Blog | 2015 Avian Influenza Outbreak

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On July 15, 2015 in General by spope

As many of you know the poultry industry has just experienced the largest Avian Influenza outbreak in the history of the United States. More than 200 commercial operations have been directly affected in the Midwest. But one of the biggest overlooked aspects of this has been the impact to the transit of all poultry, and just because you have not been directly affected, doesn’t mean that you won’t be impacted.

Poultry exported outside the United States, for the most part, is covered by trade laws. These prearranged agreements with our trading partner countries outline guidelines with respect to handling a situation like the recent Avian Flu event. These agreements would cover aspects of the USDA’s response to the event, establishing control zones around an affected farm, as well as the protocols to eradicate the disease. This agreed upon process is designed to get trade back up and going as soon as possible, while protecting the trade partners interests. During the recent outbreak, some countries certainly placed embargoes of U.S. poultry under the guise of the Avian Flu event for political reasons. But our main trade partners have been reasonable, and currently many of the impacted states have now been regionalized so only the 10km zone around the affected farm is restricted for trade. Trade is getting back on track.

But concerns have been mounting on how the movement of poultry within the U.S. is being regulated. For the most part the NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) has worked well in managing surveillance of poultry diseases. But unfortunately, it has come to our attention recently that each state has the right to restrict the movement of poultry across their borders. Several states have now placed increased restrictions as well as additional protocols to allow live poultry to enter their state.  In many cases these are states that were not affected during the recent event, and certainly are operating in their best interests to protect their poultry industries. Understandably, the large southern U.S. broiler chicken producing states are downright scared, and they will do what they can to protect their state poultry industry.

What could this mean? You might not be able to ship your birds to other states or transit live poultry through certain states. You should expect changes in disease testing requirements, biosecurity protocols, and other requirements in the event you’re allowed. In the case of another similar Avian Flu event as this spring, we may see states’ restrictions on all poultry. But as I write this in mid-July, nearly 30 days past the last reported case in the Midwest, we are still in an environment of the fear of the unknown with the coming fall duck migration.

So what can you do?

(1)    Contact your State Veterinarian. They are your best resource to information, and will provide you help if you need it. Tell them about your business, the potential impact Avian Flu or state transit issues has or could have on your way of life. You’ll find out that most of these people will be very interested, and very helpful. If you aren’t sure who your State Veterinarian is, we’ve provided a link.

(2)    Learn the requirements for transiting live poultry across state lines. Each state may have different requirements depending on the part of the country, and many of these requirements are changing or could be changing in the future. Your State Veterinarian can probably help you with that also.

(3)    Follow the rules, even if you don’t agree or they seem excessive or unwarranted. We all know that we’ve operated in an environment with a lack of oversight, but I suspect this will be changing.

In the gamebird industry, let’s face it, we have our birds outdoors. We release them into the wild, deliver them all over the country, and to the mainstream poultry industry we look pretty darn scary. Our actions within the gamebird industry, now more than ever, will be evaluated. When there are gaps in the system that are identified, you should expect regulation to follow shortly after. So by following the rules, trying to do everything correctly, will go a long way in the current environment as more and more scrutiny is placed on the movement of live poultry within the U.S.

We should consider ourselves lucky in the gamebird industry that we were not more involved this spring. It really doesn’t make sense of the high incident within the large turkey and layer chicken operations, while many other poultry types escaped in most cases untouched. But moving forward the past really doesn’t matter. Within our industry we need to be vigilant, proactive and do things to the best of our abilities. Because if we don’t, we may be told how and what we can do in the future.

Written by Brad Lillie


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