Media Coverage
April 21, 2003 to April 30, 2003
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North County Times, CA
Newcastle task force is reducing its numbers
Staff Writer

The task force on Exotic Newcastle disease is getting smaller, according to a spokeswoman.

So much smaller, she said, that it has plans to close its Colton office ---- eventually.

The task force currently has offices in Colton and Garden Grove.

Although task force spokeswoman Leticia Rico said it is unclear exactly when the office will close, it is a sign, she said, that the spread of the disease is slowing down.

Exotic Newcastle was first found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October. Since then, it has spread to six Southern California counties.

A federal quarantine was placed on those counties ---- San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura ---- as well as Imperial and Santa Barbara counties, which serve as a "buffer zone" around the infected areas, according to the task force.

The disease has been found in birds at 22 commercial egg and poultry ranches.

Seven commercial ranches in San Diego County tested positive for the disease. They are the Ramona Egg Ranch; Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads; the Foster Egg Ranch on Cole Grade Road; the Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way; and Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

No new commercial farms have tested positive since March 28, when the disease was confirmed at the Armstrong ranch on Mac Tan Road.

Rico said that the number of backyard flocks testing positive has also slowed, but has not stopped. There have been a total of 1,648 backyard flocks infected so far.

"While we're pleased to see the decrease, we're not taking anything for granted. We know we're not finished with the disease and we can't afford to be lax about it, but we think we're moving in the right direction."

Task force officials say the virus is so virulent that they must kill every bird on an infected premise. So far, more than 3.5 million birds have been killed.

The task force is being led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Forestry.

At its peak in early February, the task force had more than 1,700 employees, most of them employees or contractors with the USDA, according to the task force. Now, it has 1,025 employees, Rico said.

The reduction has been mostly in veterinarians and veterinary technicians who were testing birds for the disease, Rico said.

Many task force employees work for the USDA or other government agencies around the country and are assigned to the task force for a set period of time.

"They're on temporary assignment, so it's not like a layoff," she said.

She said that with fewer employees, the task force will need less office space.

"It's going to be a gradual process," she said.

Rico said she did not know how much money the task force will save by closing the Colton office.

"We don't have the information yet on how much we will save when the Colton office closes," she said.

So far, the task force has spent $102 million fighting Exotic Newcastle.

The disease, which affects all kinds of birds, is the most fatal to poultry. Symptoms of the disease include sneezing, coughing, muscle spasms and drooping wings

The last time a large-scale outbreak of Exotic Newcastle hit California was 1971. That time, the government spent $56 million eradicating the disease and killed 12 million birds.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


North County Times, CA

Newcastle task force has spent $102 million
Staff Writer

The task force in charge of containing and eradicating Exotic Newcastle disease said Monday that the cost of the operation has topped $102 million.

The task force is led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Department of Food and Agriculture, although it is unclear how much was spent by each agency.

In mid-April, the last time the task force released cost figures, the organization had spent $92 million.

When asked if there would be a limit to how much the task force would spend to fight the disease, she said she did not know.

Since the disease was found in a flock of backyard birds in Compton in October, more than 3.4 million birds have been killed in six Southern California counties.

In California, a federal quarantine has been placed on all the counties where the disease has been found ---- San Diego, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura ---- as well as Imperial and Santa Barbara counties, which are the buffer zones, according to the task force.

Exotic Newcastle was found in San Diego County in December, when chickens at Ramona Egg Ranch tested positive. It has spread to six other ranches, all in Valley Center. Those are the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads; the Foster Egg Ranch on Cole Grade Road; the Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way; and Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

It has also been found in 28 backyard flocks in the county.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


North County Times

Farmers look for leeway in county plan
Staff Writer

RIVERSIDE ---- Landowners, developers and environmentalists met Monday to hammer out what could become policies of the county's new general plan, including whether farmers would be required to wait five years before developing their land.

At the meeting, developers and officials from the Riverside County Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club and the Endangered Habitats League went over language in the county's new general plan, hoping to soothe the concerns of all parties.

It was sort of an ad hoc meeting of the General Plan Advisory Committee, which devised the county's new general plan over a four-year period, and also consisted of the same three groups of "stakeholders" ---- landowners, environmentalists and developers.

The meeting was called by the county Board of Supervisors in part to help alleviate concerns brought by the Farm Bureau, which felt agriculture's interests had not been sufficiently heard in the four-year process to develop the general plan.

At Monday's meeting, several objections raised by the Farm Bureau were alleviated by simply exempting farmland from the policies that included restrictions on development around streams and other environmentally sensitive areas.

Representatives from the Farm Bureau also sought to limit environmental regulations only to state and federal laws. They hoped to expressly limit the county's ability to introduce more stringent environmental laws after the plan is approved, which most likely will occur in mid-June.

However, the three sides could not come to an agreement on the most important issue discussed Tuesday, allowing wholesale land-use changes in the first five years of the plan.

Many stakeholders in the plan ---- environmentalists and developers alike ---- have concluded that one of the critical centerpieces of the plan is a "certainty system" that would not allow wholesale land-use changes for five years.

But representative from the Farm Bureau contend that farmland should not be subject to the same rules as other land uses. On Monday, the debate centered on whether farmers should have the right to develop parts of their land before the five-year period is up.

Representatives from the Farm Bureau, such as landowner Andy Domenigoni, contend that farmers need the right to develop part of their land as a way to secure loans. Unless farm owners are permitted to bring their land out of agriculture land-uses in case they foreclose on their loans, their land is going to be "worthless," he said.

Cindy Domenigoni, president of the Farm Bureau, agreed, saying that farmers need flexibility to make changes, because circumstances in farming change rapidly from year to year. She cited conditions such as Exotic Newcastle disease, which infects chickens and other birds, and Pierce's disease, which kills grapes, as examples.

Earlier this month, county staff developed a compromise that would allow farmers to develop 1 percent of their land per year over the next five years. But Farm Bureau representatives said that was not good enough and, after meeting privately with supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione, developed a proposal in which farmers would be allowed to develop the same amount of land ---- 5 percent ---- over a two-year period.

But the revelation for environmentalists at Monday's meeting was that the Farm Bureau compromise would allow wholesale zone changes for agriculture land after just two years ---- with Board of Supervisors' approval. Dan Silver, of the Endangered Habitats League, said that was unacceptable.

"It destroys the whole thing," Silver said. "One hundred percent of the agriculture could be out of the agriculture (land use) in two years.

Ultimately, both landowners and environmentalists reached an impasse and could not agree to a compromise. As a result, the committee said it would forward the issue to the Board of Supervisors for a decision.

Contact staff writer Rob O'Dell at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 2626, or at


San Bernardino Sun, CA,1413,208~12588~1361383,00.html

Article Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 9:25:33 PM PST
Newcastle menaces Ostrich farmers' livelihood
By ALAN SCHNEPF, Staff Writer

APPLE VALLEY - Exotic Newcastle disease hasn't touched Doug Osborne's flock of 800 ostriches, and orders for ostrich meat are booming. But thanks to a strange Catch-22, he's still talking about filing for bankruptcy.

Osborne's business, the OK Corral Ostrich Farm in Apple Valley, is in a quarantine area set up to contain the Newcastle outbreak, which has been ravaging the Southern California poultry industry for eight months.

State and federal officials have blocked the transport of birds out of the quarantine area, which basically covers all of Southern California south of Santa Barbara.

Since California's two ostrich-processing plants are in the state's Central Valley, well outside the quarantine area, Osborne is unable to convert his live ostriches into grill-ready burgers and steaks.

So with a declining supply of meat in his freezer, soon he will not be able to fill customer's orders.

Osborne said he still has to spend $10,000 every month to feed his birds.

And he's not alone.

"I'm spending $300 a day on birds that should not be alive now, that should be on somebody's dinner plate,' said Ostrich farmer Elena Morris, co-owner of Morris Farms in Lake Elsinore.

Marie Koenig, who runs the Ostriches Only Farm in Riverside with her husband, talked about euthanizing her 300 ostriches if they can no longer afford to feed them.

"They're going to put us out of business if there isn't a solution very shortly,' Koenig said.

An ostrich can live more than 80 years, but it's ready to be killed for meat when it's about 14 months old. As the birds get older, their feed becomes an expense that adds no return.

Koenig, Morris and Osborne are survivors of the flame-out in the ostrich market. In the early 1990s, a pair of mating birds fetched a five-figure price. But by the mid-1990s, those birds were worth nothing.

Similar to the dot-com boom, speculators looking for a quick buck were shaken out, leaving only a handful of dedicated farmers.

Koenig said she knows only five other serious ostrich farmers.

There is a market for their product, however, and it's steadily gaining popularity as a healthier alternative to beef.

It's a hot item on the menu at Fuddruckers, a national gourmet burger chain. Company officials said they sell about 150 ostrich burgers per week at each location.

One of two things has to happen for their businesses to survive, Koenig said. One could be the lifting of the quarantine. The only other option is having an ostrich-processing plant built in the quarantine area.

Letecia Rico, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said agriculture officials are working on helping make the latter work.

A plant in Azusa that processes chickens has expressed interest in setting up an operation for ostriches. But ostrich farmers wonder if it can open in time for them to survive raising birds without getting any revenue.

For Osborne, the timing of the crisis couldn't be worse.

He got a call last month from Fuddruckers' corporate headquarters in Beverly, Mass. The company wanted Osborne to bid on a contract to supply 1,850 pounds of ostrich meat per week.

He's been supplying meat to a handful of Fuddruckers' franchises near San Francisco. But with the new contract, his ostrich meat would enter the national market.

It's a deal that Osborne said would triple his monthly sales. And the opportunity arrived at a juncture when he had already started to turn a profit.

But with the deadline approaching, he hasn't even made a bid because it's an order he wouldn't be able to fill. He said he wouldn't be operating in good faith.

Farmers say they understand the rationale behind the quarantine, however. Exotic Newcastle disease is so virulent and deadly that it could decimate the state's poultry and egg industries.

State and federal officials have spent $102 million trying to eradicate the disease and euthanized 3.45 million birds that either had or came into contact with it.

If Newcastle jumped into Northern California, experts say the results could ravage California's poultry industry.

But ostrich farmers still feel as if they've been allowed to slip through the cracks.

"The caution is warranted without a doubt,' Koenig said. "But the price some of us who don't have infected birds pay is pretty extreme.'

Ostrich farmers also say their birds aren't as susceptible to the the disease as chickens and that the quarantine should be lifted.

Making matters worse, ostriches, unlike chickens and turkeys, are not covered in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Disaster Relief Fund. It would take an act of Congress to add them.

High Plains Journal, KS

Tuesday, April 29, 2003 Good Afternoon!
USDA Tackles END Control

DES MOINES (DTN) -- The fact that so many people in Los Angeles have started raising chickens in their backyards is making it tough for USDA to get their hands around the outbreak of the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), USDA Secretary Ann Veneman told farm reporters this week.

Veneman and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge addressed farm reporters Monday on the issue of homeland security in agriculture.

The government's newest homeland security efforts are focused on END, a poultry disease that is highly contagious and deadly to birds. END has been found in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

"We are surprised to find just how many people in LA are keeping poultry in their backyards," said Veneman. "When you get the disease in the neighborhoods, it can spread fast."

Because people have called END the foot-and-mouth disease of poultry, Veneman said the USDA has dispatched a lot of workers in California trying to get their arms around the disease.

"It started in California, and one of the very difficult things with regard to this disease versus, say, larger animals like cattle and foot-and-mouth, is that poultry and chickens are so easily moved. You can put them in the trunk of the car. It's hard to really track where they're going, and you have an entire system in this country of game birds.

"And this disease has primarily been transmitted, we believe, through game birds that have had contact with each other in these various facilities, some illegal, some legal, but it is a very serious problem."

Veneman said the government is getting END under control, but much more needs to be done.

Kansas City Star, MO

New poultry warning

Missouri agriculture officials have issued another warning about Exotic Newcastle disease.

Missouri poultry producers and pet dealers and owners should avoid bringing live birds from Texas and New Mexico into the state. The latest warning comes on the heels of a confirmed case of the disease in a backyard flock of chickens near El Paso, Texas, and a warning against bringing in birds from California and Nevada, also known to have the disease.

The disease can wipe out entire flocks of chickens.

Missouri's poultry and egg industry brought in more than $836 million in 2001, the latest period for which numbers are available.

The state is home to such poultry operations as Tyson Foods and Cargill.

San Bernardino Sun, CA,1413,208~12588~1356470,00.html

Poultry competitions may be canceled
By ALAN SCHNEPF, Staff Writer

State officials have asked that all bird exhibitions in Southern California be canceled this year because of exotic Newcastle disease - - a step many fairs had already planned to take.

The Southern California Fair in Perris announced Monday that it is following suit.

The San Bernardino County Fair in Victorville, scheduled for next month, nixed its poultry competitions in January, said Lovella Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the fair.

Organizers of both fairs have come up with other alternatives to the live poultry competitions.

"They're going to compete by photo,' Sullivan said. "The children have worked very hard, and that's one way for them to compete.'

They'll also have poultry-knowledge competitions.

In Perris, organizers are thinking along the same lines, coming up with a crowing contest, among other things.

The outbreak of exotic Newcastle has crippled Southern California's egg industry since it was detected here last fall. The disease kills fast and spreads through flocks easily via feces and bodily fluids.

To contain the disease a government emergency task force has instituted a program of testing commercial flocks. When the disease is found, all the birds in the flock are killed so they don't spread the disease.

About 3.5 million birds have been destroyed in the last seven months, most at the 22 commercial flocks that were infected. Southern California poultry cannot be moved outside of a state-mandated multicounty quarantine area.

Officials are guardedly optimistic that the spread of the disease may be slowing. No new commercial infections have been found for about a month.

"Even the (rate of) infections in backyard flocks has decreased,' said Leticia Rico, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Ventura County Star, CA,1375,VCS_125_1923006,00.html

Misinformed on treatment

Re: your April 18 editorial, "Let task force go about work":

For some bizarre reason, The Star has been misinformed about the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force, its methods and the bird-owning community at large.

No bird owner, whether commercial flock or pet, is asking the task force to not eradicate exotic Newcastle disease. We are asking that it be done correctly.

Unfortunately, part of eradication includes the euthanization of infected birds. The Star seems to completely misunderstand that no bird owner is arguing with the euthanizing of infected birds, it's the slaughtering of thousands of healthy, untested ones that brings outrage.

Was anyone on The Star board at the community meeting mentioned in the editorial? If so, The Star would have witnessed members of the task force panel contradicting one another, even sitting in silence, contemplating responses in an effort to answer the public's questions. If these top officials aren't providing consistent information, how are the workers in the field suppose to be informed?

Sadly. The Star is aware of some of the atrocities committed by the task force, firsthand accounts, photographs, etc. However, apparently these facts hold no value in The Star's opinion that pet bird owners need to submit to the task force's mistreatment.

Last time I checked, this was America. We are at war with a country whose people have spent years suppressed by tyranny. Our mission? To free the citizens so that they may live in a more democratic country, much like the United States, a place where the government has the right to forcibly come into our homes and kill our pets without testing. The Star is so self-righteous it feels justified chastising bird owners for not letting the government do its work.

-- Kristin Moon, Simi Valley

Ventura County Star, CA,1375,VCS_125_1923006,00.html

April 29, 2003

Task force needs training

Re: your April 18 editorial, "Let the task force go about work":

Let the task force do its job? How about, before expressing an opinion, The Star has its reporter stay for the entire meeting to get the whole story. Sitting through the warm and fuzzy PowerPoint presentation and leaving before the question/answer and public comment is a long way from getting the whole story.

The END Task Force spin-doctors are masters at misinformation!

I'm sick of the task force's "experts" going door to door with the explanation, "If your bird's in front of an open window, the wind could have infected it and we may have to kill it." Or, "Well, a rodent could have brought it to your property," when, in fact they are face-to-face with a bird owner who has no illness on the property and the task force is attempting to "depopulate" without testing for the disease. "Could have" is not evidence of an epidemiological link.

Most certainly, this disease could be eradicated by killing every bird in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. But, I have no intention of sacrificing my birds to that cause.

Let the task force do its job by lifting their veil of secrecy; following a more updated, scientific approach directed at the true source and mode of transmission; testing instead of killing; establishing uniform and written training rather than orientation for its personnel; incorporating proof as opposed to supposition; asking for our support instead of terrorizing us; being trustworthy instead of lying; being responsive to our complaints instead of making excuses for its actions; following appropriate biosecurity procedures instead of the haphazard approach it has displayed for seven months, making it a primary suspect in the spread of this disease.

Yes, let the task force do its job. But let them do it correctly.

-- Daina Castellano, Santa Monica

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Press Releases

Teleconference with Secretary Ridge and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters

For Immediate Release

Office of the Press Secretary

April 28, 2003


MR. QUINN: Good morning and welcome to today's discussion on agriculture and Homeland Security with Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman and Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge.

I'm Larry Quinn speaking to you from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington. Today's discussion is taking place as part of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters' Annual Meeting in the nation's capital. It's now my pleasure to introduce their president, Tom Brand, who's the guest host for this discussion.

Tom, good morning.

MR. BRAND: Thank you, Larry, and good morning.

On behalf of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, I'd like to say it's the highlight of our annual Washington Watch Meeting to be invited to the Department of Agriculture for this news conference.

For those that are listening, we're seated at the Williamsburg Table here in the Department of Agriculture's building, overlooking the Mall in our nation's capital. Surrounding the table are agriculture journalists from across the United States who will be asking questions of the Cabinet level Secretaries that are sitting beside me.

I'd first like to introduce Ann Veneman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, in whose house we are sitting today, and she will introduce Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge.

Ann M. Veneman was sworn in as the 27th Secretary of the U.S. Department of agriculture on January 20th, 2001. She was chosen by President George W. Bush to serve in his Cabinet and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.

Growing up on a family farm in a small rural community in California, she was a 4-H member and understands issues that are important to America's farmers and ranchers.

Madam Secretary, thank you for your hospitality, and we look forward to your comments as well as your introduction of Secretary Ridge.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, thank you very much, Tom, and thank you very much to all of you for being here today. Just as you indicated, we look forward to this visit to Washington from you all as well. And I want to congratulate you on your presidency. Certainly Colleen did a great job last year, and we really appreciate everything that this organization does to help us get the word out to people all across the country about the important issues that we're dealing with.

"This year, as you know, 2003, has started out to be a pretty busy one. We've been on the radio broadcast with you all several times this year already. I think we were counting up that it was almost 5 or 6 weeks in a row that we did a radio broadcast. So it's great to see all of you here in person today, and we really appreciate all of your participation in these.

"As you know, when we had this event last year in this room, we brought in two of our Cabinet colleagues, Secretary Norton and Administrator Whitman for, I think, one of our first joint public appearances, and I think it was very well received. In fact, it was so successful that we did a joint appearance like this, first ever time, on CSPAN, where the three of us were there for a whole hour talking about issues of the environment and so forth.

"So this year, as you all developed your agenda and wanted to talk about the importance of Homeland Security and the importance of Homeland Security to the food and agriculture sector, we could think of no better person to have join us this morning than our brand new Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, who is an absolute delight to work with, and I will be introducing him in more detail later.

"I do want to applaud you for selecting Homeland Security as your topic for discussion because it is so important to the food and agriculture sector. And I'm also very pleased to have our Deputy Secretary here with us for two reasons. One, he's been out sick all last week and we're glad to have him back, but more importantly, he has been a true leader in our efforts in coordinating a lot of our Homeland Security activities. And we truly appreciate your leadership, Jim. Thank you and thanks for being here.

"I know that you're going to have a more detailed discussion with Jim Moseley and some of our people who are involved directly in our Homeland Security office about some of the kinds of details of what would happen in the event we should have some kind of threat or outbreak to our system a little later on, so I'm sure that will be helpful to you as well.

"As you all know, and as you all have heard me say many times before, protecting the food system and protecting the public health are high priorities of USDA. Animal and plant health obviously is a very key area as well as our meat and poultry inspection systems. And so we have a dual area of responsibility looking at protection of the food and agriculture system. As you all know and as you have heard me talk about many times before, I wasn't in this job two or three weeks when we had a major threat to our animal health and food system because of what was going on, particularly in England, but also in Latin America with the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

"We saw the pictures on the television of how devastating this disease was. We saw what was happening to animals, what was happening on the farms, and the economic devastation it caused to farmers themselves. We immediately stepped up our efforts. It was before we had any sub-Cabinet in place. We had at that time brought in a state veterinarian from California to assist in our efforts to coordinate all of this. We increased our inspectors. We began to look at all of our infrastructure and how we could respond, and we also sent veterinarians, many of them, both from the Department and from throughout the country to England to assist with this effort, and many came back and said, "We never could have had a better training exercise than this."

"Only a few short months later 9/11 came, and then we began to look at everything we did in terms of the potential impact from an intentional threat to our food system, and we started to assess what might those kinds of intentional threats to our food system be? Obviously, when we looked at what could most threaten, what could most quickly impact our food system, things like foot and mouth disease again came to the forefront. And so we have been working with all parts of the food chain to look at where are the areas of vulnerability, where do we need more protection? What do we need to do to protect our food chain from threats of intentional harm?

"So we have worked with industry at all levels, and we've got materials on our website. We've put together best management practices, a number--and I don't take credit in USDA for doing all of this because we've worked closely also with the private sector and we've worked closely with the Tide Association in looking at best management practices in working with, for example, the agriculture system, for farmers to look at who's coming on their farms, who's flying around their farms, look for areas of suspicion. The farm community's always been pretty trusting of who is around rural America. It's a different day today and so we have, we have standards and best management practices for that.

"In the processing plants we've encouraged people to increase surveillance, increase security checks of employees, increase camera surveillance within plants.

"Transportation, again, making sure that there aren't any vulnerabilities in the transportation system, and of course the retail system as well. There's a number of materials on our website as I indicated, guidelines, that can be used.

"The other thing we've been doing is looking at all of our internal systems. Where are the vulnerabilities within our government system? And obviously, we have a network, as you know, of laboratories all across the country. Laboratories have been an area where we have looked very closely at what we've been doing to make sure that security both of our employees and of our facilities themselves. And that responsibility also extends out to the universities that we do so much business with. So many of the land grants participate in so much of the research that we do. So we've worked with our laboratory systems, our universities and so forth.

"We've also worked very hard and Deputy Secretary Moseley has really led this process to test our systems through gaming exercises, and we've held a number of these at Department levels, at agency levels and so forth. And we've included in those a number of different agencies.

"Obviously, Homeland Security's been a key player in those gaming exercises, as well as Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, because we would have to have them involved if there were a big animal disease outbreak and disposal of carcasses, for example. So there are Department of Justice on legal issues, there are a whole range of agencies that would come into play should we have a major outbreak of some kind of disease or other food safety or incident in our food system. So these have been very proactive on our parts, participating in these, and as Jim has told me several times, the more we use it, the better we get.

"We've also, with Secretary Ridge, created a coordinated inter-agency response system for food and agriculture. Our critical partners in this, of course, have been Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, but the food system has been recognized by the Department of Homeland Security and the administration as being an area that we need to be aware of, that we need to be prepared, and we need to continue to make sure that we have the safest food supply in the world.

"As you all know, our border inspectors were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. We've had a number of questions on this, but we will continue to work in a very close partnership with the Department of Homeland Security as we train these people, as we look at the vulnerability, as we work to protect the Ag industry. And I'm hopeful that we'll be giving a little training to some of the Customs and Immigration people about what to watch for, giving us more eyes and ears to protect our agriculture.

"So in addition, Plum Island, our research island in New York, will transfer to Department of Homeland Security on June 1st. So those are the two entities from USDA that will now become a part of Homeland Security.

"I want to again applaud all of you for discussing this topic today. Homeland Security is a critical issue. We have worked very hard to improve our emergency communication systems to make sure that we can quickly communicate the necessary information, and you all are key players in that process.

"I now want to turn this over to Secretary Ridge. It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve in the Cabinet with him. We have, wouldn't you agree, a remarkable cabinet?"

SECRETARY RIDGE: "Yeah, we do."

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "And you're a terrific addition to it."


SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Governor--we still call him Governor Ridge because that's what we called him until he became a Secretary, so we can call him either, because he was the Governor of Pennsylvania, and actually gave up that position when the President asked him to come to the White House and take on the very important role of coordinating the Homeland Security efforts for the administration. In a very short period of time, the administration had proposed a very comprehensive Homeland Security legislation, and later when that was passed, he nominated Secretary Ridge for the position, and he was confirmed without any difficulty whatsoever.

"It is--he's a pleasure to work with, a wonderful partner, and a great supporter of agriculture. So it's my pleasure to introduce to you, Secretary Ridge."

SECRETARY RIDGE: "Thank you, Madam Secretary, Ann, and to all of you, greetings, good morning. It's a great pleasure to have the opportunity to spend some time with you this morning.

"I do have a couple of thoughts I'd like to share with you, but I think it's important for you hopefully to understand that the experiences that Ann referred to as Governor, have given me quite an insight into the food and fiber operation of this country because ag was the number one industry in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I can't recall right now what percentage of our state domestic product, but it was a high percentage, and it's nearly 20 percent of our national domestic product, so I understand the economic significance of public confidence in our food products.

"We did a lot of trade work. More often than not, we took our Secretary of Agriculture with us on trade missions. I mean I can recall very vividly standing in a Tokyo supermarket talking about Pennsylvania poultry being exported there. I mean, a pretty high standard to get into that kind of market. And if you can meet that standard you know you've got some of the best products in the country. So I appreciate the necessity of not only domestic public confidence, but international confidence in the safety of our food products, because I think we export about 20, 25 percent of our farm and ranch products as well, so we've got collectively a responsibility to maintain and continue to assure the consuming public, domestic or international, that food safety is a very, very high priority for this administration. And it is.

"I mean I very much appreciate the process, the continuum in the agricultural community from the ranch and the farm to the processor to the distribution chain, out to retail, and those many steps along the way require this country to make sure that we've done everything we can to manage in a reasonable basis the risk associated with terrorist threats as it impacts on this massive industry, that affects the livelihoods, and affects our economy and each one of us so significantly on a day-to-day basis.

"So I bring that perspective as a Governor to this new department. The other perspective I bring to the new department is the job I had just, well, for a little over a year as the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. One of my primary responsibilities was to coordinate activity between or among the different agencies. And so when Ann talks about working in collaboration with our friend, Secretary Thompson, over at HHS, I see the role we have in the new Department of Homeland Security really as a continuum of the work that they began shortly after they both became Cabinet Secretaries. I mean that kind of collaboration daily with food safety and public safety has been very much Ann and Tommy's priority within both of these Cabinet agencies.

"And we kind of, we pile on. We add on. Hopefully, we're value added to that operation because we have developed a national strategy to combat terrorism, and we've identified sectors within our economy that deserve very special attention.

"And obviously the ag sector is one of those critical pieces of work of our economic infrastructure that we talked about in the strategy. And as we set up the new department and focus on critical pieces of our national economic infrastructure, it'll be a continuation of that work with Secretary Veneman and Secretary Thompson that we will engage in.

"As Ann pointed out, we've already had some exercises with the Department of Homeland Security. You play as you practice, and the notion that you run these exercises is critical I think to ensuring that in the months and years head we build up a national capacity to respond if an incident occurs that affects the agricultural industry.

"So, with those two experiences, as of January this year, I became the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. As you know it is a reconstitution of 22 different departments and agencies, about 175,000 different people.

"And as you also know, thanks to the aggressive and successful advocacy of your Secretary of Agriculture, the initial plans for the Department were to include just about every employee in the Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service.

"As soon as that was revealed internally within the administration, I think it was within 30 seconds or a minute that it was on the street, the Secretary of Agriculture called and Ann said, `Tom, I know conceptually what you're trying to do, but I really think that we need to have folks sit down and take a look at what you seek to achieve, and I think I can show you there are better ways to get there than just aggregating the entire service into the Department.'

"I mean, I guess that speaks to Ann's earlier comment about the ease and the comfort we have working with each other. I mean, she didn't call and say, `Hey, Tom, what a lousy idea. You just can't get there from here.' She said, `I think there's a better way to go about achieving that mutual goal,' and we did it and, frankly, I'm grateful for it.

"And as we look at the Department, as it's presently constituted, we think it is a stronger department. We have some of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service folks. I must tell you every time I'm at a border community, when I visited every airport, I make sure that they are highlighted in the trip because it is critically important to those who would follow me, the press and everybody else, but also the these men and women and to the agricultural community to understand that we in the Department of Homeland Security view their presence as a critical piece of our Border Protection Unit.

"And to Ann's point, the notion that down the road we will also cross-train some of the Customs folks and some of the folks that used to work in INS, that agency no longer exists. It's been divided. Its function exists, and the good people who worked there exist, but we divided their functions into two different pieces.

"The point that we would cross-train them for those good folks to be looking at some issues that are relatively important to you we think adds value. There's an additional capacity at the borders with the right kind of training.

"So we made that adjustment early on, and thanks to the Secretary's advocacy and willingness to sit down, we, frankly, think we have a better border inspection operation because of that.

"The Plum Island facility, again, you should be reassured that I understand completely that it is the first line of defense in agroterrorism. I mean, that's where we're going to see the contaminants. That's where we're going to identify the pathogens and Memorandum of Understanding that we have with the Department of Agriculture and will develop, and the collaborative relationship will be as good as any in this government.

"Ann and I have pledged sometime this year to get up and visit those facilities so that the agricultural community can understand that we--we know we are working together. That's another visible manifestation of the fact that it will be doing work for the Department of Homeland Security, but there's a broader audience, and there's a broader body of work that Plum Island does for the agricultural community, and we both understand that, and it's really a value added to our operation and continues to add enormous value to the Department of Agriculture.

"I think, finally, what I would share with you, and then I guess we're moving into Q&A, is that I have the opportunity to see homeland security issues at the 40,000-feet level, but I also have an opportunity to see it down locally, and the President believes that you cannot secure the homeland from Washington, D.C. Leadership, hopefully, resources, standards, there are a lot of things that we can do, but at the end of the day, the homeland is only secure if the hometown is secure.

"And so to that end, as we work with the agricultural community, as we work with other communities throughout the country, we understand it's important to be out in the states and in the counties, working with men and women who, on an operational basis, day in and day out, have responsibility to help us, the first line of defense, everybody says it, but that's absolutely, unequivocally true.

"When something happens in an ag event, in any other event, you're not going to dial area code 202. You're going to respond immediately at a local level, and then hopefully we'll be in as quickly as possible with the assets we need to isolate, to minimize, to quarantine, whatever we need to do, in order to get the job done.

"So you should know that as we go about organizing the new department, our eyes are cast on the 50 states and regions and getting the relationships that we develop down to the local level. So we've come a long way. We still have a long way to go.

"I said to a group of people the other day, when somebody asked, `Do you sleep well at night,' and I said, `I sleep very well at night.' And that's probably the only thing that I said in the speech that got an applause, but I got an applause with that line. And the fact is I sleep well at night because America has been leaning forward not waiting for federal direction, not waiting for federal support.

"The folks in the agricultural community, since the President and the Secretary called upon them to be aware, to take extra precautionary measures, whether we're at yellow, at orange or liberty shield, and by the way, the Department of Agriculture, like every other agency, provided some additional security measures when we felt we had to add another layer of security when the military moved into Iraq.

"Every single day around this country people are doing a better job than they did the day before, and I just see our capacity as a nation to prevent terrorism, to reduce our vulnerability and to respond to a terrorist event, if it occurs, improving every single day.

"And, again, the federal government has got to be a large part of that, but it's the partnerships with you, it's the partnerships with your governors, and your mayors and other members of the public and private sector that ultimately helped us build that national capacity.

"So I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be here with my friend and to have this conversation with you this morning.

"Thanks very much."

MR. BRAND: "Thank you, Madam Secretary and Mr. Secretary.

"I will lead off with the questions I guess this morning and just ask I understand in APHIS there's been some discussion about a livestock identification program as part of homeland security. Can you explain to our livestock producers how that would be an important step in securing our livestock herds?"

SECRETARY RIDGE: "Well, let me tell you that some of these thoughts are certainly preliminary in nature, but again given the economic significance of the livestock industry, so you take the economic significance, the notion that every day we have to look for more and better ways to continue the confidence that we have in the food and fiber that we produce in this country, it just seems to us that, working with the Department of Agriculture, that's probably a very good initiative to undertake."

MR. BRAND: I turn to the next question to Ron Hays with Clear Channel Agriculture in Oklahoma.

QUESTION: "Thank you, Tom, and good morning, Madam Secretary, Mr. Secretary.

"We have marching across the country right now a worrisome disease, Exotic New Castle Disease, an unconfirmed report, cases still being tested in Eastern Oklahoma now of the game fowl flock we understand right at the end of this last week.

"Arkansas is extremely nervous, as of course that is a major part of their agriculture in Northwestern Arkansas, very close to that. As a matter of fact, a lot of birds are raised are in Oklahoma, shipped across the state line to Arkansas. Arkansas has closed their borders as of the weekend, we understand, except for some very stringent limitations.

"What is the game plan, as far as to deal with these game fowl flocks? It seems like that's been the case as we've gone from California to Arizona to El Paso and now getting into very serious production areas of the country?"

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, I appreciate the question, and it is an important one, and it is important from the perspective of homeland security because this is a very serious disease. People have called Exotic Newcastle the foot-and-mouth disease of poultry.

"It started in California, as you indicate. And one of the very difficult things with regard to this disease versus, say, larger animals like cattle and foot-and-mouth, is that poultry and chickens are so easily moved. You can put them in the trunk of the car. It's hard to really track where they're going, and you have an entire system in this country of game birds.

"And this disease has primarily been transmitted, we believe, through game birds that have had contact with each other in these various facilities, some illegal, some legal, but it is a very serious problem.

"We believe that we are getting it under control, but I can tell you that, as are both the state people in California and the APHIS people in California, who we have deployed tremendous numbers of people to California to try to get a handle around this disease, they have found that hardly anyone had anticipated the number of people in the area around one of the biggest cities in the country, Los Angeles, have backyard poultry.

"It is just phenomenal how many people are keeping chickens, not just game birds, but you know once you get it into these neighborhoods, it spreads, and so it has been a tremendous challenge for our disease experts, and we've put a lot of money into this, and a lot of personnel into this to try to eradicate it.

"We did have some indication in Arizona and then in--or in Nevada and then Arizona, and then more recently in Texas. I don't believe this Oklahoma situation has been confirmed at this point. The Texas, interestingly enough, was not in the same strain as the Arizona, Nevada and California.

"But this is a high priority for us. It has certainly given us some insight as to how we can deal with this. We know that if this disease moves, and we've had a lot of discussion about it into the East Coast, we could have very serious, serious problems.

"Now, the fortunate thing in California, for example, is that it has not moved, knock on wood, yet from the South part of the state to the North part of the state, where I'm from, where we also have a lot of poultry production, and we've got a lot of extra surveillance up there. But we've limited movement of commercial, poultry. We've limited movement of poultry that's been moved North to be processed. That's not happening any more.

"But it really is a very serious problem with regard to these game birds. We have also engaged our Office of Inspector General to look at the whole range of issues, in terms of this transporting of birds and how we can put some limits and work with local law enforcement to try to limit the movement of birds around states and between states.

"So it is a severe situation and one we're taking very seriously and have been taking very seriously, and have put a tremendous amount of resources into."

SECRETARY RIDGE: "If I might add, I'm grateful that Ann answered that question. Thank you, Ann, very much."


SECRETARY RIDGE: "But it gives rise to the briefing that I had with our friends in Great Britain, on a recent trip. We asked them to basically debrief what they did right and what they did wrong in handling the foot-and-mouth, and they did the same thing for the Secretary.

"And they were very candid in their own introspection with regard to the immediacy, the swiftness with which they responded to quarantine, limited movement and destroy the infected animals. I mean, they would be the first ones to tell you that had they responded more expeditiously, had they been willing to make a tough call at the front end, and there were some real logistics problems associated with that as well.

"But I think, again, lessons learned to be applied and conceivably in whether it's a terrorist-related incident or not, there's some lessons that are applicable there."

MR. BRAND: Emery Kleven from [inaudible] Farm Network, Omaha?

QUESTION: "Thanks, Tom.

"Secretary Ridge, as your department was being developed, there were concerns by some members of Congress that as you transition areas from several agencies, including USDA, that they weren't confident that it would be a smooth transition, such as Plum Island and things like that.

"Are you confident, and, Secretary Veneman, are you confident that the transition, as you go from one department to the other, will be smooth?"

SECRETARY RIDGE: "We have been up and running now for not quite 100 days. I've been in the job for 100, but the actual transition of people in the Department began March 1st, and anecdotally, from my experience, and I've been out and about quite a bit, I think the transition has been very smooth. The Memorandums of Understanding that we need to have with some of our companion agencies, that process has been completed.

"I will be the first one to admit, and I think it's important to note, that the good people in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service understandably were reluctant, what did this mean for us, do we get to focus on our historic mission, and I think hopefully they've discovered that, yes, that is the focus. You are now part of a border team.

"And I think at the end of the day we add some value at the border because prior to the reorganization, you had INS reporting up a chain, you had the Customs reporting up a chain, you had the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and right now, as we consolidate it, it's a lot easier for the Secretary to the Under Secretary, the folks at the border to have direct lines of responsibility and accountability.

"It will be a lot easier for us to affect the kind of cross-training that Secretary Veneman is talking about. So I think today things have gone very well."

SECRETARY VENEMAN: The other thing I think that is important, in terms of the interface of these systems, is the ability that we will have to work with Customs, and we were working on this before the new Department, but to interface our computer systems to use their records to look at when food product and meat product is coming in, things that USDA traditionally had the jurisdiction over, to better integrate these systems so that we can track what's coming into the country more comprehensively.

"But in terms of the transition, I think that our employees, you know, are tremendous that work on the border inspection, and they have been team players. When you go to airports or you go to ports even before this transition, they worked closely with their counterpart agencies on inspection issues in airports and so forth, and they do a tremendous job.

"I remember one trip I took out to Chicago. We went to the Chicago airport during the food-and-mouth, before 9/11, and the amount of work that they were having to do; they were pulling out shoes, and the most interesting things was golf clubs and washing every one of them before they could go through the system.

"And so these are the kinds of things that our folks have traditionally done to protect our food supply and our animal health and plant health in this country.

"Now, many people haven't understood the importance of these programs, and they are absolutely critical, but I believe that if we get them off to the right start, in terms of the transition into Homeland Security, because of our strong partnership and our strong desire that we work together, that we can have a very effective transition, that we are having an effective transition and that the employees themselves will, while employed by the Department of Homeland Security, will continue to recognize their primary mission to protect the food and agriculture in this country.

SECRETARY RIDGE: "If I could add on that very briefly, I think the Secretary has alluded to something that is very, very important. We are, this country is taking its Customs inspection, which will be for ag and non-ag products to foreign ports. The Cargo Security Initiative that we are engaged in, we will start inspecting cargo before the containers even make it to the ships, in many instances.

"So as the Secretary points out, because of the new department, some of these new initiatives, where we can match up some of the intelligence we might have, where we might want to inspect that particular bulk shipment or we might want to inspect that particular container, we now have a position to really consolidate our information base and act on it.

"And, again, I think that makes us stronger. I might add I still think one of the most impressive inspection tools that I've run across, and I also happen to love dogs, is the Beagle brigades at the airports.

"I stopped a group that was traveling with me the other day because your good folks were out there, and they had several suitcases, and I mean it's just absolutely amazing to me how sophisticated and how well-trained these animals are.

"And, again, it is a value added to our operation at the borders and to the extent that we can push that out even further, we'll do that. And at the end of the day, since so much of the world's economy depends on export and imports of foodstuffs, it will be in the world's interest for us to adopt comparable security measures.

"I had occasion to board a ship in New Orleans that was registered in Singapore, the crew was Indian, the grain was American, and it was on its way to Japan. So you've got four countries that want to make sure that the crew, the cargo, and the ship move through international commerce as safely and effectively as possible and make sure that the cargo is safe all along the way.

"So, again, I think, as the Secretary pointed out, it's more than twice the value. I mean, it's just really new capacities that we're building together."

MR. BRAND: Jeanette Merritt from AgriAmerica in Indiana?

QUESTION: "Thank you. Good morning, Madam Secretary and Mr. Secretary.

"You both spoke of the exercises that the offices have done to prepare our food supply against a threat. What have those exercises taught us that still needs to be done to prepare ourselves for a terrorist threat to our food supply?"

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, that's a very good question, and I think one of the things you will do later today is discuss the communications aspect of those exercises and how you all can play a role, and that's one of the areas we found that we needed to make sure we were prepared for.

"But I think that, overall, what we have learned in these exercises is the need to have every part of the Department involved from the Inspection Service, the Animal and Plant people to the Food Safety Inspection Service, to the Department of Health and Human Services, to Homeland Security.

What tends to happen in government is that everybody works in their little stovepipe, but when it comes to responding to an outbreak or responding to an emergency, we need to be able to work together.

"I think one of the greatest success stories of being able to respond to emergencies is FEMA because I think FEMA has made tremendous strides over the years, in terms of how they coordinate the response to emergencies in this country, and you now have that organization under your Department.

"But I think we learn a lot from them because they've done a lot of work to coordinate government resources. We need that same kind of thing when it comes to a specific emergency of an animal disease outbreak like foot-and-mouth disease, where it might be intentionally introduced in several places around the country.

"And so we've learned a tremendous amount in terms of just the coordinated effort, and how we move forward, and how the coordination would work. And, again, that's been a very, very valuable exercise.

"In my view, with all of these things, you can always continuously improve what you're doing and what you know, and so we continue to work on these issues. And as Jim Moseley and the others who have led this effort have said is that we are in so much better shape, in terms of who does what, when, where, and how and how it's coordinated than we were when we began this process. So we think it's been a very valuable one."

SECRETARY RIDGE: "If I might add, I don't think there's more--this is where the broadcasters come in--if there's one lesson that we've learned, whether we're dealing with agroterrorism or any other form of terrorism, there is a public information, a public affairs component that's absolutely essential for us, as a country, in order to deal with an event.

"We need to get out timely and accurate information to the right channels. The worst thing that can happen to us and, frankly, we saw it a little bit with the anthrax challenge that confronted this country, as the Secretary pointed out, initially, for the first couple of days, there were multiple talking heads. It was certainly a real challenge because there was no manual anybody pulled off the shelf and said, `Oh, my goodness. Anthrax in envelopes. How do we deal with this?'

"Well, we learned a lot about anthrax, but we also learned the importance of a unified, public message, giving timely and accurate information. Americans can deal with information. They'll deal with knowledge. They'll act on it or they'll, and you may tell them not to act, and here's why.

"And so I think, like any other crisis, whether it involves the ag community or anything else, one of the most important ingredients of a successful response is a good public information, public affairs effort, and that's where you all come in."

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "If I might just add one other thing that we've done that I do think is important is that we have learned from our, as you know, we have the United States Forest Service in this department, and they have one of the most comprehensive systems of incident management of anywhere in the world. That incident command system is one that FEMA early on recognized as a very, very good tool, and so they have an ongoing contract with FEMA.

"So these forest fire fighters that do incident commands in forest fires can be pulled out and put on an emergency.

"And, in fact, on the day of 9/11, that night we had five incident management teams leave from the West on military planes. Three went to New York City, two went into the Pentagon, and particularly in New York, these people were invaluable. We could not have done the job in New York City without them, according to the Fire Department. When I went up there and visited the Fire Department of New York, they told us how invaluable these people were.

"And, in fact, in January, I just signed an agreement with the Fire Department of New York--went back up there--a tremendous event, where our people in the Forest Service are now partnering to train people in the Fire Department of New York, and in fact we will have firefighters on some of our forest fires this summer.

"In addition, we have realized the value of this incident command system to outbreaks of animal diseases. And so, for example, we have our Forest Service Incident Command people involved in Exotic New Castle in California.

"We've had them involved in Avian Influenza in Virginia because they know how to manage large incidents; you know, take all the people that need and all of the issues that need to be managed, and that's been very valuable as well, and an example of how we can use things that seem really relatively unrelated to make things work better in the event of an emergency."

MR. BRAND: Taylor Brown with the Northern Ag Network, Billings, Montana.

QUESTION: "Thank you, Tom.

"You mentioned the gaming exercises, and I think it would help if you could help us visualize where we might play a role in that; for example, an example of the kind of the issue that scares you the most. What's the issue where you would really worry about it? And maybe you've done a scenario like that.

"And I was just thinking if that issue erupted this morning this table, there's, I've estimated, about 1,500 radio and television stations listening right now from the people around this table.

"Give us an example, without going into too much detail, an example of where we might be called upon to play a role. What scares you?"

SECRETARY VENEMAN: "Well, that's a very good question, and it's one that you all will be addressing in much greater detail in your session with the deputy secretary, and APHIS and others just after this session. But let me give you an example.

"Again, foot-and-mouth disease. It's one I've alluded to. Suppose--and it was a scenario that we looked at. Suppose it were introduced in three different parts of the country in very concentrated areas of animals all at once. Do we have the resources? Do we have the lab capacity? Who goes where? Who does what? What agencies do we need to be involved?"

"Those are the kinds of scenarios, and how do we get it communicated? How do we deal with the communications? Who can do what? What role can the communications part of this play? So that's the kind of thing. We've had other scenarios that have addressed other things from, you know, food safety to other events.

"But I must say that one of the things that we know in this country is that we have had intentional tampering with the food supply in the past. We've been quickly able to respond, in most cases. We've had outbreaks of things like E. coli. And, yes, we've had problems, but we still know how to get to the bottom of the problem, do recalls and respond.

"So I just want to reiterate that despite the fact that we are doing everything we can to prevent intentional threats, I do believe we have a strong food safety and protective system in this country with regard to our food supply and that it will work.

"These gaming exercises really give us some insight into issues that we may not have anticipated and that we need to really figure out in terms of, particularly if you had multiple, intentional introductions of a major disease like foot-and-mouth disease, how do you deploy resources?"

SECRETARY RIDGE: "One of the givens, and unfortunately most Americans take for granted because we're all consumers, is that whether it comes to food or water and some of the other things we've done, there has been science and safety applied to those consumables for a long, long time in this country.

While we're rushing right now in trying to think about what are the technological innovations, what are the new scientific applications, what kind of other detection devices can we put out there in response to 9/11, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to our food and water, there have been in place systems that have basically given us the safest and most abundant food supply in the world.

"So, basically, as I take a look at the challenge of the Department of Homeland Security, it's really building on a system, not like we have to create one, because it's been out there for a long, long time."

MR. BRAND: Orion Samuelson from WGN and U.S. Farm Report in Chicago.

QUESTION: "A quick question. Have you prioritized the threat to livestock, plant disease, water? Do you have an order of the threat concern there?"

SECRETARY RIDGE: "Have not. Because, you know, again, there are references that we pick up in the intelligence community that all of those might be potential targets. But as we developed the unit within the new Department, we have an Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Unit, and as we get more and more information, we may be able to make sounder judgments and set priorities. But right now, just a general supply chain for food and the water supply.

"But most people don't understand that their local water, because of the science and the system that has been in place for a long, long time is tested hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day for different kinds of contaminants.

"Now, what we need to do, as we develop the body of information with regard to potential terrorist threats, foreign or domestic or criminal, and we'll certainly have that access, is to make sure that the system that's in place is expanded to include a means to detect that potential threat.

"So right now we haven't, but in the course of time, depending on the information we receive, we may go right out to that particular sector of the ag community and say this is a threat, these are the kinds of things we need to do."

MR. BRAND: Thank you, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Secretary Tom Ridge for joining us today.

MR. QUINN: "And thank you, Tom Brand, president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters for being our host today and for your members to participate with us.

Riverside Press Enterprise, CA

Fair's bird exhibits canceled for disease
NEWCASTLE: An annual event in Perris won't include poultry for a second straight year.

LAKE PERRIS - All poultry and bird exhibits for the upcoming Southern California Fair in October were canceled because of concerns over the outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease, fair officials said Friday.

This is the second year the fair, formerly known as the Farmers Fair and Festival, canceled bird and poultry exhibits because of the highly contagious disease that affects birds.

Canceling the events will not have a financial effect on the fair, said Kathleen Diederich, the fair's exhibit representative.

However, hundreds of children will not be allowed to show their birds and poultry.

"Some kids bring one bird. Some kids bring four," Diederich said. "We could have 600 birds on the property in a good year."

Fair organizers are planning some alternative events for bird lovers.

"We're going to do a crowing contest, turkey-calling contest and a poultry game show," Diederich said.

The decision not to allow birds and poultry at the fair was made by the state Department of Food and Agriculture, Diederich said.

Fairs throughout California, including the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio and the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, have been affected by Newcastle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantine boundaries include four California counties infected with Newcastle: Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and San Diego. In addition, four non-infected counties, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Imperial and Orange, have been quarantined as a buffer zone for the disease, fair officials said.

The future of bird and poultry exhibits at the Southern California Fair remains uncertain. Chicks are unavailable for sale this year, which will affect next year's exhibit, Diederich said.

"We don't expect to have a good (bird and poultry) show until 2005," she said.

Reach Melissa Eiselein at (909) 567-2409 or

El Paso Times, TX

No end in sight for bird disease quarantine, officials say
Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times

Animal health officials do not know when a bird and poultry quarantine to prevent the spread of exotic Newcastle disease will be lifted, said Carla Everett, a spokeswoman for the Texas Animal Health Commission in Austin.

The disease was detected April 10 in Socorro backyard flocks of game roosters, which were being raised for cockfighting in New Mexico. Everett said more than 2,000 birds in El Paso County were destroyed to contain the disease and keep it from spreading.

"The quarantine could last 90 days or more," Everett said. "A quarantine has been in place since January in Nevada and Arizona after exotic Newcastle disease was found there."

Jim Szostek, owner of Jolly Jim's Pets in Bassett Center and Sunland Park Mall, said his bird sales will suffer if the quarantine isn't lifted in six to eight weeks, around the time that seasonal orders for birds tend to pick up.

After the disease was confirmed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture placed a federal quarantine on bird and poultry movement in El Paso, Otero, Luna, Hudspeth and Doa Ana counties. The quarantine prohibits moving birds from pet stores or homes to other homes, taking birds to shows and exhibitions, moving birds for breeding, or moving them from feed stores or suppliers.

"Although we have confirmed infection only in El Paso County, the other four counties must remain under quarantine, until we are certain all disease has been eradicated," said Bob Hillman, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission.

A team of veterinarians and animal health inspectors from the Texas Animal Health Commission, U.S. Agriculture Department and New Mexico Livestock Board has been evaluating all birds within two miles of the infected flock. The task force also responds to calls about sick birds within the five-country quarantine zone.

New Mexico state veterinarian Steven England said the disease is not dangerous to humans or to food products. He said the virus can be spread through contaminated water troughs, feed trays and clothing.

The telephone number for the task force in El Paso is 859-8242. The Texas Animal Health Commission hot line is (800) 550-9446.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at

Arkansas Democrat Gazette, AR

Poultry industry steps up defense
Saturday, April 26, 2003

Fearful a killer poultry disease sickened a flock of game birds near Muskogee, Okla., the Arkansas poultry industry took steps Friday to check the virus's eastward spread across the country. The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission passed emergency regulations banning outside poultry from entering the state and the exhibition or sale of chickens at fairs, flea markets and farm cooperatives without approval, said Director Phil Wyrick. Reports that Exotic Newcastle disease may be behind the deaths this week of about 30 birds in a gamecock flock at a farm south of Muskogee so alarmed Arkansas poultry producers that they didn't wait for final test results before taking action, Wyrick said.

An initial test completed Thursday on the Oklahoma birds was negative for the disease, according to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

But an outbreak of the virus would devastate Arkansas' $2.8 billion poultry industry, Wyrick said. A turkey hatchery is located about two miles from the suspected flock, he said. "That was one of the options - do you want to pull the trigger now and put these into effect or wait until we hear the results," he told six poultry companies Friday morning. "It was a unanimous decision that we act on them now."

The virus already has swept through parts of California, Nevada, New Mexico and near El Paso, Texas. Nearly 3.4 million birds have been slaughtered in California since October, when the disease was discovered in a back yard flock. So far, state and federal officials have spent $93 million to fight the disease, which spreads through manure, mucus and eggs. The virus poses no threat to humans.

Although initial test results on the Oklahoma flock were negative, comparisons are being made with the outbreak in the El Paso flock, which also tested negative at first, Wyrick said. "The virus at different stages is sometimes hard to pick up on," he said. "Still, all the symptoms look like they're positive."

Jack Carson, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, said the farm where the sick and dead birds were discovered was quarantined immediately. The remaining flock of about 140 birds will be slaughtered, he said. "The owner has been very cooperative and wants to get to the bottom of this," Carson said, declining to name the farmer.

The disease has not been discovered in recent history in Arkansas, according to industry officials. An outbreak of the disease in the 1970s in California cost $60 million and three years to eradicate.

Several poultry companies, including Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Honeysuckle White turkeys and ConAgra Butterball turkeys, operate in Arkansas.

Morril Harriman, executive vice president of The Poultry Federation, a group that represents the poultry industries in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, did not return phone calls.

The state of Oklahoma and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are investigating all visitors to the quarantined farm and conducting surveillance of the area within one kilometer, or 0.6 mile, he said. The agencies also are investigating whether the sickness may have been caused by another deadly and contagious bird disease called avian influenza.

Complete testing on the flock should be finished next week, he said. "We are asking producers if you get birds that get sick, we want to know about it," Carson said. "We don't want to go through what California is still going through, and we have decided to adopt a very aggressive response."

That includes strict quarantines and slaughtering all birds suspected to be infected with exotic Newcastle disease or avian influenza.

But Arkansas officials are concerned that continued cockfights in Oklahoma will allow bird diseases to spread.

A cockfight with a "purse pushing a half million dollars" will be staged this weekend in nearby Muldrow, Okla., which will attract game birds from across the country, Wyrick said.

Several cockfighting establishments in Oklahoma have voluntarily shut down to prevent the disease. Cockfights are legal in Louisiana and parts of New Mexico. The fights were outlawed in Oklahoma in a November referendum, but the ban was rejected by 57 of the state's 77 counties and a state judge placed a temporary injunction on enforcement of the new law.

This weekend's cockfight will go on, said Ken McNealy, owner of Mid America Game Club, located outside Muldrow, Okla., where a gamefowl breeders meeting also will take place. "I don't have anything to do with Arkansas poultry. This is Oklahoma," said McNealy, who knew about the initial negative test results. "That 's all that really matters to me if it says they don't have Newcastle disease."

Still, he said the fight club is taking precautions such as encouraging visitors to clean their shoes before entering the grounds and turning away contestants from quarantined counties. "There's no way we could run this if we thought they had a disease. We can't take no chances on them," he said.

CBC News, Canada

Canada to stop poultry products from four U.S. states
Last Updated Fri, 25 Apr 2003 16:19:46

OTTAWA - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is banning certain live birds and a host of American poultry products from entering the country because of a viral disease.

The CFIA is placing restrictions on chicken, chicken meat and eggs from a number of counties in California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas because of Exotic Newcastle Disease (END).

The disease is contagious and fatal affecting all species of poultry. It is one of the most infectious diseases of poultry in the world and so virulent that many birds die without showing any clinical signs. The death rate is almost 100 per cent.

The agency has a list of restricted items including:

unprocessed feathers or down
fertilizers or compost containing poultry products/by-products
livestock feed, pet food containing any poultry products/by-products
aircraft garbage and ship refuse containing poultry products/by-products from Arizona, California, Nevada or Texas
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the disease can be transmitted by people who have been contaminated. Those people will not contract the disease, but may carry it on skin and clothing.

The virus is not a threat to people but if the disease is introduced to Canada, it could cause a huge problem for the poultry industry.

In the states where END has been identified, many poultry farms have been quarantined and authorities have had to destroy millions of birds to stop the disease from spreading.

An infected bird may exhibit certain signs:

Respiratory: sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing
Digestive: greenish, watery diarrhea
Nervous: depression, muscular tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, circling
Complete paralysis
Partial to complete drop in egg production
Production of thin-shelled eggs
Swelling of the tissues around the eyes and in the neck

Written by CBC News Online staff

Canada NewsWire (press release), CA

Attention News/Food Editors:

Travellers Face Restrictions on U.S. Poultry Material

VANCOUVER, B.C., April 25 /CNW/ - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is advising travellers who enter Canada from the United States that various live birds, poultry products and by-products originating from certain states are not allowed into Canada. This includes food products such as eggs and chicken meat.

These restrictions are due to the presence of a serious foreign animal disease, called Exotic Newcastle Disease, in a number of counties in the states of California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Authorities there are taking extensive measures to control and eradicate the disease, and it is important to prevent it from entering Canada.

Poultry material from the affected states could be contaminated with the Newcastle Disease virus. The virus is not a serious threat to human health - it only has serious effects for birds. If the disease is introduced into Canada and contracted by poultry flocks, it could cause serious economic damage to the Canadian poultry industry.

In the American states where its presence has been confirmed, many poultry premises have been quarantined and authorities have been required to destroy millions of birds in an effort to stop the disease from spreading.

A full list of the restricted commodities is available on CFIA's website, Follow the links under "Newcastle Disease - USA" in the Hot Topics section. Travellers arriving at the border with any of these commodities can expect Canada Customs and Revenue Agency officers to stop the importation of these items, and be referred to CFIA for proper disposal. It is recommended people travelling to and from the U.S. consult this list before entering Canada.

For further information: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, (604) 666-1357, (403) 292-6733 Canadian Food Inspection Agency has 419 releases in this database.


Officials optimistic deadly poultry disease will skip N.M.
Last Update: 04/25/2003 7:23:00 AM
By: Kurt Christopher

(Albuquerque-AP) -- A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman says officials are cautiously optimistic that New Mexico might have avoided a deadly poultry disease.

Larry Hawkins says no new cases of exotic Newcastle disease have been confirmed since April Ninth, and that's a good sign.

State veterinarian Steve England says the malady has been found in neighboring states-Texas and Arizona.

But he says time will tell whether the disease crops up in New Mexico.

Exotic Newcastle disease is caused by a virus found in the droppings, breath and eggs of birds.

An infected bird can pass the disease onto another bird by being in close proximity.

The disease is harmless to humans.

Ventura County Star, CA,1375,VCS_125_1913971,00.html

Letters: east county
April 25, 2003

Bird rules are too draconian

Someone missed the point of complaints made at the April 14 meeting on exotic Newcastle disease. Bird owners are unhappy with the lack of accurate information, public education, conduct of the task force and destruction of untested birds.

The task force spoke to residents of Simi Valley about what's happening in our community. They told us three premises were depopulated, yet, they couldn't say how many or what type of birds had been destroyed. Those birds had been dead two weeks, and they couldn't even give us an estimate. We were told the answer to that question and others will be posted on the city Web site When will those answers be provided?

Have the editors looked at available stats? Per the April 18 APHIS Situation Update: 16,244 premises are under quarantine; 2,386 premises have been depopulated; 45 premises are waiting to be depopulated. Of those depopulated, only 891 are listed as positives (37 percent tested positive); 1,540 are listed as contact premises (63 percent untested). I wonder if those 45 are aware they are on the depopulation list? Will they only find out when the task force returns with a forced entry warrant for depopulation?

Look at those numbers, then tell bird owners to graciously cooperate with the task force and the destruction of their birds, not because they test positive for the disease, but because they're within one kilometer of an infected residence. The task force says cockfighting isn't a vector for the spread of the disease, yet, our pet birds are? Ask us to cooperate with the quarantine of our homes and birds and to follow strict biosecurity protocols -- we will. We understand birds testing positive have to be euthanized. The key words are "test positive." How about investigating the horror stories before you start telling bird owners how to behave.

Try: newcastle.htm and

-- Dianna Stokotelny, Simi Valley

Task force killing too many birds

Re: your April 18 editorial, "Let task force go about work":

The editorial asks that private bird owners "graciously" permit the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force to go about its business of killing their pets without a positive diagnosis of the disease. The editorial makes no mention of tactics being used by the task force, which include killing pets that appear sick by gassing them with carbon dioxide in front of horrified owners. (There are many avian health problems with similar symptoms which pose no threat.) It did not mention that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has enlisted postal workers in helping it locate bird owners, a draconian measure frightening in its implications. It also failed to mention that owners are often not advised of their right to an appeal, or of "biosecurity" measures that owners can implement to prevent spreading the disease.

I would willingly have my two parakeets humanely euthanized by injection if they tested positive or if reasonable evidence showed they were at risk of exposure. But if the multibillion-dollar poultry industry did not exist, there would be no task force looking to inspect every caged feathered creature within wide target areas.

This is about threatened corporate profits. The poultry industry itself bears some responsibility for this outbreak by raising chickens in overpopulated hot beds for contagious disease. Most wild birds which have contracted Newcastle have been feeding at or near poultry farms. Wild bird flocks are a relatively insignificant factor in spreading the disease, according to an Internet article by veterinarian Margaret A. Wissman. The poultry industry needs to clean up its act.

Pet birds are precious to their owners far beyond any monetary value. Let the task force demonstate its "sensitivity" by ending this cruel and grossly unfair overkill policy.

-- Terry Larsen, Ventura

North County Times, CA

Texas has a different Exotic Newcastle strain
Staff Writer

The strain of Exotic Newcastle disease that was found in Texas earlier this month has a different origin than the one that has plagued southern California since late last year, according to officials involved in the effort to stamp out the disease.

Doug Kuney, a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension, said the DNA test results comparing the two strains of Exotic Newcastle were released by the United States Department of Agriculture Wednesday. Calls to the agency were not returned Wednesday.

"What it means," Kuney said, "is that, as far as we know, it has not spread beyond Southern California except for Las Vegas and Nevada."

The strain that has hit the three Western states is similar to a strain the was found in the Exotic Newcastle outbreak in Mexico in 2000, according to the state-federal task force in charge of stopping the disease. It is unclear where the strain afflicting the birds in Texas originated.

Exotic Newcastle disease, a virus that is said to affect every species of birds but is especially deadly to poultry, was first found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October. Its discovery led to a federal quarantine on eight Southern California counties ----- San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Imperial, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara.

It was found in backyard flocks in western Arizona and southern Nevada, although in Arizona, no new cases have been reported since Feb. 7. In Nevada, there have been no new infections since Jan. 29, according to the task force. La Paz County, Ariz., and Clark County, Nev., remain under federal quarantine.

A flock of backyard chickens tested positive for Exotic Newcastle in Texas on April 9. Officials from the Texas Animal Health Commission said that those birds were killed, as are all birds at a site where Exotic Newcastle is found. So far, the task force in charge of containing and eliminating the disease has killed more than 3.4 million birds.

El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, in addition to Luna, Dona Ana and Otero counties in New Mexico were placed under quarantine after the disease was found, according to the commission.

Larry Cooper, a spokesman for the state-federal task force, said that although the strain of the disease found in Texas may have come from a different source, it is still a danger.

"It doesn't matter where the disease came from, they're still going to have to deal with it," he said.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760)740-5412 or


Modesto Bee, CA

Turlock relaxes rules on pigeons
Published: April 23, 2003, 07:17:32 AM PDT

TURLOCK -- The City Council voted Tuesday night to relax the city's limit on homing pigeons, over protests from a veterinarian concerned about diseases they could carry. The council also approved a 152-condominium complex in northwest Turlock but by press time had not discussed proposed assessments to maintain downtown improvements.

The council voted 3-1 to let residents keep more than six pigeons as long as they obtained permits and met conditions on noise, odor and other concerns. Councilman John Lazar dissented, and Mayor Curt Andre was absent.

The change came about after Park Street resident Jim Richesin was cited in October for having about 100 pigeons in his back yard. After he argued that no neighbor has complained over the past 30 years, city officials agreed to rewrite the law to allow large flocks.

"In research we performed, we found that bona fide pigeon fanciers take good care of their birds," city planning manager Michael Cooke said.

Homing-pigeon owners take their birds hundreds of miles away, then time how long it takes them to fly home.

Turlock veterinarian Ted Howze said the pigeons could become infected with several diseases, in part because of the distant travel. Among them are the West Nile virus, which threatens humans and is starting to show up in California, and exotic Newcastle disease, which is harmless to people but could devastate the poultry industry, he said.

"Pigeons are one of the most disease-prone creatures in the animal kingdom," said Howze, who works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on disease control and voted against the rule change as a member of the Turlock Planning Commission.

Lazar tried unsuccessfully to have the new rules last for only two years, so the council could review whether they were creating any problems.

Councilman Billy Wallen said the homing pigeons would be regulated, unlike many birds believed to spread disease.

"To take all the threat away, we're going to have to shoot them out of the sky," he said.

North County Times, CA

Farmers' self-protection pact has proved vital
Staff Writer

A set of sanitation practices that was developed by and for the poultry industry were important when they were released in the fall, but with the outbreak of Exotic Newcastle disease, they are proving to be vital, according to one of the farmers who helped developed them.

"We all expose each other, if you will, without meaning to do so," said Paul Bahan, owner of AAA farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

The voluntary measures were drawn up by the Inland Empire Poultryman Association, where Bahan is director of biosecurity. The association is made up of 30 members from several Southern California counties, including San Diego, according to Bahan.

"We have," he said, "established a written 'protocol' for just about everything ---- segregating egg flats and racks that eggs are moved around on, protocols of biosecurity within a processing plant, proper disinfection of trucks, what to do with your loading equipment, how to deal with feathers."

Exotic Newcastle has struck 22 commercial farms in Southern California since it was found in Compton in October. The state-federal task force kills all birds at an infected site, and in all has killed more than 3.4 million birds so far.

Seven of those farms are in San Diego County. They are the Ramona Egg Ranch; the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads in Valley Center; Foster Enterprises, also known as Gross Ranch, on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center; the Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way in Valley Center; and Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road in Valley Center.

Locally, nearly 500,000 birds have been killed because of the disease.

No new commercial farms have been found to be infected since April 2, according to task force officials.

The precautions might help stop the disease from spreading any further, Bahan said.

"Part of that protocol is to set up for each ranch a clean and a dirty route, and also to coordinate with each other when we're all moving things around," he said. "So what we're trying to avoid, for instance, is bringing pullets, those birds just coming into lay, on the same route on the same day when somebody else, for instance, is removing manure, so we don't inadvertently cross paths with each other out on the road, at the local burger stand, you name it."

Under the suggested procedures, farmers are asked to call one of Bahan's employees, Karen Connell, so that she can coordinate movement schedules.

The association worked with biologists and farm advisers from the UC Cooperative Extension program. One adviser, Doug Kuney, said that the steps were discussed almost weekly in conference calls between members of the ranchers association and the UC Cooperative Extension program.

"All of this has brought the industry together," he said, "working together in a coordinated fashion, to help each other out and help themselves out."

Bahan said this level of cooperation among farmers has only been possible recently because of consolidation within the industry.

"We all do business now with two or three feed mills, we do business with no more than four or five egg packers in Southern California, no more than the big three manure haulers, so we all now cross paths all the time with our equipment, our birds, our drivers."

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


Gainesville Times, GA

Diseases show need to keep flocks safe
Poultry Watch
By Chris Hill

The importance of biological security measures in the poultry production cannot be stressed enough.

Exotic Newcastle disease, which has led to the destruction of nearly 3.5 million birds in California and which has infected 22 commercial egg laying operations in the state, has crept eastward since an outbreak of the disease began last October.

Now the disease has been discovered in Texas after making small appearances in Nevada and Arizona.

Since the disease was discovered in the El Paso area, the USDA has quarantined two Texas counties and three New Mexico counties.

The discovery in Texas is frightening, since travelling eastward brings one to states that are more densely packed with commercial poultry production.

Texas is one of the largest poultry and egg producing states. So far it has not been discovered in commercial flocks outside of California.

California recently issued biosecurity guidelines for retail poultry sales, which apply to all bird sales, and follow recommendations al- ready made in the industry.

The recommended measures include: only allowing essential employees and equipment in bird holding areas; keeping poultry separated from wild birds; not allowing returns or exchanges of birds; and keep newly hatched and young birds away from the public.

But exotic Newcastle disease is not the only disease affecting the industry right now.

Avian influenza was recently found in Connecticut. The outbreak in the state's largest egg farm prompted state officials to begin a vaccination effort (the USDA recently approved the plan) in birds there.

The disease also is devastating the Dutch poultry industry. The Netherlands has killed more than 11 million birds since the disease outbreak was discovered in February. Now the disease has spread to neighboring Belgium.

And Saturday, Dutch authorities confirmed that a veterinarian died from the disease, an extremely rare occurrence.

Georgia growers with birds exhibiting symptoms of disease should call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at (800) 282-5852 or the Georgia Poultry Diagnostic lab at (770) 535-5996.

Chris Hill is editor and production director of Gainesville-based Poultry Times. He can be reached at (770) 536-2476 or

Originally published Wednesday, April 23, 2003

North County Times, CA

Newcastle disease may be at a standstill
Staff Writer

No new infections.

That has been the word on the number of local cases of Exotic Newcastle disease for almost a month now.

But does that mean the outbreak may be almost over? Not according to Larry Cooper, spokesman for the federal and state task force that is in charge of combating the disease.

"I think really the issue now is just making sure we don't find any other properties that were infected in that same area," said Cooper in a telephone interview Monday.

In San Diego County, 35 sites ---- seven egg ranches and 28 backyard flocks ---- have been found since December either to have contracted the disease or to have had "dangerous contact" with infected birds, according to the task force.

The ranches found to be infected are Ramona Egg Ranch in Ramona; the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads in Valley Center; Foster Enterprises on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center; Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way in Valley Center; and the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road in Valley Center. The most recent commercial farm to be infected, Armstrong Egg Ranch on Mac Tan Road, was confirmed by the task force to have Exotic Newcastle on March 28.

There have been no new infections of backyard flocks since April 2, according to the task force.

The birds at all of the commercial ranches and most of the backyard sites have been killed, according to a policy by the task force. The task force said that because the disease is spread so easily through the mucus or feces of infected birds, the agency has to kill all birds at a location where the disease has been found.

The two backyard sites where backyard birds have not been killed are in Valley Center. In those cases, the task force said, the birds are under strict quarantines and the owners have signed a "compliance agreement" with the task force. Under the agreement, the birds are subject to regular testing and bird owners must take certain measures to make sure their properties stay disease-free.

The number of birds that have been killed at the seven commercial ranches and remaining 28 backyard sites is nearing 500,000. Statewide, more than 3.4 million birds have been killed.

Cooper said that the task force does not know when ranchers at the farms will be able to bring in new chickens.

"There's a waiting period after the depop (killing) and the disinfection (of the site)," he said. "The length of that waiting period depends on the specific situation, including the kind of temperatures we have, the humidity levels, how many birds were infected, a whole list of things. Once the waiting period is over, then sentinel birds are brought in."

Sentinel birds are test birds that are brought onto a sight that tested positive. If the birds show no signs of infection, Cooper said, property owners will be allowed to bring in new birds.

The disease, which affects all kinds of birds, is the most fatal to poultry. Symptoms of the disease include sneezing, coughing, muscle spasms and drooping wings.

Cooper said the cool, wet weather that has been hanging around Southern California the last few weeks has not helped speed things up. He said the disease dies more quickly in hot, dry climates.

Birds in six Southern California counties ---- San Diego, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura ---- have tested positive since the disease was found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October. The counties where the disease has been found are under a federal quarantine. Imperial and Santa Barbara counties are also under quarantine in order to provide a "buffer zone" around the infected counties, according to the task force.

So far, the task force, which is headed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has spent more than $92 million fighting the disease.

The last time a large outbreak of Exotic Newcastle hit California was 1971. That time, the government spent $56 million over three years and killed 12 million birds.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


New York Times

Payments for Fighting Cocks Bring Criticism

OS ANGELES, April 21 Officials in California are destroying millions of birds in an effort to stop the spread of a deadly avian disease, and they are paying owners, including many suspected of cockfighting, for their losses.

The latter situation has caused outrage in some quarters.

"We do not believe the federal government should use Americans' hard-earned tax dollars to compensate cockfighters," said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.

In a recent letter to the secretary of agriculture, Ann M. Venneman, seven members of Congress agreed. The asked the Department of Agriculture to outline measures to prevent cockfighting and stop the spread of the avian disease, Exotic Newcastle Disease, an influenza that does not affect humans but is easily transmitted among fowl.

"By paying owners of fighting birds at black market rates," the representatives wrote, "the U.S.D.A. is endorsing the practice of cockfighting, which is illegal in the state of California. The government has no responsibility to compensate those engaged in illegal activities."

But officials with the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force, which is made up of state and federal agencies, said they had no choice but to reimburse owners of game fowl, some of which are used for show.

"There is no law against owning the birds," said Larry Cooper, a spokesman for the task force in California. "There is no law against raising the birds. The only interest we have is if we find in someone's backyard gamecocks either infected with Exotic Newcastle or considered a dangerous contact."

The authorities are investigating whether fighting birds played a role in bringing the disease into Southern California or in helping it spread through the state and the nation. Eight Southern California counties are under quarantines to restrict the movement of birds.

The disease has been found among fighting birds in backyard flocks in Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.

In response to the outbreak in California, State Senator Nell Soto, an Ontario Democrat, has introduced legislation that would allow district attorneys to charge cockfighters with a felony; cockfighting is currently a misdemeanor. Nationally, a ban on interstate transportation of fighting birds will take effect in May, and legislation has been introduced to increase jail time to two years from one year for violators of laws against animal fights.

The Exotic Newcastle Disease outbreak in California was discovered in October in a flock of backyard birds. As of April 4, state and federal officials had spent nearly $93 million trying to eradicate the disease.

About $12.5 million of that was paid to poultry producers, which have destroyed more than 3.1 million birds. Owners of "backyard birds," including chickens, exotic pets and game fowl, were reimbursed $5.1 million. Some 138,000 of those birds have been killed; about 35 percent were game fowl.

"I can't say 35 percent are fighting cocks, but a high percentage are," Mr. Cooper said. "There were a lot more cockfighters in people's backyards than we expected to find."

In the early 1970's the disease devastated the state's poultry industry. Twelve million hens and other birds were destroyed, at a cost of $60 million. Eradication took three years.

In recent months, investigators have fanned out over several neighborhoods in Southern California in an effort to identify infected birds. When birds are identified as infected or as being a threat, they are killed. A price is negotiated with the owner based on factors like the bird's breed, age and quality of care.

A federal appraisal list values game fowl from $20 to $200. Critics charge that the government has been paying even more. Payments have ranged from $5 for a chicken to $1,850 for a yellow-throated parrot.

Investigators are relying on several sources, including mail carriers, to identify where birds are kept. And the door-to-door campaign has distressed many bird owners. In March, several sued Gov. Gray Davis and government agencies, demanding that steps be taken to keep birds from being killed arbitrarily.

But in California, which has a $3.5 billion poultry industry, stemming the disease is foremost, officials said.

"We are very much concerned about game birds and how they can affect the future of our industry," said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, a trade group. "But right now there's too much at stake to worry about how much people are being paid and whether the birds are used for fighting. Right now we just want to get rid of the disease."

Daily News, CA,1413,200%257E20943%257E1338990,00.html

Logo set, plans afoot for A.V. fair, concerts
By Peggy Hager
Staff Writer

LANCASTER -- For the fourth year in a row, local artist Nate Pitkin has been chosen to design the logo for the Antelope Valley Fair.

With the theme of "We're on the Mooove," Pitkin's artwork depicts fair mascot Alfie the Antelope riding in a covered wagon with a cow, sheep and pig.

Chickens hang on to the rear of the wagon with a quarantine sign -- reflecting the fact that fair poultry shows have been canceled because of a statewide outbreak of a fatal poultry sickness called exotic Newcastle disease.

Pitkin's previous artwork depicted the themes "H2O Best of Show," "Space Suits and Cowboy Boots" and last year's "A Fair to Remember."

A local graphics designer, Pitkin works at Bonn's Printing in Lancaster. The first two years, he won the fair's logo contest.

"We just basically asked him to do it the last two years," said Dan Jacobs, Antelope Valley Fair Manager. "He's done such a good job. ... Every one he's ever done, we just loved."

In a change from previous years, the fair will not allow overnight camping for concert tickets this year. Starting at noon May 2, customers can pick up a numbered wristband from the fair box office. They may return at 6 a.m. on Saturday to line up to buy for tickets.

All customers should be in place by 7 a.m. If they are not present when their number is called, they will lose their place. Numbered wristbands will be available from noon to 5 p.m. May 2 in the fair office and then throughout the night from the security guards on duty.

"We've been looking at (camping for tickets) a few years," said Jacobs. "It's always gone OK, but we're just afraid."

Many other venues no longer allow camping for tickets. "That used to be the only way you could get tickets," he said. "As times change, we started thinking we may have to change with the times."

Jacob estimates that 80 to 90 people will have an opportunity to purchase their tickets at the fairgrounds before the tickets go on sale with Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. May 3.

"We're trying to please everybody," Jacobs said. "We know we can't, but were trying to give them the opportunity."

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