Iowa Study Shows Bird Flu Impact on Jobs

US - An Iowa Farm Bureau study has shown that the bird flu outbreaks cost Iowa nearly 8,500 jobs and nearly $427 million in lost income and taxes.
calendar icon 18 August 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

The avian flu outbreak, which forced the depopulation of 34 million birds on 77 Iowa farms, won’t just raise the price for eggs and poultry for up to the next three years; it also is costing the nation’s largest egg-producing state nearly 8,500 jobs; some of which, may never be replaced.

That’s the finding from a new study, commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS).

The study shows in addition to job losses, the ‘bird flu’ outbreak will cost Iowa nearly $427 million in lost additional value, more than half of which is income for Iowans.

IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services Dave Miller says the ripple effects of the lost jobs and revenue could last for up to three years, which will also impact egg and poultry prices, since it takes months to get the birds and the staff back in place.

“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. Recovery from this outbreak which devastated Iowa egg and poultry farms will not be swift,” said Mr Miller.

“It’s really astounding that we could lose half of our poultry flock in a couple of months,” Mr Miller said.

While the avian flu outbreak was first discovered in a small, backyard chicken flock in another state, it cost Iowa the most damage, particularly in the northwest part of the state, since it has the highest population of birds and bird farms.

But it’s not just bird farms and bird farm workers who are at a loss; as poultry farms cut back, other Iowa businesses up and downstream were affected, including veterinarians, trucking companies, processors and lenders.

It also means nearly $427 million in value-added income was lost, because grain farmers and other businesses that sell their feed and other goods and services to poultry farms couldn’t continue to make and sell products and services like they did before the outbreak.

Mr Miller also said that many of the egg farm workers who lost their jobs are moving away to seek employment in other towns or other industries. That means replacing the labour pool won’t be easy.

“As for the future risk, the entire industry is reviewing all of their biosecurity protocols, but since about 16 per cent of all wild water fowl are carriers of avian influenza, the potential for exposure is difficult to eliminate.

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

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