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With the state lifting its yearlong ban, the York Fair won't be chicken when it comes to allowing poultry competitions to return in September.

The state Department of Agriculture had instituted a ban on avian activities at county fairs and farm shows in May 2015 as a precautionary measure against the spreading of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus.

The department officially lifted the ban June 1, according to a news release.

Mike Froehlich, general manager of the York Fair, said the fair will take its lead from the department and bring back full-scale poultry exhibits for the county's 251st fair.

At last year's fair, officials were forced to replace the live poultry with educational exhibits, Froehlich said. The alteration didn't seem to affect attendance, but Froehlich said the poultry exhibits and competitions are always a big hit.

Froehlich added that the fair will alter its poultry competitions in an effort to increase youth participation.

Competitor: Tom Topper, a New Oxford area farmer who's participated in poultry competitions for nearly 30 years, said he's happy the ban is over, but other restrictions will still make entering competitions more difficult.

The department, as part of lifting its ban, has instituted a 30-day testing protocol for entering poultry at county fairs, according to the news release. Previously, poultry had to test negative for avian influenza at least six months before the exhibit date.

"That definitely puts extra stress on us now," said Topper, adding that his birds are all completely healthy.

With the previous six-month rule, Topper said, he had been able to get his poultry tested once before entering multiple fairs, but the new rule will restrict the number of fairs he'll be able to enter.

Testing takes time and costs money, Topper said, and competition champions typically only win $5-$10. Topper is licensed to draw blood from his birds, but he still must take the samples to state officials for testing, he said.

Still, Topper said he's hoping to show 10-20 birds at the York Fair, where he's had multiple champions in the past, but scheduling conflicts may prevent him.

Quarantines: In its news release, the department added that it will immediately reinstate the ban if a positive case of HPAI is confirmed in Pennsylvania or a neighboring state. The last confirmed case was in January among a flock of turkeys in Indiana.

Two department quarantines instituted last summer also remain intact.

The first requires poultry from states with infected HPAI flocks moving to live bird markets and eggs destined for a commercial breaking operation to meet 72-hour testing, paperwork and reporting requirements that certify the shipment tested negative for avian influenza.

The second order requires that all vehicles, conveyances, containers and materials that transport poultry and related products be completely cleaned and disinfected using commercial truck-washing equipment or other equivalent cleaning and disinfecting equipment prior to entering a new premises or poultry operation.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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