The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has granted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack authority to issue emergency assistance for poultry and egg producers whose flocks have been infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The OMB action was a result, in part, by four Leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees- Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) sending a letter last week to OMB to request the authority for USDA.  In addition, the National Chicken Council, with other agricultural organizations, also submitted a letter last week to Congress requesting the full funding of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to further enhance early disease warning and surveillance efforts.

“I applaud OMB for recognizing the urgency and gravity of this situation,” said Roberts. “I’m glad these producers who suffered significant losses will get the assistance they need to help them move forward and begin rebuilding. I also applaud poultry and egg producers for proactively doing everything within their power to protect the health of their flocks.”

On Tuesday this week, a bipartisan group of senators signed a letter pressing the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee requesting “robust funding to proactively address the ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak” and to make funding for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “a very high priority.”

The president’s original budget request for the APHIS avian health program was $52 million for FY 2016, which is equal to the FY 2014 and FY 2015 enacted levels.  “Given the recent unforeseen increase in confirmed avian influenza cases and their rapid spread throughout the country since the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget request was released, we urge the subcommittee or committee to make funding for the APHIS avian health program a very high priority in order to continue these critical avian influenza response measures in the next fiscal year,” the bipartisan group urged.

The 15 Senators signing the letter include:

  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Al Franken (D-MN
  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • John Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Mark Warner (D-VA)

Meanwhile, avian influenza this week struck its largest operation to date in Minnesota, infecting a farm with over 1.1 million laying hens in Nicolette County in south-central Minnesota.  It was also reported that Renville County in Minnesota has seen its first outbreak at a farm with 12,900 turkeys.  This puts the total farms in Minnesota now affected by avian influenza at 80.  The newly affected farms have been quarantined.  The flocks have been euthanized and no birds will enter the food supply. No human infections of H5N2 avian influenza have been detected to date.