Northey seeks $500,000 in proactive animal disease outbreak preparation

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DES MOINES — A new outbreak of avian influenza in Indiana drives home the need for Iowa to take proactive steps, the state’s secretary of agriculture says.

Bill Northey asked the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday for $500,000 sto aid in preparing for and potentially responding to a foreign animal disease outbreak, such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. The request comes after substantial losses to the virus last year in Iowa to what federal officials considered the worst animal health emergency in U.S. history.

Gov. Terry Branstad did not include money for bird flu prevention in his $7.41 billion fiscal 2017 state budget proposal. The money would be used to increase the capacity of the animal industry bureau and provide resources to better equip and prepare for future responses, Northey said.

“If anything Indiana shows us that it can happen again. We hope that it doesn’t, but we have to be prepared,” Northey said.

In Iowa, 77 premises in 17 counties and 31.5 million birds were affected by the disease last year. That included 35 commercial turkey flocks, 22 commercial egg production flocks, 13 pullet flocks, one chicken breeding flock, one mail-order hatchery, and six backyard flocks.

Gretta Irwin of the Iowa Turkey Federation said Iowa’s affected turkey farms have been repopulated. Randy Olson, an official with the Iowa Egg Council and the Iowa Poultry Association, told committee members the affected Iowa egg-laying operations would be repopulated by mid-2017.

“We’re going to be steadily ramping up through 2016,” Olson said.

Irwin and Olson said a federal indemnification fund helped affected Iowa producers and businesses cover about 80 percent or more of their disposal, cleanup and disinfection costs, while Northey said the federal indemnification payout for Iowa’s bird flu outbreak was “north of $500 million.”

No new cases of bird flu have been reported in Iowa since last June, and the final quarantine order was lifted Dec. 1. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship also recently lifted an order canceling all live bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Iowa State Fair, livestock auction markets, swap meets, exotic sales and other gatherings of birds because of avian influenza.

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