In this file:
· The pork industry’s worst nightmare is now becoming a reality
· 'We just haven't seen this type of circumstance occur before:' Iowa vet says it's possible millions of hogs could be euthanized
· Covid-19: US pig backlog may rise to 10 million
The pork industry’s worst nightmare is now becoming a reality
by: Munashe Kwangwari III, WMBD WYZZ TV/CIProud.com (IL)
Posted: May 21, 2020
CENTRAL ILLINOIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Push has come to shove for pork producers in Illinois. Farms everywhere are now scrambling to get rid of their hogs anyway they can. Industry leaders say meat packing plant production is at an all time low causing a backlog of pigs with nowhere for them to go.
What pig farmers feared, COVID-19 slowing down processing plants, has now become a reality. Farmers say in the end they can’t send the animals to market, leaving farms full, with little to no options.
“We’re actually going out of business, at least temporarily,” said McLean County Hog Farmer, Patrick Bane. “We are emptying our farm, so we are no longer producing baby pigs for some period of time.”
It’s what hog farmers like Bane never expected, the shockwaves of COVID-19 started to hit meat packing plants. Many workers have gotten sick, some plants have even closed down, and the industry, indefinitely paused, forcing producers to make tough choices.
“It’s a sad scenario,” said Bane. “There is some euthenisation going on in the industry. The honest and blunt truth is there is a lot of food going to waste.”
Jenny Jackson, Director of Communications for the Illinois Pork Producers Association says pigs become market ready at 300-pounds. At that time they’re supposed to be on their way to packaging plants. But with slowed production farmers are left trying to buy time anyway they can as hits from the healthcare crisis just keep coming.
“We are facing unprecedented times,” said Jackson. “Some of the older generation of farmers we represent has never been through a time like this, even those that went through the hardest of ag depression ages.”
However, federal help could be on the way to the tune of $20 million. That is, if the so-called “Heroes Act” makes it through the senate. It should be noted, both Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have already pledged to strike it down.
Representative Cheri Bustos (D) Illinois, one of the brains behind the bill says, the Act will bring much needed funds to farmers though she questions if it will be enough.
“I don’t think it is going to be enough,” said Bustos. “We fought for a lot more than that, but I think this is a way to be of some help.”
If the act passes, livestock producers could get up to $250,000 if they apply in a timely manor, but at an average of $70 per pig and thousands of pigs per farm, Bane says the amount is not even close...
more, including video report [2:25 min.]
'We just haven't seen this type of circumstance occur before:' Iowa vet says it's possible millions of hogs could be euthanized
Because meatpacking plants are still not operating at full capacity, hogs are getting backed up by the thousands every week
Sarah Beckman, WeAreIowa.com
May 21, 2020
DES MOINES, Iowa — With the coronavirus pandemic greatly impacting the meatpacking industry in the U.S., farmers may be forced to euthanize millions of pigs over the next few months to avoid overcrowding, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
The National Pork Producers Council said recently that more than 170,000 market-ready hogs per day can't be sent to processing plants and as a result, around 10 million pigs will need to be euthanized by mid-September because the hogs will have "no place to go." The group called euthanasia the "only humane response" in order to prevent animal suffering.
Local 5 spoke to Pete Thomas, a veterinarian for Iowa Select Farms who has been going around to euthanize some hogs on Iowa farms during the pandemic.
"It's been a really tough few weeks," said Thomas. "I can't even begin to describe how difficult and emotional the past few weeks have been. all producers feel the same way. I grew up on a small farm in Iowa. This is something that we haven't seen this type of circumstance occur before. this is a very emotional time for people. It's emotional for everybody..."
The meatpacking industry has been dealing with a number of production challenges caused by the coronavirus, and several large plants had to close temporarily because of outbreaks of COVID-19, the disease it causes. At least 30 U.S. meatpacking workers have died of COVID-19 and another 10,000 have been infected or exposed to the virus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents roughly 80 percent of the country's beef and pork workers and 33 percent of its poultry workers.
Thomas told Local 5 that pork producers in Iowa are trying to keep as many hogs as possible in the food supply chain right now.
"We are trying to optimize our capacity, but really the truth is we are a million and a half pigs backed up in the U.S. already," said Thomas. "We have taken pigs to other marketing channels. We are working closely with Iowa Pork Producers to donate as many pigs as possible...We are just at a point right now that we are continuing to dig a deeper hole every day that 10 million pigs number could be realistic."
The National Pork Producers Council has asked for $505 million to help pay for costs related to euthanasia...
Covid-19: US pig backlog may rise to 10 million
May 22, 2020
As US packing plants continue to operate under president Trump’s decree, the total backlog of hogs with no place to go from April to mid-September 2020 may reach 10 million. However, Iowa – the nation’s top hog-producing state – has managed so far to avoid large-scale euthanasia.
In the US, coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) has caused an extensive reduction in pork packing plant capacity through worker infections, temporary closures and biosecurity measures such as wider spacing between workers. This in turn has caused widespread processing backlogs, with tens of thousands of pigs being euthanised every day in some states.
NPPC: 10 million hogs with no place to go
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) estimated that in total, from late April to mid-September this year, up to 10 million hogs may need to be euthanised.
Keeping these pigs on farms is not an option as there is no foreseeable processing capacity to handle them and there are also significant associated animal welfare issues. These issues relate to crowding as these pigs continue to get larger, and also to the methods being used by some producers to slow the pigs’ growth rate (for example, by increasing barn temperature).
However, on Tuesday, the The Guardian quoted NPPC representative Jim Monroe claiming that the US pig slaughter capacity situation was improving. As of the end of last week, he said, it had returned to over three-quarters of normal.
Collaboration for pig euthanasia
On May 15th, the US Department of Justice provided a ‘favourable decision’ for the NPPC relating to the ‘unprecedented challenges’ of the Covid-19 pandemic. The NPPC had sought “permission to allow hog farmers greater flexibility in working to maximise the number of hogs entering the food supply, minimise the tragic need to euthanise hogs, and facilitate safe and orderly euthanisation.”
The NPPC is assisting its state organisations, state governments and farmers “in identifying sources of euthanasia equipment, and is participating in discussions regarding the organisation of centralised euthanasia and disposal stations.”
Avoiding hog euthanasia in Iowa
In Iowa however, where more pigs are produced than in any other US state, the number of hogs that has so far had to be euthanised and disposed of is low. At the end of last week, it was cumulatively fewer than 5,000, according to Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture.
That is despite the fact that in April, at least 5 large meat packing plants in the state closed temporarily to stem the tide of Covid-19 infections. For example, Tyson Food temporarily closed its Waterloo pork plant for over 2 weeks in April, where about 19,500 hogs are processed each day, about 1/20 of total US pork production.
Reasons for Iowa’s avoidance of pig euthanasia ...
More Covid-19 assistance ...
Outlook for pork exports ...
Canada: pork plant inspectors fall ill ...
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