USDA requires audits for indemnity for highly pathogenic avian influenza

Published on September 12, 2018
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Federal agriculture agents will reimburse chicken and turkey farmers after outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza. But those poultry owners and contract growers need to meet disease-control standards, backed by audits.

Authorities with the Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Aug. 14 that new rules would clarify when the agency would make indemnity payments, how they will be split among contract growers and the companies that own the birds and eggs, and what poultry industry members need to do ahead of an outbreak, starting in September 2018. The agency's rules require audits at least once every two years by state agriculture representatives or others designated by APHIS, and states can require those audits more often.

The rules published in August are similar to interim rules adopted in February 2016, one of the agency's responses to an outbreak that killed 50 million chickens and turkeys in 2014 and 2015. The interim requirements made owners and contract growers sign statements that, when HPAI was found in their barns, they had been following a plan to prevent such infections.

In the August 2018 Federal Register notice, APHIS officials acknowledged self-certification raises concerns, so they developed an auditing process.

The rules apply to about 19,000 farms that house at least 75,000 egg-laying birds or where workers raise at least 100,000 broilers or 30,000 turkeys in one year. The largest farms were those most affected during the 2014-15 HPAI outbreak, the APHIS notice states.

"Exempting the smaller facilities, therefore, allows us to focus our resources on the operations that raise or house 99 percent of the nation's poultry supply," it states.

The birds killed by disease or depopulation during the 2014-15 outbreak accounted for 12 percent of the nation's egg-laying chickens and 8 percent of turkeys. Those losses cost about $1.5 billion, and the USDA spent another $850 million on indemnity payments, depopulation, cleaning, disinfection, and testing for the virus.

Related JAVMA content:

Devastating viruses disappeared in wild birds (Sept. 15, 2016)

Devastating flu, ongoing harm (Sept. 1, 2015)