Senate committee to hold hearing on A.I. impacts

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold a hearing on the impact of avian influenza on the U.S. poultry industry. The hearing is scheduled for July 7.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both representing Iowa, requested the hearing in a letter to Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the committee. Iowa’s poultry industry has lost more than 30 million birds to highly pathogenic avian influenza since the virus was first detected in April. Iowa leads the United States in egg production.

“I’m pleased that Chairman Roberts has granted our request to examine the federal government’s response to the devastating outbreak of the avian influenza and its impact on Iowa producers, consumers, and our agriculture industry nationwide,” Sen. Ernst said. “This is an important opportunity to bring leaders and key stakeholders together to review the pandemic spread of this deadly disease, identify areas for improvement within response procedures, and set the stage to ensure we are better prepared in the future.”

In other news, agriculture officials in North Carolina are taking steps to head off a potential avian influenza outbreak in the state.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced all poultry shows and public sales of poultry will be suspended from Aug. 15 to Jan. 15, 2016. The agency said veterinary officials are bracing for the virus to appear in North Carolina during the fall migration of wild birds.

“We know this ban will affect a number of poultry shows and kids who have planned to exhibit at their county fair or the State Fair,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “We regret having to make this decision, but we think it is in the best interest of everyone involved. We’re working on ways to keep youth who wanted to show at fairs interested in showing.”

Also canceled were the N.C. State Fair and Mountain State Fair poultry shows, bird shows at county fairs, live bird auctions and poultry swap meets. North Carolina is the 13th state to cancel or reschedule poultry shows due to the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

“We did not make this decision lightly,” said Doug Meckes, state veterinarian. “Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious threat to our state’s poultry and we anticipate the threat of the virus will increase this fall. We want to take appropriate precautions to prevent the introduction to backyard and commercial flocks.”