Iowa governor asks Obama for bird flu disaster declaration

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 19, 2015 - Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad reached out to President Barack Obama to request a major disaster declaration for four counties in his state facing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) dealing with 33 million infected birds and growing unemployment.

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“With a disaster of this magnitude adversely affecting Iowa farmers, producers and the workers they employ, I am requesting federal assistance from President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Branstad said in a release. “Given the unprecedented nature of this disaster, it is my hope that the President will expedite this request to provide federal assistance as soon as possible.”

Branstad's office said he may extend the request to cover more counties in addition to Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright, in the northwest corner of the state. For now, he is asking the White House for unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, disaster case management and legal services, and other Stafford Act program aid for the those county residents losing their jobs as a result of the HPAI outbreak.

The request also includes a tonnage waiver for Iowa's federal aid roadways. Branstad's office said the waiver would accelerate the disposal of HPAI infected birds, which would in turn help reduce the likelihood of spreading the pathogen during the disposal process.

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Before Iowa's latest outbreak statistics were tallied, nearly 32 million of the over 48 million commercial birds affected by HPAI since December 2014 were from Iowan flocks, predominately located in the Northwestern quadrant of the state.

Of the states' 75 outbreaks, Buena Vista County has had 14 and Sioux County has had 16, resulting in the deaths of 6.63 million and 7.97 million birds, respectively.

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