Lawmakers Meet with Iowa Agriculture Secretary For Avian Flu Update

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Lawmakers from the Appropriations Committee met with Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey at the Iowa Statehouse Monday.

The committee wanted an update from Northey on the avian bird flu outbreak, and asked if additional dollars will be needed to contain the virus.

Northey said the state of Iowa has an avian influenza fund that has money put into it every year.

"That gives us some dollars for testing for paying for some help if we need to get some outside help."

Before the first outbreak hit, the fund had $137,000 in it.

The money is used for helping with testing and containing the outbreaks at production facilities.

Northey said the state may need to provide additional funds but it's too early to tell.

He also assured the committee the general public has nothing to worry about.

"While this is a very serious situation to that farmer, this is not a human health concern, this is about protecting the risks of the birds, whether backyard flocks or larger operations,” Northey said.

Northey said the long-term effect will be felt if the production facilities cannot get back up and running and the loss in birds cannot be replaced  once the facilities are cleared.

"This is a huge impact to the producers, it`s a huge impact to all those around. If you have a facility producing four million eggs, they`re using about four million bushels of corn a year.  If that facility is down for a year, you have four million less bushels of corn, certainly the soybean meal and a lot of employees."

If the five new cases are confirmed, a total of more than six-million birds will be euthanized.

Northey said he suspects once the testing is completed, all five facilities will come back positive.

The last major bird flu outbreak was in 1983 in Pennsylvania where 17-million birds were infected.

Nationwide the current outbreak involves nearly 14-million.