Millions more in funding allocated to battle worst avian influenza outbreak in U.S. history

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

An additional $330 million to be used to contain the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history has been approved by the government as Iowa became the latest state to declare a state of emergency, and hundreds of poultry workers in Minnesota faced layoffs due to the spread of the virus.

With more than 14 states reporting cases of the bird virus in the past 5 months and an estimated 24 million birds infected, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requested and was granted the additional emergency funds last week, Reuters reported.

The previous week, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency in response to the outbreak of the H5N2 avian influenza that was reported in at least 21 sites, including the leading egg-producing district in the U.S.

In Minnesota, which declared a state of emergency in late April, Hormel Foods announced it was temporarily laying off 233 workers at one of its turkey production plants, effective May 26. It was the first known report of job losses connected to the bird flu, the new agency said.

Key members of U.S. Senate appropriations committees have requested the full $15 million funding authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to "ensure the continuity of diagnostic laboratory operations during an animal disease outbreak."

Since the spread of the virus began last year, Mexico, Canada and the European Union have banned or restricted poultry imports from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Washington and Oregon. Both China and South Korea currently have total bans on U.S. poultry.

- check out the Reuters story
- see the Senate letter

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