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Protecting the Farm

There was the African Swine Flu. Foot and Mouth Disease, too. The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) feathered the poultry industry in 2015. But that’s nothing compared to what started a few years ago and is causing far more concern now.

“Frankly, an evolving issue,” explained Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

“This is different,” Naig said of HPAI’s spread that moved beyond chickens and turkeys in recent weeks and threatened dairy cattle’s milk production.

“This is where you’ve got something that has crossed over to a different species,” Naig said.

HPAI, bird flu, threatens Naig’s state for a multitude of reasons, in a deeper way than some other states. Iowa is one of the nation’s top producers of eggs, turkeys, and cattle.

Iowa production

Eggs: 1st 

Turkeys: 7th 

Cattle: 10th 

When avian flu hit in 2015, it hit hard. “Iowa was really ground zero for that,” Naig said.

Across the country, nearly one in eight egg-laying chickens and one in twelve turkeys raised for meat were killed because of the bird flu.

Naig said the crisis forced agricultural industry leaders to change. “We didn’t act fast enough. We didn’t depopulate those affected sites quick enough,” Naig said. “Biosecurity was not where it needed to be. So, you ended up with the virus moving from farm to farm to farm through a variety of means.”

States updated plans, added training exercises, and made significant biosecurity upgrades.

LEARN MORE: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig sent a letter urging the Biden administration to allow summer sales of E15 fuel. Iowa is the largest ethanol producing state in the United States. Read Naig’s request here. 

And while avian flu isn’t as lethal to dairy cattle, its spread can still sicken and decrease appetites and milk production. “That just changes the dynamics.”

Naig wants the dynamics to change when it comes to transparency, too. He hopes a new focus on foreign farmland ownership will bring that. Iowa just strengthened its 35-year-old law regarding foreign farmland ownership.

“What we should not have is a foreign entity competing with our farmers,” Naig said.   


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