Every successful business relies on dedicated customers. For Iowa soybean farmers, the state's 24 million pigs are critical to their livelihood, a synergy celebrated and highlighted during October Pork Month.
"As soybean farmers, we know how vital consistent demand is right here at home," says Iowa Soybean Association President Jeff Jorgenson, a soybean farmer from Sidney. "When trade uncertainties impact our ability to sell overseas, Iowa's hogs remain a tried and true market for soybeans."
Iowa ranks first in the nation in pork production with over 5,400 hog farms. The industry also supports more than 147,000 jobs, or nearly 10% of the state's workforce, generating nearly $12 billion in economic activity.
Iowa's hog herd generates quite the appetite for homegrown soybeans. In 2019, 115 million bushels of soybeans, or about 23% of all Iowa soybean acres, went to pig consumption.
"There's no question about it, pork and soybeans have a very symbiotic relationship," says Schyler Bardole, a soybean farmer who raises hogs near Rippey. "Soybean meal is excellent, high-quality protein for pigs, and they need a lot of it."
In addition to generating market demand for his soybeans, Bardole says raising pigs provides agronomic benefits. Manure generated by his hog herd serves as a valuable and organic fertilizer that boosts soil tilth and yields while reducing dependence on petroleum-based products.
Doing more with less is a hallmark of soybean and pig farmers. Since 1960, nearly 76% less land, 25% less water and 7% less energy is used to produce one pound of pork.
Iowa soybean farmers also support the pork industry as strong supporters of the Animal Agriculture Alliance and founding members of the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. ISA also works closely with Iowa pig farmers as an active participant in the Iowa Food and Family Project, helping boost trust in modern agriculture and demand for great-tasting pork raised by Iowa's dedicated farm families.
"We tip our hats to hog producers this month and every month," adds Jorgenson. "And the best way for consumers to do the same is to eat more pork!"