US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told lawmakers last week that she hoped to persuade other nations to soon resume US poultry exports that were shut off because of a virulent strain of avian influenza found on a Texas chicken farm.

“We will work very hard to get those markets open,” Veneman told a House appropriations subcommittee.

The European Union and a number of Asian countries this week cut off all US poultry exports because the Texas case involves a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu.

Veneman said the USDA was talking with trading partners to convince them to reduce their poultry sanctions to specific US states or regions, if not remove them entirely.

“We hope to be able to open up, at least regionally on the poultry side, very quickly,” Veneman said.

Russia, the single largest buyer of American poultry, has halted shipments from Texas and Delaware, not from all states.

“We’ve had different responses in terms of our trading partners,” she noted.

The European Commission imposed a one-month ban on all US poultry shipments, while Mexico expanded an earlier ban on poultry from 10 states to apply to the entire United States. Big US poultry buyers Japan, South Korea and China have also announced similar bans.

The United States exported $2.1 billion in poultry products last year.

“The major concern that our commercial industry has at this point is, how quickly can we resolve this problem so that we can get our markets open,” said Texas state veterinarian Bob Hillman.

The bird flu found on a farm about 50 miles from San Antonio, Texas, is highly infectious and fatal to birds, but is viewed as a low threat to human health. It is a different strain from the one blamed for the recent deaths of at least 22 people in Asia.

Hillman said no new cases of bird flu were found in Texas on Feb. 25. The state is testing all poultry within a 10-mile radius of the infected flock.

“As we continue to look, we can’t predict whether we will or will not find additional infections,” he said.

No human illnesses have been linked to bird flu in Texas, Hillman said. (Reuters)