Guest Columnist

Senate must act now to address crisis facing Iowa hog farmers

In this Friday, April 17, 2020, photo, hogs rest in a pen on a farm near Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
In this Friday, April 17, 2020, photo, hogs rest in a pen on a farm near Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Generations of hog farmers in Iowa and around the United States have built a pork production system that is the finest in the world, I am proud to be one of those farmers. Together, we raise the safest, highest quality and most affordable pork in the world. Our family farm has spent years implementing farming practices that are efficient and sustainable. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to jeopardize a farming lifestyle that serves my family, the rural economy and global consumers. To reduce the damage inflicted on the hog sector by COVID-19 we need the U.S. Senate to act now.

In one year, our finishing barns market 22,000 pigs, but COVID-related processing plant shutdowns and slowdowns have created a bottleneck, impacting my ability to move pork through the supply chain and fulfill my market obligations. While plant capacity is improving, we are still not at full capacity, and, pigs continue to be backed up on our farm. While it is possible for us to stretch out crop production, storing grain until a friendlier market, it is impossible to do the same with pigs, therefore, those that can’t be harvested we sell at severe market losses. Collectively, hog farmers stand to lose more than $5 billion on hogs marketed this year. The millions of pigs that cannot be harvested and enter the food supply must be euthanized to prevent animal suffering caused by overcrowding and because the plants and workers cannot accommodate oversized hogs. Producers raise animals with care for the food supply; our COVID predicament is a tragic one with increasingly severe impacts on my family, our Jones County neighbors, and pig farmers across Iowa.

Hog farmers remain committed to the special responsibility we hold for supplying Americans with a key source of nutritious protein. I am proud to be part of a community that generates more than 142,000 jobs for our state. Notwithstanding the disaster we face on the farm, we continue doing our part as essential workers to keep food on American’s tables. While the government has made some support available, it is not enough. Without more help from the federal government, thousands of farmers like myself may be forced to liquidate our farms, creating a more contracted, consolidated and less competitive pork production system that will not serve the rural economy or consumers well.

I thank Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley for the leadership they have demonstrated in addressing the crisis faced by pork producers. They have championed some of the provisions – such as those addressing the need to compensate farmers for euthanized pigs – included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. We ask Senators Ernst and Grassley to rally their colleagues in the Senate behind companion legislation that includes:

• Compensation for euthanized livestock that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions.

• Expanded direct payments to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet.

• Increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency.

• Mental health assistance for our farmers who face a financial and emotional crisis.

Without immediate action, many generational family farms, like my own, will be lost forever.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Jim Hogan is a part owner of Hogan Bro’s hog finishing operation in Monticello and has raised pigs and crops in northeast Iowa for over 40 years.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.