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Top 4 Challenges for U.S. Pig Farmers

Several challenges were addressed multiple times by pig farmers attending the 2018 National Pork Forum in Kansas City, Missouri. 

1. Trade

In order to keep up with expanding pig numbers, the industry needs to increase pork exports by 2.7 billion pounds and export volume by $3.1 billion in the next two years. That’s 9% growth in exports each year. The industry can’t count on domestic consumption to grow at that rate. The average U.S. consumer buys fresh pork just six times a year, or once every other month, says National Pork Board CEO Bill Even.

Free trade is crucial, say leaders. The threatened tarrifs on steel and aluminum announced yesterday by President Trump ignore the users of those products, including agriculture, says Iowa pig farmer John Weber, and that will cause retaliation to ag exports.

2. Technology

The top technology challenges for the pig industry, says Even, are gene editing, Blockchain (including food traceability), alternative proteins (grown in a lab), and pain management.

China is already using Blockchain to trace beef, says Even. Before long, consumers will use smart phones to read food labels and know where the animal was raised, what it was fed, and much more.

3. Health

Disease is always a challenge for the pig business, and producers are hoping gene editing technology will one day help. Meanwhile, the National Pork Board is investing $678,500 on diagnostics, surveillance, and mitigation strategies for top domestic swine diseases, as well as $570,000 each year on PRRS virus control research with the goal to decrease the annual economic impact of PRRS by 20%. Another $1.4 million is being spent on foreign disease diagnostics for detection and control.

4. Labor

A new task force to address the growing labor shortage in the pork industry was created in 2017. Pork is now represented in the Ag Workforce Coalition along with the poultry and dairy industries and fruit and vegetable producers.


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