As lawmakers jostle over bill to fight outbreak, bird flu continues to spread

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As the avian flu continues pillaging its way through Minnesota's turkey farms, efforts to help fight the outbreak are being bogged down because of political jousting between lawmakers.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House voted 129-0 to provide emergency funding to help fight the avian flu's spread – $514,000 to the commissioner of agriculture, and $379,000 to the Board of Animal Health for emergency response activities that aren't covered by federal funding.

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the same amount of funding – but there were some other tweaks made, and when the bill bounced back over to the House for its approval, things came to a halt.

Why?

The Star Tribune says Democrats in the Senate attached an unrelated provision, about when Minnesota's Management and Budget Office details the state's budget reserves.

That didn't sit well with House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt, a Republican, who on Monday warned against the Senate doing exactly that.

"The Legislature has a tradition of not adding unrelated provisions to disaster relief and emergency response bills," Daudt said. "The House respects that position and urges the Senate to do the same. The House will not accept any provisions that do not relate to the emergency at hand."

If an identical bill had been passed by both chambers, it would have gone right to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

Instead, the bill will go to a conference committee, where three members from the House and three members from the Senate will get together and try to bridge the differences and come up with a compromise.

Virus continues to spread

The virus meanwhile – which so far has affected more than 2 million birds in the state – continues to spread, affecting more than two dozen farms across at least 14 Minnesota counties.

And you may be able to add more to that list.

Valley News Live says preliminary tests show a farm in Hawley, Minnesota, tested positive for avian flu.

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The station says federal agriculture officials will be in town Wednesday to get final test results.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps a running list of which counties the avian flu was discovered in, and how large the flock size is.

When turkeys at a farm are found to have the virus, usually all of the birds there are killed as a precaution.

A vaccine?

A potential solution could be on the horizon.

The Associated Press reports the USDA is working on a possible vaccine to help stem the flood of infections. But there are a host of questions that have to get answered before it becomes a reality.

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