Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bird flu wreaks havoc, especially in Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa

Bird flu, an aviary disease that experts say does not pose a significant risk to humans, is presenting a variety of difficulties across the nation. In particular, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa are dealing with outbreaks.

In Iowa, turkey and chicken producers require more assistance from the federal government because facilities are struggling to destroy millions of birds who have avian influenza, industry and congressional leaders said. "The virus has infected nearly 50 facilities in 12 counties," Donnelle Eller reports for The Des Moines Register.

The state is the national's top egg producer and has already lost 25 million hens to the flu. "As this crisis continues to unfold, we urge USDA to consider ways to expedite humane depopulation processes," U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. USDA spokesman Matt Herrick said, "USDA has deployed hundreds of additional staff to manage this response—more than 85 of them are in Iowa today, and more are on the way. We have delivered tens of millions of dollars in indemnification payments to producers and have the authority to spend much more." (Read more)

In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricket declared an emergency to ensure that state agencies possess what they need to deal with bird flu, the Associated Press reports. Agricultural officials identified the disease's presence in a flock of 1.7 million chickens in Dixon County, Nebraska, earlier this week. Now state agencies are working on quarantining the farm and destroying the birds that have the disease. Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says the declaration of emergency will provide him with extra resources necessary for response to the outbreak. (Read more)

In Minneapolis, Minn., a power plant fueled by turkey litter was already struggling to stay in full operation but is now experiencing more difficulties because of bird flu, Steve Karnowski writes for the Associated Press. Fibrominn LLC was originally intended to be an innovative renewable energy source and to help dispose of turkey litter. However, the plant already did not have enough fuel, and the bird flu crisis has depleted the resources further.

Turkey litter can be droppings, wood ships, seed hulls, feathers and spilled seed and can also be used as fertilizer. "We expect to continue to burn turkey litter at the project," said Donald Atwood, a Competitive Power Ventures Inc. vice president. "We'll adjust our fuel percentages based on market conditions. . . . I'm highly confident that the project will be successful." (Read more)

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