Iowa’s senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, remains hopeful after two disappointing recent events. The spring outbreak of avian influenza devastated Iowa’s poultry industry and then this past week talks on the 12-national trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Grassley has strongly supported, broke down.
The United States Department of Agriculture says as of the end of June, Iowa’s laying hen population was the smallest it’s been since October 2001. That’s due primarily to massive losses from bird flu. But Grassley says USDA, state officials and farmers have all learned from the spring outbreak and he’s confident those lessons leave them better prepared for future infections.
For one thing, he says, officials realize now they need to act faster.
“They waited too long to make a decision to euthanize birds, maybe waiting 2, 3, 4 days before they made that decision,” Grassley says. “They said that they’ve learned that on Day 1, if there is bird flu in a barn or on a farm, euthanize right now.”
Grassley is also encouraged by progress on a bird flu vaccine and says it’s not just the egg and turkey industries that have suffered from the virus.
“We can’t have 45 million birds being disposed of in one year, not only for the economy but just think of the disposal of that and the ecological, environmental hazards that that tends to be,” Grassley says.
Migrating ducks and geese can carry the flu virus and, with them flying south soon, some observers are concerned another major flu outbreak could be on the horizon.
Trade Talks Continue
Continued trade talks are definitely coming and Grassley says he will serve on an advisory group with other senators to keep up with developments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The negotiations are hung up on several issues that are key to certain countries, including agricultural subsidies, intellectual property protections and pharmaceuticals.
Grassley says the United States needs to continue its leadership role in the trade talks.
“This is our chance to set the rules for international trade in the emerging economies in Asia,” he says, “which over the next century is going to dominate international trade.”
The senate group will get briefings from the United States Trade Representative as the talks continue.