UPDATE at 1 p.m. Wednesday: Rock Creek Farms was able to export 65,000 day-old chicks Tuesday evening to its client in Canada, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said.
OLYMPIA — State officials and the Washington State Department of Agriculture have stressed that the recent cases of avian flu in Washington pose no threat to public safety.
But for Rock Creek Farms in Bellingham, a ban on Washington chickens imposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency resulted in the company losing 22,000 chicks last week, and the company faces the possibility of another 65,000 being lost on Tuesday. Rock Creek Farms exports to solely British Columbia. With nowhere else to ship the chicks, the company is forced to destroy them.
“It’s a substantial loss financially,” said Rock Creek Farms manager Harvey Pelleboer. “In the meantime we test here at our facility, and we’ve been clean ever since we started monitoring.”
Avian influenza spread in large farms in southwest British Columbia, then first showed up in Washington when a wild duck in Whatcom County tested positive for the virus in early December. On New Year’s Eve, the Washington state Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed the virus in two backyard flocks in Benton County.
To prevent any large commercial farms from becoming infected, the WSDA set up quarantine zones in Benton and Franklin counties and barring export. Rock Creek is in Whatcom County, where there have been no other cases to date.
Still, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency banned the importation of “all birds, all raw poultry and all poultry products and by-products that are not fully cooked, including eggs and raw pet foods” from Oregon and Washington.
That has left Rock Creek Farms with no place to sell its chicks.
“It’s entirely up to the country accepting the product,” WSDA spokesperson Hector Castro said. “Whatever their requirements are is something they need to address.”