Northwest Iowa — The temporary closure of pork processing plants in Iowa and neighboring states is adding to the difficult situation producers are facing under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jim Boyer, a hog producer in northwest Iowa’s Emmet County, says they’re already feeling the financial pinch from plants that have recently shut down or where closures are imminent.
(As above) “The packers are full so they’re not able to harvest as many head as they normally did,” Boyer says. “Earlier this week, we were down to 380,000 head. Normally, we’re doing 450,000 head a day. As the supply of hogs backs up, prices the packers are willing to pay producers are dropping already.”
The cascading troubles with coronavirus are compounding problems for producers, as Boyer says they were already dealing with falling prices.
(As above) “We’re into the $38 range right now and break even on a hog for an independent producer is about $68,” Boyer says. “So, producers are standing to lose about $30 a head currently.”
An advantage grain farmers have over livestock producers is, if grain prices fall, farmers can put that commodity into storage and wait until the prices come back up.
(As above) “Pork production is a just-in-time delivery on hogs, so when we start backing up a system to where we can’t harvest hogs that are supposed to be going to market, then it backs up everything,” Boyer says. “The only real alternative is to start euthanizing hogs and no producer wants to do that.”
He says many producers may not survive if they cannot take their hogs to market.