U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack, requesting assistance to contain the deadly H5N2 bird flu virus affecting poultry farms in South Dakota.
“While not harmful to humans, the bird flu virus has the potential to devastate the entire U.S. poultry industry,” said Rounds. “Already, more than 300,000 South Dakota turkeys have been destroyed. Agriculture is our number one economy in South Dakota, and our poultry farmers rely on exports to foreign markets. It’s important to combat the virus and keep foreign and domestic markets open to poultry products from South Dakota. I urge USDA to utilize its resources to contain this devastating virus.”
“The avian influenza virus could significantly damage the growers and processors of South Dakota’s 4.3 million turkeys as well as other poultry producers and egg-laying facilities. USDA needs to keep continued vigilance focused on containing the virus as well as assuring our trading partners that U.S. poultry products continue to be safe for human consumption,” said Thune.
Full text of the letter follows:
April 28, 2015
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
As you are aware, six confirmed cases of the H5N2 bird flu have been found on South Dakota farms and as a result, more than 300,000 turkeys in the state have been destroyed. H5N2 poses no risk to humans or to public health, but due to the potential devastating effects the H5N2 could have on the entire U.S. poultry industry we strongly urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allocate all available personnel and resources to contain this deadly virus and to provide all assistance available to impacted states’ poultry industries.
Also, it is imperative that foreign export markets continue to be kept open, especially for turkey products. We strongly urge you to make certain that these markets remain open and that you redouble your efforts to ensure an uninterrupted flow of U.S. poultry products to foreign markets continues.
Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry and vital to South Dakota’s economy providing a $21.4 billion economic impact each year, directly or indirectly employing 122,000 South Dakotans, and generating 20 percent of the state’s economic activity. South Dakota agriculture depends heavily on exports and the loss or reduction of foreign turkey product exports would be highly detrimental to that industry in our state.
As the USDA continues to take steps to contain this virus, please provide our offices with regular updates on the status of the outbreak and your efforts to contain and eradicate it.