Orwellian-Named "Agro-terrorism" Bill

July, 2017

Washington and Lincoln -- Congress has passed and the president has signed legislation to speed up USDA reactions and countermeasures to combat agricultural disasters such as the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza. To control the 2015 outbreak, tens of millions of exposed chickens and turkeys across the Midwest had to be killed to prevent the influenza's spread. The USDA was faulted by producers and consumers alike for its mis-handling of the epidemic.

Iowa Congressman David Young, a sponsor of the legislation, suggests the need for it is to fight "agro-terrorism."

This is more than a stretch, it is downright Orwellian. Theoretically, perhaps, terrorists could infect flocks; but anyone with a little imagination can conjure many situations that terrorists could exploit.

Just for the record, terrorism was not behind the 2015 avian influenza outbreak. The culprit was bad farming practices. Anyone with a basic understanding of raising poultry knows that packing together huge numbers of birds of any kind, especially in dark confined spaces like modern factory-farms, is an invitation to disaster. We are our own terrorists.

My family was once in the pountry business in Nebraska. George Oberg, my great uncle, started the Oberg Hatcheries, training his sons, nephews, and in-laws in the trade. "Best in Chix Since '26" was one of the advertising slogans. Those with a George Oberg connection ran hatcheries for decades in Schuyler, Fremont, Columbus, Leigh, Ceresco, Imperial, and Fairbury. George Oberg became a member of the Nebraska Poultry Hall of Fame, which is located on the campus of the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

But the Univesity no longer has a Poultry Science department. It went the way of Oberg Hatcheries when corporate agriculture took over the poultry industry. And now Congress is trying to use the excuse of terrorism to try to clean up the mess that has resulted.