USDA spells out financial assistance to offset H5N1-linked milk losses

empty milk cans

Elmar Gubisch/iStock

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced more details about a program to compensate dairy farmers for H5N1 avian flu-related milk losses, including that it will start accepting applications on July 1.

In a statement, the USDA said it is offering the assistance through an update to its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). The change will reimburse a portion of financial losses when cattle are removed from milking herds due to confirmed H5N1 test results.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "When something unexpected, like H5N1, threatens the economic viability of the producers we serve, we are committed to finding ways, where we have the authority to do so, to revisit existing program policies and provide the financial support needed to help producers recover and sustain production." 

ELAP is designed to provide relief to producers that aren't covered by other disaster-assistance programs. Eligible cattle must be part of herds confirmed as H5N1-positive by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, be removed from production during a specified period, be currently lactating, and be maintained for commercial milk production. 

The USDA said it would base the per-cow loss payment on an expected 21-day period of no milk production, followed by 7 days when the cow has returned to 50% of the normal rate of production. 

More confirmations in dairy herds, cats, and poultry

In related developments, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) added three more dairy herds to its list of confirmed H5N1 outbreaks, raising the total to 132 from 12 states. The confirmations include two from Colorado and one from Iowa.

APHIS also added two more H5N1 confirmations in domestic cats to its list of infected mammals, both from New Mexico's Curry County. Samples were collected in March and April.

Meanwhile, the group added one more detection in a poultry flock, a noncommercial facility in Minnesota that houses 310 birds. The location is Stearns County, in the central part of the state.

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