WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2017 - No, there is still no announcement by President-elect Donald Trump on who will be the next agriculture secretary. But that doesn’t mean that the position is held in low regard. It’s quite the opposite, according to transition officials.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that a lot of care and consideration is going into the decision on who will lead the USDA.

“There are a couple of slots that are very important to him, that he’s committed to getting right,” Spicer said on a call with reporters. “Both the Department of Agriculture, in terms of our economy and trade, frankly, is crucial.”

An announcement could come as early as today, but be sure to tune in Wednesday when the president-elect is scheduled to hold a news conference in New York City.

Meanwhile, preparation for the inaugural celebration is in full swing in Washington as evidenced by the hundreds of porta-potties that have sprung up on the National Mall, presumably for the people willing to brave the cold to see the procession along Pennsylvania Avenue.

High path bird flu detected in wild bird. A strain of highly-pathogenic avian influenza has been found in a wild mallard duck caught by hunters in Montana, according to an announcement Monday by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The virus has not been detected in any commercial poultry flocks, but it is believed to be one of the strains that caused massive outbreaks in egg-laying hens and turkeys two years ago, according to initial findings. Farmers were forced to euthanize tens of millions of hens and turkeys in 2015 to stop the spread of the avian flu virus.

Samples from the wild duck were tested at Colorado State University and USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

“This appears to be one of the strains we saw during the outbreak in 2014 and 2015,” said USDA Chief Veterinarian Jack Shere. “This finding serves as a powerful reminder that there is still avian influenza circulating in wild birds, and producers and industry need to continue to be vigilant about biosecurity to protect domestic poultry.”  

Screwworm threat to livestock makes jump to mainland in Florida. It’s been more than 30 years since the U.S. has had to combat the new world screwworm, but the insects have now been found in a dog in mainland Florida, according to a new USDA report.
State officials first confirmed the finding screwworms in deer on Big Pine Key in October, but subsequent infestations were quickly discovered on 13 other Florida Keys islands.

 The maggots are a threat to livestock and survive by burrowing into the animals and eating them from within.

 Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared an agricultural state of emergency in Monroe County soon after the first discovery in the Keys. 

“While they can fly much farther under ideal conditions, adult flies generally do not travel more than a couple of miles if there are suitable host animals in the area,” APHIS said in the Monday report. “New World screwworm is more likely to spread long distances when infested animals move to new areas and carry the pest there.”

Agri-Pulse to launch Farm Bill series next month. February is when Agri-Pulse is scheduled to kick off a series of in-depth stories on the farm bill. The series will delve into a wide variety of issues such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, crop insurance, research and rural development, while keeping a focus on the lessons that lawmakers and farm groups learned from the 2014 farm bill.

Agri-Pulse plans to have the series, entitled “The Seven Things You Should Know Before You Write the Next Farm Bill,” culminate in an educational summit for new staff and emerging leaders at the National Press Club on March 20. For more details and list of sponsors, click here.

“Securing programs and policies in the 2018 farm bill that work for America's farm and ranch families requires that all of agriculture works closely together,” says American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. 

“The farm bill series and Summit will provide an essential platform so that congressional and administration staff members are fully aware of the many issues on the collective agenda of America's farmers and ranchers. We are pleased to help facilitate this comprehensive and collaborative effort with Agri-Pulse.” 


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