Gov. Josh Shapiro and state Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) joined forces on Wednesday to talk about the High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) crisis in the state and the budget proposal that would help and empower Pennsylvania farmers.
The pair met with local farmers and residents in Lancaster County to hear about the challenges faced as a result of the crisis and highlight the Commonwealth’s proactive response and recovery efforts to help Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry.
Avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu,” is caused by an influenza type A virus. Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild birds, especially waterfowl and shore or wading birds. Since 2022, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been affecting wild waterfowl as well as domestic poultry species. HPAI in birds is very contagious and can cause serious disease and high mortality in domestic poultry such as chickens, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl, and turkeys.
“High Path Avian Influenza is one of the most significant animal public health emergencies in American history – and it’s hitting us hard here in Pennsylvania,” said Shapiro. “I came here to Silver Valley Farm this morning to meet with some of our farmers and hear their concerns – because I know they’re worried, and I want them to know that my Administration is standing with them and working every single day to protect their flocks. Pennsylvania’s poultry industry contributes over $7 billion to our economy and supports over 26,000 jobs, and we are committed to working together in a bipartisan manner to support our farmers and ensure they have the resources they need.”
Since April 2022 when High Path Avian Influenza first hit Pennsylvania, 31 commercial flocks and 36 backyard flocks have been affected, resulting in a loss of 4,650,840 birds statewide. In the last 30 days, four commercial flocks, 20 backyard flocks, and 133,550 birds have been lost in Pennsylvania.
“This could have a severe ripple effect across our economy,” said Martin. “But the good news is this: between the industry communications and the absolute responsiveness of the Administration and the Governor’s team, the citizens of not only this county but the Commonwealth and all those who are watching what’s happening here in Pennsylvania can have confidence that we’re not only just committed to dealing with this in the here and now, but how best to prepare as we move forward to ensure that that responsiveness and learning from how we can do things better. That starts by taking a real problem and solution approach. I think you’re seeing that happen right now. And Governor, I can’t say thank you enough for being here and standing with the agricultural community and these families in this industry and I have extreme confidence that all working together that we’re going to get this done.”
The Shapiro Administration has deployed a team of over 170 experts to help conduct testing and improve security measures on farms across the Commonwealth. A response team made up of hundreds of veterinarians and specialists from the PA Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Penn State Extension, and PennAg Industries has worked side by side with poultry businesses, eliminating the virus on the 67 farms in 15 PA counties where it has been confirmed.
“Thank you, Governor Shapiro, for recognizing the seriousness of avian flu, and therefore sustaining the commitments made in the budget. We aren’t resting. Our team is still doing surveillance out in the field, and we want our farmers and producers to know that we are here to help. We’re here to support,” said Deputy Secretary for Animal Health and Food Safety Lisa Graybeal. “It should be everyone’s goal to work towards stopping the spread of this disease. We’re all in this together, and together, I think we’ll get through this.”
The Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Lab System has run more than 421,000 tests to confirm or rule out the virus in its three state-supported labs, and 691 trained and certified poultry technicians have taken samples on hundreds of farms beyond those where the virus was confirmed.
Shapiro has proposed over $127 million to support the ongoing response and recovery effort to the crisis.