Flat rate set for eliminating avian influenza contamination

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Federal agriculture officials may simplify the program to reimburse for work to eliminate avian influenza virus within poultry barns.

The proposal by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would set a flat rate of 65 cents per square foot for cleaning and decontaminating buildings with floor-raised chickens or turkeys. The rate would replace a per-bird reimbursement system implemented in 2016, itself a change intended to reduce paperwork-related repayment delays, according to the proposal.

The virus elimination payments are separate from indemnity payments, which would be unaffected.

An outbreak of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza killed or led to depopulation of about 50 million domesticated birds in 2014 and 2015. More than 40 million of those birds were chickens.

In the outbreak, APHIS officials determined dry cleaning and heating in barns could be the fastest and cheapest virus elimination method. The agency used the costs of heat disinfection and related activities during the outbreak in calculating the reimbursement rate for virus elimination.

Keith Williams, a spokesman for the National Turkey Federation, said in a message that APHIS officials wrote the policy proposal with substantial input from turkey, broiler, and egg producers and state veterinarians.

"There’s always a challenge in policymaking where all cannot be perfect for everyone in each situation, but this is solid and should clear up much of the confusion around the Avian Influenza payments," he wrote.

Dr. Don Ritter, senior director of technical marketing and the leader of emergency disease response for the Delaware-based Mountaire Farms, thinks receiving individual farm plans for cleanup and disinfection, approving those plans, and debating the necessity of some actions have been a challenge for the USDA. The department did well in collecting and analyzing data on the steps needed to respond to an outbreak and developing a fair price for eliminating contamination, he said.

He also thinks the flat-rate system is a transparent and less expensive process that encourages efficiency as well as eliminates the work by USDA officials of considering reimbursement claims with questionable relationships to virus elimination.

"It puts responsibility back on the contract grower and the integrator, and the government knows its financial risk for this process," he said.