Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton hosted a turkey lunch for interns at his Summit Avenue residence on Wednesday to prove the state's poultry is safe to eat. To kick off the lunch, the governor carved a 25-pound turkey raised in Glenwood, Minn.
The symbolic turkey carving is a critical message for consumers of one of Minnesota's largest agricultural products. Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state in the nation, but this spring's flu epidemic is racing through farms at breakneck speed.
According to the Minnesota Animal Board of Health, the virus has now hit 56 farms, and 3.6 million turkeys have been quarantined or destroyed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will compensate farmers for their losses, but many producers will still need money to start new flocks. The governor on Wednesday announced the state is working to put together special low-interest loan program.
"We're thinking in the neighborhood of $100,000 per grower," Dayton said. "Assuming maybe times a hundred. There are 56 now, which would mean $10 million, which is a significant response to make sure they get back on their feet."
The governor admits the loan program would not cover all of their expenses, but would help them restart flocks to ensure a steady turkey supply from farm to table.
The USDA has more than 100 people in Minnesota working with turkey producers to try and contain the virus.