USDA-APHIS Study on the Epidemiology of the 2022 HPAI Epornitic. Implications for Control

On May 31st, Dr. Amy Delgado, Director of the APHIS Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, coordinated and presented a webinar on findings arising from the 2022 epornitic of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain H5N1. The study involved a retrospective case-control comparison of egg production farms and turkey grow-out units.


Data was obtained using a questionnaire, apparently expanded from the document used for turkey farms in the 2015 epornitic and was administered by telephone. This is the first and, possibly, the most important deficiency of the approach used to determine risks and protective factors relating to infection.  On-site observations and collection of data through direct interview within a short time after outbreaks would have contributed to a more comprehensive understanding of relevant factors.  Epidemiology cannot be practiced from an office and by telephone over a long distance.  Studies are only as valid as the design of questionnaires and the recording of data.  An experienced and proficient observer can frequently determine factors that may be relevant that would not necessarily be captured on a standard one-size-fits-all questionnaire form.


The egg production study involved 18 affected farms and 22 controls.  It is generally accepted that to determine the odds ratio relating to a given factor it would have been necessary to have selected at least twice the number of controls as the affected farms.  The criterion for inclusion as an egg-production case required 50,000 birds.  Given that the greatest financial loss was associated with farms of over one million hens, the study should have concentrated on the ten largest affected farms through May 2022 incorporating detailed, onsite evaluation. Management practices, biosecurity installations and the number and training of personnel differ widely from farms with a 50,000 hen capacity compared to in-line operations with their own packing plants, waste lagoons and feed mixing installations.


 The results of the egg production case-control comparisons yielded an odds ratio of 10.3 for a farm being located in an HPAI control area and 5.8 for the presence of wild waterfowl or shore birds in the vicinity of the farm 14-days previous to an outbreak. These findings are not unexpected and are essentially self-evident.  Other odds ratio values that emerged from the case-control study were failure to designate personnel for individual barns (6.2); failure to provide protective clothing (4.5); off-site disposal of dead birds (presumably requiring third party or company pickup), 4.1; sharing vehicles and, presumably, feed delivery trailers (3.1).  The odds ratio relating to flock size was 2.6, suggesting that introduction of avian influenza and its effect on a complex is essentially an all-or-nothing factor.


Based on the conclusions from the case-controlled study of the selected affected and control farms, there is nothing that could be applied by a practicing poultry health professional to advise clients as to risk factors and their mitigation. There appeared to be an association between access of “wild birds” (not specified) to feed and that cleaning up feed spills was protective. 


The study was especially deficient in the area of metrology.  It is a frequent, anecdotal observation that high winds occur approximately seven days before an outbreak.  This factor was considered only superficially with indications that higher wind speeds may have been involved. This was not correlated with specific parameters including wind direction, velocity and duration and also concurrent humidity and temperature. Given the paucity of metrological data there was no prospect of correlating weather conditions with ventilation systems installed in houses.


The question of mowing was raised with an odds ratio of 2.8 for cutting grass, presumably within the complex, four times per month previous to an outbreak.  The question of relevance should have been whether fieldwork was carried out adjacent to the complex within ten days of an outbreak. In addition this factor should have been coupled with wind velocity, duration and direction in relation to houses that first demonstrated infection within a multi-house complex. Given the duration of the epornitic, studies could have been conducted to determine whether virus was disseminated from affected farms with a consideration of distance, wind direction and velocity as conducted in the U.K during the 1972 Essex Newcastle disease epornitic. 


The outstanding question facing those owning or managing large egg-production complexes and their veterinary advisors is how virus shed by wild birds enters farms.  Conventional prevention strategies are based on biosecurity that can range from superficial “make believe” procedures based on minimal expenditure and requiring copious quantities of aerosol disinfectant; through “Danish Entry” installations to comprehensive changing and showering of personnel with donning laundered, protective clothing dedicated to the complex.  There was no specific detailed evaluation of the structural and operational biosecurity procedures in relation to the risk of infection.     


The preliminary report, at least eleven months after it was needed, did not effectively address risk factors nor did it provide indications beyond what is generally known, is taught in veterinary schools and is accepted by the industry, whether applied or not.


It is possible that avian influenza virus enters egg production farms and complexes by a number of routes.  Obviously deficiencies in structural and operational biosecurity represent risk factors.  Many specific considerations relevant to large operations were not considered due to the deficiencies inherent to the questionnaire used for the retrospective case-control study conducted by APHIS.  The second route of entry and gaining credence as an emerging hypothesis, is the possibility that virus shed by carrier birds is deposited on surfaces within close proximity to the farm and then introduced into houses by the aerogenous route. It is noted that a house holding 250,000 hens would be operating with an exhaust fan displacement of 1.2 to 1.5 million cubic feet per minute. This would facilitate virus entrained on dust particles entering houses through inlets.  If this is in fact, the case, then extreme biosecurity precautions would be ineffective or at best, only partly effective in the absence of high winds and a substantial virus load associated with waterfowl and shore bird populations shedding the virus in the vicinity of the complex. The complexity of transmission of avian influenza predicates a detailed knowledge of the structure and operation of egg production complexes. This presumes commensurate planning and execution of studies to determine or confirm routes of infection and to develop appropriate preventive measures. The APHIS study was essentially irrelevant and uninformative in this respect.


The question of conceptual biosecurity is an important consideration with regard to national policy on prevention and control of HPAI.  Outbreaks of avian influenza are associated with the four major flyways.  These follow major rivers with adjoining wetlands. The locations of large in-line egg production complexes were selected with proximity to major road and rail access and proximity to corn elevators and soybean crushing plants. This has placed susceptible populations of hens in egg-production complexes along the migratory routes of waterfowl that, since 2020, have been infected with clade of H5N1 expressing an Eurasian genome.


It is become accepted that H5N1 HPAI is now at best, seasonally and regionally endemic based on the duration and extent of infection in the U.S and also paralleled in the E.U. The infection may be introduced on to farms not only by deficiencies in biosecurity but additionally by the aerogenous route from waterfowl shedding the virus. If this is the case, and not adequately addressed by the superficial and inadequately designed and executed retrospective case-control study, eradication of HPAI is an unattainable aspiration. The current hiatus in incident cases is a function of the movement of migratory waterfowl and is independent of any attempts at responsive control by APHIS at great cost and effort. Facing reality, the most appropriate, protective measure would be effective vaccination to create solidly immune populations of commercial flocks.


Rapid diagnosis followed by stamping out of an exotic disease introduced to a limited area is an appropriate response.  Persisting with this strategy in the face of a seasonally and regionally endemic disease that is constantly re-introduced by migratory birds is an exercise in futility. Highly pathogenic avian influenza has and will continue to cost the public sector, the industry and above all, consumers large and recurrent expenditures. Avian influenza should be regarded as “the Newcastle disease of the 2020s.”  This infection has not been a restraint to production since the universal adoption of immunization. We have successfully administered a portfolio of vaccines extending from the Komaroff live mesogenic strain through a range of live lentogenic attenuated vaccines by mass administration and in parenteral emulsions to more modern vector vaccines.


We must be realistic with regard to the epidemiology of HPAI and make policy decisions on suppression and control that serve the widest range of stakeholders. Vaccination is only one modality but should not be excluded from consideration in the face of potential and existing trade barriers. It must be remembered that egg consumers paid $15 billion more for eggs in 2022 based on the average rise of $2 per dozen. This expense is above and beyond the cost to the public sector for indemnity, logistics and disposal of depleted flocks and the non-compensated expenses borne by producers and the allied industry.


Egg Industry News


We Have a Debt Ceiling Agreement


The Sunday May 28th agreement between the Speaker of the House and the President was codified as the 99-page Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. The Bill was approved by the House yesterday afternoon and by the Senate late last night before the June 5th Department of the Treasury deadline for a presumed default.


The debt ceiling will be lifted through mid-2025. Non-military discretionary spending will be pegged at the FY 2022 level. Work restrictions will be placed on able-bodied SNAP recipients. Permitting for energy projects will be expedited. Some COVID funds will be clawed back.


Enactment of the Bill has averted a potential fiscal crisis with severe repercussions for the U.S. and World economies. In the event of a default, the industrial, service and agricultural sectors and consumers would have been severely impacted with a possible transition to a World recession. Enactment of the Fiscal responsibility Bill is recognition that reasonable legislators can put aside parochial or extremist positions and compromise without abandoning their principles for the common good.


Egg Week

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, June 2nd 2023.

Market Overview

  • The average wholesale unit revenue values for Midwest Extra-large and Large sizes were higher by 26.0 percent this past week but representing a lower than seasonal late spring value. The rise after a plateau last week signified a market boost, terminating the precipitous decline over the previous six weeks. Mediums were up 29.7 percent, albeit above a sub-breakeven price with a 10-cent per dozen price differential from Large. This suggests restoration in the balance between supply and demand in this size. This past week shell egg inventory was up 2.2 percent, compared to a fall of 4.1 percent last week. This is consistent with presumably higher demand although low wholesale prices are now trending away from the disproportionately high prevailing shelf prices for generic eggs. Over the coming three weeks the volume of retail purchases will be influenced by lower seasonal demand. If chains reduce margins consistent with wholesale prices, higher demand can be anticipated. Eggs are now highly competitive in price against the comparable costs for other protein foods despite unrealistic retail margins imposed by some chains.
  • Total industry inventory was up by 0.6 percent overall this past week to 1.68 million cases with a concurrent 6.4 percent decrease in breaking stock attributed to diversion to the shell market and presumably higher demand during late spring from food service, manufacturers and increased exports. Volume this past week was not affected by higher prices for egg products. Wholesale shell egg prices compare with 2020 and 2021, also characterized by low ex-plant unit revenue. Benchmark prices were $1.40 per dozen lower than for the corresponding week in 2022, influenced by flock depletions following HPAI.
  • It is now apparent that the inventory held by chains and other significant distributors may be more important over the short term in establishing wholesale price than the USDA regional inventory figures published weekly. This is probably the reason for fluctuation in weekly industry stock. It is evident that the USDA undercounted or incorrectly counted hens in the national flock leading up to Easter given the report of a 2.9 percent compensatory increase in the size of the national flock three weeks ago, accounting in part for sharply falling wholesale prices. This past week USDA published data placing the producing flock down 0.16 percent or 0.5 million hens a sharp contrast to the inexplicable reported rise of 5.0 million hens last week. This increase is inconsistent with the projected 21.9 million pullets reaching maturity during May. Given the latest figures it is estimated that the producing flock is still 10 to 12 million hens lower than before the onset of HPAI.
  • Despite a lower flock size as a result of HPAI, relatively low unit revenue compared to pre-HPAI will now be a reality through June 2023. Sporadic outbreaks of HPAI are now unlikely given that the seasonal Spring migration of waterfowl is complete. The number and extent of outbreaks cannot be assessed until more information is available concerning the molecular and field epidemiology of spring and fall cases. The USDA has yet to identify modes of transmission for the 2022 epornitic including airborne spread. The USDA-APHIS Center for Epidemiology released interim results of case-control studies on May 31st. This report failed to identify deficiencies in biosecurity on affected complexes that contributed to infection. APHIS has been remiss in collecting and evaluating available data and providing timely practical guidance on prevention. This is evidenced by releasing a backdated report during the first week of March 2023 that was devoid of recommendations to prevent HPAI infection in flocks.
  • The current relationship between producers and chain buyers based on a single commercial price discovery system constitutes an impediment to a free market. The benchmark price amplifies both downward and upward swings as evidenced over the past five weeks. A CME quotation based on Midwest Large, reflecting demand relative to supply would be more equitable. If feed cost is determined by CME ingredient prices then generic shell eggs should be subject to a Midwest Large quotation.
  • According to the USDA the U.S. flock in production was down 0.16 percent or 0.5 million hens to 307.6 million during the week ending May 31st. The flock in production included about 4.0 to 6.0 million molted hens that resumed lay during the past week plus 4.0 million pullets attaining production.
  • The ex-farm price for breaking stock was up 32.2 percent this past week to 58 cents per dozen.Checks delivered to Midwest plants were up 31 percent to 41 cents per dozen. Prices for breaking stock will remain low until there is a substantial increase in wholesale price.


The Week in Review


According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports released on May 29th the Midwest wholesale price (rounded to one cent) for Extra-large was up $0.23 per dozen from last week to $1.13 per dozen. Large size was up $0.23 per dozen to $1.11 per dozen. The price for Medium size was up $0.23 per dozen to $1.01 per dozen as delivered to DCs. Prices should be compared to the USDA benchmark average 6-Region blended nest-run cost of 90.3 cents per dozen as revised by the EIC for April 2023. This excludes provisions for packing, packaging materials and transport, amounting to 47 cents per dozen in mid-2022, according to the EIC but now probably closer to 52 cents per dozen. Accordingly producers of generic shell eggs are operating with negative margins. The progression of prices during 2023 to date is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.


The May 30th 2023 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $0.95 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending May 22nd 2023. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $0.88 per dozen. At the high end of the range, the price in the South Central region attained $1.02 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was 45 cents per dozen lower than the 3-year average of $1.40 per dozen. This past week Midwest Large was approximately $1.55 below the corresponding week in 2022 elevated by losses due to HPAI.


Cage-Free Report

USDA Data On Cage-Free Production For May 2023

EGG-NEWS summarizes and comments on data and trends in the monthly USDA Cage-Free Report. This data is correlated and interpreted in the Egg WeeklyPrice and Inventory Report posted on EGG-NEWS mailed on Fridays each week.


The USDA Cage-Free Report for May 2023, released on June 1st 2023, documented an unchanged complement of hens producing under the Certified Organic Program at 18.2 million (rounded to 0.1 million). The number of hens classified as cage-free (but excluding Certified Organic) and comprising aviary, barn and other systems of housing was up 0.2 percent from April 2023 to 103.4 million. Hen numbers posted by the USDA over successive months or quarters are questioned if they demonstrate erratic fluctuation. This is based on the reality of a continuing cycle of placing pullets, and depletion of old hens, with no depopulation in 2023 due to HPAI and with limited application of molting. The respective numbers of hens claimed for organic and cage-free flocks should reflect chick placements and correspond to monthly supply data over successive quarters.


Average weekly egg production for Certified Organic in May 2023 was down 0.1 percent compared to April 2023 with a hen-month average production of 82.4 percent. Average weekly flock production for cage free flocks other than Certified Organic was up in May 2023 by 0.1 percent over April 2023 with an average hen month production of 81.3 percent. Seasonally, younger flocks increase the availability of cage-free and organic eggs in response to pullet chick placements laid down 22 weeks previously in anticipation of peak seasonal demand periods. Average flock production in May 2023 should not have included any depopulation due to HPAI, but reflected a number of older flocks some of which were previously molted together with the relatively higher production from pullet chicks placed during December 2022.


Flock Size Average

(million hens)






Q1- 2023


Q4 - 2022


Q3 - 2022


Q2 - 2022

Certified Organic







Cage-Free Hens







Total Non-Caged








Average Weekly Production (cases)





Certified Organic @ 82.5% hen/day


291,621 -0.1%

Cage-Free @ 81.4% hen/day


1,634,683 +0.1%

Total Non-Caged @ 81.5% hen/day


1,926,304 +0.1%


Average Nest Run Contract Price Cage-Free Brown

$1.68/doz. (May ‘22 through March ‘23: $1.64)

May Range:

$1.35 to $2.35/doz. (unchanged from March)

FOB Negotiated May price, grade quality, nest-run. Loose. Price range $0.77 to $0.97 per dozen

Average May 2023 Value of $0.84/doz.

($1.10/doz. April; $3.00/doz. March)

Average Advertised National Retail Price C-F, L, Brown

$3.99/doz. May 2023 (4 regions)

(was $3.50/doz. April; $4.15/doz. March 2023)

USDA Based on 4-Regions* (excluding NW)

 High: $3.99/doz.

 Low: $3.99/doz.

*Comprises 402 stores.


Negotiated nest-run gradeable cage-free price for May 2023 averaged $0.84 per dozen down by 23.6 percent from $1.10 per dozen in April 2023, reflecting lower demand relative to supply and a sharp restoration of seasonal wholesale prices. The May 2023 advertised U.S. retail price for cage-free eggs over three regions was $3.99 per dozen.


The apparent disparity between a recorded wholesale price of $0.84 per dozen plus a provision of 55 cents per dozen for packaging and packing and an average 4-region retail price of $3.99 indicates a retail margin of 97 percent. Margins are possibly higher for pasture–held and other specialty eggs at shelf prices reaching $8.00 per dozen. Chains that are maximizing margins especially on Certified Organic, free-range and pastured categories restrict volume of sales, ultimately disadvantageous to producers.


Based on the importance of cage-free production, the USDA-AMS issue the Cage-Free report on volumes and prices at monthly intervals for the information of Industry stakeholders. There is obvious doubt as to the accuracy of individual monthly flock numbers especially when reports show a marked change at the end of a quarter or from the previous month, or alternatively no change in the cage-free flock for sequential months. It is suggested that USDA should consider a quarterly report with more accurate and consistent hen data. This would be more useful to the industry for planning and marketing decisions. Price data is available each week from other USDA reports.


Subscribers are referred to weekly USDA wholesale and retail prices posted in the Egg Price and Inventory Report in EGG-NEWS E-mailed each Friday. The previous Monthly Cage-Free Report is available under the STATISTICS Tab.


Crop Progress

Status of 2023 Corn and Soybean Crops


The USDA Crop Progress Report released on May 30th documented advances in the planting and emergence of corn and soybeans for the 2023 crop. Soybeans and corn are both ahead of the five-year average with respect to these parameters.


The extent of damage due to unseasonal frost in late April should be reflected in future projections of yield. Subsequent reports will also quantify damage in Kansas as a result of drought although it appears that the wheat crop was most affected.  The effect of the ongoing transition to an El Nino event will become apparent by mid- summer from USDA WASDE and Crop Progress Reports and pre-harvest crop-tour evaluations.


Subsoil and surface moisture levels were higher than the corresponding weeks in 2022 but are now demonstrating some drying although germination and early growth is advanced. EGG-NEWS will report on the progress of the two major crops as monitored by the USDA through the end of the 2023 harvest in November.


Reference is made to the May 12th WASDE Report #636 retrievable under the STATISTICS tab and the weekly Commodity and Energy Report documenting prospective planting in this edition. WASDE #637 will be posted in the June 16th edition of EGG-NEWS and will provide an update on acreage of soybeans and corn





May 21st 2023

May 28th 2023

5-Year Average

Corn Planted (%)




Corn Emerged (%)





Soybeans planted (%)




Soybeans emerged(%)






Crop Condition

V. Poor





Corn 2023 (%)






Corn 2022 (%)

14 3 23 61 12

Soybeans 2023 (%)


Soybeans 2022 (%)



V. Short





Topsoil moisture: Past Week





Past Year





Subsoil moisture: Past Week





Past Year








 Weekly Commodity and Energy Report: June 2nd 2023.



At close of trading on June 1st CME corn was down 0.3 percent compared to the previous week to 589 cents per bushel for July delivery. The relatively unchanged value ignored large inter-day fluctuation influenced by perturbation in the wheat market, short covering before the Memorial Day weekend and concern over intermediate weather predictions. Prices have recovered from the Tuesday swoon despite the pace of planting and emergence predicting a large crop with high ending stocks projected for the 2023 season as documented in the May WASDE. Cancellation of orders by China has depressed prices with a contrary effect from higher ethanol production and demand.


Soybeans were almost unchanged from last week to 1,325 cents per bushel for July delivery. Soybean meal was up 0.3 percent to $399 per ton for July delivery. Price will fluctuate to reflect soybeans and demand for soy oil. The market has now accepted projections of crop size and higher stocks from the old crop as documented in the April 11th WASDE Report and the forecast included in the May WASDE report for the 2023 crop.


Commodity exports that fluctuated this past week were possibly influenced by a rise in the Dollar Index to 104.2.


WTI was 3.3 percent lower at $71.81 per barrel at close of trading on May 31st despite the April announcement of an intended production cut by OPEC.

Factors influencing commodity prices in either direction over the past four weeks included:-

  • Macroeconomic factors:-
  • A mild U.S. recession in 2023 appears more likely following turbulence in the bank sector in both the U.S. and Europe.
  • The Federal Reserve increased the benchmark interest rate at the 10th successive monthly FOMC meeting on May 3rd by 25 basis points despite data indicating a gradual decline in inflation. This action was taken against evidence that progressively higher rates are stressing banks, depressing the housing market and impacting retail sales. It is expected that the Fed. Will pause at the mid-June FOMC Meeting.
  • On March 30th the Bureau of Economic Analysis issued a revised Real GDP of 2.6 percent for the fourth quarter of 2022. This value is based on increased consumer spending offset by lower investment in housing and a 0.6 percent increase in personal income. Initial projections for Q1 2023 GDP are for a 1.3 percent annualized rate.
  • The April 2023 CPI (up 4.9 percent) and the revised March WPI (down to 2.7 percent) were lower than forecast. Non-farm payrolls increased to 339,000 during May as documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 2nd with an unemployment rate rising to 3.7 percent from 3.4 percent in April. Jobless claims for the week ending May 29th were 229,000.
  • The April Producer Price Index was up 2.3 percent year-over-year and 0.2 percent down from March. These values were lower than expected suggesting a cooling in the U.S. economy. This is confirmed by the anemic first quarter GNP increase of 1.1 percent, lower than the 2.0 percent expected. (Transitory downward pressure on markets)
  • An 11th-hour compromise resulted in raising the debt ceiling given passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by the House on Wednesday May 31st following extensive negotiations and a compromise on spending cuts. Resolution of the crisis was completed by action of the Senate in a June 1st (Indirectly upward pressure by removing a threat to the U.S economy).
  • It is evident that polarization in the closely divided chambers of Congress will result in conflict over spending. Passage of agricultural legislation including the 2023 Farm Bill will be contentious as SNAP eligibility and other entitlements represent 75 percent of the total.
  • Dry weather is expected in the Midwest over the coming ten days. In contrast the remainder of the Nation will see precipitation. Rains have relieved drought on the Southern plains. Wheat yield and acreage will be sharply reduced in Kansas with an indirect effect on corn. (Variable pressure on prices with firmer indications in the June WASDE)
  • Geopolitical tensions that impact wheat, corn, oilseeds and vegetable oil exports from Ukraine persist. Extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative for an additional 60 days was reluctantly accepted by the Russian Federation on May 18th against undisclosed concessions on sanctions. Implementation is intermittently obstructed by actions of the Russian Federation with threats of non-extension, roiling markets. (Upward pressure on corn and wheat and an indirect effect on soybeans if Black Sea shipping is constrained)
  • The May 12th WASDE documented near record soybean and grain production for the 2023 season with increased world availability despite drought in the Argentine. The U.S. will export 12 percent of old crop corn resulting in a stable ending stock. Soybean exports will comprise 44 percent of the old crop with no change in ending stock. (Lower domestic prices)
  • There is an expectation that Brazil will attain a record soybean harvest of 153 million metric tons with export of 93 million metric tons. Corn harvests from Brazil for the 2022-2023 season will be higher than the previous season including the safrinha crop although recent dry weather reduced yields. Corn exports will attain 50 million metric tons (Lower prices in the future subject to favorable reports on crop progress and actual harvests)
  • The Dollar Index (DXY) has ranged from 99 to 116 over 52 weeks but has recently shown an upward trend. The DXY was 104.2 just below a five-week high. The dollar index influences timing and volume of export orders. (Fluctuation in corn and soybean prices, high value depresses U.S. sales)



The FAS Export Report released on June 2nd for the week ending May 25th reflecting market year 2022-2023, confirmed that outstanding export orders for corn amounted to 7.63 million metric tons (300.1 million bushels) with 30.5 million metric tons (1,202 million bushels) actually shipped. Net orders for the past week covering the 2022-2023 market year attained 0.19 million metric tons (7.4 million bushels). Shipment of 1.4 million metric tons (56.5 million bushels) was recorded during the past working week. For the current market year cumulative shipments of corn to date are 34.0 percent lower than for the corresponding week a year ago. For market year 2023-2024 outstanding sales this week amounted to 3.1 million metric tons (143.7 million bushels), with orders this week for the 2023-2024-market year amounting to 0.31 million metric tons (12.2 million bushels).

(Conversion 39.36 bushels per metric ton. Quantities in metric tons rounded to 0.1 million )


The FAS Export Report for the week ending May 25th reflecting market year 2022-2023, recorded outstanding export orders for soybeans amounting to 2.8 million metric tons (104.1 million bushels) with 48.1 million metric tons (1,768 million bushels) actually shipped. Net weekly soybean orders attained 0.12 million metric tons (4.5 million bushels) with 0.23 million metric tons (8.5 million bushels) shipped for the past week. For the current market year to date cumulative shipments of soybeans are 2.8 percent lower than for the corresponding week a year ago. Outstanding sales recorded for market year 2023-2024 amounted to 2.8 million metric tons (104.8 million bushels) with 0.3 million metric tons (11.1 million bushels) sold this past week. (Conversion 36.74 bushels per metric ton)


France to Initiate HPAI Vaccination


France has confirmed that it will proceed with vaccination of commercial waterfowl to prevent a recurrence of seasonal outbreaks of H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.  The decision was based on “favorable results based on final tests carried out by the French Health Safety Agency-(ANSES)”.


The limited field evaluation showed “good control of virus transmission in vaccinated ducks” using DIVA vaccines.  The test demonstrated a reduction in virus shedding by vaccinated birds.  Commercial vector-vaccines will be supplied by both Ceva Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim.


In addition to the intended vaccination program focusing on ducks in the southwest quadrant of France producing foie gras, the Netherlands is evaluating vaccines in egg-producing flocks and Italy has initiated a program for turkeys.


EGG-NEWS reported last week on a number of incident cases among commercial flocks in France increasing the need for vaccination. This is in recognition of the expense involved in conventional depopulation and quarantine that has been carried out in this nation almost annually for four years without achieving effective suppression and with no prospect of eradication, given wild bird reservoirs and disseminators.


SCOTUS Divided Over WOTUS Rule

The Supreme Court of the United States voted 5 to 4 based on judicial philosophy in Sackett v EPA. to nullify the EPA WOTUS Rule issued by the current Administration.  The majority confined the jurisdiction of the EPA to only regulate water that has a “continuous surface connection to major bodies of water”.  The decision that sets aside the EPA WOTUS Rule, currently in effect in only 24 states, now provides clarity to environmental regulators, the agricultural community, project developers and landowners.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, stated, “We hold that the Clean Water Act extends to only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are waters of the United States in their own right.”


Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the minority, maintained that the courts have established themselves as decision-makers on environmental policy creating an undesirable precedent.  Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the principle of a continuous surface connection deviates from established EPA policy and would have “significant repercussions for water quality and flood control throughout the United States”.


The agricultural community that filed briefs in support of the Sacketts hailed the SCOTUS decision as a “victory for farmers, ranchers and landowners”.  Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau, stated, “It’s now time for the Biden Administration to rewrite the Waters of the United States Rule.”  He added, “Farmers deserve a rule that provides clarity and doesn’t require a team of attorneys to properly care for their land.”  The decision by SCOTUS overturns the opinion of former Justice Anthony Kennedy that assigned EPA the jurisdiction over land that could accumulate water that would ultimately enter larger waterways.


Agriculture Appropriations Bill Advances from Committee

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has concluded negotiations for the FY 2024 appropriations bill.  This funds the USDA, FDA and the CFTC.  Total funding will amount to $25.3 billion, approximately two percent below the fiscal year 2023 level but 12.5 percent below the FY 24 budget request submitted by the Administration.


The allocations include $1.2 billion for APHIS, a decrease of $1 million but providing $10 million for animal disease traceability, $2.5 million for avian health and $8.5 million for specialty crop pests.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service will receive $1.2 billion, up $39 million.  The appropriations will now be considered by the House Appropriations Committee before a vote by the full chamber.


The Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to present funding bills.


Welcome to Unitas Software as a Sponsor

Unitas Software is a leading technology company specializing in the development and implementation of innovative software solutions for the Egg and Chicken Industries. Unitas was founded in Northern Ireland in 1995 and is led by CEO and owner Chris McCoubrey. 


The principal objective of the software is to enhance the efficiency of management, comply with welfare and environmental regulations and generally advance profitability over the long term.  With a strong agricultural base in the UK and Ireland, Unitas was able to develop programs for egg and chicken producers and feed compounders expanding activities to Europe and eventually, the U.S.


The flagship product, Poultry Manager, seamlessly connects all aspects of operation from forecasting through measurement and recording of production and processing variables and extends through the entire supply chain. Poultry Manager operates on a user-friendly mobile app. that functions both on- and offline.


Poultry Manager enables real-time access to data that can be interpreted to guide management decisions.  Application of Poultry Manager relieves those responsible for operation of complexes from routine tasks to focus on decision making directed to improving performance and hence, profitability.  Poultry Manager incorporates forecasting, benchmarking, profitability analysis, compliance and audit results.


With extension into the U. S. market, Unitas has supplied Poultry Manager to many leading U.S. clients across in-line, organic and pasture-raised sectors.  Many large UK and Irish operations have adopted Poultry Manager as a platform to plan production, record flock performance and coordinate production and packing, ultimately improving financial performance.


According to Chris McCoubrey, “Poultry Manager is designed as a complete data integration system.”  He added, “We aim to bring egg production, grading, forecasting, feed transactions and financial data into one package, maximizing outputs and giving clear and easily useable information.”  Poultry Manager depicts data in a dashboard style interface and can be displayed on smart phones, tablets, desktops and laptops. 


Unitas is represented in the U.S. by Alan Gibson agibson@unitassoftware.com who has over three decades of poultry leadership experience with Moy Park, a leading UK integrator. For more information regarding UNITAS products access the company website  www.poultrymanager.com  or click on to the UNITAS logo on the right side of the Welcome page.


 video link www.Poultrymanager.com/#watch



INNOVAD Offering Mycotoxin Assay in Partnership with BVS

MycoMarker®, a patented mycotoxin assay developed by INNOVAD will be made available to producers through a partnership with BVS Inc. a major supplier of veterinary products and services.


The MycoMarker® system applies innovative technology to analyze blood spot samples for the presence of 36 toxins and their metabolites.  This information is combined with LC/MS/MS feed testing to provide a valid assessment of exposure of flocks to mycotoxins and the risk of mycotoxicosis.  As a result, producers are able to select the most efficient and specific responses to mitigate mycotoxicosis.


According to Cathy Bandyk, PhD, Technical Development Manager at Innovad, the ability to analyze blood for mycotoxins brings major advantages to poultry producers.  “Because mycotoxins do not develop uniformly throughout feedstuffs, it is well recognized that collecting representative feed samples for testing can be unreliable.  MycoMarker eliminates that variability, and gives managers sound information on which to base decisions.”


MycoMarker also offers the advantage of screening for several key emerging mycotoxins that are not detected using standard feed testing kits.  Reports provided by Innovad include an interpretation of risk and suggested action based on the analytic findings.


The test requires a single drop of blood from each of five birds selected from a flock, together with a representative sample of the current feed.  The MycoMarker assay has been scientifically validated and has been published in peer-reviewed journals. The MycoMarker assay is currently deployed worldwide to provide customers with essential information concerning flock exposure to mycotoxins.


“BVS is excited to partner with Innovad in offering MycoMarker to the U.S. poultry industry,” said Tanner Evans, Vice President of Sales for BVS.  “We believe this technology will enhance the ability of our customers to gain new insights into flock exposure.”


BVS sales and service professionals have been trained to collect and submit samples and instruct customers on the MycoMarker process. For additional information on this innovative and unique service, access <sales@bestvetsolutions.com>


Innovad is a multinational provider of animal nutrition and health solutions, offering a diverse portfolio of innovative and sustainable solutions for the livestock industry.


BVS operates a network of seven locations located in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast to provide solutions and services to the U.S. animal health industry with trained representatives dedicated to promoting livestock performance and profitability. 


Organic Food Sales Increase in 2022

Results of the annual organic industry survey conducted by the Nutrition Business Journal on behalf of the Organic Trade Association were recently released.  The survey was conducted from January 13th through April 4th 2022 and incorporated a range of data sources including 100 private and public-quoted companies.


Total organic food sales increased by four percent to $61.7 billion from the previous year.  Organic produce represented 36 percent of organic food sales amounting to $22 billion and represented 15 percent of all U.S. fruits and vegetables sales.  Dairy and eggs combined attained $7.9 billion, up seven percent from the previous year.  Organic eggs sales were up by 11 percent to $1.2 billion.  Nielsen data suggested that 6.9 percent of eggs were sold as organic down 8.2 percent in volume but up 17 percent in value for a 52-week period ending March 25th 2023. The differences among volumes arising from surveys of organic egg consumption are reminiscent of a comment by Benjamin Disraeli  “There are lies, damned lies and then statistics!”


The increase in sales of organic eggs cannot be reconciled with the numbers of hens producing under the certified organic seal as released by the USDA each month. An approximate complement of 18 million hens represented 5.5 percent of a nominal national flock of 325 million. It must be concluded that in previous years and through 2022, a proportion of organic eggs were marketed as cage-free.


Consumers of Raw Milk in Missoula, MT at Risk of Q Fever

Health authorities in Missoula, MT. are warning consumers to refrain from drinking raw milk sold at farmers’ markets due to the risk of Q fever (Coxiella burnetii).  The warning arises from a diagnosis in a cow in a herd maintained by a raw milk supplier.  Q fever produces an influenza-like syndrome with chronic muscle aches, weight loss and in some cases respiratory symptoms.


According to Food Safety News a previous outbreak of salmonellosis in Montana involving 100 diagnosed cases was linked to consumption of unpasteurized milk.  This outbreak resulted in restrictions on sale of raw milk resulting in a sharp decline in milk-borne infections including diarrheal illnesses in infants and children.


Recently, legislators in states including Montana have eased restrictions on the sale of raw milk based on the concept of “freedom”. Unpasteurized milk, a relic of the 19th century is associated with salmonellosis, listeriosis, campylobacteriosis, brucellosis, tuberculosis and STEC infection. All these pathogens are destroyed by pasteurization.


Disastrous Wheat Crop in Kansas

Due to drought, farmers in Kansas are abandoning fields and claiming insurance. It is estimated that 19 percent of the acres planted last fall will be abandoned, up from ten percent last year.  A recent wheat tour suggested as much as a third of winter wheat will not be harvested with the state anticipating only 191 million bushels, the smallest harvest since 1963.


The Department of Agriculture projects that almost a third of planted winter wheat will be abandoned, reducing availability for both domestic consumption and for export.  Predicted lower ending stocks and reduced shipments from Ukraine will create higher demand and prices for wheat and will indirectly impact other grains including corn.


Publix Supermarkets to Phase Out GreenWise Concept

Publix Supermarkets has announced that it will convert the eight existing GreenWise Markets located in six large Florida cities to conventional stores.  GreenWise is the company name for organic private-label products offered at Publix stores.


No specific reasons were provided for this action. The company reported that visits to GreenWise Markets in Florida were up 6.4 percent in 2022 compared to a 3.9 percent decline in traffic recorded for conventional Publix Supermarkets in Florida.


Amazon has halted expansion of their Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh concept until a grocery strategy has been developed.  H.E.B. of Texas is expanding their convenience store concept and Schnuck’s Markets operates Eat Well stores in its Midwest area of operations.



Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security have jointly announced the completion of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, KS.  The project was designed and built by the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate with input from the USDA.  Construction was completed in May 2022 and commissioning in December 2022.  The ownership and operation of the facility will now be vested in the USDA.


The $1.25 billion facility will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center that has conducted research on exotic diseases for close to seven decades.


Over the next two years, projects, personnel and equipment will be transferred from Plum Island, NY. to Manhattan, KS. to allow for research, training, and diagnostics on high-risk livestock diseases.



Chore-Time Appoints Customer Service Manager

Tina Streit, Vice-president and General Manager for the CTB, Inc., Business Unit has announced the appointment of Sherri Airgood as Customer Service Manager for Chore-Time. In her position, Airgood will lead and manage the Chore-Time Customer Service Group.


Prior to her employment with CTB, Airgood gained over 32 years of experience in customer service and sales positions in the medical device industry. Airgood earned a baccalaureate degree in business management from the Indiana Institute of Technology.


A native of North Webster, IN. Sherri now resides in Ligonier, IN.


Cornell Agriculture Student Making a Difference

Brianna Green, a student at the Cornell University State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will graduate with a Baccalaureate degree this year.  Brianna is one of ten Cargill Global Scholars in the U. S. who has had the opportunity to interact with peers and to gain an understanding of food and sustainability issues. 


During the summer of 2021, she spent three months in Kenya working with poultry farmers on a  Borlaug-Ruan internship funded by the World Food Prize International.  Brianna is a delegate to the Council of Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching and has advocated for funding for the HATCH and Smith-Lever Acts.  As a member of the Cornell Egg-Vengers, she has participated in programs to collect eggs from poultry producers and donate them to food banks and health clinics.


Brianna commented, “Here at Cornell I didn’t just fit in but I truly felt as though I created a niche with opportunities for myself and this was only possible due to the nature of Cornell’s “Any Person Any Study” principle. 


In 2024, Brianna will enter the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angles to pursue a medical degree.  On a personal note, this is a loss to veterinary medicine, poultry production and agriculture. Notwithstanding we wish her every success in her chosen profession and hope that she will continue to make a mark improving the well-being of humanity and through alleviation of suffering through her intended profession.


California Out Front of FDA in Banning Food Additives

Following the lead of the E.U. in 2008, California is close to enacting legislation that would ban additives that may have deleterious health effects.  The list includes Red Dye #3, Titanium dioxide, Potassium bromate, Brominated vegetable oil and Propylparaben.


The California Assembly has voted for AB 418, and a companion Bill is awaiting passage in the California Senate.  Assemblyman, Jesse Gabriel, Chair of the Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, stated, “It’s unacceptable that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning dangerous additives.  Is it not too much to ask food and beverage manufacturers to switch to the safe alternative ingredients that they already use in Europe and so many other nations around the globe?”


Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports, stated, “This Bill helps close a troubling loophole in the FDA oversight of food chemicals that has allowed them to remain in food products despite recent studies documenting the threat they pose to our health.”


Scot Faber, Senior Vice President for, Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group, an activist organization stated, “For decades, the FDA has failed to keep us safe from toxic food chemicals.”  He added, “The chemical companies keep exploiting the loophole that allows the use of food additives that have not been adequately reviewed for safety by the FDA.  The FDA consistently fails to reassess chemicals even in the light of new science.  The food and confectionery industries know that the review process of the FDA is broken.”  He concluded, “In the absence of federal leadership, it’s up to states like California to keep us safe from dangerous chemicals in candy, cookies and other foods enjoyed by our families.”


Inaction and susceptibility to political pressure as demonstrated by the FDA is further justification to establish a separate Agency dedicated to food safety and nutrition.


Informa LLC Acquires Winsight

Informa LLC is a U.K. public-traded company with 11,000 employees and worldwide involvement in market research and industry publications.  Winsight based in Chicago publishes Restaurant Business and Food Service Director and arranges leadership conferences and the annual National Restaurant Association exhibition.  The company also operates Technomic.


It is intended to merge the respective activities of the two companies and achieve synergy.


In commenting on the transaction Andrew Mullins, CEO of Informa stated, “This new combination of our existing foodservice assets with Winsight’s outstanding media, event and publications, provides the capability to create even more market-leading products and services that will better serve the needs of the foodservice industry and its customers.”


Mike Wood, CEO of Winsight will continue to lead the business that will be operated under the Informa Connect Division.



Increased Appropriations for Foreign Animal Disease Prevention

The Farm Animal Disease Prevention, Surveillance and Rapid Response Act of 2023 has been introduced into the house (H.R.3419) and the Senate (S.1666).  The Act would increase appropriations for both the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) to $17 million and for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Counter-measures Bank (NAVVCB) to $150 million.  The National Animal Health Laboratory Network would receive $45 million.  Rep. (Dr.) Ronny Jackson (R-TX) stated, “The preventative investments made through this bill will ensure that the U. S. Department of Agriculture is able to safeguard our supply chain and mitigate the effects of foreign animal diseases if and when an outbreak occurs in the U. S. rather than playing catch-up after the fact.”


Senator Amy Klobuchar (R-MN), sponsor of the Senate version, commented, “When animal disease outbreaks hit, the impact is felt by farmers, rural communities and our entire food supply chain.”


The NADPRP and the NAVVCB were established as inclusions in the 2018 Farm Bill.  The proposed legislation would allocate resources to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and will be critical for the early diagnosis of a foreign animal disease.  The president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Lori Teller, pledged the support of the AVMA to the Bill and urged Congress to provide necessary protection through the bipartisan Foreign Animal Disease Act of 2023.


Minnesota to Enact Labor Protection Act

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is expected to sign a Bill passed by the state legislature on May 23rd to provide extensive protection for all workers including employees of poultry and meat packing plants. 


The Bill bans non-compete agreements and requires paid sick days for workers employed by nursing homes, warehouses, on construction sites and by public institutions.  Meat and poultry plants with more than one hundred workers will be required to implement safety training and to introduce projects to reduce musculoskeletal injury.  An important objective of the Bill is to empower workers to refuse activities reasonably considered to be dangerous.  Packing plant operators will be required to pay employees for downtime during modifications to remove a hazard.


The question arises as to whether the Act will inhibit investment in new packing facilities in Minnesota and whether other states will introduce similar legislation. Given the response by states including South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa during COVID in 2020 action to provide workers in egg and poultry plants with additional safety measures appears unlikely.


Scrutiny of Infant Formula Manufacturers by FTC

Following the 2022 infant formula crisis with Abbott Nutrition at its epicenter, Federal agencies other than the FDA are investigating the industry. It is apparent that manufacture of infant formula is a narrow oligopoly, and that half of all U.S. product is purchased by the Federal government under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). This creates the potential for collusion among manufacturers who could escalate the price paid by the government and indirectly, to non-WIC consumers.


The Federal Trade Commission has issued civil investigative demands to all major manufacturers requesting information that will be applied to determine whether there has been “collusional coordination with respect to bidding for federal or state contracts”.


Apparently, Abbott Nutrition has responded indicating that the company was unaware of any collusion or coordination.  Nestle confirmed that it has complied with the FTC request.  Mead Johnson declined to comment but assured a request by an investigative journalists that the Company complies with regulatory and enforcement agency requests.  Not that it has any alternative!


The obvious initiative by the Federal government to ensure that there is fair play in contracts will encourage more competition in the manufacture of infant formula.  Greater scrutiny is obviously required over evaluation and granting of large contracts. Penalties for proven illegal activities including bid rigging and inflating of prices should result in heavy financial penalties and prison terms for executives.  Now we need some whistleblowers. Hopefully their allegations will not be ignored for three months as with the FDA.


House Committee Passes Three Trucking Bills

The U. S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has advanced three bills intended to improve the food supply chain:


  • H.R. 3372 would allow states to increase the weight of six-axle vehicles on federal interstates to a maximum of 45.5 tons.  This will potentially reduce the number of trucks on the road and allow better use of the cubic capacity of trailers. 
  • H.R. 2367 will make available $700 million over three years to increase truck parking spaces to facilitate long hauls and obviate roadside parking.
  • H.R. 3013 The Licensing Individual Commercial Exam Act would streamline the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license and encourage veterans and post-high school to become long-distance drivers.


The commercial trucking industry and other groups have supported the trio of Bills that deserve  rapid passage through Congress.


Outbreak of SE Attributed to Cookie Dough

The CDC has identified raw cookie dough sold under the Papa Murphy brand as being responsible for an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis.  To date 80 cases have been confirmed in six states with patients ranging in age from 14 to 68 years with 83 percent female.  The disproportionate ratio of women is unusual for a foodborne infection but it would be consistent with tasting or consuming cookie dough in the kitchen during baking.


It is possible that additional cases will be recorded and that actual cases probably will exceed diagnosed cases by a factor of ten.


The unfortunate consequence of this outbreak is that the number of cases will be added to the CDC annual report listing SE as the causal pathogen with the inevitable but erroneous misperception that eggs were involved.



China Contributing to Greenhouse Gas Emission

According to a report in, Inside Climate News, an environmental awareness publication, eleven plants in China manufacturing nylon are responsible for an annual release of 500,000 metric tons of nitrous oxide. This is a potent greenhouse gas approximately 250 times more damaging to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide.  Nitrous oxide is produced during synthesis of adipic acid as a by-product. This compound is a component of nylon 6,6 used in automobiles. The nylon used in air bags, tires, car seats and other items in a vehicle represent 970 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents, exceeding the 900 kg of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of the steel used in a U.S. vehicle.


Release of nitrous oxide can be suppressed at low cost, applying existing technology. Among U.S. plants, Ascend Performance Materials plant in Cantonment, FL. is a generator of nitrous oxide since it has ineffective pollution control in contrast with other adipic acid plants in Europe, Japan and South Korea.  The EPA is faulted for not exercising its legislative authority to regulate nitrous oxide emissions and to require the Ascend plant to reduce greenhouse gas release.


Why is the EPA concerned over dust and ammonia emissions from layer houses but is ignoring an obvious source of severe environmental pollution?


COVID Has Changed QSR Usage and Design – Possibly Forever

Prior to COVID, approximately sixty percent of food sales by QSRs were off-premises.  This value soared to ninety percent during COVID restrictions with many chains closing in-store dining.  Despite relaxation of restrictions and a virtual denial of the infection, 75 percent of sales are still off premises according to the National Restaurant Association.  It is estimated that 85 percent of fast-food orders were to-go in 2022 according to market research company NPD.  Carry-out and delivery represented 73 percent of all orders at QSRs offering counter or kiosk ordering.


The change in consumer use is profoundly altering the design of QSRs.  Stores in the future will have smaller dining areas or these will be eliminated completely.  To expedite service and to cater for more vehicular traffic, chains are installing multiple drive-thru lanes to avoid traffic congestion.


The need to decrease delays between ordering and delivery to the customer’s vehicle will require a high level of automation in kitchen and the application AI to predict peak order times and menu preferences.  Orders placed on-line will be processed in advance of the customer arriving at the store.  In addition to changes in the design of kitchens and installation of equipment, packaging will have to be upgraded and modified to preserve the quality of food and also to comply with increasing concerns relating to sustainability and recycling.


The need for automation to expedite preparation and assembly of orders converges with the trend towards higher wages and lower availability of workers.  Installations will include robots, pre-preparation in central commissaries and upgraded in-store refrigeration. Design and layout of QSRs will be influenced by on-line ordering, with only drive-thru pick-up or delivery service offered.  QSRs will no longer be a place for families and teens to gather. Food will be consumed in vehicles, offices, homes and public places.  Perhaps the last holdout for sit-down dining will be food courts in malls and airports. These centers have effectively preceded the future QSR format as they comprise an order counter or kiosk and a kitchen providing rapid service but characterized by limited menus.


Problems at USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center

Employees at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center have filed a grievance with the U. S. Office of the Special Council.  At issue is delayed maintenance and extensive deterioration, resulting in unpleasant working conditions at the Center.  It is understood that fire alarm systems are inoperative, plumbing systems are vulnerable to disruption by freezing temperatures and that workers are exposed to chemical pollution. The deficiencies in the facilities are compromising research and serve as a deterrent to appointing suitably qualified research scientists.


The Center was established in 1910 and includes a number of buildings and research laboratories, animal housing and greenhouses spread over 7,000 acres in Prince George’s County in Maryland.


The problem appears to be lack of financial resources to hire personnel and to fund maintenance and upgrades.  The Facilities Department had an average of 30 vacancies out of a complement of 121 during 2022.


Administrators in the USDA-ARS were advised of problems following a meeting between disaffected employees and Thomas Shanower, the Director of the USDA Northeast area, in February 2023.  No appreciable remedial action has occurred since this time.



A Federal Standard Proposed for Sow Housing. Echoes of the ‘Egg Bill’

Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX) has introduced H.R. 2939 the Pigs in Gestation Stalls (PIGS) Act of 2023.  The objective would be to establish a Federal national standard for sow housing consistent with California Proposition #12 and Massachusetts Question 3.  Following the SCOTUS ruling on the constitutionality of California Proposition #12, it would appear justifiable to consider a federal standard establishing a level playing field for the entire industry.  Obviously, the PIGS Bill will be met with strong opposition from legislators representing hog-producing states. This ignores the reality that major packers and producers including Hormel, Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and Niman Ranch, the subsidiary of Perdue Foods have either committed to transition or have already complied with California Proposition #12.  Although the SCOTUS decision upholding California and Massachusetts legislation enacted by ballot reflects a limited number of states, numerous customers represented by retail chains and restaurants have committed to sourcing pork compliant with Proposition #12.


It is ironic that the pork industry is now facing the possibility of a national standard given their intense lobbying against the “Egg Bill”.  This would have established a national standard for housing of laying hens using enriched colony modules as the preferred alternative to conventional cages. Due to opposition by pork producers the Egg Bill was not incorporated into the 2018 Farm Bill. Subsequently egg producers have invested close to $4 billion to convert one-third of total production to aviaries, barns and free-range systems as alternatives to conventional cages.  A University of Minnesota study estimated the cost to convert gestation crates to group housing to between $2 billion to $3 billion.


It would appear that the pork industry has exhausted legal remedies and will be forced by law, customer demand and public sentiment to abandon gestation crates. Considerable expenditure on legal expenses, time and effort would have been saved had the pork industry recognized the writing on the wall and accepted the inevitability of change. They should have joined the egg sector in 2016 in crafting an acceptable national livestock housing standard.

Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
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