The 2015 avian influenza outbreak is costing Iowa 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 avian influenza outbreak will cost Iowa – the nation’s largest egg-producing state -- 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 said 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 Miller.
“It’s really astounding that we could lose half of our poultry flock in a couple of months,” Miller said.
While the avian influenza 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 poultry farms and poultry farm workers who are at a loss. As farms cut back, other Iowa businesses up and downstream were affected, including veterinarians, trucking companies, processors and lenders, the study shows. 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. 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 labor pool won’t be easy.
“As for the future risk, 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. 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,” said Miller.