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USDA offers financial assistance to help fight bird flu in dairy cattle
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The USDA’s recent offer of additional financial assistance to producers dealing with the spread of bird flu in dairy cattle will help in the fight against the disease, according to an industry organization.
The agency’s May 23 announcement said producers whose herds have not tested positive for H5N1 would be eligible for assistance with biosecurity planning and implementation. Producers will also receive help with veterinary costs for sample collection for H5N1 testing, and for shipping fees to send samples to laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The USDA previously said it would provide no-cost testing of samples at a NAHLN laboratory.
Earlier in May, the agency offered the same financial assistance to producers with H5N1-affected herds.
In its May 23rd statement, USDA said a rule would be issued soon to make funding available to compensate producers with H5N1-positive herds for loss of milk production.
As of press time, H5N1 had been found in 63 herds in nine states, including Michigan and Ohio, according to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).
“Producers facing and managing H5N1 on their operations are being confronted with challenges no one anticipated,” Alan Bjerga, executive vice president, communications and industry relations, for NMPF, told Farm World. “USDA assistance will help them better manage those challenges, to the benefit of the workers, animals and the general public.
“Producers will need to be prepared for H5N1 from here on out. Assuming otherwise would be irresponsible. That said, dairy farmers have been thinking of and implementing biosecurity measures before this situation occurred, and rising to the challenge of H5N1 is certainly achievable with proper thought and preparation.”
For biosecurity planning and implementation, USDA said it will provide financial support of up to $1,500 per premises to any producer to develop and implement a biosecurity plan based on existing secure milk supply plans. The agency said it will provide a $100 payment to producers who purchase and use an in-line sampler for their milk system.
For veterinary costs associated with sample collection for testing for producers with no cases of H5N1, USDA will pay up to $2,000 per premises. Producers with positive cases are eligible for up to $10,000 per affected premises to cover veterinary costs for treating cattle and for sample collection, the agency said.
Reimbursement for sample shipping costs – for both affected and non-affected premises – will not exceed $50 per shipment for up to two shipments per month.
Funding to compensate producers for loss of milk production will come from the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). USDA said it anticipates the forthcoming rule will authorize payments at 90 percent of lost production per cow retroactive to the date of confirmation of a positive herd status.
“While dairy cows that have been infected with H5N1 generally recover well, and there is little mortality associated with the disease, it does dramatically limit milk production, causing economic losses for producers with affected premises,” USDA said May 23. “USDA can support farmers with the ELAP program to offset some of these losses. The U.S. government is addressing this situation with urgency and through a whole-of-government approach.”
The agency said it was working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bjerga said a bright spot in the situation has been the support of the public in understanding what 100 years of science has taught.
“Pasteurization is an effective safeguard of public health and is effective against the H5N1 virus,” he explained. “We appreciate continued consumer support for fluid milk, which has seen no signs of sales declines as H5N1 in dairy cattle has unfolded.”