- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Top vet: Bird flu may be spreading farm to farm in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota’s state veterinarian suggested Wednesday that bird flu may be spreading from farm-to-farm in the state’s top turkey-growing counties, a possibility they downplayed in the early days of the outbreak.

They said instead that they suspected the virus was being carried into the state by migratory waterfowl that would spread it via their droppings, then accidentally tracked into barns by farm workers or perhaps by rodents.

But U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, including the agency’s chief veterinary officer, have floated the theory in recent weeks that windy, dry conditions, which have been common this spring, could whip up dust and debris contaminated by infected waterfowl droppings and carry the virus short distances into barns and infect new flocks. If that’s what’s been happening, it raises the possibility that high winds could also blow contaminated dust from one farm to a nearby farm.

Confirmed and presumed outbreaks of H5N2 avian influenza have hit over 100 Midwest farms, affecting more than 28 million chickens and turkeys. Minnesota and Iowa have been the hardest-hit states; Minnesota turkey and chicken producers have lost more than 5.5 million birds since early March.

State Veterinarian Bill Hartmann told reporters on a conference call that there’s no confirmation of lateral spread from farm to farm. But he said poultry industry veterinarians who’ve been working with the affected flocks now suspect the virus may be spreading that way via the wind.

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‘Buffer bully’? Dayton says won’t relent in clean water push

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton has been labeled “the buffer bully” and run into severe resistance with a plan requiring farmers to leave more space between cropland and sensitive waterways.

But as Minnesota’s legislative session reaches its crescendo, Dayton said he’s not about to relent. And, he told The Associated Press, people can expect him to charge hard on water quality issues as he seeks a legacy on that front in his second and final term. This year the focus is buffer strips, but steps to improve drinking water and wastewater treatment plants are already on his radar.

“We have a whole range of things here related to water quality. It’s going to be on the top of my agenda for the next three and a half years,” Dayton said in an interview. “I wish I picked up on it four years ago. But better late than never.”

Dayton convened representatives of agriculture groups Tuesday to push them toward a buffer-strip deal. He said he’s willing to compromise on a proposal to require 50-foot buffers around all waterways, which advocates say are needed to help filter farm runoff that threatens clean water with chemicals and sediment. He acknowledged that passage of a legislative proposal depends on buy-in from farmers, but he said he’ll go toe-to-toe with them to ensure any plan protects Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams.

Dayton himself brought up the bully tag during the AP interview, apparently in reference to Minnesota Farm Bureau public policy director Doug Busselman describing his buffer pressure as “a political bullying effort” to the publication Brownfield Ag News.

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Officer on leave amid inquiry into threats against suspect

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minneapolis police officer has been put on paid leave while the department investigates a video in which he can be heard threatening to break a suspect’s legs.

The Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1zLGJaRhttps://strib.mn/1zLGJaR ) reports police are investigating the video. In the video, an officer is heard telling a suspect he would break his legs before “you get a chance to run.” The officer’s face is not shown.

However, Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, says the officer has said it’s his voice in the video. Kroll said he’s seen parts of the video and noted it could have been taken out of context.

Minneapolis City Council member Blong Yang says it’s standard for an officer to be put on paid leave.

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Winter proves tough on deer, states weigh hunting limits

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Wildlife regulators in states where deer hunting is a way of life and an important tourism draw are implementing or considering deep cuts to hunting permits after a tough winter killed off many of the animals.

Severe winters are perilous for deer because they risk running out of fat reserves and dying. Fawns, whose health determines the future stability of the herd, are especially susceptible.

A winter of heavy snow and bitter cold may have resulted in increased mortality rates from the upper Midwest to New England.

In Maine, biologists are recommending a cut of 23 percent to the state’s deer hunting permits. In Vermont, the number of antlerless deer permits is being cut nearly in half. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, deer hunting could be halted altogether.

“This last winter was one of the worst that I can remember. I suspect that we lost a lot of deer,” said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “Although it’s disappointing to see permits go down, I would have to agree.”

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