National Turkey Federation Presents Stark Realities of Production Challenges to House Ag Subcommittee

May 1, 2014
Washington, DC

Matt Cook, National Turkey Federation board member and President of Norbest, Inc. presented the stark economic realities facing turkey producers in testimony Wednesday before the House Agriculture Livestock Subcommittee.

Cook detailed the volatility in feed supply costs caused by the diversion of corn to ethanol as well as the need for USDA to finalize the Poultry Inspection Modernization Rule, the importance of FDA expanding the exemptions in its feed mill food safety rule, continuing challenges with EPA on the Clean Water Act and the need for Congress to ensure there is not a propane supply crisis this coming winter.

Cook sought to focus the subcommittee on how federal energy and agricultural policy shape supply and demand forces that influence the costs of turkey feed from corn and soybean – which impact the cost of consumer foods. 

“We in the turkey industry are on the eventual losing end when our product prices go up because of higher costs, and thus consumers pay more and eventually buy less. The policies of the last eight years have been strongly biased in the direction of higher-cost consequences with an unfair burden on turkey producers and our customers, the American food consumer,” said Cook.

Cook recounted that from 2006 to 2013, U.S. turkey producers watched their average feed costs increase from 22.7 cents to almost 51 cents per pound of turkey raised, a 125 percent increase.  But while feed costs more than doubled, average turkey prices increased by only 26 cents per pound.

Cook also recounted other challenges faced by those in the turkey business:  

Renewable Fuel Standard, in its current form, has negatively distorted feed costs for turkey producers and it falls to Congress to create a lasting solution to this rigid policy. 

NTF was disappointed that the provisions that clarify Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) authority were not corrected in the Farm Bill and remains concerned that new regulations will result in negative impacts on farmer and processor relationships. 

Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Rule
The National Turkey Federation commends USDA for efforts to enhance food safety, maintain the safety of poultry plant workers and FSIS inspectors while creating more jobs in rural communities.

Feed Mill Rule
NTF is working to expand FDA’s proposed exemption to amend the definition of farm in the proposed rule or otherwise expand the types of mills eligible for an exemption, in order to address production issues as they pertain to the turkey industry.

Establish an early warning system on propane supply and distribution to allow time to adjust before next winter’s dangerous propane shortage occurs again.

In order for companies to ensure the legal hiring of enough qualified workers, using a trusted E-Verify program is essential, and critical to long term success.

Clean Water Act
The National Turkey Federation is concerned this may greatly expand the universe of farms facing new permitting and regulatory requirements.  

Cook concluded by acknowledging the positive role of Congress to expand the disaster assistance program. The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) expansion allows turkey growers to better utilize the program in the event of a disaster.  He also expressed continued support for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), as these programs continue to provide additional assistance to turkey growers as they work to meet the needs of state and federal regulations.