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USDA Announces Bird Flu Relief for Dairies

As bird flu continues to spread in U.S. dairies, USDA this week announced a plan to pay producers for up to 90% of their lost milk production.

The increase in dairies reporting bird flu has accelerated this month, with 132 dairies in 12 states now having reported outbreaks, according to USDA. It’s unclear whether the spread of bird flu itself has accelerated, or if more dairies are simply reporting it.

USDA’s relief plan is at least in part an effort to encourage more reporting by reducing the financial hit for doing so. It will also encourage dairies to aggressively prevent spread of the virus. To be eligible for the payments, dairies must segregate from the milk-producing herd dairy cows that test positive for 120 days after the positive test. That four-month timeframe raises questions about how long the virus is present.

While the virus appears to be spreading through milk, officials continue to emphasize that pasteurized milk is safe for human consumption and not a source of spread. Concern remains high about the potential for the virus to evolve to more easily infect humans. Worry is also growing about the virus spreading more broadly throughout agriculture. In Iowa, the Secretary of Agriculture announced that all dairy cows must be tested within a week of being transported to fairs and shows.

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