On June 18th, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad requested a Presidential disaster declaration from President Obama regarding the bird flu outbreak which has affected more than 33 million birds in Iowa. Branstad requested the following:
- Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Case Management, and Disaster Legal Services, as well as any other Stafford Act programs appropriate for those who have lost employment and income as a result of the HPAI outbreak for Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright counties.
- Allow the Federal Highway Administration to issue a tonnage waiver on the state’s federal aid roadways, such as Interstates 29 and 35. This waiver would accelerate the disposal process and reduce the likelihood of spreading HPAI while transporting poultry to disposal sites.
“With a disaster of this magnitude adversely affecting Iowa farmers, producers and the workers they employ, I am requesting federal assistance from President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” said Branstad. “Unemployment assistance from the federal government, in addition to efforts already occurring inside our state, will help displaced workers. In addition, issuing a tonnage waiver will allow for efficient disposal and cleanup of affected sites. Given the unprecedented nature of this disaster, it is my hope that the President will expedite this request to provide federal assistance as soon as possible.”
Yesterday, we learned that Branstad’s request was denied in a letter sent to him by FEMA that said “the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and the other responding federal agencies.” (Credit: Omaha World Herald)
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley issued the following statement after learning that the request from Branstad was denied:
“I’m disappointed that Governor Branstad’s request was denied by the Obama Administration. After yesterday’s Agriculture Committee hearing and listening to testimony from producers who were affected, it’s very clear that this outbreak caused a significant magnitude of damage throughout the state. The Administration’s own veterinarian said that it was the largest animal health emergency in the country’s history. We heard from one Iowa producer who lost two-thirds of his birds to the disease, and he is not alone.
“Granting a disaster declaration would have made several forms of federal assistance available to these producers. Iowa has suffered great losses from this catastrophic outbreak, and I’m very disappointed that a disaster declaration wasn’t granted to help deal with the impact.”
Likewise, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey issued the following statement:
“The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has worked hand-in-hand with the USDA throughout this outbreak. It is disappointing that the Obama Administration denied the Governor’s request that would allow much needed federal resources to come into the state to assist farmers and others who have been impacted. Our Department will continue to work close with the farmers impacted, local officials, other state agencies and our federal partners as farms continue to the cleaning and disinfection process and move towards repopulation of these facilities.”