Avian influenza is the topic of this afternoon’s hearing of a U.S. Senate panel and two Iowans are on the witness list, both men who run poultry operations that saw heavy losses. Senator Chuck Grassley says one of the men is in the egg-laying industry, the other raises turkeys, and both will testify about how Iowa’s been very hard-hit by bird flu.
“Two-hundred and twenty-three detections have occurred affecting 41 million birds in the United States and almost two-thirds of them were from Iowa,” Grassley says.
Both of Iowa’s U.S. senators are serving on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst will be among the senators hearing testimony (beginning at 2 PM/Central) about the devastating impact of the virus.
“We start the hearing with two gentlemen who are administrators within the Department of Agriculture giving us their perspective of it,” Grassley says. “That’s very important from the standpoint of any policy changes that need to be made or any more money available.”
The Iowans who will testify are: Jim Dean, chairman of United Egg Producers in Sioux Center, and Brad Moline, manager and owner of Moline Farms, a turkey production facility in Manson. Grassley says biosecurity was already tight on the Iowa poultry operations, so they’ll look for other potential solutions to future bird flu outbreaks.
“There is the possibility of a vaccine, but also, that brings about a political and scientific problem, whether or not we want to use vaccine that might eliminate some export of chicken meat to other countries where they haven’t approved of the drug,” Grassley says. The U.S.D.A. has already spent a majority of the money allotted for the bird flu epidemic, much of that on destroying and disposing of the infected birds and the comprehensive clean-up.
“About 400 million (dollars) was available and approximately 400 million will probably be spent in this short period of time,” Grassley says. “Is more money needed? That’s one issue for Congress. The other would be the exploration of an insurance program that would be new.” Iowa’s had at least 77 poultry operations hit by bird flu in 18 counties, resulting in the death or euthanizing of more than 31 million birds.