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How do you find the 'happy' in Pork Month 2020?

Closeup of a piglet being held National Hog Farmer/Kevin Schulz
Is your glass half full, quarter full, or no glass at all this Porktober?

Happy Pork Month!

The turning of the calendar to October obligates me to greet people that way, as the 10th month of the year is designated as Pork Month. But it seems hollow this year. Is it right to say "happy" Pork Month?

There is no "perfect" year in hog production, but 2020 has brought with it a whole new set of obstacles that many in the industry have never seen and hope to never see again. Packer capacity has been an issue in years past, with the question if there was enough shackle space. Well, this year COVID-19 crept into our packing plants, and it wasn't shackle space holding us back, but rather the lack of enough healthy people on the line for the slaughter and processing plants to remain operating at capacity or at all.

As we all know that filtered back to the farm to start slowing hog growth, or stopping it altogether by euthanizing market hogs. It remains unclear how many hogs were backed up and remain backed up on farms as plants are playing catch-up on the backlog.

A lot of factors are in play here, and a lot of them are leading to poor market conditions and tough times for producers.

So that gets us back to my first question: "Is it right to say 'happy' Pork Month?"

I always try to be a glass-half-full type of guy, but that has been really tough this year. And I'm just writing about this great industry, I'm not in the barns like you are day in and day out. It may be hard for you to see the glass as being half full, or quarter full, or maybe you don't think that you even have a glass at all.

You are not alone; every hog producer is going through the exact same thing as you are. Sure, some operations may be structured differently to enable them to better withstand market downturns.

Regardless where and how you stand in the U.S. pork industry, you and your operation are very important to the viability of the industry as a whole. As we learned with the pork supply chain disruption this year, every link in that chain is very important in keeping this well-oiled machine that is the U.S. pork industry running smoothly.

Pork producers are some of the most resilient, salt-of-the-earth people who I have ever met, from the ones who I grew up around to the ones who I have now grown to know. Farmers as a whole are problem solvers, and pork producers may be better in tune with finding solutions to problems they are presented with, rather than waiting for someone else to solve the problem at hand.

Just as I wrote last week in this space, market analysts say things should be looking up for the producers who are able to withstand the current tough situation. The producers who do come through this, though battered and worn, will be stronger and the industry as a whole will also be stronger.

We will right this ship, and we will get back to time when we can say "happy" Pork Month. In the meantime, we would like to hear from you, how you're holding up in these times. How do you manage to stay upbeat about the industry for your barn crew, your family and, maybe most importantly, for yourself? Drop me a line, I want to hear from you. Remember, we're all in this together.

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