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Want to Save Money? Invest in Agricultural Biosecurity

Posted by Prali Chitnis, Communications Staff Intern, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Research and Science
Jul 29, 2021
A poultry producer checking the broiler hens in one of his chicken houses
A poultry producer checks the broiler hens in one of his chicken houses. (USDA photo by Bob Nichols)

A major war was fought in 2014-2015, with more than 200 battlefields and millions casualties in the United States alone. You may not have seen much of it on the news, but there’s a good chance your wallet felt it.

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 17 states caused the American poultry industry to lose about 51.5 million chickens and turkeys. During this outbreak, the infected flocks cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion in depopulation, cleanup, disinfection, and insurance payments. This also caused the egg-laying population to dramatically decrease. Poultry producers lost $1.1 billion in broiler exports (a 26-percent decrease from the previous year), $41 million in lost egg export income (down 13 percent), and $177 million in turkey export income (a 23-percent decline). The law of supply and demand, naturally, caused consumer prices to increase at grocery stores and restaurants.

The danger of infectious disease outbreaks in the agricultural community is real and preventing them is critical for maintaining the supply of safe, nutritious, and affordable food. This is where biosecurity comes into play.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports agricultural biosecurity by providing funding and national program leadership to projects that secure and protect the integrity, reliability, sustainability, and profitability of the American food and agricultural system against catastrophic hazards, whether natural, emerging, accidental, or deliberate.

Non-animal agricultural biosecurity issues include spotted wing drosophila, which caused $715 million of damage in berry and stone fruit crops, and the brown marmorated stink bug, which caused $37 million in damage to the apple industry across the mid-Atlantic region. Citrus greening disease, arguably the greatest current threat, is devastating the citrus industry in Texas, Arizona, California, and Florida, where about 80 percent citrus trees are affected.

NIFA’s fight against citrus greening began in February 2016 with a $20.1 million investment in research and extension. The projects included the University of Central Florida testing a bactericide to kill the citrus greening bacteria and the University of California, Riverside developing disease resistant varieties of citrus.

NIFA-funded projects advance our understanding of biosecurity and provide solutions for protecting the food supply from intentional and natural threats and hazards. The National Animal Health Laboratory Network, National Plant Diagnostic Network, and the Citrus Greening Research and Extension manage many of these projects.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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Sep 01, 2019

This is vital information. More people should definitely be aware. Over at we commend the amount of time and research put into this.

Lia DiMillo-Gray
Sep 04, 2019

Holy Molly! Those chickens are way to close to each other - probably the biggest factor in spreading disease. Wake up!! Crowded conditions are unsanitary - hence disease.
The poultry industry needs to study overcrowding vs more space to help reduce infection. Throwing chemicals on them is not the answer. It's bad for the chicken, bad for the farmer, and bad for us.
Farmers need to make a profit, so this is why they are overcrowding the chickens. Consumers want a bargain.
I buy organic chicken. The broiler I bought today was $14 as compared to a regular chicken about $7.50. This chicken didn't get sprayed, ingest hormones or antibiotics - so I won't either when I eat it. I gladly pay the extra money.
Although the consumer believes that their $7.50 chicken is a much better bargain. They are wrong. You explained that the taxpayers paid 1 billion dollars in 2014-2015 to fight the outbreak of the infectious diseases. It doesn't matter which pocket paid for the chicken - the price for that chicken was a lot more.
We need to be proactive in fighting infectious diseases at poultry farms. The government needs to set standards to end overcrowding. We need to offer grants and no interest loans to help the farmers bring their poultry farms up to the new standards. Putting the money up in front of a disaster is a better plan.
The chickens will benefit, the farmers will benefit and the American public will get a better product.