Poultry Industry Hurt By Hurricane Rita

Lost power, hot weather and a fuel shortage led to a high poultry mortality rate. This hurts the pocketbooks of hard working growers.

Gary Stanaland of Appleby is one of the luckier poultry growers. His full grown flocks will go to market on Tuesday, only a few days later than scheduled. "We're hanging in there. We're gonna be all right," said Stanaland.

Even though Stanaland is still out of power he has managed to keep his generator going for the last six days. "We had run it about 30 hours. It was clocked over 159 (hours), today."

A fuel shortage during some of the hottest weather of the year has led to the death of about 70,000 chickens in Nacogdoches and Shelby counties. That's according to agricultural agencies collecting the damage assessment. Nacogdoches County Extension Service Director, Jackie Risner said, "The cool weather helped out, but we still have growers without power and it could be another two weeks. This is an ongoing story."

The mortality loss of full grown birds hurts financially. But so does buying the diesel fuel to power the generators, that run the fans to keep the birds alive. Stanaland said,"I don't know how much it's costing. I didn't have time to ask. But we're probably running 250 gallons a day."

Stanaland also runs a dairy farm. It's facing some of the same problems. Fuel is needed for the milking machines. Literally it's a round the clock issue for this farmer. Stanaland gets up around 2:30 to tend to the cows. Then goes straight into the poultry business. His routine is interrupted by spending a lot of time hunting fuel. He no longer has to. Tyson Foods is providing fuel at a centralized distribution station, allowing this grower to spend time on his farm and not in a gas line.

Other agricultural losses include huge stands of timber. The cattle industry is facing primarily inconveniences. Blown down fences have cattle straying into neighbor's pastures.