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Proposed Testing and Poultry keeping guidelines in Massachusetts

Dave Anderson, President, Janet Winnett Secretary, New England Bantam Club

There were over  65 concerned poultry keepers who attended the meeting
held at the NEBC show in Middleboro Mass on May 1st.  Ed Hageman, Poultry Program Coordinator for the Dept. of Ag. Resources was kind enough to come down and
speak to us regarding the proposed changes to the testing procedures as
noted in the POULTRY TESTING FEE guideline and the proposed GUIDELINES FOR
KEEPING POULTRY.
First we will address the Testing Fee Guidelines.
At this time testing in Mass is free.  It is covered by federally granted
money.  The money is coming out of a grant to the department, the Commissioner decided to apply some of that grant money to pay for the poultry testing.
This money has not been cut off and testing will continue to be free
at least through July 1, 2005.  However, this money could dry up.  We have
no way of knowing.  Therefore we need to voice our concerns to Ed so he may
present them to the commissioner.  Should the money dry up, we will have to
pay the fee for each bird tested as charged by the lab at UCONN as noted in
the guideline for annual testing of 100% of our poultry ( $ 1.00 per  bird
for pullorum and $1.75 per  bird for AI).  At this time there are no plans
to increase the frequency of testing by the state of Mass.
With that said, what we as exhibitors and back yard poultry keepers who have
our flocks tested annually need to  examine is this.  Should funding dry up
how will the cost of annual testing affect us.
If you have 5 or 10 or even 20 birds,  the fee is affordable and fair.
However there are many poultry keepers who have in excess of 100 plus birds.
This will get costly testing 100% of our poultry for Salmonella Pullorum. Right now AI testing in
Mass is voluntary.  It is part of the free testing program the state offers
us and I don't know of anyone who does not allow the AI tests to be run.
Should it become mandatory there will be an additional charge for these
tests.  At this time they are only running a percentage of birds tested for
AI as opposed to 100%.
The obvious answer is percentage flock testing.  Spot testing 25% of larger
flocks in each barn or pen containing poultry should supply the state with
enough results to deem your flock pullorum free, and help to keep costs down
for the poultry keeper.  In addition the state currently tests 10% of your
flock for AI.  It seems reasonable to continue this as well, as opposed to
the suggestion that 100% of the flock be tested for AI if the flock is less
than 300 birds.  The reasoning is that if we continue to test it will allow
us to continue to have shows even if a neighboring state has an AI outbreak.
This happened  last  spring and the voluntary AI testing allowed  the state
to continue  to allow shows with  Federal  government approval.  What all of
you need to do is email Edward.Hageman@state.ma.us or write him at the Dept.
of Agricultural Resources, Attn: Edward Hageman, 251 Causeway Street, Suite
500, Boston, MA 02114-2151.
Let him know you support poultry testing and want to comply with any new
testing fee costs and procedures but a 100% testing of larger flocks could
be devastating to the backyard hobbyist and could imminently put an end to
exhibition poultry in Mass.  If you support a percentage flock testing
system PLEASE let him know.  We need to let them know we are out here and we
need to have a voice.

The second proposal is GUIDELINES FOR KEEPING POULTRY.  The first thing that
Ed wanted to make clear was that this proposal was not put together to work
against us, it was put together to work for us.  There are many suburbs and
towns in Mass that are putting major restrictions or banning the keeping of
poultry altogether.  My understanding is that at this time laws for keeping
poultry are up to the discretion of each individual town.  Many times a
complaint is received against a poultry keeper who is in fact keeping a
clean sanitary and healthy flock by a neighbor who just doesn't like poultry
or even has other issues against their neighbor.  For whatever reason the
towns board of health can be called in and make a judgment on that
situation, fair or not, with very little or no knowledge of proper poultry
keeping.  The guidelines objective is to make the ultimate decision up to
the state.  Poultry keepers will need to be within the state guidelines, as
interpreted by the Ma Dept of Agriculture Poultry Division.  So if a
complaint is filed against you and your town opts to make the complaint go
away by having you remove the poultry, or putting heavy restrictions on you,
you would have the option of calling Ed and having them intercede and deem
your flock within the state guidelines.  At this time they have no
jurisdiction over what restrictions your town puts on you.  The guideline
has been proposed to ensure that backyard poultry does not disappear  in
Mass.---it is proposed to keep us alive.  Ed asked that we read the
guidelines and make suggestions to the wording to make it work.
Following is further clarification of the propsed guidelines directly from Ed:
The Guidelines for Keeping Poultry would be another tool for the Department.  The guidelines provide the Cities and Towns with a resource, a resource which may be more knowledgeable about poultry than they are.  The ultimate decision would still be up to the local Government.  However, they can use the guidelines and the resources at the Dept. to support decisions in favor of the flock owners.  An important point is that the guidelines recognize two definitions of poultry: Commercial and Residential.  At this time poultry is poultry and all poultry are treated the same, this can cause problems for small Residential flocks.  One more very important point is that this document, if approved, will go to all cities and towns it's up to all poultry producers to make sure that it is a document that works for poultry producers.



For instance, several attendees voiced a problem with this article:

b) No standing water other than that which is provided for the poultry to
drink

Does this mean no pools for the ducks?  No ponds?  What about puddles when
it rains?

This could be reworded to say something like...(No dead or putrid
water )STAGNANT standing water in the poultry area.  These are the types of
suggestions  that Ed has asked for to incorporate into the guidelines.
Please read them over and send him any suggestions you come up with.

You can also email your support and suggestions to me at twin829@comcast.net
and I will forward them.  You will find more info and updates on the NEBC's
web site at www.newenglandbantamclub.homestead.com