Iowa farm to destroy 5.3 million chickens after bird flu outbreak

DES MOINES, Iowa — Up to 5.3 million hens at an Iowa farm must be destroyed after the highly infectious and deadly bird flu virus was confirmed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday. The farm in northwest Iowa's Osceola County has nearly 10 percent of the state's egg-laying hens. Iowa is home to roughly 59 million hens that lay nearly one in every five eggs consumed in the country. Egg industry marketing experts say it's too early to predict the impact on prices, but say it's unlikely to immediately cause a spike or a shortage, because number of chickens that are to be euthanized is a little more than 1 percent of the nation's egg layers. "Don't panic. Let's wait and see," said poultry industry consultant Simon Shane, who also teaches poultry science and veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University. He added that if 20 million to 30 million hens are infected, consumers could start seeing prices rise. Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing turkey and chicken producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March. The virus was first detected in Minnesota, the country's top turkey-producing state, in early March and the H5N2 virus has since shown up on commercial farms in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. On Monday, the virus was confirmed in another turkey farm in Minnesota and a backyard flock of mixed birds in Wisconsin. The Osceola County farm provides shell eggs and liquid egg products to the market. "It may not have a direct effect on shell egg pricing but any time you take production out of a marketplace there's likely to be some consequence," Iowa Poultry Association Executive Director Randy Olson said. "I anticipate the market and production will recover, but right now we're reminding people that this is not a food safety issue and it's not a human health issue." Olson said he's confident authorities have identified the extent of the Continue Reading

Shut out, again: The New York State Senate GOP closes the door on farm workers’ rights

In his inaugural speech as the state Senate’s Republican majority leader, Sen. John Flanagan offered an invitation to a public suspicious that his GOP troops march in lockstep. “Just come to one of our conferences and you can see that that is not the way it goes,” Flanagan said of the closed-door conclaves in which his party faction conducts business. That would have been nice for the dozens of farm workers and their supporters who made distant treks from across the state to lobby for passage of legislation that would grant them basic labor rights. After being stalled for a long time in the hallway outside a private meeting of Flanagan’s conference, they departed because their buses had to roll — and left behind a Republican door that has been symbolically closed to them for years. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Despite precautions, bird flu is spreading between farms

Poultry veterinarians in Minnesota believe an outbreak of avian flu has spread between farms, indicating the implementation of a U.S. strategy to contain the deadly bird disease failed in at least some cases. Wild birds are thought to be carriers of the flu virus, which can be tracked onto poultry farms by people or trucks that come into contact with contaminated feces. It may also be carried into barns by wind blowing in contaminated dirt or dust. U.S. and state officials had thought that quarantining infected farms and killing birds would prevent the virus from moving to neighboring farms. However, veterinarians now think the disease was transmitted between farms, Bill Hartmann, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, told reporters on a conference call. He did not have more details. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which until now has focused on water fowl spreading the bird flu, is investigating "the potential transmission of virus between operations," a spokeswoman said. There are a number of ways the virus may be introduced to farms, she added. Virulent H5 avian influenza strains have spread to 14 states in five months and affected about 26 million birds in the worst outbreak of the disease in U.S. history, according to the USDA. In Minnesota, the biggest U.S. turkey producing state, delays in the killing of infected poultry flocks may have led to "a couple of cases" of the flu spreading from one farm to another, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Delays could have kept the virus on infected farms for longer than desired, allowing the wind to blow contaminated particles to a nearby facility, he said. Government officials hire workers to kill birds from infected flocks, and normally try to kill them within two to three days after infections are confirmed, Olson said. Minnesota was "a few days behind at some point" on culling infected flocks, but has since Continue Reading

Seattle fire guts legal marijuana farm, burns 3,000 pot plants

It went up in smoke. Seattle’s first legal marijuana-grow operation erupted in flames Wednesday — and about 3,000 pot plants perished in the blaze, fire officials and KIRO 7 TV said. The two-alarm fire gutted Sea of Green Farms in Magnolia about 4 a.m. after an electrical wiring problem, the Seattle Fire Department said. It was controlled about 45 minutes later. There were no reported injuries. Firefighters, who wore standard masks to battle the blaze, were not affected by the marijuana fumes, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore told The Seattle Times. “The building is ventilated upward, so all the smoke went up into the air,” he said. The fire caused about $250,000 in damages to the building and equipment, not including the lost marijuana products, the fire department said. Sea of Green Farms did not immediately return a call for comment. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.  Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Flanagan’s row to hoe as Senate leader must allow a vote on farm workers’ labor rights

Traveling from Long Island vineyards, Hudson Valley vegetable fields and western New York orchards, farm workers go to Albany Tuesday to seek equal labor rights. Under a legacy of the Jim Crow era, New York denies 100,000 field hands protections like the right to overtime, an unpaid day off per week and collective bargaining. Pending legislation would correct those injustices. The Democratic-controlled Assembly has routinely passed the bill, only to have the Republican-dominated Senate kill it. But now, Long Island’s John Flanagan has taken command as GOP Senate majority leader. Flanagan voted for the bill in 2001 as an assemblyman. After he moved to the Senate, we asked him in 2003 whether he would continue to support the bill. “I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t,” he said. In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, Flanagan was the measure’s prime Senate sponsor. “I’m a senator from Long Island, but I’m no different than anyone here,” he said. “I want fairness, I want dignity, I want respect and I want opportunity for you and for me and for everyone else.” In 2010, after Democrats took control of the Senate for a period, Flanagan told the Smithtown News that he still backed the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. But when the bill came up for a vote, Flanagan shamefully voted no. Bills need 32 votes for Senate passage. There are 28 Democratic sponsors, and five Republicans — Jack Martins, Joe Robach, Carl Marcellino, Kemp Hannon and Michael Venditto — last month voted it out of the Labor Committee. That’s 33 votes right there, Mr. Majority Leader. It’s time to live up to your words. Continue Reading

Spanish prime minister praises farm workers who aided Seville plane crash survivors

MADRID — Spanish authorities on Sunday praised the bravery of farm workers who helped pull two survivors from the burning wreckage of a military transport plane that had crashed near Seville’s airport. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy posted a photograph of himself on Twitter talking to a farmer who had helped save the crewmen injured in Saturday’s crash of an Airbus A400M. Rajoy called the man “a hero for us all.” Spanish state television TVE and regional newspaper Diario de Sevilla on Sunday featured interviews with Francisco Miranda Escudero, who described how he and three other men saw two people emerging from the broken fuselage and jumping down 13 to 16 feet to the ground. “The flames were horrifying and the continuous explosions tremendous,” said Miranda Escudero as he explained how he and Manuel Iglesias — the man in Rajoy’s photograph — pulled the injured away from the explosions. He said the two owners of the field where the plane crashed also ran over to help them drag the men to safety. The plane, which was undergoing flight trials, destroyed a high-tension electricity pylon as it smashed into the field, killing four people on board. Airbus spokesman Kieran Daly said the plane was crewed by two pilots, three flight test engineers and a technician. The A400M was developed by Airbus to replace aging Hercules transport planes. The aircraft that crashed had been due for delivery to Turkey in June. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Alabama couple to give away goat cheese farm, $20K to essay contest winner

An Alabama couple will give away their beloved goat cheese farm to the lucky winner of an essay contest who can properly pen why they're the right person to run the creamery. Paul and Leslie Spell's 20-acre debt-free family farm in Elkmont is up for grabs — along with their house, 85 goats, and $20,000 to keep the cheese churning, ABC News affiliate WAAY-TV reported. "We've had a pretty successful run here, and I thought it was time for us to go help someone else," Paul told The couple owns Humble Heart Farms, which produces natural goat cheese and low-fat frozen desserts dubbed "Udder Escapes" and "Bama Cools." But the retiring lovebirds are looking to leave to help their missionary friends start a goat farm in Costa Rica, they said on a website they created to host the contest. It costs $150 to enter the competition, which the Spells hope will draw at least 2,500 contestants. The winner will be announced on Oct. 15. "Take a moment and jot down why you or your organization is the perfect fit to continue the farmstead goat cheese tradition," the couple wrote. ON A MOBILE DEVICE?  WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Foster Farms cuts antibiotics from chickens

Foster Farms, one of the top U.S. chicken producers, plans to largely eliminate antibiotics used to treat humans from its poultry production, it said on Monday. The move brings California-based Foster Farms in line with other top chicken producers, including market leader Tyson Foods, that are backing away from using the drugs over concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Privately held Foster Farms is working to end the use of all antibiotics used in human medicine, except in instances where the health of a poultry flock is at risk, and has stopped using antibiotics considered to be critical to human health, according to a statement. Independent auditors will ensure compliance with the company's plans, it said. It will continue to use animal-only antibiotics when needed for "conventional" flocks, or those not designated to be antibiotic-free, it said. There have not been any human health concerns raised over animal-only antibiotics. The debate over the agriculture industry's longstanding practice of using human antibiotics in livestock production has heated up in recent years. Public health experts and federal regulators have grown increasingly concerned that their use could create a health hazard by spurring the creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in humans. Tyson has said it plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chicken flocks by September 2017. Its move will help the company meet a deadline outlined by McDonald's for its U.S. restaurants to gradually stop buying chicken raised with human antibiotics over the next two years. In 2013, Foster Farms was the 10th largest U.S. poultry producer. It produced 21 million pounds of ready to cook chicken a week, according to industry data. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

American Farm Bureau Federation calls on de Blasio to stop plan to ban carriage horses

Them city slickers trying to boot carriage horses from New York don’t know diddly about livestock and should leave well enough alone, an influential farming group charged Wednesday. The American Farm Bureau Federation — in an unusual foray into Big Apple politics — is calling on Mayor de Blasio to drop his plans to ban the horse and carriage industry from the city because it’s being pushed by people with no horse sense. “This valued tradition allows people to connect with the horses and tour the city in a historic and unique way,” Bob Stallman, president of the Washington-based national group, said. He called the carriage horses an “an important asset” to the city. “Despite activist rhetoric that these horses are tortured and mistreated, they are in fact well cared for and valued,” he said. The group, which lobbies for farmers and educates members on the latest agricultural techniques, also said that the city horses tend to live just as long as their country kin, and horse owners don’t mistreat their animals because their “livelihoods” depend on it. “New York City’s proposed ban isn’t coming from people who work with horses day-to-day,” Stallman said. “Their claims aren’t based on science or recommendations from veterinarians. In fact, they ignore the expertise of ranchers, livestock owners, and animal care professionals who work with animals every day and have been caring for these horses for centuries.” A spokesman for the 104-year-old Farm Bureau Federation said it was the first time in memory that the group weighed in on a Big Apple political issue. They did so because “we love horses, and we love New York,” said spokesman Will Rodger. NYCLASS, the animal rights group that donated heavily to de Blasio and many Council members, said Continue Reading

Connecticut farm worker dies after corn collapses on him

A Connecticut farm worker died Monday after a pile of milled corn collapsed and buried him, police said. Donald Merchant, 54, was using equipment to move corn from a large mound at the Square A Farm in Lebanon when some of it toppled onto him when he got off the vehicle. The South Windham man was found unresponsive by other farm workers, who dug him out. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 5:30 p.m. Square A Farm did not immediately return a call for comment. With News Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading