By Zippy Duvall
President, American Farm Bureau Federation
Early this week, poultry and egg producers got the news they had been dreading—an outbreak of bird flu, the first one this year, had been found on a chicken farm in Tennessee.
The news dredges up bad memories from 2014 – 2015, when the worst bird flu outbreak we’ve ever had cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost birds and revenue.
But a couple of things about the previous outbreak should give comfort both to farmers and consumers. First, no humans got sick as a result of the outbreak two years ago. That’s because this is a bird health issue, not a human health issue. The infected birds do not enter the food supply. Even if they did, thorough cooking kills the virus. Second, having dealt with such a massive outbreak so recently as well as others before that, USDA, state agriculture departments and, of course, farmers know exactly what’s needed to stop this new outbreak in its tracks. The infected birds already have been euthanized, and the quarantine around the affected farm is extra protection against the virus spreading. I know from practices on my own poultry farm that we farmers are the first line of defense in controlling access and ensuring sanitation upon entering and exiting chicken houses. These common biosecurity measures are yet another effective barrier against the spread of bird flu, and farmers are extra-vigilant with a big outbreak in our recent memories.
Of course, one of farmers’ greatest concerns is the impact on our export markets. Several Asian countries and Mexico already have banned live poultry or egg imports, depending on the country, from Tennessee or the county where the affected farm is located. We will be watching closely to ensure that these bans do not expand or continue more than warranted and that none of our trading partners uses this outbreak to unfairly limit imports from the U.S.
These outbreaks are bad news, but this is not our first rodeo. U.S. agriculture knows what to do to keep our food supply safe and minimize the impact to farmers and global markets.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.