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National Egg Month rallies Iowa farmers
By DOUG SCHMITZ
Iowa Correspondent

URBANDALE, Iowa — As America’s leading egg producer, Iowa is celebrating May as National Egg Month, raising approximately 52 million laying hens and producing nearly 12.5 billion eggs each year, the most of any state in the nation.

“The fact that Iowa is the nation’s leading egg producer says a lot about our people,” said Kevin Vinchattle, executive director of the Iowa Egg Council and the Iowa Poultry Assoc.

“We are a state with a great agricultural heritage. Iowa egg producers recognize agriculture as a strength in the Iowa economy,” he said. “They understand the beneficial aspects of egg production in Iowa.”

U.S. egg production during April 2005 was 6.29 billion table eggs, with total U.S egg production during 2004 at 76.26 billion table eggs. According to a 2003 Iowa State University study, Iowa’s egg industry contributes nearly $750 million in the overall annual impact in Iowa’s economy, providing a market for nearly 50 million bushels of corn and 25 million bushels of soybeans.

In addition, Iowa also has more than 80 egg producers, with 40 million layers producing around 9.5 billion eggs per year, which consume around 40 million bushels of corn and 20 million bushels of soybean per year.

But one concern on the minds of national egg producers has been Avian Influenza.

“Consumers need to know the H5N1 virus seen in Asia and Europe is not present in the United States,” Vinchattle said. “People should understand that we are concerned about this issue, we are monitoring for the virus and we have plans and programs in place to respond should anything ever be found.

“It is also important that people know the proper cooking of poultry or eggs would kill any virus particles,” he said.

While the U.S. egg industry is also sometimes swayed by legislation, Vinchattle said national egg production can be affected by any law aimed at animal production.

“This has been a trend for many years,” he said. “The legislative process used to consider more species specific aspects than they do today. We believe there is a big difference between dry manure systems (like those used in layer operations) and liquid systems.”

Anamosa, Iowa corn producer Gary Edwards, board director of the Iowa Corn Growers Assoc. (ICA) and chair of the Animal Ag & Environment Committee, added that the ICA has made a priority out of increasing corn usage by supporting an increase in livestock, dairy and poultry feeding.

But one of the most important legislative issues facing Iowa animal agriculture is a new proposal that would give Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Jeff Vonk complete control over poultry and all other livestock operations, Vinchattle added.

“This would give the director discretionary authority over animal operations even if they meet the requirements of Iowa law,” he said. “We believe that goes too far in giving one person the authority to say no to something that 150 elected officials passed through the legislative process.”

That’s why National Egg Month is so important to Iowa egg producers, Vinchattle said.

“Iowa egg producers are proud of their role in the egg business,” he said. “They are seen as innovative leaders. Prices are not good at the moment and that is a big concern for people. It is a time when we make some extra effort to get out the good news about the incredible edible egg.

“Eggs are a nutritious, delicious, economical meal any time day or night,” he added. “(But) the top concern is how do we get more people to understand how beneficial eggs and egg products are in their diets and get them eating more eggs.”

This farm news was published in the May 17, 2006 issue of Farm World.

5/17/2006