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Baldwin Calls for Immediate Action to Contain Avian Flu Outbreak in Dairy Cattle

Baldwin calls on Biden Administration for resources to protect dairy farmers and producers, consumers, and states to prevent spread of disease

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take immediate action to contain the ongoing avian flu outbreak in dairy cattle. On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that the virus has been found in pasteurized milk. In a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack, Senator Baldwin called on USDA to quickly deploy additional resources to contain the spread of disease, including public education sessions, working with farmers to improve biosecurity, and providing ongoing disease exposure trends and education materials to protect Wisconsin dairy farmers, producers, and consumers.

“Wisconsin’s dairy industry supports thousands of good paying jobs, drives our rural economies, and provides nutritious products around the world, and it is critical to our state that we get the response to this virus right,” said Senator Baldwin. “The federal government has to step up to help our dairy farmers and producers weather and combat this outbreak, stop the spread of this virus, and ensure consumers know what is being done to keep them safe.”

Currently, there are no known cases in Wisconsin. Cases have been identified in Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. In Wisconsin, individuals can report suspected impacted herds here. While USDA announced actions yesterday to mitigate the spread of the virus, Senator Baldwin is calling for additional measures to ensure a coordinated and robust response to the ongoing outbreak of avian flu in dairy cattle.

The full letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

I am writing to request the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) utmost attention on the ongoing outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in dairy cattle. This outbreak must be met with a robust and coordinated response from the federal government, including resources for farmers and ranchers, and public education sessions and materials detailing ongoing food safety precautions undertaken by dairy producers that keep Americans safe.

While I understand that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirms as of today that the domestic milk supply is safe, virus fragments have been found in pasteurized milk. I appreciate USDA’s partnership with FDA and the ongoing efforts to identify and address the spread of the disease. It is imperative the agency quickly deploy additional resources in states that have the opportunity to prevent the disease from entering herds within their borders by working directly with farmers on improving their biosecurity options.

We must also ensure that the public is aware of the strong public health regulations administered by the FDA, including requiring pasteurization of any product labeled as “milk,” which is intended to be sold in interstate commerce. Existing and ongoing research confirms that pasteurization is the best and most effective way to protect the food supply, and by improving public awareness, we may ensure that consumers have continued access to an important source of nutrition in dairy.

Finally, I would request that ongoing disease exposure trends and education materials be disseminated to state and local health departments. Frontline agricultural populations, in particular, must have access to this data in order to identify potential flu-like symptoms in their communities so that they may seek appropriate care and prevent further spread of HPAI. Moreover, I also request that USDA continue to maintain active coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) should the need arise for dissemination of vaccines or antivirals into exposed populations.

As Senator of Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland, I stand ready to work with you to ensure that our dairy farmers and producers have every tool at their disposal to weather this outbreak, and that consumers are armed with the knowledge of the ongoing public health efforts to protect them from HPAI.

Thank you for your attention to this request, and your ongoing dedication to supporting our nation’s dairy farmers and producers and protecting American consumers and workers.