Pork producers plead for compensation, inspection funds

It would be “unthinkable to let our guard down” in the face of continued threats from global avian swine flu, according to National Pork Producers’ Council President and hog farmer A.V. Roth.

Roth stressed the need for more funds for inspections, and more federal help by pork producers, including compensation for already-slaughtered hogs, as many producers exit the field. Roth spoke as part of an NPPC media event as President Donald Trump jousted with Congress over further aid for farmers, including livestock producers.

Roth noted that China, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan have recently suspended pork imports from Germany because of a single reported case of avian swine flu found in a wild boar. China is in the process of rebuilding its swine herd after a devastating bout of ASF reduced it by more than half. ASF has killed one out of every four hogs worldwide, said Roth.

Inspection gap

Roth especially pleaded for additional money to fund animal inspections. These are normally funded by user fees, but those have been severely reduced due to supply disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.  Roth said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspection service faces a shortfall of $630 million by the end of fiscal year 2020. He urged funding for 720 additional animal inspectors at all air, sea and land entry points. “An outbreak of ASF [in the U.S.] would be a devastating blow to pork producers,” he said.

Roth said the NPPC is also asking for modifications to the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter and to the Paycheck Protection Program to makes them “more accessible” to pork producers.

Neil Dierks, CEO of the NPPC, said the Chinese ban on German pork may benefit American producers but it was too early to tell by how much. Dierks also downplayed Taiwan’s recent move in lifting its former restrictions on pork produced with ractopamine, an animal feed additive that promotes growth. “Taiwan’s move is positive and long overdue, but the U.S. use of ractopamine is low historically, so we don’t expect Taiwan’s action to move the needle that much” on imports of U.S. pork, he said.

He said pork producers are exiting the field. “It costs between $140 and 150 to bring a single hog to market. Producers have gotten nothing for those animals they’ve had to euthanize. It’s cheaper to day to buy a pig on the open market than to raise it.”

David Murray can be reached at [email protected].