Grassley 'disappointed' in denial of bird flu disaster declaration for Iowa

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, July 9, 2015 -- Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he's “disappointed” that the Obama administration has turned down Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's request for a presidential disaster declaration to help the state's poultry producers recover from losses due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
 
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Grassley commented after a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the outbreak, where he said witnesses made it clear that Iowa had suffered “a significant magnitude of damage.” He noted that the administration's own chief veterinarian, Dr. John Clifford, called the outbreak the “worst animal health emergency in the country's history” and that one Iowa producer testified to losing two-thirds of his birds.

 “Granting a disaster declaration would have made several forms of federal assistance available to these producers,” Grassley said. “Iowa has suffered great losses from this catastrophic outbreak, and I'm very disappointed that a disaster declaration wasn't granted to help deal with the impact.”

Iowa arguably suffered most during the HPAI outbreak, which began in mid-December on the West Coast and eventually spread to 15 states. According to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the outbreak killed or prompted the “depopulation” of more than 48 million birds, with 31.7 million of that number in Iowa, the biggest egg-producing state.

During Tuesday's hearing, Clifford said USDA has already committed $500 million to help combat HPAI, more than half of APHIS' annual budget. More than $190 million has already gone out to indemnify producers against the losses and that figure could increase, he said.

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