Concerns arise as cases of avian influenza – or bird flu – are reported

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, February 03, 2015

New concerns have been raised as the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms that cases of the highly contagious avian influenza, most commonly known as the bird flu, have been reported in five states.

All but one of the cases has involved backyard flocks of chickens, geese and guinea fowl. The avian influenza, highly contagious among birds, has been reported in only one commercial poultry facility, a Foster Farms’ turkey ranch in Stanislaus County, Calif.

Other states reporting cases of avian influenza in backyard flocks or wild birds include Nevada, Oregon, Washington State and Idaho.

Toby Moore, vice president of communications for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, told Land Line on Tuesday, Feb. 3, that even though only one of the cases applies to a commercial poultry operation in California, some countries, including China and South Korea, have banned the import of all U.S. poultry, poultry products and eggs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all poultry shipped after Jan. 8 “shall be returned or destroyed.”

The USDA states on its website that the agency “is working with trading partners to minimize trade impacts on poultry and poultry products as much as possible.”

Moore said fortunately the affected states with avian influenza are not a “major exporter of poultry or eggs” so the financial impact on truckers who haul poultry for a living should be minimal.

Hector Castro, spokesman with the Washington Department of Agriculture, told Land Line that at this time he isn’t sure how the ban or restrictions on poultry, poultry products and eggs by major importing countries may affect poultry haulers.

“We have heard some of the concerns, but we don’t track the marketing aspects of this situation and we don’t have any independent information about its impact on the industry,” Castro said.

“Even though these have been backyard flocks, we have heard and we have seen that there’s definitely been an impact to the poultry industry because some of the overseas clients and customers don’t make that distinction,” Castro said. “They hear avian influenza in the birds and immediately start imposing restrictions, but maybe they don’t make a lot of sense given that these are not flocks that have any connections to those larger commercial operations.”

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