World Pork Expo celebrated its 25th anniversary this week and I've been to every one. Why stop now? I had a good time at the Iowa State Fairgrounds talking to producers, hearing the news, and eating ribs, sausage, bacon, and more.
The Top 5 Hog Issues, according to producers in the trenches:
1. New porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PED). First diagnosed this spring, one Midwest producer lost 18,000 pigs in four days to the disease. Scientists are swarming the issue and hope to have a vaccine soon, but so far they don't know how the virus is spreading. Hog farms are on virtual lockdown. (This virus does not affect humans.)
2. Corn crop. Will there be enough corn? Spring was late and wet. Sam Carney is a happy Iowa pork producer. He planted around the clock and got his crops in by Memorial Day. "We ran hard."
3. Crate regulations. Gestation stalls are being banned in some states. Are the largest producers going to make the switch to pens? Smithfield is converting farms, but most of the other Pork Powerhouses are not ready to move away from crates.
4. Chinese company buying Smithfield Foods. China's largest meat processor is acquiring the U.S.'s largest hog farmer and processor. What do U.S. pork producers think? I heard everything from, "It will be good for our export market" to "This could be a food safety nightmare." Most producers fell into this camp: "It's business as usual for us."
5. Trade. Trade is always an issue for the hog industry. Everyone hopes the export markets stay strong and countries do not ban our pork for one reason or another.