WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture received an additional $330 million in emergency funds to help stop the spread of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza, according to Reuters. The virus has claimed more than 23 million birds since the virus was first detected on Dec. 19, 2014, according to data from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA.
The economic toll of the outbreak has spread beyond poultry farms. Jennie-O Turkey Store, a unit of Hormel Foods Corp., said the company implemented temporary layoffs at its turkey processing plant in Faribault, Minn. Jennie-O said the virus has reduced its supplies of turkey. The company said 233 employees will be affected by the layoffs.
“This will be a temporary layoff and our intent is to have everyone come back to work when bird numbers return to normal levels,” said Randy L. Vergin, plant manager. “We do not have an anticipated return to work date at this time, but look forward to welcoming our team members back when production levels return to normal.”
Austin, Minn.-based Hormel said in April that the company is experiencing “significant challenges” due to the impact of the H5N2 outbreak. Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman, president and CEO, said tight supplies of turkey meat and operational challenges will be financial headwinds for the company in the back half of fiscal 2015.
Minnesota has been hard-hit by the outbreak. APHIS data shows the state has lost 3,792,760 birds — most of them turkeys — since the first reported detection of the virus in early March.
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