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USDA Responds to OCA Campaign to Drastically Modify the Government's National Avian Influenza Response Plan

On October 5, 2006, the OCA sent out an alert to its Organic Bytes  readers entitled "Government's Bird Flu Plan Dangerously Flawed." The  alert was in regards to the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection  Service posting of a draft response plan to deal with an outbreak of  avian influenza in the U.S. The alert pointed out that the plan was  flawed in several areas, including:

-The draft response plan did not acknowledge the risk posed by  factory-farm poultry industry practices in the emergence and spread of  highly-pathogenic avian influenza.
-The plan did not address what will  be done to protect free-range, organic and family farmers.
-The plan lacks adequate protective measures for farm workers and contract growers.

The alert statement was formulated by the OCA and a broad coalition of  diverse organizations. The coalition representing consumers, organic,  minority and family farmers, ranchers, animal welfare advocates,  contract poultry growers, poultry workers, unions, environmentalists,  religious groups, social justice organizations and concerned citizens  called on USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to take the  following steps:

-Protect the health and livelihoods of all poultry workers and  growers;
-Follow the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) euthanasia guidelines when destroying flocks;
-Improve procedures for venting, dust control, and transportation and disposal of bird  carcasses and waste; and
-Extend testing, enforce immediate quarantines, and notify the facilities' neighbors if disease is detected.

Since then, and thanks in part to thousands of your comments to the  USDA, the agency is taking action to address these issues. Please see  USDA's formal response to the alert, which the agency is now posting  out. Thanks again to all who commented!

Craig Minowa,
Organic Consumers Association

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Dear Sir or Madam:

Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)  Draft National Avian Influenza Response Plan Summary. Many of the
concerns you raised in your e-mail were also raised in the October 5,  2006, issue of Organic Bytes.

We here at the USDA understand your concerns and are happy to help  answer your questions. Common concerns include:

Risks posed by factory-farm poultry industry practices in the  emergence and spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The  USDA works closely with the commercial poultry industry to promote  safe biosecurity practices to prevent or limit disease spread.  Furthermore, to prevent an avian disease outbreak, USDA works with  individual States on an emergency national disease surveillance  program called "Biosecurity for the Birds" aimed at non-commercial  poultry and bird owners. For more information on avian biosecurity  please visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/birdbiosecurity/ for  further details.

Appropriate biosecurity practices are the best method for preventing  disease spread. However, USDA also examines all other possible risk  factors for disease spread present in both commercial and  non-commercial poultry operations, including extensive poultry testing  through the National Poultry Improvement Plan. In addition, USDA is  conducting additional testing of upland game birds to help prevent the  introduction of HPAI into the United States.

Safeguarding free-range, organic, and family farmers. In October the  USDA issued updated policy guidance on the payment of indemnity to  growers and owners. Specifically, growers will receive indemnity for  their expenditures for raising birds; owners receive the fair market  value for birds (minus the  amount paid to growers).

Protective measures for farm workers and contract growers. The mission  of the USDA is to protect American agriculture. In regard to providing  safety or protective equipment for farm workers or contract growers,  the USDA defers to the expertise of the U.S. Department of Labor's
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). On November 14 OSHA issued new guidance on protecting employees against HPAI H5N1.  This guidance can be found on their website at http://www.osha.gov/.

Following the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) euthanasia  guidelines. USDA is actively participated in the development of the  new OIE guidelines. USDA APHIS is currently reviewing its policies on  this topic and the new guidelines from the OIE.

We appreciate your interest and are always happy to answer any  questions or concerns you might have regarding our policies and   programs. Thank you again for your comments.

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