Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says sloppiness might well contribute to the spread of avian flu, hitting hard the Iowa poultry industry and now in Nebraska.
Some producers have used pond water for their flocks, pond water that has been exposed to wild birds which might be carrying the disease. Workers might have skipped a shower or two before entering facilities.
“We will absolutely focus on making sure that producers are very clear about what the bio-security measures are and need to be taken in order to minimize the impact and effect of this in the future,” Vilsack tells Radio Iowa.
Clean-up has become a problem, especially trying to get landfills that not only will take the dead birds from the chicken and turkey operations affected, but will take them at a reasonable cost.
So far, avian flu has hit 16 states, killing 33 million birds.
Vilsack says the USDA has spent $30 million in indemnity payments to producers, all in an effort to help them survive the devastation of having whole flocks destroyed. The Agriculture Secretary expects that total to eventually top $100 million.
Gov. Peter Ricketts has declared a state of emergency in wake of the discovery of avian flu in northeast Nebraska, authorizing the use of state resources to stop the spread of the disease here.
Officials emphasize avian flu is not a threat to human health, but is a very real threat to the $1.1 billion poultry industry in Nebraska.
Nebraska officials discovered a case of avian flu in a commercial layer flock in Dixon County. According to the governor’s office, the flock of 1.7 million chickens is located within the central flyway where this strain of avian flu has previously been discovered.
The operation has been quarantined in accordance with USDA protocol and the birds have been killed.
Radio Iowa contributed to this report.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
From Gov. Ricketts’ office:
The state of emergency declaration is effective immediately. It will provide resources to help state agencies with appropriate response functions such as:
· Tracking, monitoring and rapidly responding to instances of confirmed HPAI cases throughout the state of Nebraska;
· Containing the spread of HPAI within Nebraska through employment of biosecurity protocols, depopulation of affected birds, disinfection practices, and disposal of bird mortalities; and
· Engaging in surveillance and early detection activities and other investigatory efforts to stop the spread of the disease within the state.
State agencies are working through the Emergency Support Function 11, which is the agriculture section of the State Emergency Operations Plan. Activities at present of key involved state agencies include:
Nebraska Department of Agriculture
· Serving as the lead on coordination of state response;
· Working as the liaison with owners of affected farm(s);
· Enforcing the quarantine of affected farm(s);
· Working with other state and federal agencies on humane depopulation of, and disposal of, infected birds;
· Establishing quarantines for farms with poultry within a 6.2 mile radius of affected farm(s) and coordinate testing efforts;
· Issuing permits for movement of materials such as feed, other supplies, and eggs and egg products outside of the 6.2 mile perimeter in accordance with national biosecurity measures;
· Coordinating communications.
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency
· Conducting coordination meetings of state agencies as per the State Emergency Operations Plan, and serving as liaison with the Governor’s Office;
· Serving as the liaison with county and other local emergency response coordinators;
· Providing resource support as requested, including coordinating with and directing the efforts of other state agencies.
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
· Assisting with determining environmentally safe disposal options for bird mortalities, including sending a team to farm site(s). The goal is to determine best options to protect ground and surface water resources and air quality, and to manage disposal in a way that does not propagate further spread of the disease. The USDA has lengthy protocols for mortality disposal that also must be considered.
Nebraska Department of Roads and Nebraska State Patrol
· Coordinating access to affected areas through road closures and traffic control.