Each year the Illinois Pork Producers Association coordinates the Piglets on Parade exhibit at the Illinois State Fair. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
KANSAS CITY – Record exports and good sustainability practices are highlights for pork producers as they try to overcome negative margins.
The cost of feed inputs remains high after drought gripped much of the country in 2012, driving corn and soybean prices to record levels. The negative margin will likely continue through next year.
“We have a really resilient, committed, focused group of producers across this country. My hope is that we’ll get them all through this time period, but from a checkoff standpoint we’re trying to get more dollars into domestic marketing and more dollars into exports,” said Conley Nelson, president of the National Pork Board.
Last year the pork industry saw $6.1 billion worth of exports, which was a record. This year’s numbers are line to repeat that, which will be important as producers need to get their revenue levels above the cost of production. Nelson said with the price of other kinds of meat rising, pork could be a very good value next year.
Sustainability continues to be a focus for pork producers. A carbon footprint study by the University of Arkansas showed that the amount of greenhouse gas produced by U.S. pork industry today is less than 0.3 percent. The study showed a picture dramatically different than 50 years ago for pork production.
“Today we produce 30 million more pigs a year in this country with almost 40 percent less sows,” said Nelson. “That’s an awesome number, and because of that we’ve used about 78 percent less land, 41 percent less water, and over all our carbon footprint has been reduced 35 percent.”
Pork producers continue to reach out to retail and food companies that have made decisions about production practices without talking to representatives of the industry, which is concerning for Nelson.
“As an industry, we’ve got to reach out and figure out how we’re going to become part of that dialogue and part of the decision-making of those companies because they’re making them without that input,” he said.
Nelson participated in Trade Talk at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City in November.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.