US senators send letter criticising USDA's bird flu plan

In a letter sent to the US Agriculture Secretary, Mike Johanns, a group of six senators criticised the US Agriculture Department's (USDA) handling of avian influenza surveillance.

The senators referred to an audit completed by the USDA's Office of the Inspector General, which determined that the USDA did not have a comprehensive bird flu response plan.

The senators said they were concerned about US preparedness and they do not believe the USDA is doing enough, but rather leaving too much for individual states, many of which do not have the resources needed.

"APHIS continues to push the responsibility for finding and responding to a possible outbreak of avian influenza onto states," the senators said in their letter to Johanns.

The letter also expressed the senators concern that "the agency has waited until this year to begin to develop a comprehensive surveillance plan for avian influenza, which will not be complete until October."

The letter, dated July 21, was signed by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Harry Reid, D-Nev., Barack Obama, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chuck Schummer, D-N.Y., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

The USDA was quick to defend its practices. Spokesman Ed Loyd told the Associated Press, "This is not something that's just theoretical to the department. We have experience in dealing with previous high-path outbreaks."

Editor WorldPoultry

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