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00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7ca0000Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Like Harvest Public Media on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @HarvestPM.

Farmers, Officials On Alert For Next Bird Flu Outbreak

Jeffrey Remick, flickr Creative Commons

Farms hit by bird flu in 2015 are still recovering. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, officials predict it’s a matter of when--not whether--another outbreak will occur.

Midwest egg and turkey farms were hit hard and 48 million birds were killed in the spring 2015 bird flu outbreak. The fall wild bird migration did not bring the deadly virus back, but worried farmers remain on alert.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says both state and federal officials are better prepared to respond quickly when the virus returns.

"Folks are resigned that there's going to be a greater likelihood in the future, but maybe the future is 5 or 10 years from now, maybe the future is next spring," Northey says.

Northey says one change is that farmers will be able to hire local crews to empty and clean barns instead of waiting on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do it. But USDA has also placed more staff in states with large poultry operations.