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Poultry growers urged to prep for avian flu

Ruslan Sidorov/Getty Images Broilers feeding indoors
PROTECTING POULTRY: With the recent confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in the Carolinas, Maryland growers are urged to take precautions to protect their broilers from this potentially devastating disease.
Northeast Notebook: Farm transition webinar set; conference to address cover crops; conservation practice survey available; grants to boost wine and beer.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture is urging poultry farmers to remain vigilant and practice enhanced biosecurity on their farms after the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in the Carolinas.

During this time of year, migratory waterfowl moving through Maryland present a heightened risk for HPAI, which is a potentially devastating disease for poultry operations. The disease is caused by an influenza type A virus, which can infect poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quails, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free-flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. 

Growers are urged to follow these minimum guidelines to maintain a sanitary, biosecure premises:

  • Restrict access to poultry by posting “Restricted Access” signage, securing the area with a gate, or both.
  • Take steps to ensure that contaminated materials on the ground are not transported into the poultry-growing house or area.
  • Provide footbaths and foot mats with disinfectant; boot washing and disinfectant stations; and footwear change or foot covers.
  • Cover and secure feed to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing it.
  • Cover and properly contain carcasses, used litter, or other disease-containing organic materials to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing them and to keep them from being blown around by wind.
  • Allow the Maryland Department of Agriculture to enter the premises during normal working hours to inspect your biosecurity and sanitation practices. 

Report any unusual bird deaths or sudden increases in sick birds to the MDA Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810 or after hours at 410-841-5971. Also, contact USDA at 866-536-7593. 

Read about HPAI and biosecurity measures on the MDA website. The Defend the Flock program website has many valuable resources available for poultry owners, including a variety of instructional videos, to help mitigate the risk of HPAI. 

Transition planning webinar

MidAtlantic Farm Credit is holding a free webinar Jan. 31 with AgChoice Farm Credit and Pennsylvania Farm Link to help farmers with successful transition planning.

Brenda O’Brien of NY FarmNet will be presenting the best practices to implement and pitfalls to avoid during farm succession planning.

Attendees can sign up for the webinar at Once registered, participants will receive all the materials via email, and can join live or watch the replay when convenient.

If you have any questions for the presenter, email [email protected].

Cover crops conference

Mitch Hunter, a sustainable agriculture and climate resilience expert, has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the fifth annual Northeast Cover Crops Council Conference on March 10-11.

Hunter, an American Farmland Trust research director, will give a presentation, "All the C's: Congress, Cover Crops, Climate, Carbon and Conservation.”

March 10 concurrent sessions will focus on three main areas: cover crops and integrated pest management, cover crops and tarping in vegetable systems, and on-farm research.

Topics for the second day will be precision sustainable agriculture, corn and soybean research, and cover cropping strategies for weed management.

The conference will be held virtually from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on both days and include graduate student lightning talks, and several concurrent sessions led by researchers, Extension and industry personnel, and agricultural producers from around the country.

Registration is $75, payable by noon March 7. Certified crop adviser credits are available. For more details or to register, visit To request a disability-related accommodation, email PASA Sustainable Farming at [email protected].

Conservation survey

If you're a farm operator in 14 central Pennsylvania counties, you now have a chance to highlight the steps you have taken to protect and enhance water quality for local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

Several agricultural and governmental organizations have partnered to develop a survey, found at, that asks producers in Bedford, Centre, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder and Tioga counties to document conservation practices they have adopted to promote water quality and soil health in the bay watershed.

This survey follows a successful effort undertaken in 2016, when farmers across Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed were invited to fill out a similar survey. Nearly 7,000 did, resulting in many conservation practices reported and credited in Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

Still, conservation practices on an estimated 80% of Pennsylvania farms in the bay watershed remain unreported. In addition, farmers who filled out the 2016 survey will have a chance to report new practices installed since then, report on annual practices such as nutrient management and cover crops, and report on the continued success of previously reported practices.

The survey is being administered by the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center, which will mail a letter with the survey link to farmers in the 14 counties.

College of Agricultural Sciences researchers will analyze the survey responses, and cumulative results will be provided to Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Office to document the practices farmers have adopted to conserve soil and water and to protect water quality.

Ten percent of the participants will be selected randomly for farm visits by Penn State Extension to assess inventory results, and help researchers better understand the methods used and challenges encountered when adopting various management practices.

Farmers are encouraged to fill out the survey online at Farmers also will have the option of filling out a paper version of the survey, which will be mailed in February to those who have not yet completed it online. 

Participants are asked to submit their responses by April 1. All farmers who complete the survey will receive a complimentary Penn State soil test kit. Farmers who participate in Extension farm visits will receive a complimentary copy of the Penn State Agronomy Guide.

Beer and wine grants

Pennsylvania is seeking proposals for up to $2 million in project funding to increase sales, quality and production of Pennsylvania wine, beer and cider.

The Department of Agriculture’s Wine Marketing and Research Board and Malt and Brewed Beverage Board will review and recommend projects for funding by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Last October, the Wolf administration awarded nearly $2 million to fund 15 projects to increase cider, craft beer, and cider and wine tourism and marketing; research to protect the wine industry from invasive spotted lantern flies and severe weather threats; and support strategic planning to help the industry recover from the pandemic.

Detailed guidelines and instructions for Wine Marketing and Research Grant applications can be found in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. One-page concept papers outlining the activities involved in each funded project are due Feb. 11. Proposals should be submitted to [email protected].

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