MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The numbers don’t lie — Minnesota has been hit hard by the bird flu.
So far, 97 farms have been affected by the bird flu since the outbreak began in March. Kandiyohi County is ground zero with 37 of those farms. The state announced three new cases of the bird flu Wednesday, and six new ones were reported Tuesday.READ MORE: 2nd Man Charged In Minneapolis Gun Battle-Turned-Crash That Killed Autumn Merrick
With millions of birds dead, it’s a huge financial loss to the turkey farmers but also to the companies that work with them. They’ve had to lay off employees or cutback their hours. The estimated economic loss to the state is $310 million.
Dr. Dale Lauer is a veterinarian working with a team from the USDA to stop the devastating virus from spreading.
“We haven’t been able to put our finger on exactly what is causing the problem,” Dr. Lauer said.
For those who’s main source of income is through a turkey farm, that’s disheartening news. Once the flu is detected, barns are shut down, birds are put down and a month-long process of composting takes place. After that, there are weeks of cleaning, disinfecting and waiting.
Willmar, which is in Kandiyohi County, has been hit hard from the virus. Almost everyone in the town knows someone who has been affected.READ MORE: 'We Will Not Tolerate Sexual Misconduct In Any Form': Minnesota Colleges Investigating Alleged Sex Competition
“They were devastated — totally devastated,” Willmar resident Earline Shulstad said. “That’s their income for the year, and plus, it was hard to watch the process.”
State Representative Dave Baker owns a restaurant in Willmar, and is worried about the financial hit that Kandiyohi County is taking.
“We’ve got truck drivers, we’ve got folks that are waiting for the turkeys to be processed at our local processing plants to send out to the grocery stores,” Rep. Baker said. “The feed mills are not being able to produced nearly the feed that they normally do.”
Turkey processor Jennie-O laid off more than 200 workers this month. Meanwhile, at the State Capitol, Gov. Dayton vetoed budget bills that included provisions that would help fund state agencies assisting in the bird flu outbreak.
“I have been in touch with the Governor’s Office. I know this is important to him, too,” Rep. Baker said. “I really hope that we get this thing settled really quickly, because this is not something that we can delay.”MORE NEWS: 'We Are Pleasantly Surprised': Minnesota's Corn, Soybean Yields Better Than Expected
Those vetoed budget bills included funding for the State Department of Health and Department of Agriculture to monitor and research the bird flu this summer. It would also provide loans for turkey farmers to make improvements to their barns during this crisis, and extended unemployment benefits.