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Published November 25, 2009, 08:00 AM

S. Dakota turkey production on three-year decline

Nationally, producers of two Thanksgiving staples have faced problems feared by all agricultural producers: lower demand, high input costs and a weak export market.
However, one holiday-related product is faring worse than the other in South Dakota.

By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic

Nationally, producers of two Thanksgiving staples have faced problems feared by all agricultural producers: lower demand, high input costs and a weak export market.

However, one holiday-related product is faring worse than the other in South Dakota.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of turkeys raised in South Dakota in 2009 was 4 percent lower than the previous year. Production fell from 4.7 million turkeys in 2008 to 4.5 million — the lowest in three years.

Nationally, turkey production is down 8 percent, from 273 million in 2008 to 250 million in 2009.

Darwin Britzman, executive director of the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association, said the local industry is in its second year of declined production. High input costs and low market prices aren’t making production easy, he said

“Input costs aren’t as high as they were at one time, but they’re still higher than they were in years past,” said Britzman, of Sioux Falls. “It hasn’t been very profitable.”

Because corn and soybean meal are the primary ingredients in turkey feed, Britzman said the increased price for both of those commodities has led many turkey producers to reduce their flock. The tight economic situation being felt around the world also took a hit on the turkey export market, he said.

Still, Britzman said that as Thanksgiving approaches, there shouldn’t be a problem in meeting the demand for the traditional holiday meal centerpiece.

And speaking of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, many South Dakota families will finish their dinner Thursday with a slice of pumpkin pie.

While South Dakota State University Extension Horticulturist Rhoda Burrows said South Dakota pumpkin production hasn’t fluctuated much, that’s not necessarily the case nationally. The Associated Press reported last week that Nestle — which sells nearly all of the canned pumpkin in the United States — is blaming poor weather for a potential shortage of its pumpkin pie products.

The company said heavy rains kept harvesters out of the field nationwide, allowing much of the crop to deteriorate.

The company, which has 80 to 90 percent of the market, is openly apologizing to its customers online.

“There are a lot of beautiful pumpkins out there that we just can’t rescue,” Nestle spokesman Roz O’Hearn told The Associated Press. “We hope everyone understands that Mother Nature was a little difficult this year and we hope she’s a little bit kinder to us next year.”

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