USDA responds to consumer group concerns about AI

27-12-2006 | |

The USDA has responded formally to a campaign by the Organic Consumers Association, which criticised some parts of the department’s approach to bird flu control.

The Organic Consumers Association issued an alert to readers of “Organic Bytes”, pointing out flaws in the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s draft response plan to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza in the US.
The OAC said that the plan: did not acknowledge the risk posed by  factory-farm poultry industry practices in the emergence and spread of  highly-pathogenic avian influenza; did not address what will  be done to protect free-range, organic and family farmers; and lacked adequate protective measures for farm workers and contract growers.
The USDA says that systems and programs are in place to deal with the concerns raised.
In its response formal response to the concerns raised by the OCA, the department said it works closely with the commercial poultry industry to promote safe biosecurity practices to prevent or limit disease spread.
“The USDA examines all 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,” the response said.
“The USDA is working to safeguard free-range, organic, and family farmers through 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),” it continued
“In regard to providing safety or protective equipment for farm workers or contract growers, the USDA defers to the expertise of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). On November 14 OSHA issued new guidance on protecting employees against HPAI H5N1.”