The effects of avian bird flu that have hit turkey farmers in North America are not expected to have an adverse effect on the supply chain. The H5N2 avian influenza strain has been reported at 20 farms in Arkansas, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota since March. Two farms in Canada have been affected as well. As a result, over 1.1 million have been killed, a fraction of the 235 million turkeys that the U.S. produced in 2014.
Minnesota, the state with the most turkey farms in America, has had 17farms affected by the avian bird since the outbreak began. As a result, 373,000 Minnesota turkeys have been euthanized to prevent the disease’s spread. Last year, the 450 farms in the state sent about 46 million turkeys to market. The losses so far work out to about 1.9% of the state’s yearly production.
As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, farms that are affected are required to follow five basic steps:
- quarantine the farm;
- euthanize the affected flock;
- test wild and domestic birds around the quarantine area;
- disinfect to kill the virus in the affected flock locations; and
- then test to confirm that the poultry farm is AI virus-free.
As an example of how that response plan is implemented, the Minnesota Animal Health Board and the USDA have approximately 50 people working on stopping the outbreak and figuring out how it has spread. The industry is boosting biosecurity measures such as limiting farm access for people and machinery, and intensely cleaning both if they go into a barn.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently met with turkey producers and plans to speak with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss procuring federal funds to reimburse producers for part of their losses, how to cope with lost production during the eight months it can take before a farm can start raising turkeys again, why this is happening now and how to prevent it.