Minnesota bans poultry sales and exhibitions as industry deals with new bird flu strain

As an outbreak of a new bird flu strain continues to spread throughout central Minnesota, industry and political leaders are trying to grapple with solutions that don’t affect an already volatile supply chain as inflation rises at its fastest rate in 40 years. 

Due to detections of the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in both Minnesota and surrounding states, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Thursday it's issuing a 31-day statewide ban on all poultry sales and exhibitions effective Friday, April 1, through Sunday, May 1. 

The ban includes all community poultry sales, swaps, fairs, exhibitions and other events where poultry and susceptible birds congregate. 

"Viruses like HPAI need hosts to continue to spread," state veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson said in a statement. "It’s our job to stop the spread of disease. Unfortunately, in this situation we feel one of the best things we can do for the health of all birds in Minnesota is to take a pause on poultry events."

Minnesota is ranked first in the nation in turkey production, with more than 660 turkey farms that raise about 40 million birds annually.

Direct sales of baby poultry, either in stores or via mail by National Poultry Improvement Plan authorized sellers, are allowed still.

The current outbreak poses a high risk to poultry, but low risk to the public. There is no food safety concern for consumers, according to the board. 

Walz waives restrictions

On Thursday Governor Tim Walz announced he signed Executive Order 22-05, which will waive trucking weight restriction regulations and hours of service requirements in an effort to help fight HPAI spread through Minnesota’s poultry industry. 

"As someone who grew up on a family farm, I know the work our farmers and producers do is tough under the very best conditions," Gov. Walz said in a statement. "We will continue to work with Minnesota’s poultry industry and our federal partners to quickly and decisively respond to the HPAI cases in Minnesota and ensure our poultry industry remains strong," 

According to an announcement, temporarily rescinding the restrictions will assist with depopulation efforts, transportation of uninfected animals to processing facilities and maintenance of adequate supplies to support healthy flocks. 

This week, Gov. Walz also announced the activation of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) emergency response team in Minnesota to support the state’s disease control and containment efforts of H5N1. 

The USDA emergency team will support the state’s Agricultural Incident Management Team – a team of experts from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture based in Kandiyohi County.