“The crippling impact of the avian flu has devastated Iowa’s poultry industry, farmers, producers and local communities,” Ernst said during a telephone news conference this morning with Iowa reporters. “Over 70 family farms in Iowa have been hit by this deadly disease, resulting in an economic ripple effect throughout our rural communities.”
Governor Branstad asked the president to declare a “major” federal disaster in the four counties that suffered the greatest losses from the outbreak. Federal officials say the damage from the bird flu outbreak is not severe enough to warrant additional federal assistance. Ernst said she’s committed to helping Iowa rebound from the outbreak, but she is not optimistic congress will pass bills that would boost federal payments to cover bird flu expenses.
“As a national leader in egg production, Iowa has been hit the hardest with nearly two-thirds of all infected and destroyed birds coming from Iowa,” Ernst said.
Ernst faults the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a “slow response” to the epidemic when it started.
“They have changed the way they are doing business, so a lot of the confusion that is out there is currently being cleared up by the representatives of the USDA,” Ernst said.
Senator Grassley, in a written statement, said it’s clear the “catastrophic” outbreak caused “significant damage” to Iowa’s economy. Grassley said he, too, is “very disappointed” the disaster declaration wasn’t granted.
Branstad estimates about 1500 workers in Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright Counties are losing their jobs and he had asked for an extension of federal unemployment benefits, crisis counseling and legal services for those workers.