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Study: Bird Flu Cost Iowa (U.S.) Economy $1.2 Billion

21 Aug 2015 4:20 PM | Anonymous

Bird flu’s deadly march through parts of Iowa cost the economy $1.2 billion, according to a study released Monday.

The tally includes about $800 million in lost egg, chicken and turkey production, along with the goods and services needed for production, and $400 million in lost wages to workers and taxes to federal, state and local governments, said Spencer Parkinson, executive director of Decision Innovation Solutions.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation commissioned the Urbandale firm to study bird flu’s economic impact study.

“It’s really astounding that we could lose half of our poultry flock in a couple of months,” said Dave Miller, Farm Bureau’s director of research and commodity services. “Recovery from this outbreak which devastated Iowa egg and poultry farms will not be swift.”

In May, Iowa and Minnesota experts estimated losses from avian influenza at about $1 billion.

Nationally, about 50 million birds were lost to the disease hitting more than a dozen states, including about 9 million chickens and turkeys in Minnesota.

Iowa will lose about 8,500 jobs directly and indirectly from the bird flu outbreak that hit 77 Iowa farms, according to the Decision Innovation study.

That include jobs lost directly at the poultry barns and jobs lost through the businesses that provide supplies and services to the industry.

“In addition to the lost revenue to producers,” the study says, avian influenza “also has many other adverse consequences on economic activity ... such as lost business for feed suppliers, veterinarians, truck transportation, financial institutions and decreases in government tax revenues.”

The report also says that facilities might have difficulty finding new workers in counties hard-hit by the virus.

“Once employees are laid off from working in the egg or turkey industries, they may choose to move to other employment, which in many cases may be outside of the immediate area, effectively removing them and their skill-sets from the local labor pool,” the report states.

“Significant effort will need to be expended to find, train and retain suitable replacements for those laid off as a result of the outbreak,” it said.

Miller said farmers — and consumers — will face continued challenges.

“Egg prices are likely to peak out this summer, but the ‘elevated’ price for eggs is likely to linger for a minimum of 12 months and could last for two to three years,” he said.

Prices for consumers have more than doubled since the disease hit Iowa, the nation’s top egg producer, in April.

And the industry is bracing for the possible return of the disease this fall with migrating waterfowl such as ducks and geese. They’re the source of the disease that can be spread on workers’ boots, equipment, carried on dust, wind or by small birds or rodents.

“The entire industry is reviewing all of their biosecurity protocols, but since about 16 percent of all wild water fowl are carriers of avian influenza, the potential for exposure is difficult to eliminate,” Miller said.

“Farms are working to minimize contact of their birds with wild birds, but it is very difficult to keep out sparrows, starlings, and everything that migrates over these barns,” he said.

Full story here: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/08/17/bird-flu-iowa-economy/31886995/

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