Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says there are ongoing concerns with the U.S.D.A.’s response to the bird flu outbreak in the state. Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, was asked about the issue during a conference call with reporters.
“I can only answer in what I have heard from various producers, and those producers have reported to me that they do not believe that the U.S.D.A. is as responsive as they should be, “Ernst says.
Ernst says she is concerned federal officials have not developed a plan to deal with the issue. “In the beginning it was very difficult to respond because there were so many cases of the bird flu that were appearing in all of these various states,” Ernst says. “However, many months have gone by now, and the U.S.D.A. has had time to implement a stronger strategy. I have not seen that yet, or heard that from those producers who have been affected.”
There have been 73 probable or confirmed cases of the bird flu in Iowa thus far, with some 30 million birds in 17 counties impacted. Ernst says one of the biggest concerns is the response time when producers believe their flock is infected. “In one case it took nine days for the U.S.D.A. to respond from the time the initial call was made to the time when they actually showed up on the farm,” according to Ernst. “Nine days is too long when it only takes 48 hours for the infected bird to die. That is way too long.”
Ernst says Iowa producers have also raised concerns about differences in payments made to them for the dead animals. “There is nowhere on-line that they can find out exactly what type of payments are made, what the payments are for, there’s no breakdown,” Ernst explains. She says producers want to know why payments at one facility can be different from another.
“So many of the farmers who have the same types of flocks — maybe the same age of birds — are being paid a different rate than another flock. So, there’s a lot of inconsistency there,” Ernst says. “What we are asking the U.S.D.A. for is a transparency, a break out of what the farmers are being paid for and why it might differ from another farmer on a nearby production facility.”
Ernst says they need answers to those questions to ensure everything is being handled properly. “We need to get to the bottom of it. We need to be sure that we are protecting our Iowa producers,” Ernst says. Senator Ernst says she continues to remind her colleagues about the issues as she says very few people outside the impacted states are knowledgeable about the problem.