The dangerous advancement of Avian Flu

We have all observed on television and in the movies, a scene on the prairie when animals, as well as people, look to the horizon and see the black clouds of a prairie fire coming toward them. The raging fire could destroy everything in its path with little or no way to stop its advance. Animals run, while humans devise ways of protection.

Such is the way Avian Flu is advancing across Iowa, affecting the chicken and egg operations of our state. Iowa is the leading egg producer in the United Sates. It is also a major producer of turkeys. Up to this time, more than 30 percent of our hen- laying operations have been infected and will have to be destroyed. Significant losses have occurred in our turkey population. This mysterious disease is advancing like wild fire across our state.

It is believed the disease has been spread by migratory waterfowl. Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey says so far they haven?t found any evidence that the disease could be coming into farms from young birds that are brought in.

?We have folks that will call us when maybe a farm?s average death loss has been 30 and it goes to 50,? Northey says. ?They call and we?ll pull samples and some will turn out negative and some will turn out positive. It?s in so few birds, but once it?s in a barn, it will go very quickly in that barn.?

Northey says that?s why they are advising facilities to continue ramping up their already heavy prevention measures.

?So even though every truck has been washed on and off that farm, every person maintained biosecurity, there could be something that flew over and left something on that farm that somebody walks through to take in a barn,? according to Northey.

Once the disease is detected in a facility, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, along with the USDA, are brought in.

The U.S. has the strongest Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance program in the world. As part of the existing USDA Avian Influenza response plans, federal and state partners as well as industry, are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine; 2) Eradicate; 3) Monitor region; 4) Disinfect; and 5)Test ? confirm that poultry farms in the area are free of the virus.

If the producer wants to receive remediation for his birds, federal law says he must wait seven days before the birds can be destroyed. Remediation is $1.25 for a chicken and $2.75 for a turkey. This regulation is bringing much controversy here, not only in the capitol, but across the country side. Why wait seven days for this extremely contagious disease? This virus is threatening our entire poultry population of the state.

Why is the spread of this disease so important to southeast Iowa? The production facilities of the West Liberty Foods Co-op (WLF) could be in its path.

WLF is one of the great stories of economic success concerning co-ops. Beginning with two feed mills and a packing plant, this locally owned co-op has grown to seven fabricating plants, five elevators, a contract with Subway in all but two of our 50 states, and have now entered the pork production industry. The producers have increased their production to serve their facilities. There are 200 people on the WLF payroll in Mt. Pleasant.

All the success of the past is now at risk as the Avian Flu continues to spread across the state.

The clouds on the horizon are drawing closer. One can only hope and pray that this devastating epidemic will burn itself out, saving what is left of our egg and poultry industry in Iowa.