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USDA announces emergency funding to fight avian influenza

Iowa to euthanize 4.2 million affected birds as additional human cases reported in Michigan

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

May 31, 2024

3 Min Read
dairy cows
Andy Sacks/Getty Images

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is allocating $824 million in emergency Commodity Credit Corporation funds to combat Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, also known as H5N1 bird flu. The money will be used to support Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service efforts to identify and address H5N1 cases in poultry and livestock. It will also help launch a new voluntary H5N1 Dairy Heard Status Pilot Program. Additional details are expected to be release on the APHIS website in the coming days.

According to USDA officials, the pilot program will allow the agency to increase surveillance and expand its knowledge of the disease. Farmers who enroll in the program will provide H5N1 test results from their on-farm bulk tank milk samples or similar representative milk samples. If those tests are negative for three consecutive weeks, the farmers will then be able to move their animals without additional pre-movement testing mandated by a recent federal order.

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Gregg Doud praised USDA for its leadership and for working with dairy farmers to meet the challenge posed by H5N1.

“Collaboration and communication across all levels of government, and among all segments of the livestock industry, is critical in making sure that producers can continue to feed Americans and the world with safe, nutritious food,” Doud says. “We look forward to working with USDA and all of dairy’s stakeholders to ensure that these challenges are met.”

Another human case in Michigan

On Thursday, the CDC confirmed a second case of HPAI in Michigan. It is the third reported human bird flu case this year.

CDC officials say this is the first case where the afflicted person has acute respiratory illness, a symptom typically associated with H5N1. They believe that person contracted the illness from an infected dairy cow. This is the same manner in which the first Michigan case and a previous one in Texas are believed to have spread.

According to the CDC, the three cases are unrelated and the risk to the general public remains low.

Iowa to euthanize 4.2 million afflicted chickens

On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced the state’s first case of avian influenza this year had been detected in a Sioux County flock of commercial layer chickens. In response, approximately 4.2 million affected birds will be killed.

During a Friday call with reporters, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said government officials have developed very careful protocols for euthanizing chickens. He says the process is much improved from the “sweeping decisions to euthanasia” made during the last major H5N1 outbreak.

Current mitigation efforts include isolating outbreaks as much as possible to one house or farm by working in concentric circles around the original outbreak. When the Iowa outbreak was confirmed, state and federal officials were also quick to monitor nearby cattle, particular dairy cattle, to ensure the virus had not spread further in the area.

“I think this shows that the government, both state and local, is trying to keep on top of if, as well as the scientist involved,” Grassley said.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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