U.S. poultry producers may see effects from hurricane Sandy

Instead of an early snowfall this time of year, farmers along the eastern seaboard are dealing with flood waters and wind damage from Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to affect everything from poultry production to grocery prices, according to researchers at Mississippi State University.

October 31, 2012

Instead of an early snowfall this time of year, farmers along the eastern seaboard are dealing with flood waters and wind damage from Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to affect everything from poultry production to grocery prices, according to researchers at Mississippi State University. In Maryland and Delaware, states ranked in the top 15 in young meat chicken production, the storm’s aftermath could cause a domino effect, with power outages, transportation disruptions, and a potential lack of feed having a life-threatening impact on poultry flocks.

With Mississippi among the top five states in poultry production, professors such as Mary Beck, Poultry Science Dept. Head at MSU, are no strangers to how storms can influence the poultry market. “Loss of power could affect the environment in chicken houses that could increase or decrease temperatures. Most poultry operations, however, should have back-up generators,” Beck said. “Producers also are trying to make sure they have enough feed on hand to outlast the effects of the storm, in case hauling becomes an issue.”

Transportation also becomes an issue if and when fuel deliveries to farmers are impacted. “If generators run out of fuel, then providing feed and water to flocks becomes a major issue. If there are power outages and no fuel for generators, environmental conditions—temperature, ventilation, and lighting—are a big concern,” said Tob Tabler, MSU Extension Poultry Specialist and Professor.

While final numbers on any losses to the poultry industry could be weeks away, MSU agricultural economists who have witnessed the impact of hurricanes say the storm’s impact on food pricing shouldn’t be felt in the long term in the urban region where Sandy came ashore. John Michael Riley, an MSU Extension Specialist and Professor, said he sees this storm’s aftermath having “short term shock” on New Englanders.

“Since these are not big agriculture production states such as Missouri or Kentucky, I see this as a short term consumption concern mainly involving restaurants and grocery stores,” said Riley.

Keith Coble, MSU Giles Distinguished Professor in Agricultural Economics, agreed. “There will definitely be short-term disruptions, potential for price gouging, and more. But, I do predict things will get re-established very quickly,” he said.

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