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Extension > Agricultural Business Management News > Frequently Asked Questions about Avian Influenza

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions about Avian Influenza



By: Pauline Van Nurden, Extension Educator


Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has devastated not only the Minnesota poultry industry, but also farms throughout the Midwest and across the country. The following are current answers to frequently asked questions regarding this disease and the impacts of it. Unfortunately, in recent days, the virus has continued to spread and impact additional producers. Therefore, the information included within is a current estimate only.


How many Minnesota farms have been impacted by Avian Influenza?

Currently 88 total farms have been affected by this disease. All but 5 have been commercial turkey farms. There have also been 4 chicken egg laying facilities and 1 backyard flock to date.


How many birds have been lost as a result of the disease?

At this time, over 8.1 million birds have been lost to avian influenza in Minnesota according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. This number includes over 4.5 million turkeys and 3.6 million laying hens. Across the nation there have been 170 detections of avian influenza, impacting over 39 million birds.

Putting these numbers into perspective, nearly 10% of the turkeys produced in Minnesota each year have been lost due to the disease. And, approximately 30% of the laying hens for the state have been lost at this time.

According to USDA statistics, nationwide, approximately 8% of the nation’s laying hens and 3% of the nation’s annual turkey production being impacted to date.


What impact will be seen on the consumer?

Direct impacts on the availability of poultry products are expected to be minimal for the average consumer in terms of food supply. Turkey supplies are ample at this time. And, export markets have been disrupted due to the disease. Therefore, turkey products should be readily available and remain at reasonable prices.

Some disruption may be seen in the availability of eggs and egg products (cake mixes, mayonnaise, etc) short term, until production is restored to former levels. With the large number of the laying hens in Minnesota and Iowa impacted by the disease, it is expected local egg and egg product availability may be impacted short term.

Avian influenza will have additional ripple effects on the Minnesota economy. Jobs related to poultry and egg production will be affected, as will the businesses and communities that are supported by these famers throughout the state. A recent Emergency Economic Impact Analysis was completed by University of Minnesota Extension. This modeling provides a baseline upon which total impacts across the State of Minnesota can be calculated. In this report, it is estimated at this time, MN farmers have lost almost $114 million in direct poultry production. This extrapolated to the other industries directly and indirectly related to poultry production (including poultry processing, feed production, trucking operations, etc.) equates to an estimated $310 million dollars of total losses to the economy of greater MN. This includes effecting an estimated 1,200 plus jobs at this point in time across industries and across the state of MN.


Will other commodity markets be impacted as a result of avian influenza?

According to industry experts, overall, it is expected avian influenza will have little impact on grain markets. An estimate of corn bushels not being fed because of this disease is currently 15 million bushels. Total corn bushels fed annually in the U.S. is 5.3 billion (according to the most recent USDA Supply and Demand estimates). Thus, .3% of total corn used for feed at this time has been affected. It should be noted, that areas of MN hit hardest by avian influenza will definitely see an impact locally on grain logistics and potentially prices received by farmers selling grain at this time. Depending on the length of time influenza impacts poultry producers will determine the overall impact seen on local and national grain markets and logistics.


Is there financial support available to producers during this difficult time?

There are limited government programs available to assist producers directly at this time, beyond the depopulation process at impacted locations. The USDA has an Indemnity Program in place to reimburse producers for the cost of birds (in this case) destroyed due to efforts to eliminate the spread of the disease. Birds that are lost directly to the disease have no government support dollars available.

A limited number of producers may have additional riders on their insurance policy related to disease outbreaks. Few companies offer this special coverage and if it is offered, the special rider coverage is expensive and typically cost prohibitive. Also, contract producers can purchase a policy rider in relation to disruption of business operations. Again, this coverage is not offered by all insurance companies and is an expensive addition to an insurance policy.

The State of MN, the USDA, and other government agencies are looking at other support instruments for poultry producers. To date, no specific details have been released. But, officials are said to be considering low interest loan options, direct support programs, and other related support mechanisms for the poultry producers of MN and across the US.


How long are the impacts of Avian Influenza expected to be experienced in MN?

The avian influenza virus thrives in cool, wet climates. Therefore, professionals believe that as spring temperatures warm, the spread of the virus should subside. Some signs of the virus subsiding have been seen at this time, as fewer detections have been reported in recent days. Unfortunately, it is unknown at this time if fall migratory patterns of wild birds and cooler temperatures will cause another round of the disease this fall.

Overall, Avian Influenza is having devastating effects on rural Minnesota. At this time, poultry producers are feeling the brunt of the effect. If you are a poultry producer needing support or assistance during this difficult time there are resources available to help. A team of experienced farm financial planners are available to help navigate the path of recovery and other support resources are also available. Details of this assistance, including contact information, can be found here.

More information related to Agricultural Business Management Programming by University of Minnesota Extension can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/business. The Poultry U website also has a wealth of useful topics for producers. This University of Minnesota site can be found at http://www.poultryu.umn.edu/.

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