Producers join in prayer service for industry
By MICHELE LINCK
SIOUX CENTER – Sioux County egg and poultry producers, their neighbors and friends gathered Monday night for communal prayer for the well-being of all producers and workers whose income and employment is impacted by the avian flu epidemic.
Between 75 and 100 people met at the Christian House of Missions and Equipping in Sioux Center.
A sign board in the church’s community room read, “Praise is a weapon now.”
A house band and singers sang, and others led the gathering in prayer.
The service was translated into Spanish for about a dozen workers and their families.
Jim Dean, president and chief executive officer of the Sioux Center-based Center Fresh Eggs, and president of the national industry group, United Egg Producers, said his organization represents more than 90 percent of egg producers in the U.S.
He talked about the epidemic after the meeting.
“My fear is we’re in a three-year cycle of (infected) migratory birds,” Dean said. “Adult birds travel back to where they were hatched. (The epidemic) started in Asia three or four years ago. That’s why I’m not optimistic.”
The current count of domestic turkeys, chickens and ducks in Iowa to be euthanzied due to the H5N2 outbreak in Iowa is at 24.3 million, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The figures were last updated at 4 p.m. on May 8.
There are 44 cases of the disease in 12 counties – 12 in Buena Vista County and 10 in Sioux County. All but one are commercial turkey and chicken flocks.
The lone exception is a backyard flock of ducks in O’Brien County.
Once the highly pathogenic avian influenza is confirmed, all poultry not already killed by virus are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be euthanized to keep the disease contained.
Producers said healthy chickens and turkeys are being euthanized by the hundreds of thousands.
Dean said avian flu first appeared in the U.S. in 1983-84, hitting Pennsylvania poultry.
Bruce Dooyema, an egg producer who is also a part-owner of the Center Fresh Group, said the community’s response has been phenomenal.
“Every day you get people calling to see how they can help out,” he said. “A friend wants to butcher a steer for our workers.”
Dooyema said the group employs 220 to 250 workers.
He said the clean-up process is a long one. Every hen house must be cleaned and disinfected, a process he thinks could be accomplished by May 22, a week ahead of the initial schedule.
The USDA must inspect and OK each house before new birds can be brought in.
“We’re not even rid of the birds, yet,” Dooyema said. “We have 5 million to 6 million birds. You don’t do that overnight.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture will test and certify (the chicken houses) if they’re negative,” he said. “I hope by Aug. 1 we’ll start repopulating the houses.”
“It’s really not going away. It’s still spreading like a fire. It keeps spreading and spreading.”
The H5N2 avian influenza is suspected of being spread by migrating wild birds, according to Center for Disease Control.
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