Lawmakers team up with ag experts in the fight against bird flu
SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -
"This is like a rock hitting a pond," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "There's a lot of ripples that go a long ways out from something like this."
More than 60 farms across Iowa are seeing the devastating effects of the H5N2 Avian Flu. As a result, the state is losing more than 25 million birds.
"We're hopeful we're on the downhill slide of this, but there's a lot of work to do," says Northey.
That's what Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey told people in Rock Rapids on Saturday. He and U.S. Congressman Steve King, along with State Senator David Johnson and State Representative John Wills, stopped by the town's public library to share where they're at on the fight to contain the outbreak.
"We're working on several things," says King. "One of them is to bring incinerators in so that the birds can be incinerated on site immediately upon learning that a site is positive. That seems to be the cleanest and the most instantaneous thing we can do."
Northey says they still have a lot to learn about the virus; but, with continued research, they hope to have their questions answered before it's too late.
"We want to stop this thing from spreading," says Northey.
First they have to figure out how it's being spread. To try to find that answer, a group from the USDA is studying how the virus got into each infected farm. However, even if that gets answered, there's still more questions
"How do you test that barn to see that no place in that barn is there anything left that could still have the disease and give it back to the birds that you put in," says Northey. "There's still work going on trying to figure out how to do that."
Northey says there's also a real concern that the disease could resurface when birds begin migrating in the fall.
Congressman King says, on Thursday, he and other U.S. lawmakers will meet to discuss how to put together an insurance package, similar to federal crop insurance, that would protect producers against another bird flu outbreak.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says the virus could impact food products that use eggs as an ingredient, and says there are some companies that are looking into egg alternatives.
Ernst spoke about this before taking the stage at Dort College in Sioux Center on Saturday to talk with locals about the epidemic.
"It's going to be very difficult, I'll be honest, very difficult because I have read reports that some companies that do use a lot of egg products are looking at other ways to find substitutes," says
"It's a great concern to me and even more so to these producers."
Northey says the egg industry could potentially lose the battle. If that does happen, he says it could be a fight to get eggs back on the ingredients list.