Governors request relief for U.S. pork producers

by Bryan Salvage
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DES MOINES, Iowa — Nine governors from key pork-producing states sent a letter on Aug. 7 to President Obama requesting the government to purchase an additional $50 million in pork for its nutrition programs. The group also asked the president to eliminate a ceiling on how much surplus product the U.S. Department of Agriculture can buy as well as expand export markets in China, according to The Associated Press.

This relief is critical for an industry that's been hurt by high commodity prices coupled with consumer backlash due to erroneous tie-ins between H1N1 flu in humans and swine flu in hogs, the governors said.

"Today, the pork industry is facing an economic crisis that is catastrophic in nature," the governors wrote.

"This is a situation I am taking very seriously," said Iowa Gov. Chet Culver in a conference call with reporters. He was joined by governors from Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in sending the letter.

Iowa is the largest pork producer in the U.S. There are approximately 19 million hogs in the state, and 63,000 jobs in Iowa are involved in the industry, Mr. Culver said. The hogs consume roughly 27% of the state's corn crop and the industry has an annual payroll of $2 billion. Overall, pork production has a $12 billion impact in Iowa alone, Mr. Culver said.

"We've had a tremendous loss of equity and little or no profit for almost two years," said Dave Moody, of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

The U.S. pork industry has been hurt by the high costs of corn and soybeans, the primary feed for hogs, but the economic trouble got far worse due to erroneous tie-ins between the recent H1N1 flu outbreak and swine flu.

"Even though pork products are very safe, the negative impact of the A/H1N1 influenza outbreak has crippled a previously injured industry," the governors wrote.

Since the H1N1 flu outbreak emerged last spring, pork producers have lost $330 million in profits, they said. The governors added losses through October could exceed $1 billion and deal a crippling blow to the rural economy. "As leaders of our states, we understand the U.S. pork industry provides about 550,200 jobs in various aspects of the industry ranging from producers to input suppliers to processors and handlers," the governors wrote.

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