preliminary look at bird flu epidemiology

Producers in Peterson's Seventh Congressional District in Minnesota have seen significant HPAI losses.

"I appreciate the work done by both USDA and Minnesota officials thus far but as summer turns to fall, there is concern that we could see a reoccurrence," Peterson said. "We need to do everything we can to be prepared should the disease return in the future."

No trespassing signs are posted on the edge of a field at a poultry farm operated by Daybreak Foods which has been designated 'bio security area' on May 17, 2015, near Eagle Grove, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The letter urged continued assistance in three areas:

• complete biosecurity research in a timely manner to ensure industry can take immediate steps before fall;
• complete bilateral trade talks with international partners to ensure vaccine usage will not harm export sales; and
• complete research and development of a viable commercial vaccine.

In the letter, lawmakers cited concerns that avian flu impacts the entire economy, not just poultry producers.

"With fewer birds going to market and potential delays in restocking of farms, farmers will spend less on traditional input purchases, such as feed and veterinary supplies. Farmers and their employees will also have less household income to spend at local businesses," it said. "Additionally, trade has been cut off by international partners concerned about the devastating effects of this disease, directing more than $1 billion in poultry products to other markets, all at a cost to farmers. These are the ripple effects of avian influenza."

Related: USDA ready in case of fall avian flu outbreak

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told legislators in a hearing last month that the USDA is working on developing a vaccine that has 100% effectiveness on chickens and is being tested on turkeys. It's considered a large part of the Department's mitigation plans, Vilsack said, while noting that preparations are underway to handle 500 outbreaks simultaneously.

The virus, which affected as many as 48 million birds late in 2014 and in the spring of 2015, is expected to surge again in the fall as temperatures become for favorable for its transmission.

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