Bird Flu – Vaccination? Federal Poultry Insurance?

Johnson, Iowa — The executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association says it’s unclear whether vaccination is the answer to prevent another outbreak of bird flu.

(as said) “There’s a debate, a very active debate about that currently and the USDA is taking that up and will be determining whether that would be a viable option.”

That’s Randy Olson, the Iowa Poultry Association’s executive director. He took the job this spring — just a few weeks before the avian flu was discovered in Iowa.

(as said) “Some are certainly concerned that vaccinating birds would create a situation where we always have a certain amount of avian influenza,” Olson says. “Others would say that it’s the only way to stop the spread and so we’re thankful the USDA is devoting the resources they are to understand this and to try to make a decision.”

Olson expects that USDA decision about vaccinating birds in poultry operations sometime this summer. Meanwhile, he says federal leaders are kicking around the idea of federal poultry insurance — something similar to Federal Crop Insurance.

As far as where the virus is coming from, Hongwei Xin, the Director of the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University says that it’s possible that the way poultry barns are built will have to be redesigned.

In addition to an 85-percent jump in the price of eggs, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey warns there’s likely to be a reduction in output from the turkey processing plant in West Liberty.

(as said) “I think as we lose capacity from the farms going to that plant, I think we are likely to see shortened hours there,” Northey says. “We’ve seen that in Minnesota already and certainly many of our eggs as well go through processing plants..and we’re starting to see some shortened hours in that as well.”

Northey predicts shortages in products like liquid eggs and powdered eggs that are used in processed foods, like cake mixes and mayonnaise.

(as said) “There’s going to be an availability issue here as well,” Northey says, “so we’re going to lose sales because we don’t have product and then some of these companies in time will look at how they can engineer that recipe with less eggs in it and we’re going to have to build that back.”

Northey, Xin, and Olson made their comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that aired this past weekend on Iowa Public Television.

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Here’s the program that aired on Iowa Public Television: