During the call, Vilsack pledged to continue doing everything he can to ensure sufficient funding remains available to help combat the spread of the disease and support affected turkey growers
Last week, Klobuchar met with federal and Minnesota health and agriculture officials, as well as local turkey growers, to discuss the importance of a coordinated response to the avian flu
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to highlight the need for a rapid and coordinated response to the avian flu outbreak. During the call, Vilsack pledged to continue doing everything he can to ensure sufficient funding remains available to help combat the spread of the disease and support affected turkey growers.
The call follows a letter Klobuchar sent Vilsack last week urging the USDA to ensure that needed resources are available to quickly contain the disease. Last week, Klobuchar met with federal and Minnesota health and agriculture officials, as well as local turkey growers, to discuss the importance of a coordinated response to the avian flu affecting turkey growers across Minnesota.
“We must spare no effort to combat the spread of the avian flu and keep our turkey industry strong,” Klobuchar said. “While this disease doesn’t threaten public safety or our food supply, it poses a serious threat to this crucial industry. I’ve met with state and federal officials to ensure an effective, coordinated response, and Secretary Vilsack is committed to doing everything possible to help our turkey growers.”
In addition to meeting last week with Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and other state and federal officials, Klobuchar also sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack encouraging him to continue working with state and local agencies and stakeholders while ensuring all available measures and resources are available to help address the spread of the virus. The letter also encouraged the USDA to distribute indemnity payments to turkey growers experiencing losses in a timely fashion.
The full text of Klobuchar’s letter to Secretary Vilsack is below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
As you know, in the last month there have been several new confirmed cases of the H5N2 avian influenza virus in Minnesota. Minnesota leads the country in turkey production and processing, raising 46 million turkeys annually. While State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger confirmed that the virus poses no risk to humans or public health and our food system is safe, these cases may have a significant impact on Minnesota’s turkey industry, which is critical to our state’s economy.
I commend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for its quick response, and for its collaboration with the Minnesota turkey industry, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and other state and federal agencies to protect Minnesota’s turkey flocks from further spread of the virus.
Indemnity payments provided by APHIS are an important resource for farmers experiencing losses due to the virus. I encourage you to continue distributing these payments in a timely fashion to affected farmers. In the event that existing APHIS funding is not sufficient to provide H5N2 surveillance, reporting, and control measures or indemnity payments to affected producers, I urge you to take all necessary steps to provide additional emergency funding.
Further, Minnesota is the fourth largest agricultural exporting state in the country, with our agriculture exports reaching a record high of $8.2 billion in 2012. I share your concern that confirmed H5N2 cases may cause importing countries to impose restrictions on poultry, and I urge you to continue to work with our trading partners to minimize these restrictions and any resulting negative economic impact.
Thank you for your work on behalf of Minnesota’s turkey producers, and I look forward to continuing to work with you until the H5N2 virus is eradicated in my state and across the country.