The State of Iowa’s executive council has voted to spend up to $1.1 million in state tax dollars to cover some of the costs of cleaning up poultry operations that were hit by bird flu and getting rid of the dead birds.
“Primarily the dollars here are for the haz-mat folks, folks that have been a part of some of the fire departments out there,” says Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey. “We also have some dollars in there to help reach out to some other states that are bringing some staff in and we’ll pay some overtime and some of their expenses.”
State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald says all sort of businesses have to dispose of waste and Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for the corporations that run some of the large-scale poultry farms that were hit by bird flu.
“There was no discussion of how we’re going to protect all the workers who maybe got fired or let go, but to make sure the corporate is helping through the system,” Fitzgerald says. “I think this should be a cost of doing business.”
Northey says monitoring the disposal of the dead birds is important because the state government has had a responsibility to reduce the risk that the bird flu will spread to other flocks. Northey and Fitzgerald are both members of the state executive council, along with Governor Branstad and three other statewide elected officials.
Officials say some poultry producers may not be able to stay in business due to the hefty financial losses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $300 million in federal money in response to the bird flu outbreak. That money is being used to cover the costs of clean-up, disposal and disintfection of poultry operations as well as pay producers for the “fair market value” of the birds that were killed. The last case of bird flu in the state was confirmed on June 16 and officials are hoping that’s the end of the current outbreak.