Yesterday, we got the news of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) being found in Pottawatomie County. This means that Iowans are once again keeping a very close eye on the health of their flocks. Between eggs and meat poultry, Iowa bases a lot of its agricultural economy on the health of birds.
This was another good reminder about the fact that animal disease both, foreign and domestic, can move rather quickly across the country. The only real difference between foreign and domestic animal diseases is that we really do have a fighting chance of keeping those foreign diseases out of the country. I cite the great job that has been done of keeping African Swine Fever (ASF) out of the U.S. thus far. However, it takes more than just words to keep these diseases out. It takes boots on the ground.
Or, in this case, paws on the ground.
Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst joined with Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia in leading a bipartisan effort to get federal support for training schools for the “Beagle Brigade.” This is the affectionate nickname given to the group of beagles which are trained to sniff out illegal meat, animal byproducts, and vegetation that could be coming through our ports of entry.
Their program is sponsored by the USDA and APHIS but is funded through user fees paid by travelers. However, the problem is that user fees can fluctuate with the market. This means that there isn’t a steady stream of funding for the program. Senator Ernst talks about the need to provide steady and reliable funding for this program.
Senator Warnock is co-sponsoring the bill because the national training facility is in Newnan, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.
Ernst talks about the efforts it takes to train these dogs for their job. It isn’t like just hiring somebody off the street.
When you think about these animals being a line of defense at our borders, you may wonder why the federal government hasn’t been sponsoring this program all along. Senator Ernst says it is just one of those unfortunate programs that falls in the gaps of being federally regulated but not federally funded and that is why this bipartisan effort is important to the Senators.
With the return of HPAI in the U.S., and most recently into Iowa, Senator Ernst says this is a good reminder of the need for these inspection dogs. Senator Ernst reflects on the fallout after the last surge of HPAI in Iowa.