USDA to Provide Avian Flu Aid to Some Farms

Flu program will cover eradication costs, but not for everyone.

Published on: Sep 27, 2006

USDA said it will provide "100% indemnity for specified costs" for poultry producers enrolled in the National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP), but only 25% for those not enrolled. The rule officially took effect yesterday, three days after USDA confirmed that the avian flu found in Pennsylvania mallards in August was a low-pathogenic strain of H5N1.

The new program will support poultry farms' efforts to eradicate low-pathogenic H5 and H7 influenza. Before this plan, states typically dealt with supporting the costs of fighting avian flu. The national program will help to provide more consistent aid to poultry farmers and help the U.S. comply with international animal health guidelines.

Before this program, NPIP avian flu programs only included breeder flocks; now commercial poultry flocks can join the voluntary program, with the incentive of potentially four times the USDA aid available for their attempts to stop avian flu outbreaks.

In order to be eligible for 100% indemnity, producers and states must meet a set of requirements: states must have a complete poultry surveillance program and APHIS-approved plans for potential H5 or H7 flu outbreaks, and producers must keep up active surveillance of flocks, including bird and egg testing.

Although low-pathogenic H5 and H7 avian flu does not directly affect human health, USDA policy is to eradicate the viruses to prevent them from mutating into dangerous highly pathogenic strains. The presence of low-pathogenic avian flu can also negatively affect trade; however, officials said this expanded program demonstrates USDA's openness about exposing H5 and H7 outbreaks.