From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I know that many people enjoy reading the Agricultural Review for its classified ads section, but I hope you also read the stories. The newspaper includes a lot of agricultural news each month as well as features about some segment of agriculture or the work we do at the department. Our goal is to make sure readers know what is going on in the field and gain a better understanding about some of our programs.
This month I ask that you pay extra attention to the article about highly pathogenic avian influenza that starts on page 1 and also the informational flier that is included on page 8.
While no cases of this disease has been found in North Carolina at this time, HPAI poses a real threat to our poultry industry. Our state ranks third in turkey production and fourth in broiler production nationally. Combined, all poultry and eggs account for $4.9 billion in farm cash receipts, which does not take into consideration the added agribusiness contributions of this industry.
Also, we have nearly 3,700 non-commercial flocks.
To say this is a significant industry in North Carolina is an understatement.
In order to protect the health of our poultry flock, we are suspending all poultry shows, public sales of birds and live bird auctions beginning Aug. 15 through Jan. 15, 2016. We plan to review the situation again and see if it is necessary to keep the ban in place longer.
I sincerely hope we do not get avian influenza in North Carolina, but we do know the disease is in the wild bird population and it can be spread by migrating birds. Because our state is on two migratory paths, we know we cannot take this threat lightly.
Our department is busy preparing in the event the disease comes here, and I encourage poultry owners to do the same.
Whether you are a large producer or have a small backyard flock, now is a good time to review all your biosecurity measures and discuss those with anyone working with your birds. Also, developing a plan to keep your birds from coming into contact with wild birds is advised. Some steps to reduce the risk are pretty simple, such as having a designated set of clothes and shoes for handling birds and providing shelter for your birds to prevent contact with wild birds or their droppings. Another good measure is quarantining any new additions to your flock for at least two to three weeks to ensure the new birds are healthy.
Please be diligent in monitoring your flock and watch for any signs of illness. You will find a list of symptoms on page 8 and you can find additional resources and links on our website at www.ncagr.gov/avianflu. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect sick birds.
We also have regional veterinary labs in Elkin, Fletcher, Monroe and Raleigh where dead birds can be tested. You can find out more about our animal diagnostic lab system at www.ncagr.gov/vet/ncvdl/index.htm.
It is important to point out that this disease can be found in any sized flock; it is not just an issue affecting the commercial industry. If you have birds, you face the risk of this disease in your birds.
We have sent teams to help other states with this disease and I have been in contact with their agricultural leaders to try to learn more about their response and things they have learned along the way. One message we have heard consistently is about the need to get out in front of this as quickly as possible. That is why we are focusing our efforts on building response resources, both in people and equipment.
I am grateful for the experience our staff has gained, and the other states have pledged their returned support in the event we have an outbreak in North Carolina.
I am hopeful that our preparations are not necessary, but we cannot afford to only hope for the best. I encourage you to review your poultry operations closely.