Vaccinate all poultry now

BY ART CULLEN

Outbreaks of avian flu in Asia and Europe, and now a Tyson breeding stock facility in Tennesseee, should activate all the alarm bells in Buena Vista County, Iowa and especially at the USDA in Washington. We should immediately begin vaccinating all commercial poultry for the latest virus before the flu stages a repeat of 2015 — the worst animal health crisis in recorded North American history.

The fortunes of everyone are at stake. Rembrandt Foods and Tyson turkey cannot afford another year-long shutown, and neither can the thousands of families who depend on them. We also must note that the latest flu virus in Asia morphed into a virus that is infecting humans. This did not happen in 2015. We must take the threat seriously.

We know from two years ago that Harrisvaccines of Ames can quickly identify and produce vaccinations for the flu strain found in Tennessee, which is along the Mississippi flyway. Infected waterfowl could be making their way north to Storm Lake and Rembrandt as this is written. USDA prescribe biosecurity protocols, but we do not know how avian flu spreads in poultry confinements. There are theories that it comes from waterfowl but those theories have not been fully tested.

USDA briefly considered ramping up a vaccine program under Secretary Tom Vilsack. The chicken broiler industry objected, fearing that vaccination could hurt exports to Europe and Asia. Turns out Europe and Asia are exporting us the flu, which has the potential to destroy Tyson’s national poultry production. It would take years for the firm to recover from that — it is just now recovering from the plant fire and subsequent flu outbreak that idled the turkey plant here for close to two years. Export markets could be the least of Tyson’s worries in that event.

If that weren’t bad enough, agricultural research has been choked off by Congress in its budget sequestration. Poultry research has been capped at $50 million for several years. A report issued Monday by the leading ag universities — Iowa State, Michigan State, Texas A&M and others — shows how important research is on the topics that butter our bread. The report features The Ohio State University for its research into nothing less than avian flu. “When an outbreak occurs, there is support from everywhere for new research,” says OSU’s Dr. Chang-Won Lee. “However, the work needs to be done on an ongoing basis in preparation for the next outbreak.”

That next outbreak is here, and the work has not been done.

Turning to the next page of the report, we see that Michigan State is trying to figure out how turkeys can boost their tolerance for heat. And on the next page it features Iowa State, where Dr. Hongwei Len is trying to figure out better respiratory environments for cage-free laying hens. All this research has direct application in Buena Vista County. But it is stunted because of Congressional ignorance and pettiness. Congress created an ag and food research program but only funded it halfway. As a result, important research into livestock safety, food safety and human safety goes wanting.

Let’s start to get on track with responsible science by starting to vaccinate immediately. And let’s start voting for Members of Congress who advance agricultural and other scientific research — not hold it back through phony sequestrations behind which the same Members can hide their own disregard for the public good.

A new manager

The Storm Lake City Council made the practical and right choice when it named Keri Navratil to replace Jim Patrick as city manager on May 17. Navratil was the city administrator in Algona, a progressive county seat town of about 6,000 in Kossuth County, before coming to Storm Lake two years ago to be Patrick’s assistant city manager. This is a logical progression in her career that should serve The City Beautiful well.

Navratil possesses two attributes most important to a city manager: She is not afraid to communicate and she is honest. She is accessible, and she understands numbers.

This contrasts with the recent past, where budgets were confusing and painful, where it was difficult to figure out why the dredge wasn’t running or why the streets were clogged with ice.

Navratil has been around here long enough to figure out how the community operates. She should have a running start when Patrick retires.

It’s better to elevate a proven person than search far and wide for a manager through a firm that could produce a mediocre candidate. The best people are found locally.

Navratil will have a lot of work immediately ahead. She was able to help straighten out what is not straight. She has a community that is eager for a new face and fresh start. We wish her well and are eager for a return to transparency and diligent management that serves a growing and progressive community.