Poultry retains state’s top ag spot at $3.1 billion

Published 12:15 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE — Mississippi’s poultry took an estimated 23% loss in value in 2023; though production was strong, a failure to meet the previous year’s record high prices was responsible for the hit.

Poultry generated an estimated $3.1 billion to Mississippi agriculture in 2023, down from the $3.9 billion generated in 2022. Eggs had the larger decline, dropping 30% to $202 million, while broilers dropped 22% to $2.9 billion.

With this farm gate value, poultry retains its top spot in Mississippi agriculture, above soybeans at $1.6 billion and forestry at $1.5 billion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release final ag values next April.

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Josh Maples, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the decreased value does not mean 2023 was a bad year.

“For context, the 2023 poultry value of production is 17.5 percent higher than the 2021 value of production,” Maples said. “The current USDA forecast for broiler prices is to be a little more stable and similar in 2024 as they have been in 2023.”

Mississippi producers grew an estimated 4.3 billion pounds of broilers in 2023, maintaining a No. 6 ranking in the country for pounds produced.

The state is 13th nationally in egg production, and 2023’s decrease in egg value was also caused by exceptionally high egg prices in 2022.

“Many consumers likely remember the very high egg prices during the 2022 Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” Maples said. “Prices retreated to more normal levels throughout 2023 and are expected to be similar in 2024.”

Jonathan Moon, Extension poultry specialist, said disease battles caused a performance loss. The industry had an ongoing battle with highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, but also infectious laryngotracheitis, or ILT. ILT is a highly contagious respiratory virus that affects mature chickens and pheasants, and the best method of preventing the spread is through good biosecurity practices and proper vaccinations.

“The risk of HPAI remains as high as it has ever been,” Moon said. “If we have a positive case, it will cause losses in export markets.”

Moon said when a state encounters an HPAI outbreak in a commercial poultry flock, exports are on hold until the state can meet the standards to be declared HPAI-free again. The affected farm is quarantined, and the affected flock is depopulated and disposed, while the premises are cleaned and sanitized to pass inspection.

“HPAI testing and surveillance is conducted within the surrounding area,” Moon said. “When all the criteria have been met and the state can self-declare themselves HPAI-free, USDA can submit this to the international trade partners and hopefully exports will then continue.”

This stage can take months, and if another farm experiences an HPAI outbreak, the process is extended. Mississippi had only one HPAI outbreak on a commercial poultry farm in 2023.

Moon said 2023 was a very poor year for publicly traded poultry companies, which reported major losses this year. The coming year may be as difficult.

“The high price of feed ingredients early in the year and the low market price would be what we are still trying to overcome from the end of 2023 and extending into 2024,” Moon said.

Labor shortages challenged the industry in 2023, and Moon said there remains a big opportunity for many staffing positions, particularly skilled positions like drivers, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and welders.

2023 marks the 29th straight year that poultry has topped the list of agricultural commodities in Mississippi.