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Sen. Franken to President Trump: Farmers in Minnesota, Across the Country Need Action to Stop Further Spread of Avian Flu

Senator Presses for Administration Plan to Address Outbreaks Already Hitting Producers in Tennessee and Wisconsin

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Senator Al Franken pressed President Trump to put in place measures to prevent the recent avian influenza outbreak—which has hit producers in Wisconsin and Tennessee—from spreading to Minnesota and other states.

In a letter to Trump Tuesday, Sen. Franken said the 2015 avian influenza outbreak cost Minnesota's economy nearly $650 million, and he urged quick preventive action by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and for the administration to adequately fund current and future efforts to fight the disease.

"You inherit a system for fighting avian influenza outbreaks that was improved after the 2015 disaster through Federal collaboration with state and local government, universities, and the poultry industry. One of the important pieces in this fight will be the newly expanded Minnesota Poultry Testing laboratory that opened in Willmar, Minnesota to conduct surveillance of high pathogenic avian influenza as part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan,"
 Sen. Franken wrote in his letter. "However, we must not be caught flat-footed in responding to this agricultural emergency. I look forward to working with you to make sure that the federal government is prepared."

In 2015, when Minnesota producers were hard hit by avian influenza, Sen. Franken pressed the Obama Administration to support Minnesota farmers whose production was hurt or threatened by the outbreak. He also helped convene a meeting in Willmar with Governor Mark Dayton, along with local, state, and federal officials, to facilitate a coordinated response to the virus.

You can view a copy of Sen. Franken's letter to President Trump by clicking here or reading below.

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to call your attention to the need for a comprehensive federal response to the recent avian influenza outbreak that has impacted farms m Tennessee and Wisconsin. The 2015 outbreak of avian influenza was a severe blow to the U.S. economy. In Minnesota, 108 farms were infected costing the state economy nearly $650 million. It is therefore alarming that avian influenza has again been identified in U.S. poultry, with a highly pathogenic strain in Tennessee and a low pathogenic strain in Wisconsin. The particular strain that caused the 2015 outbreak has not yet been found in any poultry flocks this year, but that strain has been detected in wild ducks in Montana.


In 2015, the federal government was essential in coordinating the efforts to fight the outbreak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a protocol in place to address outbreaks of avian influenza viruses, and I call on you to move to rapidly implement those protocols. I also request that the Office of Management and Budget include sufficient funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to support avian influenza surveillance and outbreak response through the USDA. More broadly, I encourage you to work with Congress to make sure that all aspects of our defenses against the economic and public health threat from avian influenza and other foreign animal diseases impacting livestock are adequately funded. Combating the last avian influenza outbreak required $1 billion in

federal funding. The USDA currently has less than $90 million available for such efforts.

Avian influenza has devastating impacts on the poultry industry, but it is also poses a potential risk for human health. Fighting influenza and other infectious disease outbreaks requires a global effort, which is why I urge you to continue to expand funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Avian ID Pandemic Influenza and Other Emerging Threats Program. At least 60 percent of human infectious diseases originate in animals, which is why a combined effort of the medical, veterinary, environmental science and public health communities is required to effectively keep us safe. I also look forward to working with you on legislation to increase coordination, surveillance, and early detection of infectious disease through the One Health Act. Additionally, the U.S. needs to continue to lead the effort to find a global solution to this global problem. Avian species do not recognize national borders and all countries need to understand the vital role their biosecurity efforts play in protecting agriculture everywhere.

You inherit a system for fighting avian influenza outbreaks that was improved after the 2015 disaster through federal collaboration with state and local government, universities, and the poultry industry. One of the important pieces in this fight will be the newly expanded Minnesota Poultry Testing laboratory that opened m Willmar, Minnesota to conduct surveillance of highly pathogenic avian influenza as part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan. However, we must not be caught flat-footed in responding to this agricultural emergency. I look forward to working with you to make sure that the federal government is prepared.


Thank you for your consideration of this request. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or Blaise Sheridan on my staff at (202) 224-5641.


Sincerely,

 

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