In the space of a generation, U.S. hog production has transformed, even if the Midwest, with Iowa foremost, is still the leader, said a new USDA report. There were half as many hog farms in the country in 2017 as there were in 1997, and the largest farms, often specialized operations, raised 93 percent of the pigs.
Hog farmers who sold slaughter pigs at unduly low prices during the early months of the pandemic will receive an estimated $62.8 million in the coming weeks, nearly $13 million more than initially expected, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday. The USDA increased funding for the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) to eliminate the possibility of pro-rated payments.
With the arrival of the internet, the Agriculture Department made its vast library of reports and analyses available to the public, from the closely watched monthly crop estimates to assessments of the impact of the pandemic on meatpackers. The USDA went a step further on Wednesday by presenting the first live internet broadcast of one of the briefings USDA analysts give the agriculture secretary whenever a major report is published.
In an achievement the USDA described as a major step for science and agriculture, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service have developed a vaccine candidate that protects hogs from the deadly African swine fever.
Farmers have received $4.8 billion in long-promised payments of $20 an acre on crops that range from corn, soybeans, and wheat to sorghum and sugar beets, said USDA data on Monday. It was the largest disbursement of coronavirus relief funds since the Biden administration took office.
The USDA will propose three rules to give cattle, hog and poultry producers more leverage in dealing with meat processors in an increasingly concentrated industry, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The initiatives would make it easier for a producer to prove unfair treatment by a processor and would write a new regulation on use of so-called tournament systems by processors to determine pay for poultry farmers.
Elsie Herring, who died this week, was the public face of the many rural North Carolinians who felt besieged by the proliferation of industrial hog farms. In a region where complaining about these operations was considered both risky and futile, she confronted the industry over its pollution for more than two decades and never let herself appear intimidated. No paywall
"Since Iowa Select Farms was founded in 1992, the state’s pig population has increased more than 50 percent — while the number of farms raising hogs has declined over 80 percent," as Charlie Mitchell and Austin Frerick explain in FERN's latest story, published with Vox. "In the last 30 years, 26,000 Iowa farms quit the long-standing tradition of raising pigs. As confinements replaced them, rural communities have continued to hollow out." (No paywall)
At least five other nations are moving toward gene editing of hogs, which could put them miles ahead of the United States in producing disease-resistant and faster-growing hogs that cost less to grow, said a group speaking for American hog farmers on Thursday.
In nominating North Carolina’s Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency, President-elect Joseph Biden has tapped a state regulator who for the past four years has navigated a political divide as contentious as the one he’ll face in Washington, D.C.(No paywall)
Hog farmers struggled with a coronavirus-caused backlog of market-ready hogs that peaked at 3.5 million head at the end of May, forcing them to cull some and slowing weight gain on others. The backlog remains large, but Purdue economist Jayson Lusk says farmers may see "possibly elevated hog prices" by the end of the year as the hog supply shrinks.
Some hog farmers are leaving the business in the face of low market prices and coronavirus slowdowns at packing plants, said two pork industry analysts on Thursday. As evidence, they pointed to a USDA report showing that there are fewer sows on U.S. farms this fall than a year ago.
As many as 2 million hogs are backed up on U.S. farms because of coronavirus slowdowns and shutdowns at meatpacking plants, said three economists on Thursday, with the backlog likely to persist into the fall. The oversupply will weigh on market prices unless there is a strong recovery as the economy reopens, they said. (No paywall)
Nationwide, pork production has dropped by more than 20 percent over the last month, and industrial farmers find their barns filling up. Now, the "end for hundreds of thousands of pigs is likely to arrive in an orgy of waste that turns the stomachs of even the most pragmatic," writes Elizabeth Royte, in FERN's latest story. "Asked to describe how a farmer decides to 'depopulate' — the word of choice — a barn full of market-ready pigs, David Newman, a Missouri pig farmer and president of the National Pork Board, sighs heavily. 'It’s a tremendously emotional time to be in the livestock business. We’re trying to be creative.'”(No paywall)
Researchers have identified a promising candidate for an African swine fever vaccine but the United States remains two to five years away from having a large supply, said Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach. Speakers at the USDA's annual Ag Outlook Forum said China, hit by an ASF epidemic, would struggle to rebuild hog herds in the near term.
Attorneys for a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, went before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Friday and asked three judges to overturn a $3.25 million jury award in a lawsuit filed by neighbors of a large North Carolina hog farm. …
Mostly black rural residents in North Carolina took on the hog industry’s biggest producer, Smithfield, and won multimillion-dollar verdicts over hog pollution, writer Barry Yeoman reports in FERN’s latest story. But the story, produced with The Nation, points out that these …
A handful of livestock farms reported high water levels in their manure lagoons, but no breaches or overflows, after Hurricane Dorian left North Carolina with limited damage compared to Hurricane Florence a year ago. Gov. Roy Cooper summarized the views of local officials, residents and business owners, in saying over the weekend, "This could have been much worse for our state."