Months Until Bird Flu Facilities Can Restart

Washington, DC — Two Iowans who testified at a Senate Ag Committee hearing on bird flu Tuesday say it will still be several months before their facilities are re-stocked and operating again. James Dean of Sioux Center is the chair of United Egg Producers, and says they want to be sure all the farms around them have the infected birds hauled away before they bring in new birds.
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(as he says)”The worst thing that can happen to us is that we get our farms clean and sanitized, re-populate and then re-infect the farm,” Dean says. “So, we have to make sure that we do have a time period here where farms around us are clean as well.”

Dean says they could have to wait until the end of the year to get new birds in.

(as he says)”We’re hoping that we can start re-populating sometime in November and December. And we feel that it will take us 12 to 16 months before we are re-populated at our farm,” according to Dean.

Turkey farmer Brad Moline of Moline Farms in Manson, says once they get back up and running, they know cool weather could bring another outbreak.

(as he says)”Yes, we’re still very concerned that this could happen again. The last thing we want is this happening again. Frankly, many producers can survive this once, they could not survive a second time,” Moline says.

The bird flu virus is believed to be carried by migratory birds, and thrives in cooler conditions, so the concern increases for another outbreak as the seasons shift.

(as he says)”Maybe not so much this fall — depending on the speed of the migratory birds heading south — but boy we could certainly be in this area next spring for sure. And other parts of the country have to be aware of this,” according to Moline.

Iowa’s U-S Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, requested the hearing after at least 77 poultry operations in the state were hit by bird flu in 18 counties. More than 31-million birds had to be destroyed after the outbreak.

Story from Radio Iowa

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Low Propane Prices Spell Good News For Users

Des Moines, Iowa — There’s good consumer news for Iowans who use propane — from backyard grillers to farmers and homeowners. Propane prices are at an all-time low, according to Harold Hommes, an energy analyst at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Hommes says those who grill probably won’t notice a difference, but he says the impact will be significant for the thousands of Iowans who heat their homes with propane.
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(As above) “People are just now taking advantage of summer fills and buying opportunities where they try to lock in their needs for the winter,” Hommes says. “I think they’re going to be fairly happy with the results and where they can lock in those values.”

Just how good are those values? In the winter of 2013, propane prices hit a record five-dollars per gallon due to increased exports and high demand from farmers needing it to dry grain. This summer, Hommes says many suppliers are offering the gas significantly cheaper.

(As above) “Depending on different locations in the state, anywhere from 70 to 95 cents and the dollar mark,” Hommes says, “but certainly a very favorable value compared to where we were at just a couple years ago.”

Just like gasoline, Hommes says propane inventories are up and foreign investors are not finding it as attractive as it’s been in the past.

Incidentally, Hommes is a northwest Iowa native, who grew up in Rock Rapids.

Speaking of Rock Rapids, officials with the NuStar petroleum pipeline terminal there say they are installing propane tanks and will begin storing propane for delivery to large tanker trucks. Other improvements include upgrading of the terminal buildings and painting of the massive petroleum tanks west of Rock Rapids.

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Branstad’s Federal Request Denied

Washington, DC — Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration to assist with the impact of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza — has been denied.
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Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s disappointed that Governor Branstad’s request was denied by the Obama Administration. Grassley says that after Tuesday’s Agriculture Committee hearing, where he listened to testimony from producers who were affected, he says it’s very clear that this outbreak caused a “significant magnitude of damage throughout the state.”

Grassley goes on to say that the Administration’s own chief veterinarian said that it was the largest animal health emergency in the country’s history. He says those in attendance heard from one Iowa producer who lost two-thirds of his birds to the disease, and he is not alone.

The Senator goes on to say that granting a disaster declaration would have made several forms of federal assistance available to these producers. Iowa has suffered great losses from this catastrophic outbreak, says Grassley. And he says he’s “very disappointed that a disaster declaration wasn’t granted to help deal with the impact.”

Sioux County was one of the counties included in the disaster declaration request.

Jones Plea-Taking Pushed Back

Sheldon, Iowa — The case of the Sheldon optometrist accused of assault has reportedly been pushed back again.
O'Brien Courthouse2
At a pretrial conference on Thursday, May 28th in the case of 68-year-old Dr. Allen Jones, an order setting plea was set for Thursday, July 9th. Osceola County Attorney Bob Hansen, who is representing O’Brien County and the State of Iowa in the case says that while he cannot discuss terms of the plea agreement, he can confirm that a plea bargain has taken place. But Hansen notified KIWA on Wednesday, July 8th, that the plea taking would not be happening on Thursday, and that no new date had been set.

According to the Sheldon Police Department, Jones was charged with Aggravated Assault, a Serious Misdemeanor, in connection with an incident police say happened at a Sheldon business in December.

Jones’ original written plea of not guilty was taken at an arraignment in February.

Over 200 Applications Received For Casino Grants

Rock Rapids, Iowa — The response to the newest type of grant offered by the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation has been greater than anyone expected.
Grand Falls Roulette
The foundation is the nonprofit license-holder for the Grand Falls Casino, and gets a certain percentage of the gaming take to give back to the community.

David Childress, the foundation’s executive assistant says that what’s billed as “a new and easy way to secure a $2000 grant for a special project” was very well received by the surrounding communities of Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort. He says 209 applications were received, requesting funds for everything from computers to concrete steps. He says applications were received from South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, including towns and cities of Luverne, Sibley, Harrisburg and Sioux Falls just to name a few.

On Tuesday evening, July 21st at 7:00 PM, he says the foundation will give $100,000 in mini grants to over fifty of the organizations that applied. The award ceremony will be held at the Events Center at Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort.

One stipulation of the new mini grants is that Organizations must be present in order to be awarded funds.

President of the Riverboat Foundation Jeff Gallagher says that they are truly excited about this new way of making funds available to the area. He says it’s a simple and easy way. He says they hope many people will come to Grand Falls Casino that night to see which groups will be receiving money toward their projects.

Gallagher says they were really surprised by the volume of grant requests. He says they hoped to get a hundred applications. He says, QUOTE “To get over 200 is amazing. There should be plenty of smiles and a few disappointments as we draw out the grant winners.”

Iowa Farmers Critical Of Bird Flu Response

Washington, DC — Two Iowans who participated in a US Senate hearing on the bird flu outbreak were critical of the government’s response, but say they believe things are improving. Brad Moline of Moline Farms in Manson raises turkeys and spoke after the hearing about the problems he saw with the response of the U-S Department of Agriculture and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

(as he says)”One of the biggest problems we faced in the industry, was not only the devastating loss, economic loss, the emotional toll and loss that we had just dealing with these birds that we worked so hard to raise. But, it was complicated by unclear communication from APHIS and the U-S-D-A. And also complicated by some of their contractors, as well as the cumbersome paperwork,” Moline says.

United Egg Producers chairman, James Dean of Sioux Center, agreed that there were problems with communicating with the government.

(as he says)”I think that this was such a devastating disease for everybody that a lot of people were caught off guard and the systems weren’t in place to deal with the extreme volume of cases that were happening so quickly,” Dean says.

Dean says the issues went beyond the facilities.

(as he says)”It’s dramatically impacted not on the egg producers, the turkey growers, but the people of small town Iowa, the communities where it’s impacted all of the ancillary businesses that are involved,” Dean says. “In Sioux Center the community came together and had prayer services for our management team, our company, our employees, our staff and everybody involved. So, we’ve had tremendous support from the community.”

Dean says the hearing was a good way to discuss the issues surrounding the bird flu response.

(as he says)”I hope that we learn from the mistakes that maybe have been made in the past, and we can move forward to help that this disease never develops in this type of magnitude again,” Dean says.

Moline says the lack of communication made the situation worse.

(as he says)”The number one problem was there were contractors hired the government in the area to assist with the de-population, the composting, the removal of litter and the cleaning and disinfecting areas of this. Many of them weren’t adequately trained by the U-S-D-A and APHIS to properly communicate what steps needed to be done,” Moline explains.

Moline says the contractors were the weak link in the communication chain.

(as he says)”Some of them were pushing their own initiative to increase their company’s value and revenue off this outbreak,” Moline says. “And others who were very, very good contractors just simply weren’t informed properly of the exact steps that needed to be done. So, a lot of the communication came through some of the contractors.” He believes the lack of communication allowed the disease to spread.

(as he says)”Because of the lack of communication and the paperwork that was involved, that delay a lot of the de-population. And one of the points that we were driving home today and in previous meetings — was we need a rapid de-population to help slow this virus,” Moline says.

Moline believes things have gotten better as they’ve talked with federal officials.

(as he says)”We’ve had some new veterinarians and new people from the U-S-D-A in that have greatly improved the communication levels and helped us streamline some of the paperwork,” according to Moline. “So, I feel very confident moving forward that we can learn and improve from this very bad outbreak.”

Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst called for the hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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