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Weekly Review: The US Poultry Industry: Undervalued by Government?

4 October 2012, at 11:02pm

ANALYSIS - The US poultry industry is worth $23 billion to the government that has failed to pass the Farm Bill, leaving American farmers and producers in a state of limbo until the new president takes office in January. Outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China in recent weeks.

Industry organisations have this week evaluated just how much the US poultry industry is worth to the country's economy.

The US Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and United Egg Producers have made available a new economic impact study and four new web sites that highlight the positive impact the poultry industry has on jobs, wages and federal and state revenue in the United States.

A dynamic and integral part of the national economy, the poultry industry collectively provides 1,337,030 jobs, $63 billion in wages, $265.6 billion in total economic activity and $23.4 billion in government revenue.

The chicken industry provides 1,010,250 jobs, $47 billion in wages, $197.5 billion in economic activity and $17.2 billion in government revenue. The figures are 147,890 jobs, $6.9 billion in wages, $29.5 billion in economic activity and $3.1 billion in government revenue, respectively, for the turkey industry and 123,100 jobs, $6.1 billion in wages, $25.8 billion in economic activity and $2.1 billion in government revenue for the egg industry.

The failure to pass the Farm Bill could be seen as a sign that the contribution of agriculture to the US economy is being overlooked or, at best, undervalued.

In the US on 30 September, the 2008 US Farm Bill, which governed many US farm policies, expired and the new 2012 Farm Bill is currently bottled up in the House of Representatives, leaving US farmers and ranchers at risk.

Experts agree that US farmers, in general, are all hurt by the lack of a Farm Bill because it is difficult to plan for 2013 when farmers do not know what to expect. How do farmers talk to their banker when no one knows what type of financial safety net will be agreed on?

Expiry of the 2008 Farm Bill has little or no effect on some of the major programmes that do not expire, like crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. However, it has eliminated a number of important programmes that will affect many farmers across the country. Dairy producers will face considerable challenges, and the impacts on the Foreign Market Development Program and Conservation Reserve Program will be felt before long.

In June, the Senate passed its version of the bill and the House Agriculture Committee approved a similar version in July. However, House Republican leaders would not bring a bill to the House floor, saying they did not have the necessary votes to pass it.

Congress has left Washington and will return in mid-November for a so-called 'lame-duck session' prior to final adjournment in December.

Finally, turning to bird flu news, a recent report in the Chinese press highlights the spread of H5N1 in the country. In mid-September, the Department of Agriculture in Guangdong Province in the south of the country announced that one outbreak had infected 14,050 ducks and killed 6,300 birds. In Zhanjiang City in south-western Guangdong, 67,500 ducks have been killed.