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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: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
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