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
A coronavirus outbreak at the Farmer John pork processing plant in Los Angeles County that began nearly a year ago has been the focus of two state investigations. Cases at the Smithfield Foods-owned plant have more than doubled — with over 300 cases reported in January alone — as the county has become a Covid-19 epicenter, Leah Douglas and Georgia Gee report in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with the Covid-19 Reporting Project.
Smithfield Foods announced Thursday that it had reached a settlement with plaintiffs who had sued the company over the stench, flies, buzzards, and truck traffic coming from its industrial swine farms in North Carolina. The announcement came immediately after the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected a call from the world’s largest pork producer for a retrial in a lower court case it had lost. (No paywall)
The United States suspended $817 million in trade preferences granted to Thailand "based on its lack of sufficient progress [in] providing the United States with equitable and reasonable market access for pork products," said the Office of the U.S. trade representative on Sunday. Trade representative Robert Lighthizer said when countries fail to meet the criteria to participate in the General System of Preferences, "we will take action by limiting their preferential duty-free access to the U.S. market."
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.
More federal aid is needed if hog farmers are to survive the coronavirus pandemic, said pork industry leaders on Thursday. They urged the Senate to approve compensatory payments for hogs that are culled and an additional round of cash payments to all U.S. farmers and ranchers. (No paywall)
The persisting coronavirus slowdown at pork plants has stranded 2 million hogs on the farm with no buyer, and the backlog is growing, said economist Steve Meyer on Wednesday, suggesting that some farmers will be forced to destroy their animals. In Iowa, the state announced a program to help farmers cover the cost of carcass disposal. (No paywall)
Although beef and pork slaughter plants ran at less than three-fourths capacity last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "We think most of our facilities will be back on line" by the end of this week. That would account for as much as 85 percent of U.S. meat-processing capacity. Fourteen beef, pork and poultry plants resumed operation last week, according to the USDA. Other tallies showed a handful of plants still shut down.(No paywall)
Three packing plants that account for 12 percent of U.S. hog slaughter are slowly resuming production this week after coronavirus shutdowns, potentially loosening a bottleneck among meat processors that is tightening supplies and raising prices at the grocery store. "I think we've turned the corner" on meat shortages, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. (No paywall)