Working to keep avian influenza out of Ohio

Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry relies on the health of the animals. As the second largest producer of eggs in the country, and home to over 40 million chickens and turkeys, Ohio needs to do its best to protect these crucial assets to our poultry industry. Avian influenza presents a serious threat to our agricultural sector, and we must go to every extent possible to protect agriculture in Ohio.

Several years ago, the “bird flu” became a serious concern to Americans, but this current strain poses no threat to humans. However, HPAI (avian influenza) is extremely contagious and spread by wild, migrating birds to domestic birds. In particular geese are known for spreading the disease, this is a major threat in western Ohio where they are abundant.

The governor and Director Daniels of the Ohio Department of Agriculture have been strong leaders in taking steps to fight the spread of this disease. So far Ohio is virus-free, something to be very thankful for, but other poultry-producing states are being affected negatively. To prevent its spread to Ohio, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has canceled all live-bird exhibitions this year. In a release that they sent out, State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey explained that the co-mingling of birds at these events presents a high risk of spreading the disease through direct contact.

While I know it will be hard for 4-Hers around the state, I hope that they can learn from this experience. If the disease comes to Ohio, it won’t just be turkey and chicken farmers that feel the impact. Processing plants like the Cooper plant, cracking plants in western Ohio and other producers of poultry will all experience hardship. I commend the governor and Director Daniels for taking steps to keep our birds healthy.

I consider keeping this disease out of Ohio to be extremely important to our state. The effects would be felt by our farmers, at the grocery store and at restaurants, to name a few. I will continue to monitor the situation and provide support to our farmers across the state.

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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.