Minnesota’s turkey industry took more hits over the Memorial Day weekend, as six more cases of the avian influenza virus were announced Tuesday by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

The surprise May 26 announcement disrupted a 10-day break in confirmed bird flu outbreaks, which had prompted the board to suspend its daily updates and suggest that the worst might be past state poultry operations. The report contained additional bad news, as the first “presumptive positive” flock in Brown County was detected, affecting 46,800 turkeys.

Three more detections in Kandiyohi County brought that Willmar area total to 36, by far the state’s worst hit region. Two more Renville County turkey operations were also hit. However, flock sizes in these two counties were not provided by the Tuesday report.

The six new cases increase the statewide total of affected farms to 94, now totaling 22 counties. After the Kandiyohi total, the other worst hit areas include Stearns (14), Meeker (9) and Swift (7) counties. Renville and Redwood counties both now total four affected farms.

But Minnesota's emergency funding request to aid affected poultry operations will have to wait a bit longer, as Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the recent agriculture bill as one of three major pieces of legislation which will need to be renegotiated in special session in late June.

Over 8 million birds have been affected by the avian flu virus, which first hit Minnesota operations in March. The flu virus has begun to not only cut into the $800 million annual Minnesota turkey industry, the outbreak is hitting feed mills, particularly in the Willmar area, as well as prompting layoffs to employees of those operations.

Of that total, an estimated 3.5 million of the affected birds have been chickens in egg-laying operations. Nationally, an estimated 30 percent of all egg-laying operations have been affected, causing egg shortages in several regions, including the Twin Cities and Canada.

Cub Foods, the Twin Cities’ largest supermarket chain, is part of Supervalu, which three weeks ago reported egg shortages. Also, Lund’s and Byerly’s, as well as Kowalski’s, were reporting shortages. All were being supplied by Michael Foods operations, which had a Nicollet County egg-laying operation hit by the flu outbreak.

While egg prices locally have remain relatively stable throughout Nicollet and Le Sueur counties, industry analysts say egg prices are beginning to rise in those markets, jumping almost a dollar a dozen to over $2.

Reach Associate Editor Dana Melius at 507-931-8568 or follow him on Twitter @SPHdanajohn.

Former Regional Managing Editor, Adams Publishing Group--Southern Minnesota/Western Division: St. Peter Herald, Waseca County News, Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald. Now serving as a freelance reporter.

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