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Michigan Farmers Resist Bird Flu Rules Leading To Concerns

In Michigan, dairy farmers are pushing back against the state’s leading efforts to curb the spread of bird flu, fearing that the additional costs could negatively impact their incomes and hurt rural communities. The state’s restrictions, which include tracking farm visitors, are bringing back unwanted memories of COVID-19 in small towns like Martin in central […]

Michigan Farmers Resist Bird Flu Rules Leading To Concerns
Michigan Farmers Resist Bird Flu Rules Leading To Concerns

In Michigan, dairy farmers are pushing back against the state’s leading efforts to curb the spread of bird flu, fearing that the additional costs could negatively impact their incomes and hurt rural communities. The state’s restrictions, which include tracking farm visitors, are bringing back unwanted memories of COVID-19 in small towns like Martin in central Michigan.

Michigan has reported two of the four known human cases of bird flu, all involving dairy workers, since the world’s first case in U.S. cattle was confirmed by federal authorities in late March. According to a Reuters survey of state health departments, Michigan has tested more people for the virus than any of the 12 states with confirmed cases in cows. Testing policies, however, vary by state.

Public health experts warn that the disease has the potential to become another pandemic just a few years after COVID-19. As these concerns grow, other states are closely watching Michigan’s proactive response, looking for a roadmap that extends beyond federal containment recommendations.

Interviews with more than a dozen Michigan producers, state health officials, researchers, and industry groups, along with preliminary data, indicate limited participation from dairy farmers in efforts to curb and study the virus. In some instances, calls from local health officials go unanswered, funds for dairy farm research remain unclaimed, and workers continue to milk cows without additional protective gear.

Brian DeMann, a dairy farmer from Martin, Michigan, said the outbreak and the state’s response remind him of COVID-19. DeMann, 37, believes Michigan’s rules to contain bird flu would be more widely accepted if they were presented as recommendations rather than mandates for farmers.

“Nobody knows if these things that we’re being told to do are going to stop it,” DeMann said, reflecting the uncertainty shared by other farmers. “Just like 2020, people didn’t like to be told what to do.”

This spring, many U.S. dairy owners did not follow federal recommendations to provide more protective equipment to employees, according to farmers and workers. DeMann admitted he did not invest in new protective gear, such as masks, for his workers because it remains unclear how the virus is spreading.

As the situation unfolds, Michigan’s response to bird flu and its acceptance among dairy farmers will likely influence how other states approach similar outbreaks in the future.

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bird fluConcerns RaisedMichiganTDGThe Daily Guardian