SIBLEY, Iowa — Merlin DeGroot is stuck. He’s had thousands of dead chickens sitting on his egg farm for weeks, attracting flies and smelling worse each day.
“I don’t know if you guys know what a dumpster full of birds stinks like after four weeks,” said DeGroot, who fields complaints daily from his neighbors.
And it’s just one of dozens of problems the Sheldon-area farmer is trying to unravel after his egg-laying farm with about 100,000 chickens was hit with avian influenza in April.
A slew of federal and state agencies has made that process even harder, DeGroot told congressional and state leaders Saturday, during one of three town hall meetings in northwest Iowa, an area hammered by H5N2 over the past month.
“They just couldn’t coordinate anything together. This one had a plan, and this one had a plan,” he said. “Meanwhile, here we sit.”
DeGroot wasn’t alone. A half-dozen chicken and turkey producers expressed frustration at meetings in Sibley,
An estimated 25 million chickens, turkeys and ducks have been killed or destroyed in Iowa to contain the deadly, fast-moving virus that’s hit 63 commercial and backyard flocks.
The meetings were organized by Sen.
“It’s not only a financial calamity but a huge logistics problem that we’ve never faced before,” King said. “Nobody anticipated a disaster of this magnitude.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
Some of the biggest questions producers face, they said, is determining when facilities can again be filled with birds and whether they will be able to protect birds once businesses are again operating.
But he’s unsure whether the government will pay him and others for their work.
The agency has about $413 million earmarked to pay producers for their lost birds and pay for euthanizing and disposing of the birds, cleaning and disinfecting operations.
Parker said he didn’t want to put his family and neighbors through the smell, flies and other pests that would surely come with dead birds.
Howard Vlieger, who grows corn that’s fed to area chickens, said the flies were so thick at the home of one of his clients, whose flock was infected, they “couldn’t walk outside with their mouths open.”
Parker said he’s unsure whether he and his neighbors will be reimbursed.
“There are a lot of questions,” he said.
The state has struggled to dispose of the millions of birds killed by the disease. Landfills have been reluctant to accept the birds, given concerns about nearby farms being contaminated in addition to environmental and liability concerns. The birds also can be composted and buried on site as well as incinerated.
The backlog of dead birds should end soon, Northey said. A landfill in northwest Iowa and one in southwest Iowa have agreed to accept the birds. A large incinerator is being moved into the northwest part of the state.
DeGroot said he’s been told 21 large containers at his farm will begin getting incinerated, and possibly landfilled, this weekend. But he’s skeptical.
“I’ve been told that five, six or seven times,” he said.