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Hog backlog forecast to rise to 2.5 million head by year’s end

Due to lower market prices, hog farmers will see a drop of $5 billion in sales revenue.

Coronavirus safeguards are constraining slaughter capacity at U.S. pork plants, causing the hog backlog to more than double to 2.5 million head by the end of this year, said a pork industry analyst on Monday. Economist Steve Meyer said the pandemic was “by far, the worst financial disaster ever for American hog farmers, who already were in a weakened financial position due to two years of trade retaliation.”

Meyer took part in a teleconference by the National Pork Producers Council, which seeks federal compensation for hogs that are culled or donated to food programs because there is no room for them at packing plants. Due to lower market prices, hog farmers will see a drop of $5 billion in sales revenue.

“We need help now to weather this unprecedented crisis,” said NPPC president Howard Roth, a Wisconsin hog farmer. Without assistance, some farmers will be forced out of business, said Roth.

Based on USDA surveys of hog numbers, Meyer estimated a hog backlog of 1.1 million head at present. Pork plants may make some headway in the near term, but the backlog will rise to 1.6 million head by the end of summer and to 2.5 million head at the end of the year, he said. Hog farmers traditionally market more hogs in the fall and winter. Some of the hogs would become candidates for culling, he said. As many as 1.3 million head were destroyed since late winter, he said.

While hog plants have recovered for the most part from coronavirus slowdowns and shutdowns in April and May, plants are running at slightly lower capacity, said Meyer, which he said was due to safeguards against the virus. “We think that loss is more or less permanent.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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