The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Steve Erdman
47th District 

Straight Talk From Steve



Why did the chicken cross the road? Probably to get to somewhere where it’s still safe from the bird flu.

The avian (bird) flu has come to Nebraska. The bird flu has been especially bad in the eastern part of the state. Millions of birds are currently being euthanized in Eastern Nebraska.

Nebraska has already experienced seven outbreaks of the bird flu this year. Most recently, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture discovered an outbreak in a flock of 2.1 million chickens in Knox County.

Whenever an outbreak like this is discovered the policy of the USDA is to euthanize all of the birds and establish a six-mile control zone around the problem area. Consequently, an outbreak anywhere in Nebraska could significantly affect the prices of our eggs and poultry at the grocery store.

A lot of birds are being destroyed. So far this year almost five million birds have been euthanized in Nebraska alone. 30 million birds have been destroyed across the country, putting the USA on a trajectory to break the record of 50 million birds that were euthanized during the outbreak of 2015.

Poultry and eggs are vital to our economy. In 2017 the United Egg Producers, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Producers Association, the National Chicken Council, and the National Turkey Federation combined their resources and efforts to produce a study which showed that the egg and poultry industries contribute 1.6 million jobs to the U.S. economy along with $96 billion in wages, $34 billion in government revenue (taxes), and $441.15 billion in economic activity each year. So, these are industries we cannot afford to lose.

Once this current outbreak of the bird flu finally comes to an end, these industries will need some time to recover. When the avian flu came to America back in 2015, it took the poultry industry about 18 months to fully recover. The egg industry recovered faster.

The egg industry recovered within a year. Nevertheless, with the current rate of inflation being at 8.5 percent, Americans will likely start looking for less expensive sources of protein which are usually found in the egg and poultry industries. If supplies dwindle and prices increase, many Americans will have to look elsewhere for their protein needs.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that many of America’s food processing plants have been mysteriously destroyed recently.

For example, last year, on September 13, the JBS beef production plant in Grand Island, which processes five percent of the nation’s beef, was set ablaze and burned for 15 hours. More than a dozen food processing plants have been destroyed within the past year and within the last month alone five major food processing plants have been destroyed by fires and plane crashes. All of this will likely put an enormous strain on our supply chain and push prices even higher at the grocery store.

As Americans we are never driven by fear. While all of this news may seem grim for our nation’s future, it is still a good time to crack some eggs for breakfast and fry up some chicken for dinner. We will overcome this threat in the same way we did back in 2015.

On anther note, let me remind you to vote. Nebraska’s primary election will be held on May 10, and it is very important that every registered voter cast his or her vote this year. Never forget that the voters comprise Nebraska’s second legislative house. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”


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