USDA's Vilsack says HPAI will not cause "significant impact on market"

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says HPAI cases are not a market or supply concern.
calendar icon 25 February 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he expects the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases identified recently in the US to pose little threat to poultry prices and supply. Vilsack answered questions at a press conference held during the USDA Ag Outlook Forum on Thursday, February 24.

He said this is in large part because they are doing more testing and getting faster results. Once positive results are confirmed, the poultry population is culled, which is underway in several instances.

"Flocks have been depopulated in a number of states," he said. "Right now, there are a handful of states that are involved, and what we've seen from our trading partners is understanding the willingness to essentially restrict to the extent there are restrictions on trade to essentially limit them to a particular state or particular region within a state, which is what we support - it's the approach that we support."

USDA's goal is to identify as quickly as possible, quarantine and depopulate and dispose properly to limit the risk of further spread.

"I think we've learned how to do that in a much more efficient and quicker way," said Vilsack.

He noted that the poultry industry had been very focused on making sure producers understand the biosecurity aspects of protecting their flocks and is "much more prepared for this."

Several of the positive cases have been in backyard flocks, while a few have occurred in commercial operations and the wild bird population.

"This is significantly less at this point in time than what we experienced a number of years ago that did have an impact on prices and did have an impact on supply," said Vilsack referencing the HPAI outbreak that occurred between December 2014 and June 2015. At that time, more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in the United States died of HPAI or were destroyed to stop the spread of the disease. These birds accounted for about 12 percent of the US table-egg laying population and 8 percent of the estimated inventory of turkeys grown for meat.

"I don't expect and anticipate, given where we are today, that we're going to see significant impacts on the market. These obviously are significant impacts on the individual producer; we don't discount that," he said. "Obviously we'll look for ways in which we can provide help and assistance to get them through a tough, tough circumstance."

Over the last two weeks, about 1.65 million poultry birds have been affected from commercial poultry operations in Delaware, Indiana and Kentucky.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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