St Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) -  The ongoing bird flu crisis in Minnesota has led to a decision to cancel all bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Minnesota State Fair, and other gatherings of birds.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health says its order also prohibits birds from being included in swap meets, exotic sales, and petting zoos. The order will be in effect through the remainder of the year.

Since early March, nearly 90 Minnesota farms have been impacted by the outbreak that has led to the deaths of nearly 6 million turkeys and chickens.

 

“Taking this step makes sense,” said Dr. Beth Thompson, assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. “We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that.”

“This is a critical time for Minnesota’s poultry industry, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help,” said State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer. “The Board of Animal Health has absolutely made the right decision. We’ll use this as an opportunity to further educate people about the challenges of food production.”

“University of Minnesota Extension 4-H's priority is youth and their learning experiences," said Brad Rugg, Extension 4-H and State Fair and Animal Science program director. "Some 4-H'ers will be disappointed that they won't be able to show their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but we're exploring alternate learning opportunities to offer them at fairs and will share more details as plans develop. Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world."

Minnesota’s poultry industry has experienced the largest impact as a result of HPAI. Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota said, "We know the decision to halt poultry exhibitions at our county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair was not an easy one to make. This certainly affects the 4-H kids who plan for their projects all year long, and also means fewer opportunities for fairgoers across the state to learn about raising poultry. However, this is the right decision because what's most important at this point is protecting the health and well-being of the birds that are being raised by 4-H’ers, FFA members, and Minnesota’s poultry farmers."

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