After much deliberation with farmers, agencies, other organizations, and the NC State Veterinarian, it is with great regret that that we must cancel the 2015 ASAP Farm Tour due to the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). HPAI is an unusually deadly and contagious poultry disease. It is brought to the region by the migrating birds that pass through the Southeast in the fall. There is a high likelihood that it will impact domesticated birds in North Carolina. Once here, it can easily be carried to chicken and turkey flocks, large or small, housed or free-range, by humans. The mortality rate is nearly 100% for infected birds, and nearly 50 million birds have died in the U.S. as a result of HPAI this year. The ease at which it spreads requires special precautions (called biosecurity), such as limiting visitors on farms that have poultry, cleaning clothes, shoes, and even car tires, and not sharing farm equipment. The state of North Carolina is on High Biosecurity Alert, and the movement and sale of birds is restricted through the first of next year. The risk of inviting thousands of visitors to multiple farms during this time is too much of a threat to ignore. The potential spread of this disease could be devastating for commercial producers and backyard chicken flocks throughout the region.
This current outbreak does not infect people, and meat and eggs continue to be safe for human consumption. The primary concern is with the spread of the disease to birds. This particular strain of influenza is unusually infectious and has the potential to be devastating to North Carolina poultry farming, large and small. NCDA&CS State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Meckes, who we have consulted, has issued the following statement:
“Our state is facing exposure to the worst animal disease event in U.S. history this fall. The response in other states has already cost U.S. taxpayers more than a half-billion dollars. In addition, this disease has led to numerous job losses that hurt farm families and their communities.”
We sincerely regret having to cancel this tour. So much work and investment from ASAP staff, volunteers, and farmers has already gone into planning and preparing for the Farm Tour. Thank you! The Farm Tour is a wonderful opportunity for our community and farms to come together in the places where our food is grown and produced. It is also an important market day for farms. Now, more than ever, we need to support our farms. Please continue to visit farms, orchards, shop at farmers tailgate markets, and seek out restaurants and grocers that purchase from local farms. There are numerous local food and farm activities that we can all do to continue to show our support for local food and farms. Visit our Local Food Guide to find the places you can support farms and enjoy the freshest best tasting food available.