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Organic poultry may be confined due to risk of avian flu

Certified organic poultry operations must establish and maintain preventative livestock health care practices, which may include temporary confinement under conditions that could jeopardize animals' health, safety or well-being.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) enforces USDA's organic regulations for organic poultry through the National Organic Program (NOP). AMS announced April 3 that NOP has received questions regarding the confinement of organic poultry flocks due to recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

According to AMS, certified organic poultry operations must establish and maintain preventative livestock health care practices, which may include temporary confinement under conditions where the health, safety or well-being of the animals could be jeopardized. Temporary confinement policies are outlined in “Confinement of Poultry Flocks Due to Avian Influenza or Other Infectious Diseases” (NOP Policy Memo 11-12). The memo explains actions producers can take to protect organic poultry flocks from infectious disease while also maintaining organic certification. The memo is part of the NOP Handbook, and accredited certifying agents should be aware of these provisions.

As outlined in the memo, temporary confinement may be appropriate under certain conditions, such as an HPAI outbreak. AMS supports bringing the birds inside on a temporary basis in areas in proximity to the recent HPAI and LPAI detections in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia (while active surveillance is ongoing in some zones, there are not currently any active avian influenza cases).

AMS said it understands the concerns of poultry producers, and temporary confinement can be done without compromising the organic status of the certified operation. Producers should work with their certifying agents to determine the proper method and duration of confinement.

USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) provides guidance to poultry producers, including free range and organic producers, regarding biosecurity considerations for their operations. More information on biosecurity practices is available on the APHIS Biosecurity for Birds webpage. APHIS also provides information on avian influenza and other animal diseases on the APHIS Animal Health website.

For more information on organic certification, visit the NOP website, or call (202) 720-3252.

TAGS: Poultry
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