For immediate release: May 15, 2015
Contact: Michael Crusan
Exhibitions of Birds Cancelled for 2015 Season
Fairs, swap meets, exotic sales and petting zoos will not include birds
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health today announced its directive to cancel all bird exhibitions at county fairs, the State Fair, and other gatherings of birds. The Board’s directive is effective through the end of 2015 and also prohibits birds from being included in swap meets, exotic sales, and petting zoos.
Since March 5, 2015, nearly 90 Minnesota farms have been impacted by H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The purpose of the Board’s directive is to minimize the risk of potential further spread of the virus. The risk to the public related to H5N2 HPAI is very low and there is no food safety concern.
“Taking this step makes sense,” said Dr. Beth Thompson, assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. “We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that.”
Animal health officials met with leadership of the Minnesota State Fair and University of Minnesota Extension earlier this week to discuss the situation.
“This is a critical time for Minnesota’s poultry industry, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help,” said State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer. “The Board of Animal Health has absolutely made the right decision. We’ll use this as an opportunity to further educate people about the challenges of food production.
“University of Minnesota Extension 4-H’s priority is youth and their learning experiences,” said Brad Rugg, Extension 4-H and State Fair and Animal Science program director. “Some 4-H’ers will be disappointed that they won’t be able to show their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but we’re exploring alternate learning opportunities to offer them at fairs and will share more details as plans develop. Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world.”
Minnesota’s poultry industry has experienced the largest impact as a result of HPAI. Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota said, “We know the decision to halt poultry exhibitions at our county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair was not an easy one to make. This certainly affects the 4-H kids who plan for their projects all year long, and also means fewer opportunities for fairgoers across the state to learn about raising poultry. However, this is the right decision because what’s most important at this point is protecting the health and well-being of the birds that are being raised by 4-H’ers, FFA members, and Minnesota’s poultry farmers.”
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is the lead animal disease response agency in the state and is working with other state and federal agencies and the poultry industry to eradicate HPAI.
For information on livestock exhibition requirements in Minnesota, visit www.bah.state.mn.us/exhibitions.