Florence hits North Carolina agriculture, drowns 1.7 million chickens

Besides the state’s hog industry, flooding also affected poultry operations in North Carolina. The state is a major poultry producer and ranks second in total turkey production.

Sanderson Farms, the nation’s third largest poultry producer, said it was continuing to assess damage to its North Carolina operations as a result of the storm, including to independent farms where there were losses to livestock inventories. It estimated about 1.7 million broiler chickens at independent farms were destroyed as a result of the flooding and indicated there were areas still isolated by flood waters where there could be additional losses of live inventory.

“Out of 880 broiler houses in North Carolina, 60 have flooded,” the company said Monday. “Another six houses experienced damage and will be unable to house broilers until repairs are made.”

Sanderson also said there were four chicken breeder houses affected in North Carolina by the flooding, and 33 pullet houses with young hens were found to have “serious damage.”

Still, Sanderson said it “does not believe the loss of housing capacity will affect its ongoing operations, as it can shorten layouts and take other temporary measures to compensate for these losses.

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, there’s no formal estimate on damage to agribusiness, but industry executives expect it “easily” run into the millions.

“We continue to work to assess damage and the widespread flooding is hampering the ability to get onto some farms,” said Andrea Ashby, a spokeswoman for the state agriculture agency. She noted that North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is doing an aerial inspection of affected areas Tuesday “and will likely have some additional insights from that later.”

Elsewhere, Tyson Foods said it had only “minimal impact” to its live poultry operations in North Carolina and Virginia from Florence.

“Two farms in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area were affected and we’re leveraging our regional supply chain to ensure there’s no disruption to business,” said company spokesman Worth Sparkman. “We’re helping the affected farmers.”

Butterball, based in Garner, N.C., and the country’s largest producer of turkey products, said Tuesday it was “in the process of confirming the exact impact of this storm at the corporate, facility and farm level.”

A company representative added, “While that review continues, our priority remains helping our partners and their families who have been directly impacted by this storm. Due in part to our preparations prior to the storm, none of our facilities sustained any major damage.”

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