June 16, 2015 / 6:00 PM / 5 years ago

Iowa governor eases manure rules to aid bird flu cleanup

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad speaks following victory at the Republican election night rally for the U.S. midterm elections in West Des Moines, Iowa, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

(Reuters) - Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation this week that will allow poultry and egg producers in 18 counties hit by bird flu to more easily dispose of manure and dead birds from affected farms.

As the number of new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza slows, poultry farms have turned their attention to clean up and repopulation following the worst-ever U.S. outbreak of the virus that has claimed more than 47 million birds nationwide.

Iowa’s state of disaster emergency proclamation temporarily loosens a state restriction that otherwise prohibits compost made from dead birds and added agents like wood chips or corn stalks from being sold off as a crop fertilizer.

Any manure and compost must first be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as virus-free before it can be moved off of farms, according to the proclamation signed by Branstad on Monday.

Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, declared a state of emergency on May 1 and has to date lost more than 31.5 million birds.

The proclamation expires on July 15 and only includes farms affected by bird flu in the counties of Adair, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Hamilton, Kossuth, Lyon, Madison, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, Webster and Wright.

Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Bernard Orr

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