Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is urging the federal government to "make all resources available" to control the spread of bird flu – as another turkey farm in the state is confirmed as having the virus.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Wednesday a large turkey farm in Meeker County in central Minnesota has become the ninth farm in the state to have a confirmed case of the H5N2 strain of the deadly virus.
The operation has 12 barns on various sites, totaling 310,000 turkeys, bringing the total number of turkeys in Minnesota affected by the virus to roughly 683,000. The Associated Press reports that only one barn was affected, but all birds have been euthanized to prevent any spread.
Sen. Klobuchar this week met with several state officials to discuss the crisis sweeping Minnesota's turkey industry, and is expected to meet with turkey farmers later this week.
She also revealed in a news release that she had sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to ensure Minnesota's farmers are protected from the impact of the virus on their businesses.
"Minnesota leads the nation in turkey production and we must do everything possible to keep this critical industry strong," she said in the release. "The avian flu does not threaten our food supply or pose any risk to humans, but there are still serious animal health and export implications for Minnesota turkey growers."
Spreading across the state
The first farm to confirm the infection was in Pope County in the first week of March. It has since spread to others, with farms in Lac Qui Parle, Nobles, Stearns and Kandiyhoi counties among those infected.
Food giant Jennie-O Turkeys confirmed that the outbreak at Lac Qui Parle was at one of its suppliers, but said it represented only 1 percent of the company's supply chain, and that none of the infected poultry entered the market.
Minnesota produces about 46 million turkeys annually, making it the largest turkey producing state in the nation, Minnesota Turkey says, and since the outbreak more than 40 countries have banned poultry imports from Minnesota.
The St. Cloud Times reports that Alvin Schlangen, an organic egg farmer from Freeport, is currently in a stand-off with state regulators after he was ordered not to take any eggs off his Stearns County farm until they have been tested for bird flu.
His farm stands within three kilometers of an infected farm, but he has refused to allow inspectors onto his property without a search warrant and a sheriff's deputy, the newspaper notes, but a judge has ordered he cannot take any eggs or chickens off of his farm to sell until he has complied.