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Poultry, timber remain Mississippi's top crops in 2019

Mississippi State University says broilers, eggs and chickens brought nearly $2.8 billion to the state’s economy while timber brought in about $1.5 billion.

Posted: Dec 24, 2019 3:10 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Poultry and timber remain atop Mississippi's agricultural economy.

Broilers, eggs and chickens brought nearly $2.8 billion to the state’s economy while timber brought in about $1.5 billion, according to Mississippi State University. Severance taxes collected from timber sales are expected to be up from both 2018 and 2019, though final figures won't be in until February.

Poultry was down 3% from a record high in 2018. The big challenges were lower egg prices and a growing industry shift to poultry raised without using any antibiotics, MSU Extension Service poultry specialist Tom Tabler said in a news release.

Using antibiotics at the hatchery and in chicken feed can help prevent illnesses or cure them quickly. However, public health officials have said that it can lead to germs becoming resistant to drugs, canceling or reducing their effectiveness in human illnesses.

Chains including McDonald's and KFC now require antibiotic-free chickens.

Tabler said raising “no antibiotic ever” chickens requires waiting longer between flocks and raising fewer birds per chicken house. Both of those mean less income for farmers.

"Reducing the density reduces the number of pounds they will sell," he said. “In addition, increasing the downtime between flocks may mean they will have fewer flocks per year.”

Despite requiring cleaner surroundings, antibiotic-free chickens are more likely to die, Tabler said.

That means more must be hatched to keep production even.

"An estimated 804 million broiler chicks were hatched in Mississippi in 2019 compared to 800 million in 2018," agricultural economist Josh Maples said.

Raising antibiotic-free birds ”forces us to go back to the basics and get things right from the start to the finish, from pullet flocks to broilers," and that almost requires relearning chicken husbandry, Tabler said.

More expensive care doesn't mean prices are up. U.S. broilers averaged 98 cents a pound in 2018 and 88 cents in 2019, Maples said.

"Larger broiler supplies are one of the reasons for weaker prices," Maples said.

Timber production estimates are based on severance taxes, and those collected through October were higher than in either of the two previous years, said John Auel, an assistant extension professor of forestry.

“We have been in a downward trend since 2015 and hopefully, 2018 was the low point. We should see the value remain steady or slightly increase with 2019 numbers,” he said.

Timber prices have generally remained steady since 2018, though pine sawtimber is slightly down, he said. "If the volumes severed for November and December are the same as last year, the overall value should be slightly higher than in 2018,” he said.

About 63% of Mississippi's land is forested, and more than three-quarters of that timber is owned by private, nonindustrial landowners. They have faced limited markets since the downturn in the economy 10 years ago, and some may not have options to thin tree stands or harvest larger trees.

Georgia-Pacific's decision to shut down a copy paper plant in Port Hudson, Louisiana, will hurt south Mississippi growers.

“That mill was a monster,” said Shaun Tanger, a forestry specialist. “It took in wood from as far north as Alexandria, Louisiana," and handled so much that it affects south Mississippi's hardwood.

The company is building a new pellet plant in Lucedale, which should provide a good outlet for pine pulpwood, he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19601229
Hinds18712386
Harrison16569277
Rankin12637263
Jackson12483219
Lee9671160
Madison9420196
Jones7914146
Forrest7159136
Lauderdale6798226
Lowndes6014137
Lamar585880
Lafayette5716113
Washington5182129
Bolivar4599121
Oktibbeha440391
Panola428392
Pearl River4138128
Warren4122113
Pontotoc408068
Marshall400392
Monroe3981126
Union393673
Neshoba3777167
Lincoln3491100
Hancock341674
Leflore3363118
Sunflower317385
Tate301574
Pike299193
Scott292868
Alcorn290760
Itawamba289072
Yazoo284962
Coahoma276367
Tippah276165
Copiah276057
Simpson272778
Prentiss268858
Leake252171
Marion251578
Wayne251541
Covington248278
Grenada246277
Adams233377
George231145
Newton226352
Winston221375
Jasper212744
Tishomingo211965
Attala206369
Chickasaw200851
Holmes181770
Clay178250
Stone171829
Tallahatchie170039
Clarke168971
Calhoun157128
Smith152431
Yalobusha143536
Greene127233
Walthall123640
Noxubee122829
Perry121434
Montgomery121338
Lawrence119521
Carroll117923
Amite110932
Webster110030
Jefferson Davis101231
Tunica98823
Claiborne97929
Benton93324
Humphreys92427
Kemper89623
Quitman77114
Franklin75619
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61927
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491849

Reported Deaths: 9869
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson707641366
Mobile35937724
Madison32307450
Tuscaloosa24024410
Montgomery22502499
Shelby21848214
Baldwin19698277
Lee14926151
Morgan13624251
Calhoun13202285
Etowah13154319
Marshall11243208
Houston10058259
Limestone9348134
Elmore9345182
Cullman8879179
St. Clair8799221
Lauderdale8588210
DeKalb8436174
Talladega7500163
Walker6509251
Jackson6483102
Autauga622890
Blount6084125
Colbert6004118
Coffee5235102
Dale4627106
Russell402930
Franklin398876
Covington3949106
Chilton386298
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke343149
Chambers3399108
Dallas3397141
Pike292972
Lawrence282284
Marion281295
Winston246266
Bibb244560
Geneva238870
Marengo233755
Pickens223954
Barbour210651
Hale209068
Fayette199956
Butler195265
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe166038
Randolph163140
Washington156334
Crenshaw144054
Clay143454
Macon141643
Cleburne137139
Lamar132432
Lowndes130749
Wilcox121425
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105427
Sumter98331
Coosa88623
Greene87132
Choctaw54923
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