WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The USDA has announced an interim rule that expands the National Poultry Improvement Program, a voluntary cooperative federal, state and industry program designed to prevent the spread of poultry diseases in commercial poultry operations. The expansion of the program is in harmony with international animal health guidelines.



Under the interim rule, USDA will provide 100 percent indemnity for specified costs associated with eradication of H5 and H7 LPAI at commercial poultry operations that participate in the NPIP program as prescribed. USDA will only offer 25 percent indemnity for costs associated with eradication at commercial facilities that choose not to participate in the active surveillance portion of this program. In previous H5 and H7 detections, indemnification was often handled by states and the provisions varied.



"This program expansion strengthens U.S. protections against poultry diseases such as avian influenza," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA's Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service. "These changes also help us to ensure we are following international animal health guidelines, which is a long-standing commitment of the United States."



While LPAI poses no risk to human health, USDA's policy is to eradicate H5 and H7 subtypes because of their potential to mutate into highly pathogenic avian influenza, which has a high mortality rate among birds.



International animal health standards now require countries to report all H5 and H7 detections, so the program expansion will help to ensure that the U.S. complies with international standards by encouraging testing and providing financial incentives to report detections. The program also proactively minimizes potential trade impacts on U.S. producers by reiterating the agency's commitment to transparency on any detection of H5 or H7 avian influenza among bird populations in the United States.



NPIP dates back to the 1930s as a coordinated effort to certify flocks as free of poultry diseases, including avian influenza. Before this interim rule became effective, only breeder flocks could participate in NPIP AI programs. This amendment expands the NPIP program to include commercial production poultry flocks, specifically table-egg layers, meat-type chickens and meat-type turkeys.



Commercial poultry facilities and states must meet certain provisions, established by USDA in cooperation with federal, state and industry partners, in order to participate in the program and be eligible for 100 percent indemnification for H5 and H7 LPAI.



Following are the three primary provisions:


  • States must create a diagnostic surveillance program for all poultry. This surveillance will be administered by state agencies according to plans approved by APHIS.


  • States must develop APHIS-approved response and containment plans that detail what actions will be taken in the event of an H5 and H7 LPAI outbreak.


  • Industry must maintain active surveillance, which requires testing birds and eggs intended for use as breeding poultry and commercial table-egg layers. This component also includes proactive testing at the flock level or at slaughter for commercial meat-type chickens and meat-type turkeys, and must be conducted according to plans detailed in the regulations.



  • This interim rule becomes effective on and will be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 26, 2006. Comments are due on Nov. 27, 2006.



    Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Nov. 14. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0138, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238.



    If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov, select "Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service" from the agency drop-down menu, then click on "Submit." In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0138 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.



    Comments are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and also can be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call 202-690-2817.



    SOURCE: USDA news release.