USDA turkey

Impact of Avian Influenza Being Felt

Minnesota is among the states hardest hit by this spring’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. More than 6.5 million birds, both turkeys and chickens, have been lost to the disease or by efforts to eradicate it in Minnesota. According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the H5N2 influenza strain was detected on 84 Minnesota farms. Nationally, more than 40 million birds have died or were euthanized to prevent the disease from spreading.  

Because animal agriculture is such a large consumer of grain, the loss of 6.5 million birds will be noticed by Minnesota corn and soybean farmers.

“It’s a negative for both corn and soybean meal,” says Al Kluis of Kluis Commodities in Wayzata, Minn. “It looks like the national number will be between 50 and 100 million bushels of corn and 50,000 and 70,000 tons of soybean meal not consumed because of the loss of turkeys and layer hens.” 

Animal agriculture consumes about 97 percent of all soybean meal in the United States. In Minnesota alone, turkeys utilize the meal from 11.8 million bushels of soybeans while broilers used the meal from 2.5 million bushels of soybeans.

Minnesota’s turkey farmers produce over 44 million birds a year. The loss due to avian influenza represents only a fraction of the overall production. However, the loss is not good for those turkey farmers or for the soybean growers who provide feed for those birds.

There also could be longer-reaching implications, particularly when it comes to turkey exports. Some countries, including China, South Korea and South Africa have banned import of all U.S. poultry products, except those that have been heat processed. Other nations have banned imports from states where outbreaks have occurred. It is difficult to determine when those markets will open again.

By itself, the avian influenza outbreak isn’t expected to have a major effect on soybean meal consumption or soybean prices, but it is another drag on price. The outbreak comes at a time when there is already a surplus of grain and the possibility of another large crop coming because of reported planting intentions.

“We applaud the extraordinary efforts being put forward by those local, State and Federal agencies, University researchers and companies to assist our poultry producers with funding and resources to address this disease and help our farmers get back to doing what they do better than anyone in the nation, produce good, healthy food,” says Mike Youngerberg, Director of Field Services for Minnesota Soybean.