Poultry ranked first among Mississippi's commodities in 2013 for the 19th straight year, with a preliminary estimated value of $2.7 billion. The total estimated value of poultry increased by about 10 percent from 2012. Broilers gained about 10 percent in value. Eggs saw a gain of 4.5 percent.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the rise in values is largely attributed to higher bird prices because production is mostly steady with 2012.
"High feed costs dampened placements of eggs and chicks in the beginning of the year, which had overall broiler production falling," Riley said. "But from July forward, corn production was good, allowing producers to increase their placements a little and offset the declines from early in the year."
Tom Tabler, Extension professor in the Department of Poultry Science at MSU, said feed prices fell by about half throughout 2013, giving producers a little relief.
"In 2012, producers were paying about $8 per bushel for corn," he said. "Now the price has fallen to $4.50 per bushel. That has helped a lot."
Producers have had a good year overall with few external pressures.
"This summer was not terribly hot, which was less stressful on the birds and kept down the cost of cooling the chicken houses," Tabler said. "This winter could be a different situation, though. It is somewhat colder than it usually is this time of year. If we experience a colder-than-normal winter, that will mean higher heating costs for producers."
Tabler said the industry has experienced overall growth during 2013. He sees signs that the industry is confident going into 2014.
"There has been a slight expansion of the industry, not just in Mississippi, but across the country," Tabler said. "Producers have seen fairly good market prices and feed prices that are in line with profitability.
Sanderson Farms (based in Laurel, Miss.) is building a brand new facility in Texas. They are putting in an entire operation, including a feed mill, hatchery, growing houses and a processing plant. Other companies aren't that ambitious, but some have added 10, maybe 12 houses," he said.
Poultry producers also may see an increase in demand at the grocery store, Riley said, as beef and pork producers face challenges that will likely decrease production.
Nationally, Mississippi ranks fifth behind Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and North Carolina in poultry production.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mississippi poultry producers placed approximately 548.9 million chicks through mid-September. That is a 2 percent decrease from one year ago. Table egg production rose to about 255 million through July, a 4 percent increase since 2012.
Forestry, with a total estimated value of $1.17 billion, ranked No. 2 in the state. The current total estimated 2013 year-end value of all commodities is $7.35 billion. Final figures will be determined in February.