Biden Administration to Pay Dairy Farmers for Bird Flu Protective Measures

The Biden administration said on Friday that it would compensate dairy farmers for cooperating with its efforts to limit the spread of the bird flu virus, part of a series of expansive measures aimed at containing an outbreak.

The payment system amounted to one of the most forceful actions taken so far by agriculture officials who have raced to keep up with the spread of the virus among dairy cows. Farm owners have been reluctant to allow state and federal officials access to cows and workers exposed to or infected by the virus, and are fearful of the financial consequences of infected herds and contaminated milk.

Under the so-called indemnity program, farms would receive up to $28,000 to protect workers and cover costs incurred treating and testing sick cows. Producers may also receive payments for lost milk production on farms with confirmed bird flu cases.

Farm workers who agree to participate in government-led studies will also be compensated for their time.

“We’re now moving into a phase of equipping producers to reduce the risk” of wider spread, Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said at a news briefing on Friday, acknowledging the difficulties of reaching farmers.

The program was part of a broader federal push announced on Friday to increase spending on the bird flu response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to scale up testing capacity — a blind spot early in the coronavirus pandemic — and its assessment of bird flu vaccines, should they be needed.

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