May Topic: What Do Consumers Want to Know?

By Lydia Zerby

We recently asked readers to “let us know one thing you would like to learn more about related to Iowa agriculture.” In this edition, discover more of their questions, including information about the highly pathogenic avian influenza, an overview of Iowa’s thriving pork industry and ways children are learning about agriculture. Find answers to these topics and learn how to submit your questions!

Please note, by clicking the links below, you’ll be leaving a partially funded checkoff site.

 Sara Preston is a sixth-generation farmer and Ag in the Classroom instructor. Photo Credit: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association

At Iowa FFP, we encourage two-way dialog and seek to share content that is relevant to what readers are currently interested in receiving. Throughout the coming months, we will share answers to actual questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit your question, and we might answer it in a future edition! Of course, if you would like an immediate answer, you can always contact us.

A special thanks to our partners at the Iowa Turkey Federation and Iowa Poultry Association for providing information about the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Note: Because HPAI is continuously evolving, information may change as warranted.

Please note, by clicking the links below, you’ll be leaving a partially funded checkoff site.

Question:  How did the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) get to Iowa?

Answer: Migrating birds are the natural reservoirs (carriers) of avian influenza viruses. Bird flu is spread by migrating waterfowl and despite a farmer’s best efforts, the disease sometimes gets onto a farm. The poultry industry and farmers are collaborating with our government partners to quickly contain any detections and stop the spread. 

Although wild birds can carry 144 possible subtypes of avian influenza viruses, rarely does it cause illness or mortality to them but can infect domesticated poultry. The industry is using real-time maps, like (BirdCast - Bird migration forecasts in real-time) to monitor migration of the birds.

Question: What is the industry doing do prevent the spread of HPAI?

Answer:  Iowa’s farmers are doing heightened biosecurity. Biosecurity means procedures to stop the movement of the virus from outside the barns to birds inside a barn. Some of the actions by farmers include washing truck tires, intense cleaning and sanitization of equipment and work boots and clothing, and limited interaction between differing farms. Iowa’s poultry farmers are vigilantly watching their bird’s behaviors, including monitoring for lethargic birds, decreased feed and water intake, and increased mortality. Farmers communicate with their veterinarians and send samples to the Diagnostic Lab for testing as soon as signs of illness are recognized.


Iowa’s farmers are doing heightened biosecurity to prevent the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Bird flu is devastating for farmers; however, Iowa’s farmers have never been better prepared to respond. The Iowa Turkey Federation and the Iowa Poultry Association are in close contact with USDA and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for support, as needed.

Question: Is there a food safety concern with HPAI?

Answer: Birds on affected farms are prohibited from entering the food chain. Consumers can be confident in the safety of the turkey, eggs and other poultry products they consume. As a reminder, turkey, chicken and other poultry should always be handled properly and cooked to proper internal temperatures as recommended by the USDA for food safety.


Question: Is Iowa still No. 1 when it comes to pork production?

Answer: Yes! Here are some facts about Iowa’s thriving pork industry.

  • Iowa is the No. 1 pork-producing state in the U.S. and the top state for pork exports.
  • Nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs are raised in Iowa.
  • Iowa has more than 5,400 pig farms.
  • There are pig farmers in every Iowa county. The top five Iowa counties for pig production are Washington, Sioux, Lyon, Hamilton and Plymouth.
  • Iowa producers marketed almost 48 million hogs in 2018.
  • At any one time, there are approximately 24 million pigs being raised in Iowa.

Val Plagge and her family are livestock and crop farmers in northern Iowa.


Iowa is the No. 1 pork-producing state in the U.S.

Question: How are students in Iowa learning about Iowa agriculture?

Answer: One organization that is doing amazing work with students across the state is the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF). IALF’s mission is to educate Iowans with a focus on youth regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. IALF is a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa’s students about agriculture. As the leading producer of agricultural products, it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives.


Sara Preston is a sixth-generation farmer and an educator with North Central Iowa Ag in the Classroom. Photo Credit: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association

Goals of IALF include:

  • Building educator trust by being a credible source and leader of Iowa Core content connections to agriculture in K-12.
  • Maintaining focus on operational excellence including fundraising, stakeholder and industry relationships, and staff development.
  • Collaborating with and empower a diverse group of informal educators and community partners to support the positive message of agriculture literacy in Iowa.

Agriculture is a perfect way to provide context and teach science and social studies concepts. The National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes align with 90 Iowa Core science standards and more than 130 Iowa Core social studies standards. These documents showcase the many connections between agriculture, social studies and science. Students can investigate the examples to learn science and technology along with researching compelling questions of social studies.