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Ernst Calls on USDA to Help Fill Avian Flu Research and Response Gaps

Leads Iowa delegation to protect the resiliency of our agricultural sector

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) led the entire Iowa delegation in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue working with state leaders to support poultry and dairy producers impacted by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) while also stepping up to fill outstanding research and response gaps.

In a letter to USDA, the delegation cited the recent and unprecedented spread of the virus to dairy cattle as a sign that significant and immediate action is needed. The lawmakers pointed out that Iowa is the first state to proactively implement biosecurity protocols and testing measures for infected dairy farms, but noted that additional resources from the USDA are necessary to support impacted farmers, reinforce state response measures, and provide backing for disease research.

“Preventing and mitigating animal disease is a team effort,” Ernst said. “The livelihoods of our farmers, the stability of our local economies, and the broader food supply chain are all on the line, so we must have all hands on deck in the fight against avian flu. I’m working hard to ensure our producers and state leaders have the tools they need to stop the spread, and I urge the USDA to join me in making it a top priority.”

“An effective response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and other foreign animal diseases requires maximum cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies as well as industry partners. As we’ve battled Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza over the past three years, including now both in poultry and dairy, our joint federal and state response team has benefited greatly from this collaborative approach and the shared expertise that exists throughout this partnership. This disease threat is of importance to all of agriculture and as this situation evolves, we must continue to harness the full capacity and resources of the relevant federal agencies to confront any new challenge. I remain appreciative of the advocacy of Iowa’s federal delegation who are committed to protecting and growing Iowa agriculture, our state’s biggest and most important industry,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

“Iowa’s turkey farmers need all the tools they can to protect their flocks and strengthen their response to H5N1,” said Gretta Irwin, Executive Director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “We are grateful for the wildlife personnel working with Iowa farmers to mitigate interaction of wild birds with domestic turkeys. We applaud the ongoing epidemiological analysis and research of the outbreak.  This on the farm work is critical in understanding the virus so farmers can make changes to hopefully prevent future outbreaks.  To help protect the health of our turkeys, we encourage the swift approval of vaccines for all species.”

“Iowa State Dairy Association (ISDA) appreciates Senator Ernst’s vigilance as dairy farmers navigate the challenges posed by highly pathogenic avian influenza and its impact on dairy cattle,” said Mariah Busta, Executive Director of the Iowa State Dairy Association. “There is a need for increased disease research and response efforts to support the state’s dairy industry. ISDA values the Senator’s advocacy for Iowa dairy farmers and the broader agriculture community.”

“North Central Poultry Association appreciates Senator Ernst for continuing to work on behalf of poultry and egg farmers,” said Kevin Stiles, executive director of the North Central Poultry Association and the Iowa Egg Council. “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) continues to have an extensive impact on the entire poultry and egg producer community. While federal and state officials have been working alongside farmers for years to contain and stop HPAI, as the disease evolves, our management approach must evolve too. We believe new research, updated formulas for assistance, and open lines of communication will help curb the spread.”


Ernst has long been a champion of foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness efforts including her work to support the Beagle Brigade and the bipartisan Animal Disease and Disaster Prevention, Surveillance, and Rapid Response Act.

Following the most recent HPAI outbreaks in northwest Iowa in both poultry flocks and dairy herds, she is working to hold federal agencies accountable to providing public and state agencies with coordinated, up-to-date, and accurate information on the spread of HPAI.