Clemson seeks funding to fight major poultry industry disease

COLUMBIA — Funding to bolster South Carolina’s defense against a disease that could severely damage the state’s poultry industry tops a list of Clemson University budget requests presented to a House Ways and Means Subcommittee.

Clemson has asked for funds to help protect the state’s poultry industry from HPAI.

Together with some of the state’s top agribusiness leaders, Clemson administrators made the case for a total of $5 million to enhance and expand research and extension programs designed to support the state’s $42 billion agribusiness industry.

“We have a simple formula that we follow,” said George Askew, vice president of Clemson Public Service and Agriculture, the extension and regulatory arm of the university. “We listen carefully to the needs of our citizens, we research solutions to those needs and we impart what we learn back to those citizens through our Extension Service. Clemson University is the research and development arm for South Carolina farmers and landowners.”

The request, presented last week, includes $750,000 to strengthen the state’s animal and infectious disease prevention program against the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and other animal diseases. The state’s Livestock Poultry Health unit is part of Clemson Public Service and Agriculture.

“HPAI would devastate the poultry industry, which is the largest agribusiness in the state of South Carolina. There’s not too much money that you can spend on protecting us from this threat,” said Connie Smith, president of the South Carolina Poultry Federation.

South Carolina’s $14.5 billion animal agriculture industry is fueled by 12,662 poultry and livestock operations. The state’s poultry exports have risen by 267 percent since 2000 to $142 million in 2012, according to the most recent numbers.

HPAI is carried by waterfowl, and an outbreak in the Midwest cost Iowa and Minnesota $1.85 billion. A less infectious strain of the disease was recently found in Indiana.

The funding would be used to hire additional animal health inspectors, laboratory staff and equipment.

Clemson is also seeking $2.5 million to support the operation of its five research and education centers and campus farms, $500,000 to help expand and enhance fruit and vegetable production in the state and $1.25 million for beef and dairy research and Extension.

Clemson is also seeking $1.7 million to complete renovation of its agricultural and natural resources field facilities and $11 million to add a conference center/exhibition hall, additional show space and paved parking at the T. Ed Garrison Livestock Arena in Pendleton.