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House passes $1 million measure to combat avian influenza outbreak

(House Photography file photo)

With two days remaining before the Legislature’s annual Easter/Passover Break, the House moved quickly to pass funding to address the breakout of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth), HF3217, as introduced, would protect data about individuals connected to farming or agriculture seeking mental or behavioral health assistance. It was passed 131-0 by the House March 31.

However, earlier Thursday, the Senate added an amendment to provide $1 million in funding to the Agriculture Department to address the avian influenza and the House acted swiftly to repass the amended bill 129-1. It now heads to Gov. Tim Walz.

“(It is) very important for us to address in a short-term way the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that has come to our state,” Klevorn said.

The bill would help cover avian-influence related expenses until the Legislature reconvenes April 19 after its break.

Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger), a former turkey farmer, said the money would give the state “a couple weeks” to work on the emerging issue. The funding would go toward testing material and equipment and help counties and local governments with workforce concerns.

“This virus is affecting, not only commercial turkey farms and layer facilities, but backyard flocks and upland game farms,” Burkel said. “The virus is different this time, and the need and urgency is greater, and it’s critical we get this done before we leave for Easter recess.”

The influenza poses little or no risk to humans. It has been found in flocks in 12 counties since March 25.

“HPAI is an urgent problem for poultry producers in Minnesota. This is certainly a challenge, but our state Agriculture Department, Board of Animal Health and others are well prepared to respond to the crisis,” Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL–Esko) said in a statement. He chairs the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee. “The investment we’re making today on a bipartisan basis will help keep our state’s poultry industry thriving and protect Minnesota turkeys from avian influenza.”

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