Iowa Ag Secretary Seeks More Money to Prep for Foreign Animal Disease Outbreak

The state ag secretary is asking lawmakers for a quarter of a million dollar budget increase, to boost the "Animal Agriculture Industries Bureau" in the Iowa Department of Agriculture. [Source: Radio Iowa, November 27, 2018 By O. Kay Henderson]

"To prepare, present, detect and, if needed, to respond in the case of a foreign animal disease," Ag Secretary Mike Naig said yesterday during a budget presentation in the governor's office.

Naig said Avian influenza, African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases are a threat to Iowa's livestock and poultry industries.

"Iowa's a leader in animal production," Naig said. "We're number two in total livestock sales -- $13.4 billion in the last census -- and that number's only growing."

Naig has been ag secretary since March and was elected to a full term in this month's election. Bill Northey, his predecessor, asked lawmakers for half a million dollars in 2016, shortly after a bird flu outbreak hit Iowa's poultry industry. Legislators just provided $250,000 for the effort this year. Three weeks ago, Naig hired a veterinarian to serve as the Iowa Department of Agriculture's emergency management coordinator. Naig is now asking legislators to provide the rest of the half-a-million dollar budget for the bureau that's overseeing state preparations for an outbreak of a foreign animal disease.

"Animal disease is an ever-present threat and we're all on the front line along with the industry and our inspectors and veterinarians," Naig said. "...The increased funding will help us better support our producers, the industry. We'll be able to hire or engage the kind of expertise that we need."

Upgrading the department's antiquated computer system is key, according to Naig, to ensure alerts can be sent quickly to the right people if there is an outbreak. Naig said if legislators provide the additional money, his agency will host drills for producers in how best to respond if there is an outbreak of foot and mouth or some other disease that can devastate and kill livestock and poultry.