The Agriculture Department on Monday will begin accepting applications for financial assistance from dairy farmers who incur milk losses due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, also known as H5N1 infection, in their dairy herds.

USDA will provide the aid through its updated Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) program using budget authority through the Commodity Credit Corporation, USDA’s line of credit at the Treasury Department.

The rule that makes changes to ELAP to provide financial assistance to dairy producers who face milk losses due to H5N1 infection of their dairy herds will be published on Monday in the Federal Register. 

USDA’s Farm Service Agency expanded ELAP through the rule-making process to assist with a portion of financial losses resulting from reduced milk production when cattle are removed from commercial milking in dairy herds having a confirmed positive H5N1 test, USDA explained positive test results must be confirmed through the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Veterinary Services Laboratories, USDA added.

“USDA remains committed to working with producers, state veterinarians, animal health professionals, and our federal partners as we continue to detect the presence of H5N1 in dairy herds and take additional measures to contain the spread of the disease,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“When something unexpected, like H5N1, threatens the economic viability of the producers we serve, we are committed to finding ways, where we have the authority to do so, to revisit existing program policies and provide the financial support needed to help producers recover and sustain production.”

H5N1 infections have been detected in 12 states including Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, USDA said. Payments will be made at 90% of the all-milk price for the month previous, a Vilsack aide said.

The all-milk price is a national figure published by the Agricultural Marketing Service and is based on per hundredweight.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “We appreciate that USDA listened when we requested this type of support for dairy farmers whose herds are affected by HPAI.”

“While America’s dairy farmers are working to rapidly increase biosecurity on their farms to prevent the spread of the virus, this assistance will help farmers recover in the event of an outbreak,” Duvall said. “Ultimately, it will also help ensure the continued safety and affordability of our nation’s milk supply.”

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