Birds of a feather can flock together again in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, the state Department of Agriculture announced that upcoming fairs and the 2017 Farm Show will feature live poultry exhibits again.
Those events disappeared from 2015 county fairs and the 2016 Farm Show due to a virulent strain of avian flu.
“We realize it was challenging for our exhibitors and visitors to have poultry missing from these events this last year,” said Secretary Russell Redding. “It was a difficult decision but the right decision to protect our state against the (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) virus.”
Agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s leading industries, worth $2 billion a year according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks the Keystone State fourth in poultry production.
But while many Midwestern states were stricken with the disease, affecting prices and availability on both poultry and eggs, Pennsylvania had no cases in 2015 or 2016.
The poultry show precautions may have helped that. At the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair, exhibitors left their birds at home and brought painted wooden stand-ins to display instead.
The ban was lifted because the USDA says there has not been a new case of the virus in the U.S. since January. The last detection was in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. The Department of Agriculture and Penn State officials still maintained vigilance.
But that doesn’t mean the Pennsylvania ag world is now just going to wing it, letting the prior precautions go.
“The prospect of another outbreak is always there which is why we have to remain vigilant, have flock plans in place and continue practicing good biosecurity measures,” Redding said.
Those biosecurity measures are a part of the return to poultry shows.
Birds will have to have maintained good health, testing negative for the flu within 30 days of an exhibition. Before the 2015 outbreak, that testing window was six months.
The Grange Fair and its poultry shows are just three months away.