Ag Department Wants Funding for Animal Disease Prevention

Jan 20, 2016

Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary says his department needs more money to prevent future outbreaks of avian influenza and other livestock diseases. A request for an additional $500,000 in funding was not in the governor’s budget that was released last week, so Sec. Bill Northey reiterated his request to the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. 

The funding would go towards training and equipment. Also, the department says it wants to hire a veterinarian and program coordinator to monitor animal diseases in the state. 

"We know we need some folks that think about this more regularly," says Northey.  "Both poultry, but also our beef and our pork, and our dairy, and other animals out there and the disease risk that's there."

The magnitude of last year's bird flu outbreak caught Iowa off-guard. Poultry producers say the situation was made worse by miscommunication and untrained personnel, who in some cases caused property damage to farms hit by the virus. 

Greta Irwin of the Iowa Turkey Federation told lawmakers her industry has learned from last year's mistakes, and this knowledge can help in the event of future animal-health emergencies. 

"We really see the need to monitor the health of the birds, of the animals, so you have someone really helping connect the dots together when we're looking at the test, and surveillance of our animals," says Irwin. 

The 2015 outbreak of avian flu resulted in the deaths of 31.5 million poultry in Iowa alone. It was the largest animal-health emergency in U.S. history.