U.S. to spend an additional $191M to help poultry producers recover from deadly avian flu

The U.S. government expects to spend an additional $191 million to reimburse farmers for chickens and turkeys they lost to the worst outbreak of avian flu in the country.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

That money is on top of the almost $400 million spent on cleaning up dead birds and disinfecting production facilities struck by the virus, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said last week at a conference on the bird flu held in Des Moines, IA, the Associated Press reported.

Vilsack added that the agency is also funding research for a vaccine to combat the virus that it hopes to stockpile.The H5N2 virus that has wiped out 48 million chickens, turkeys and other fowl has slowed with warmer weather, but there is growing concern it may return in force this fall when temperatures cool and migrating wild birds fly south for the winter.

"The concern is what happens when the temperatures go down and we have duck and geese migrations," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said at the conference. "There's the potential for this again. We want to be as prepared as we can from a bio security perspective to avoid it reoccurring and having it spread like it did this spring."

The spread of the virus, which began last year and hit hard at turkey-, chicken- and egg-producing states like Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, reached a total of 15 states. Iowa declared a state of emergency to combat the outbreak.

In the wake of the virus, Mexico, Canada and the European Union have banned or restricted poultry imports from states like Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Washington and Oregon. Both China and South Korea imposed bans on U.S. poultry imports.

- check out the AP story