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·         Government shutdown’s implications for pig farmers are in the numbers

·         Farming during a government shutdown



Government shutdown’s implications for pig farmers are in the numbers

Pork industry will eventually feel the loss of some information but having daily slaughter and purchases and prices for hogs and pork will allow the industry to operate more-or-less smoothly.


Steve Meyer, National Hog Farmer 

Jan 07, 2019


The partial government shutdown is now in its third week. While taking a toll in some areas, pork producers haven’t felt the sting — yet. Prices and quantities are still being gathered and published by USDA’s mandatory price reporting system. Those include both hogs and pork, and are keeping the trade well informed about current market conditions. Think of how lost we were two weeks into the October 2013 shutdown.


Those producers who question the value of the National Pork Producers Council efforts in Washington, D.C., they need to re-think those questions now. The NPPC fought long and hard to get price reporting included as “essential,” and this is the payoff. The NPPC staff deserves a lot of credit for this — and deserves the support of all producers for it and so much more.


This doesn’t mean the industry will get off scot-free from this shutdown. While we get daily prices, hog numbers, wholesale cut volumes and estimated slaughter, there already is some missing data and there will be more if the shutdown continues. Actual slaughter data from two weeks ago were not reported last week because those data run through the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an agency that is on furlough. Same for Friday’s export data that comes from the Department of Commerce through the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, as well as today’s carcass weight version of those exports that comes from the USDA’s Economic Research Service.


And there is more to come. The USDA’s chief economist announced last week that this week’s scheduled World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report would be “suspended.” We think that means delayed pending the resumption of government funding, but we aren’t sure.


One thing is certain: The January report that is the final say on the previous year’s corn and soybean crops will not be published on Jan. 11. That could also apply to monthly livestock slaughter, cold storage and cattle on feed reports and the quarterly grains stocks and annual cattle (inventory) reports due out at month’s end.


The pork industry will eventually begin to feel the loss of some information but having daily slaughter and purchases and prices for hogs and pork will allow the industry to operate more-or-less smoothly.


December’s Hogs and Pigs report is a bit of old news at this point, but there are some things that producers need to realize about its implication. Our table of the key national data appears in Figure 1.


We think there are few key longer-term takeaways.


1.    The breeding herd continues to grow year-on-year but has stabilized...


2.    The market herd was record large for Dec. 1, but the growth rate (1.9% year-over-year) is much slower than in recent quarters...


3.    Some made a lot of the sharp slowdown in litter size growth...


4.    Farrowing intentions are still a mystery...


more, including tables, price forecast



Farming during a government shutdown


By Kai Ryssdal and Bennett Purser,

January 07, 2019


Valuable economic data from the federal government is not always released during government shutdowns, which can leave American farmers unsure on how to price and sell crops. It's already been a volatile year for American agriculture. Soybeans and pork, among other products, were slapped with tariffs by China, Mexico and Canada. The Trump administration offered aid to help relieve the financial burden of these tariffs, but with the partial government shutdown, that aid is no longer accessible to some farmers. Brian Duncan, who raises hogs and crops on his family farm in Illinois and serves as the vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, spoke to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about these issues and the future of American farming. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.


Kai Ryssdal: There are a couple of things we want to talk about. First of all, the shutdown — is that affecting you at all in terms of being able to get market prices for the hogs or any of that sort of data stuff?


Brian Duncan: Right now, we're still getting data. You know, we're pretty early in the shutdown. You know, as this goes on, I'm sure we will see more pronounced impacts. But right now, we're doing OK.


Ryssdal: What kind of data would you be depending on? What does the government have, what does the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] have that you want?


Duncan: Well, sure. Coming up on Jan. 11 is a major supply-demand report which projects prices for the upcoming year, usages, things like that, on a national and global level. So that's data that's important to us as we plan for next year — actually now this year's crops. In other shutdowns, we've lost access to that data, but so far, we are getting that. As we go on, the supply and demand report will be one that we'll miss going forward.


Ryssdal: What about the federal aid that the Trump administration put on to help some of the farmers and folks like yourself who are being hurt by the tariffs? Those payments, it's my understanding, have stopped, right?


Duncan: Sure, they have. A lot of farmers, myself included, went in and were able to sign up last year prior to the shutdown. I still have not signed up for the corn aid. We didn't finish harvest until New Year's Eve day on corn, rotten weather here. And I've spoken with some farmers who would like to go in here and apply now, prior to the Jan. 15 deadline, but obviously because our offices are closed are unable to do so.


Ryssdal: Well look, this is actually really interesting because as I talk to you it occurs to me that you've got a bunch of time-sensitive things that are dependent not on man but on nature, right? You've got to plant, you've got to get the sows in to breed them, or whatever you do with hogs, and it's not like that stuff waits.


Duncan: No, it doesn't. And, you know, this is the winter here. We're three or four months away from planting season. So there's not the sense of urgency out here. Kai, if we were having this discussion in three months, my tone would be a lot different.


Ryssdal: Fair enough. Let me take a very quick turn to trade and the tariffs. As you know, better than most probably who are listening, the Chinese government put tariffs on American hogs, and the Farm Belt has been hit by those tariffs. There are negotiations now happening in Beijing. You taking any hope, any solace from that?




more, including audio [4:32 min.]