Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

The number of avian influenza cases in Iowa is climbing again and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s pushing the U.S.D.A. to ensure producers are getting the help they need to deal with it. Four more probable cases at Iowa poultry operations were announced on Monday for a total of 25 statewide, with more than 19-million birds that have to be euthanized.

Grassley says all of those dead birds have to be properly handled. “I met with a person last week that’s contracting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to go out and give some advice on disposal,” Grassley says, “but evidently disposal is a major problem and not easily handled.”

Grassley is among 14 senators who signed a letter Monday to the U.S.D.A., urging officials in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to make avian flu “a very high priority.” That service is responsible for helping state governments respond to the spread of the disease.

“At this point, writing to the Appropriations Committee to make sure that they see that there’s adequate funds available,” Grassley says. “I don’t think there’s an insinuation in our letter that they might not be thinking in that direction.” It’s hoped the warmer weather will contribute to ending the outbreaks as the virus doesn’t survive well in the heat but thrives in cold. It’s believed the bird flu is being spread by wild waterfowl but biosecurity and other preventative measures don’t appear to be doing much good. It has to essentially “run its course,” according to Grassley.

He says one thing the federal government can do is help impacted producers resupply after the sick birds have been destroyed and removed and their operations have been disinfected.

“We do have an indemnity payment of $2.40 per bird,” Grassley says. “That would be the same figure for older barns and new barns and these are just for egg-laying chickens at this point. I don’t have a figure on turkeys.”

The latest four probable outbreaks are in three counties — Buena Vista, Cherokee and Wright counties. It’s Wright County’s first reported incident. That county in north-central Iowa has more poultry than any other county in the state, with some 15-million birds at 20 operations. One estimate says Iowa’s egg operations may lose $390 million.

Iowa’s entire congressional delegation signed onto a letter last week asking the U.S.D.A. to help in combating the avian influenza.