Source: Des Moines Register

By Chris Doering

The Agriculture Department says that it has hundreds of veterinarians working "around the clock" to battle the bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the deaths of almost 50 million birds in Iowa and 14 other states the past six months.

In a letter to stakeholders Friday, Kevin Shea, administrator with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the agency has plans to respond to serious disease outbreaks such as avian influenza. He said the agency can deploy its veterinarians to quickly respond to an outbreak and work with states, producers, contractors and others to carry out the policies.

"They are leading the response so that these vital businesses, and all who depend on them, can get back to work as soon as possible," Shea said. "This will most likely will be the most comprehensive response to a livestock disease in our nation's history."

Some lawmakers, including Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and poultry groups have urged the federal government to respond more quickly and offer more resources to combat the disease. The Senate Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing July 7 on the federal government's response to the outbreak.

The bird flu virus has spread through Midwest farms since early spring. Iowa, the nation's No. 1 egg producer, has been particularly hard hit. 

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