Lawmakers look for more Avian Flu assistance
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, August 4, 2015 - With hot, humid temperatures across much of the country, outbreaks of avian influenza have finally stopped.
But following a House Agriculture Committee hearing last week on this subject, lawmakers want more assistance for impacted poultry growers who are still suffering from the loss of more than 48 million birds.
In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson and 28 other committee members commended him for the department's efforts to combat the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak and urged additional steps be taken to assist impacted poultry growers.
“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. We need to do everything we can to be prepared should the disease return in the future,” said Peterson, whose Seventh Congressional District has been “ground zero” for the avian influenza outbreak.
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.
Full text of the letter is below.
Thank you for your efforts to combat the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). We look forward to working with USDA to ensure the necessary resources are available as you tackle this massive outbreak and the challenges that lay ahead.
Conservative estimates put the economy-wide loss for destroyed production due to HPAI at nearly $3.3 billion. Not only do farms lose infected birds, but the rest of their flock as well. Poultry and egg barns need to be disinfected over a period of time, meaning barns will sit empty and poultry and egg production will further decrease.
While losses to turkey, chicken and egg producers are the most visible, the impact of HPAI can be felt across the entire economy. 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. 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.
Therefore, on behalf of our farmer and business constituents impacted by this year's HPAI outbreak, we ask your continued assistance in three key areas:
1) Complete biosecurity research in a timely manner to ensure industry can take any immediate steps before the fall. This critical research will help make sure that any financial requirements by industry, and certainly the federal government, are practices that are based on science, will improve biosecurity and reduce the impact of this disease on farmers, communities and consumers.
2) Complete bilateral trade talks with key international partners to ensure that any vaccine usage will not harm export sales.
3) Complete research and development of a viable commercial vaccine, so that it is available for fall should it be needed. We applaud USDA for its ongoing work on vaccine development.
As we move toward the fall, we stand ready to assist USDA and our poultry industry in trying to mitigate the negative impacts of HPAI on the economy. Again, we commend USDA for its coordination and dedication in responding to this massive outbreak and the current efforts to minimize the impacts that HPAI could have on our communities in the future.
Collin C. Peterson
Walter B. Jones
Robert E. Latta
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