Washington Insider - Wednesday

Backyard Chickens and Infection Threats

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Mexico Continues to Seek Non-US Supplies of Some Products If NAFTA Fails

Mexico has some margin to compromise if the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks fail with the U.S. and Canada, according to Mexico's economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo, but he did not say what those areas of compromise were.

Further, he continued to warn that Mexico would not just keep buying from the U.S. if the talks fail. "It is very simple: If today I am the top buyer of yellow corn, of fructose, rice, chicken, pork from the U.S., I need to open a space for trade with Brazil and Argentina so that at the table people realize that we have options," Guajardo said over the weekend at an event in the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

Guajardo criticized the Trump administration’s focus on a loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. U.S. automotive production has soared thanks to productivity gains, and the nation has created millions more jobs in service industries than it lost in car production over the period, he remarked. "It appears that some governments aren’t noticing the transformations" in the global economy, he added.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico wrapped up the fourth round of NAFTA talks in Washington last week and said negotiations will run through the end of March 2018, rather than the original goal of wrapping up talks this year. They also extended the time between negotiating rounds, giving themselves more space to consider proposals.

Canada and Mexico have rejected what they say are unpalatable U.S. proposals on dairy, automotive content, dispute panels, government procurement and a sunset clause. Negotiators plan to meet next in Mexico November 17-21.

US Commerce Sets Preliminary Antidumping Duties on Argentine, Indonesian Biodiesel

Affirmative preliminary determinations in antidumping duty (AD) investigations on imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia were announced late Monday by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The finding concludes that Argentine biodiesel was being sold into the U.S. market at dumping margins of 54.36% to 70.05% and Indonesian biodiesel was being sold at dumping margins of 50.71%.

The decision gives the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the means to collect cash deposits from importers of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia based on these preliminary rates. A statement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted the U.S. and Argentina are in discussions on possible suspension agreements that could suspend the duties announced Monday and those announced in August. Argentina and Indonesia said they will contest the latest U.S. action.

Washington Insider: Backyard Chickens and Infection Threats

Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported on a relatively little-noticed health threat, backyard poultry flocks. The AP focused on several Midwestern cases including a healthy young athlete who complained of soreness in his chest that grew increasingly painful. Doctors detected a mass in his chest “that appeared to be a tumor,” AP said.

For several days, the boy’s parents feared for their son’s future “until tests identified the cause: not cancer, but chickens” that he cared for at home. “They had apparently infected him with salmonella that produced a severe abscess, the AP said. He responded well to treatment.

The article linked the current growing trend of “raising backyard chickens in U.S. cities and suburbs” and the soaring number of illnesses from poultry-related diseases, some of them fatal, the report said. Since January, more than 1,100 people have contracted salmonella poisoning from chickens and ducks in 48 states, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

Almost 250 were hospitalized and one person died. In addition, the “toll was four times higher than in 2015,” the AP said, and the “actual number of cases from contact with chickens and ducks is likely much higher.”

“For every one salmonella case we know of in an outbreak, there are up to 30 others that we don’t know about,” CDC veterinarian Megin Nichols said.

She believes that a “large contributing factor” to the surge, comes from natural food fanciers who have taken up the backyard chicken hobby but “don’t understand the potential dangers.” Some treat their birds like pets, kissing or snuggling them and letting them walk around the house. However, she warned that poultry can carry salmonella bacteria in their intestines that can be shed in their feces. The bacteria can attach to feathers and dust and brush off on shoes or clothing.

But illnesses can be prevented with proper handling. The CDC recommends that people raising chickens wash their hands thoroughly after handling the birds, eggs or nesting materials, and leave any shoes worn in a chicken coop outside.

There are no firm figures on how many households in the U.S. have backyard chickens, but a USDA report in 2013 found a growing number of residents in Denver, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City who said they were interested in getting them. Coops are now seen in even the smallest yards and densest urban neighborhoods, the AP said.

Stopping the germs at home is seen as especially important. A large share of baby chicks and ducks sold to consumers come from about 20 feed and farm supply retailers across the U.S. who get their chicks from a half dozen large hatcheries that supply tens of millions of baby chicks and ducklings each year. While USDA encourages hatcheries to test regularly for salmonella contamination, that program is voluntary. Unsanitary conditions or rodent infestations can help salmonella spread in hatcheries.

The article included an interview with a Minnesota pediatric infectious disease physician who sees both sides of the popular trend. She manages her own flock of about 50 birds and says that “I love to see people getting back to nature, having their home gardens and having self-sustainability,” Maroushek said.

But she also says she sees young children suffering from salmonella poisoning—bacteria that often cause flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea, and can produce more serious infections in children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. “It gets into their blood and it can get into organs,” she said. “It can be much more significant in people with underlying health problems.”

Even those who have had chickens for years can fall victim, the article says and discusses the case of a victim in southeast Pennsylvania who was responsible for feeding and watering the chickens, but he didn’t really like the birds and certainly didn’t treat them as pets, his mother said. “They never figured out specifically how Luke got the salmonella,” she said. “They theorized that maybe he inhaled something.”

The AP said that the best way chicken raisers can protect themselves is to assume all birds carry salmonella and treat them carefully. AP said health officials view this as a preventable public health problem they are really hoping to start to see some change.

The fact that the salmonella threat from even small poultry flocks can be dangerous is being increasingly emphasized by health officials now, as is the fact that the number of people being infected in spite of what was regarded as significant precautions. Clearly, national health officials see these flocks as dangerous should be treated with more caution than was used in the past, Washington Insider believes.

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