Michigan lawmaker, dairy farmer says food supply is safe amid rise in avian flu cases

When he’s not in Lansing working on the House Agriculture Committee, Jerry Neer (right) is in Mount Pleasant helping manage the family dairy farm.

MOUNT PLEASANT, MI – Jerry Neer, a Republican, represents Michigan’s 92nd Congressional District. When he is not in Lansing working on the House Agriculture Committee, he is in Mount Pleasant, helping manage the family dairy farm.

“I had a lot of fun moving to the Legislature, and it was a very difficult decision,” Nair said. “But we need people with agricultural and rural experience.”

Right now, his experience as a second generation dairy farmer may be in demand as the state sees an increase in this Cases of bird flu in both dairy cows and poultry.

Herds in Montcalm, Ionia, Isabella and Ottawa counties have tested positive for the virus, as have poultry flocks in Newaygo and Ionia counties.

“We don’t have any details to really make a good decision. I think the measures that MDARD (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) has in place right now will keep the food supply safe, and keep livestock and poultry as safe as relatively possible.”

What does this mean for consumers? Well, sick dairy cattle are separated from the herd that produces milk. The milk from separated cattle is not mixed with the milk that goes to market.

However, if anything happens, Rep. Nair said the viruses would not be able to survive during operations at the dairy plant.

“Not only are antibiotics checked there, but they are also checked for bacteria and viruses,” Nair said. “And then the last thing that happens and the most important thing is that it’s pasteurized, which will kill all the unwanted bacteria as well as all the unwanted viruses, and that way the milk is safe to drink.”

Although the cows are not at risk of dying from the virus, the lawmaker and dairy farmer said, it would be taxing to take a cow off the production line in an already tough market.

“If you lose a cow out of production, or a bunch of cattle out of production, it impacts your bottom line very quickly,” Nair said. “You don’t get paid for that, for that milk that’s wasted in production.”

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