Minnesota Pork producers facing continued challenges

The life cycle for market hogs is around 6 months. So, each day is important as animals move from weaning to finishing, any issue in the system can completely throw off the entire sector.

Minnesota is one of the nation’s top pork producing states and is home to three major processing plants, one of which is closed. Couple that with plants closing in neighboring states Iowa and South Dakota, and a domino effect is created and the system begins to backup.

“Many people don’t understand how the pork chain actually works. We can’t just hold pigs for long periods of time because young pigs need to be moved into those finishing barns,” said David Preisler, CEO of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. “You can hold them for a matter of a few weeks and we’ve passed that point now.”

Farmers are now left to make a decision they never thought they would have to make.

“There is no sugar coating this, even if plants did open up, we still have farmers that will be forced into a position to euthanize pigs because we are so far behind,” said Preisler. “We finally got the attention of people in Washington D.C. as to the depth of the problem that is going on and I think they are taking it much more seriously now, and I think that what it has taken, unfortunately, is that healthy hogs, that were going to be destined for packing plants, had needed to be euthanized because we are out of room and there is no where to go for those pigs.”

Even with support from the government, the damage has been done. There will be zero revenue for the farmer from this last resort; this will also trickle down and affect rural communities.

On a visit to Minnesota, House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson stated, “I can tell you, as the chairman of the ag committee, this is not going to happen again on my watch.”

The animal and plant health inspection arm of the USDA has the authority to pay for hogs culled due to animal diseases, however, not for pigs culled due to the fallout of a human pandemic.