The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption and devastation to the hog industry, with hundreds of thousands of hogs needing to be euthanized due to the closing and slowing of of meat plants and a decrease in demand for pork.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) says that revenue from hog sales are expected to decrease approximately $4.7 billion in 2020, while losses from the euthanasia, disposal, and donation of pigs will actually increase potential losses to nearly $5 billion for the year, with similar financial challenges projected for 2021.
Several senators have come together to sponsor a bill, called the “RELIEF for Producers Act,” that would compensate hog farmers for animals that have already been euthanized and for those that may have to be euthanized or donated in the future. The bill would also provide $300 million in funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories. Additionally, it would revise the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so that a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding.
“We need help now,” Howard Roth, NPPC’s president tells Food Quality & Safety. “We need congress to come together quickly on a final COVID relief bill. The consequences of inaction are too great and would upset a healthy dynamic system that has served our farmers, the rural economy, and our consumers so well.”
On an industry phone call of pork producers, Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel of global government affairs for NPPC, noted that the industry is facing an unprecedented crisis that requires this immediate congressional action. “We know we will not be made whole,” he said. “We are only asking to be allowed to remain in business.”
Steve Meyer, PhD, an economist with Kerns & Associates, an agriculture risk management company based in Ames, Iowa, said on the call that U.S. hog farmers are facing an unprecedented emergency, with approximately two million hogs still backed-up on farms. If nothing is done, U.S. hog farmers will experience substantial losses, he said. “This is, by far, the worst financial disaster ever for American hog farmers,” Dr. Meyer said. “As we entered 2020, hog farmers were finally looking at a profitable year, only to have COVID-19 turn the industry on its head.”
The NPPC is urging congress to address this crisis quickly, or thousands of farmers could lose their businesses, it says, leading to consolidation and contraction of the U.S. pork industry.