|Hello from the State Capitol,
Not long ago, I warned of a potential challenge facing Minnesota’s poultry farmers.
Over the past few months, the Highly Pathogenetic Avian Influenza (HPAI) had been found in the midwestern United States. It has since moved into Minnesota.
According to a recent Associated Press news article, avian flu has now been found in 21 poultry flocks across 11 Minnesota counties. More than a million birds have been infected, and are eventually euthanized to keep the virus from spreading. Commercial turkey farms have seen the most damage, but its worth noting that backyard chicken flocks face similar danger.
We’ve been here before. In 2015, an avian flu outbreak caused the death of 9 million birds throughout the state, which crippled not only poultry producers but Minnesota’s ag economy. In response, the legislature provided significant funds to help deal with the emergency and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) instituted numerous biosecurity measures meant to slow the spread of avian flu if another outbreak came to Minnesota.
While we’re in a better place today, things aren’t perfect. This is why I helped approve a bill in the Minnesota House recently that helps address this emergency. The legislation allocates $1 million to the Agriculture Emergency Account. The current balance of the Agriculture Emergency Account is about $400,000. It will allow MDA to use the money for HPAI testing supplies, and allows for the transfer of funds to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for surveillance until December 31, 2022.
I’m pleased the House moved forward on this. Minnesota’s turkey industry includes nearly 700 farms that raise about 40 million birds a year, so the State needs to be prepared to assist if the devastation continues.
In regard to anything you hear about avian flu in the weeks and months ahead, please remember that chicken and turkey products that you are buying at the grocery store are safe to eat. Poultry producers could be gearing for a long spring and summer if HPAI continues to spread. The best thing you can do to help out those producers, as well as our state’s ag economy, is to keep buying turkey and chicken whenever it’s available.
Have a good weekend,