Dead chickens and frozen oranges clash with southern farmers after severe cold
Harsh winter conditions in the southern United States this month have left hundreds of thousands of chickens dead and fruit groves frozen over, pushing estimates for the episode. cost to farmers and farm businesses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, industry officials said.
Crop and livestock producers continue to recognize the high cost of animal and plant life after days of snow and record temperatures in parts of Texas and other southern states in the United States. The resultant tap into energy and natural gas provides forced shutdowns of feed and milk processing factories, creating calamity for a major meat and fruit producing region.
Sanderson Farms Inc.
said Thursday it had euthanized 545,000 chicks in Texas that could not be shipped to farms from hatcheries due to unsafe road conditions. CEO Joe Sanderson said another 455,000 chickens had died due to freezing temperatures, water and feed shortages and collapsing buildings on farms. An additional 703,000 hatching eggs were lost, he said.
“We deeply regret the losses suffered as a result of extraordinary circumstances,” Sanderson said on a conference call Thursday.
For the orange and grapefruit growers of Texas, which are the third largest citrus-producing state, the timing of the winter explosion was abysmal. According to Dale Murden, citrus grower and president of Texas Citrus Mutual, a farmers’ organization, the biting cold has likely destroyed 98% of the current Valencia orange crop and 55% of the grapefruits.
Mr Murden said those losses likely totaled around $ 78 million. But the bitter cold also killed the new blossoms of many trees, possibly destroying three-quarters of the next harvest and costing an additional $ 225 million in damage, according to Texas Citrus estimates.
“I have two crops on the tree that are pretty much dead,” Mr. Murden said.
The farm losses prompted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to apply for a disaster designation last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and let Texas farmers tap into emergency loans and other aid.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has estimated weather losses for the state’s agriculture sector could exceed $ 500 million. Texas dairy farmers are set to lose $ 30 million to $ 40 million after dumping about 14 million gallons of milk in fields, Miller said, as factories unable to process milk after losing access to natural gas .
Dairy farmers also livestock lost due to cold. Mr Miller said that on a Texas dairy farm, the cold left dairy cows with frozen udders, prompting the farmer to sell them to slaughter for beef. In Oklahoma, about 15% of newborn calves have been lost to the cold, according to estimates from the National Department of Agriculture.
While insurance may cover some losses, Mr Murden, the citrus grower, said some growers hit by inclement weather may choose to leave farming. From the time an orange tree or grapefruit is planted, he said, five years may pass before it produces enough fruit to produce a steady income.
“Insurance was never designed to heal you after a disaster like this,” said Murden.
Write to Jacob Bunge at [email protected]
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