Visitors This Week
I met with 6th grade Talented and Gifted students from Hudson at the Capitol this week. The group visited the Statehouse to meet legislators and tour the historic Capitol building.
I also met with 5th grade students from Orchard Hill Elementary in Cedar Falls at the Capitol this week. We discussed my duties as a Representative and went on a special tour of the House of Representatives.
National Data Shows Economy Slowing Down
House Republicans continued their progress on passing a budget that lives within ongoing state revenue at a time when national indicators point to an economic slowdown.
By the end of the week, the House will have debated the five budget bills. All of the budget bills moved by the House will be funded within the on-going revenue estimate for FY 2016 of $7.1755 billion. The need to keep on-going state spending within this amount was evident again on Wednesday when the U.S. Commerce Department released figures on the first quarter’s gross domestic product.
First quarter GDP for calendar year 2015 slowed to 0.2 percent growth. The Washington Post stated that the national economy “ground nearly to a halt.” The actual growth rate was well shy of the 1.0 percent growth predicted for the quarter and the 2.4 percent growth rate experienced in 2014.
The causes for the sudden slowdown are varied. Exports took a significant drop in the first quarter, with the export of goods and services going down 7.2 percent. Part of the blame for this is the stronger dollar, which has made goods for export more expensive in foreign markets.
Another issue was the 2015 winter and its severe impact on certain areas of the country. While Iowa’s winter was bearable, the northeastern US was repeatedly hit with massive snowstorms. The weather impacted consumer spending, as New Englanders stayed warm in their homes instead of shopping at local retailers.
Construction and manufacturing related to homes were stagnant during the quarter and the number of new hires grew. That growth was almost half of what was experienced in the last quarter of 2014. The fact that Americans continue the trend of reducing their debt load and saving more also impacted GDP growth.
The sluggishness of the economy is sending cautionary signals to economists and policymakers across the country. Here in Iowa, the recent discovery of avian influenza in major turkey and chicken flocks has the potential to have a major impact on the agricultural economy. State revenue growth for Fiscal Year 2015 continues to remain below the figure projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference.
House Republicans’ efforts to pass a budget that spends less than the state will take in shows a commitment to common-sense budgeting practice that Iowans across the state are putting to use in their own homes.
Avian Influenza Expands to Five More Sites in Iowa
CDC considers the risk to people to be low
On Monday, April 27, 2015, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release that authorities are responding to five probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry farms in Osceola, O’Brien and Sioux Counties in Northwest Iowa. These five new cases join three confirmed cases of the disease in Iowa. State officials have quarantined the premises and if the initial tests are confirmed, all birds on the property will be humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease. Also on Monday, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Northey appeared before the House Appropriation Committee to describe this outbreak and what additional state financial resources are being used by the state/IDALS in this investigation and eradication and clean-up effort. Also discussed were additional funds that might be needed in this effort.
The Secretary and the press release noted that Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected and there is no food safety risk for consumers.
The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance program in the world. As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners as well as industry are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4) Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test – confirm that poultry farms in the area are free of the virus.
While prior press releases and articles have reported that these virus strains can travel in wild birds without those birds appearing sick, a Minnesota news story published on Monday from the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported that in Minnesota there is no evidence of the disease in wild birds sampled in that area. That report can be found at the following link. http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2015/04/avian-flu-hits-more-farms-iowa-minnesota
IDALS is cooperating in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health and are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds. The IDALS press release advised that all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard flock owners, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian at 515-281-5321 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Information will also be posted to the IDALS’ website at www.iowaagriculture.gov/avianinfluenza.asp.