- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - One of the first Iowa turkey farms where bird flu was found is getting close to the time at which birds can be restocked, but most of the 77 farms affected are still weeks away from introduction of new flocks, Iowa Department of Agriculture officials said Tuesday.

In an update on the progress of recovery from the bird flu outbreak that killed 34 million chickens and turkeys in the state, officials said all farms have been cleared of birds. Disposal of manure, compost and other waste continued at 18 farms.

The bird flu outbreak began in Iowa in mid-April. The last reported case was four weeks ago. All birds that died or were euthanized have been incinerated, buried or taken to landfills.

Once cleaned and disinfected, barns must remain unused for 21 days and routine sampling must confirm no virus remains. Three sites have completed cleaning and disinfection and are in the 21-day follow-up period.

One turkey farm in Calhoun County will finish that period this week, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said. An additional turkey site in Pocahontas County and a chicken site in Clay County are expected to finish the process in the next two weeks.

It’s likely a few farms won’t return to business, he said, but most operators are working hard to restock.

“We will have a few older facilities or some in a stage of life or because of financial impact of this that won’t go back into business,” Northey said.

After farms bring in new birds, they will remain under quarantine until new flocks undergo at least three tests for bird flu and remain virus-free.

Other countries with widespread outbreaks have seen recurrence and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with the industry on how to respond if the virus returns in the fall or next spring, said Dr. Jack Shere, a veterinary services administrator with the USDA.

“All the major poultry states are beginning to plan on how they’re going to deal with this, looking at their resources and the availability of different ways to deal with it,” he said.

The USDA is hiring 400 temporary workers to be deployable quickly and respond wherever the virus may surface, he said.

The most recent USDA report on egg production released Tuesday shows the severe impact the outbreak had on Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer.

Production in June was 763 million eggs, down 44 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest June production figure since February 2002.

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