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Articles from 2018 In December


Pooling PF may increase probability of PRRS virus detection by qPCR

iStock/Getty Images Plus pigs

By Will A. López, Phil Gauger, Karen Harmon, Laura Bradner, Gustavo Silva and Daniel C. L. Linhares, Iowa State University
Processing fluids monitoring is with no doubt a robust tool for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus monitoring and surveillance in piglets, for sow farms undergoing PRRS virus control/elimination programs, and it appears to be highly sensitive in low prevalence scenarios. The dramatic increase in laboratory submissions of PF samples, is evidence of the high perceived value that the swine industry sees in this population-based sampling technique. Pooling PF for polymerase chain reaction based testing has been documented showing that when litters are pooled by farrowing room (all litters processed within a farrowing room), or by whole day of collection (all litters processed in a day) the performance of the PF method is superior than when PF is tested individually per each litter.

Using aggregated samples such as PF brings the question about the detrimental effect of pooling a sample type that is already in essence, a pool, on the probability of PRRS virus detection by quantitative PCR, especially when prevalence is low. Thus, our objective with this study was to assess the effect of pooling PF on the probability of PRRS virus RNA detection by qPCR under a low prevalence scenario.

Study design
Results of a previous study were analyzed to understand the patterns of PF’s cycle threshold values and their relationship to the number of PCR-positive pigs within PCR-positive litters. It revealed that Ct values of PF from litters having a single viremic piglet had a mean Ct value of 30.52. We called those litters: ‘low prevalence litters’. Thus, a field PF sample previously tested with a Ct value of 28 was selected to represent a litter of 11 pigs having a single viremic piglet (Sample PF1).
The sample was used to represent a conservative scenario and to account for an expected increase in Ct value after a freeze-thaw cycle.

Using PF from PRRS-naïve herds, we performed six replications of eight two-fold serial dilutions on the PF1 sample to model diluting PRRS-positive PF (PF1) with PRRS virus-negative PF and gradually increasing the volume of negative PF until losing detectability of PRRS virus RNA by qPCR. For each two-fold dilution, it was considered that the number of PRRS-negative pigs represented increased by a factor of two. For instance, the first dilution would represent a PF from 22 pigs with one viremic piglet. After eight dilutions, the PF would represent 2,816 pigs with one viremic pig.

All samples were tested individually for PRRS virus RNA by qPCR using the commercial RealPCR* IDEXX PRRS kit to determine the probability of PRRS virus RNA detection as a function of the number of PRRS virus-negative pigs contributing to the processing fluid sample in each dilution. The statistical analysis was done using regression models on SAS 9.4.

Results and conclusions
The sample PF1 (initially selected PRRS virus-positive PF with Ct of 28), yielded PRRS virus qPCR results with a mean Ct value of 29.05 from the six replications. The results of qPCR on the serially diluted PF1 sample showed an average increment of 1.37 points in Ct for each two-fold dilution, as expected. The raw probability of detecting PRRS virus by qPCR decreased to 33% at the 6th dilution (352 piglets) then to 17% at the 7th dilution (1408 piglets) and 0% at the 8th dilution (2816 piglets). 

Results support that the PF sampling method is capable of detecting one single PRRS virus-positive pig among a high number of negative pigs. The sample PF1 models ‘worst case scenario’ of having just ‘low prevalence litter’ in the PF sample. The regression coefficients for the serially diluted PF1 data indicate that one viremic pig with a Ct value of 29 could be detected in a pooled PF sample with up to 780 PRRS virus-negative pigs, but, what is the probability of that happening?

Figure 1 shows the predicted probabilities for PRRS virus detection by qPCR in case of having one viremic piglet in the pooled sample and points to three different examples of PF pool sizes with its corresponding chances to detect the virus. When there was a single ‘low prevalence litter’ in a room, there was 95%, 80% and 60% probability to detect PRRS virus by qPCR when pooling 25, 48 and 71 litters respectively.

Predicted probabilities for PRRSv RNA detection by qPCR, according to the number of pigs in PF pooled samples.

There is a marked dilution effect due to the increasing pooling of PRRS virus-negative PF with the original ‘low prevalence litter’ sample. However, pooling PF (e.g. whole-room as opposed to PF from few litters) would increase the coverage (number of pigs included in the PF sample) which in turn may increase the probability of PRRS virus detection by qPCR. Thus, the ability to pool large numbers of pigs in a PF sample allows to test more pigs more frequently and therefore improve the performance of PRRS virus monitoring and surveillance programs.

References

1. Yeske P. Application of new tools to declare a herd as PRRS negative. 2018.

2. Trevisan G. Swine disease reporting system: Real-time, aggregated results from major U.S. veterinary diagnostic laboratories. 2018; Ames, IA. p 43-44.

3. López W. Processing fluids sensitivity and specificity for RT-PCR assays to detect PRRS virus under field conditions. 2018.

Tail docking, castration: Prime time for PRRS tests

National Pork Board Samples are often collected during tail docking and castration, but tools used in these procedures have tested positive for PRRS virus in prior studies.
Samples are often collected during tail docking and castration, but tools used in these procedures have tested positive for PRRS virus in prior studies.

Researchers: Carles Vilalta, Juan Sanhueza, Montserrat Torremorell, Cesar Corzo and Robert Morrison, University of Minnesota; Julio Alvarez, VISAVET Health Surveillance Center and Universidad Complutense; and Deb Murray, New Fashion Pork
With porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome costing the U.S. swine industry more than $600 million each year, making sure newborn pigs are not at risk for prolonged infections in the herd is vital.

Molecular diagnostic tests have become an important tool to declare herds as stable, and they have been used in due-to-wean pig serum samples to generate evidence of absence of viral replication and transmission in pigs prior to weaning. The recommended sampling protocol consists of bleeding at least 30 due-to-wean pigs 30 days apart for a minimum of 90 days and testing them by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction in pools of five (Holtkamp et al., 2011).

Pooling allows a larger number of animals to be tested, thus increasing herd-level sensitivity while keeping diagnostic costs low (Rovira et al., 2007). However, cost-effective sampling approaches that can be integrated in the farm routine procedures are still needed.

Samples are often collected during tail docking and castration, but tools used in these procedures have tested positive in PRRS virus in prior studies (O’Connor et al., 2014; Thompson et al., 2012). Litters handled after processing PRRS virus-infected litters have a higher risk of testing RT-PCR positive (Thompson et al., 2012), suggesting that these procedures are associated with PRRS virus dissemination.

During tail docking and castration, it is a common practice to place tails and testicles obtained in a pail to avoid the spread of bloodborne pathogens within the farrowing room. Serosanguineous fluids originating from these tissues, which are known as processing fluids, accumulate at the bottom of the pail and can be used as a sensitive sample to determine the presence of PRRS virus in processed pigs (Lopez et al., 2018).

However, there are scarce data on the use of PF to determine herd-level sensitivity and PRRS virus infection dynamics in newborn pigs.

That’s why researchers with the University of Minnesota recently set out to better understand the sensitivity of the use of PF at litter level, more specifically at 3 days old.

Past history with PRRS virus
A commercial 6,000-sow breed-to-wean farm in Illinois that had become infected with PRRS virus in April 2015 was chosen for the study. It was not until June 2016 that the pigs, prior to wean, tested PRRS virus- and RT-PCR-negative, were considered stable (Holtkamp et al., 2011).

In February 2017, the herd experienced reproductive clinical signs compatible with PRRS virus infection, and samples were submitted to the diagnostic laboratory that confirmed another PRRS virus infection with the same strain.

A new PRRS virus immunity homogenization plan was initiated by ensuring exposure of PRRS virus to all breeding animals and incoming gilts eight weeks after the outbreak, following industry standard protocols (Torremorell et al., 2003). However, during the time of the study, it was decided to not perform herd closure due to remodeling of the facilities.

Sampling protocol
Sampling started 10 days after the outbreak had been confirmed with diagnostics and was repeated every three weeks for a total of eight sampling events, representing 24 weeks since infection was confirmed. The sampling protocol consisted of bleeding all the pigs within a litter, and collecting all the tails and testicles of the castrated piglets for each litter.

Every pig was bled using a new sterile needle. Processing tissues were collected for each litter and placed in 4- by 6-inch reclosable zip-close bags. The tissues remained in the bags for at least three hours before the fluids were removed with a sterile pipette and placed in sterile sera tubes. Both individual serum samples and PF were centrifuged at the farm and transported to the laboratory while refrigerated. Pig gender was recorded to assess, quantify and evaluate its association with litter PRRS virus status (positive or negative). 

Gloves were changed between litters when bleeding. However, no specific instructions to change gloves were given to farm employees during tail docking and castration, as this study aimed to represent field conditions. Serum and PF samples were individually tested at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for PRRS virus by RT-PCR (Rovira et al., 2007).

A sample was considered positive if the cycle threshold value was ≤35 or ≤37 for a serum or PF, respectively, as a result of the receiver operating characteristic curve analysis conducted as part of this study.

Detecting PRRS virus
A total of 78 litters with 945 piglets (480 males and 465 females) were sampled. One litter, which had six pigs and was sampled on Week 11 post-outbreak, was removed from the analysis due to loss of the associated PF. Of the remaining 77 litters, 23 (29.8%) litters and 100 out of 939 (10.6%) pigs tested PRRS virus- and RT-PCR positive. There were also 23 out of 77 (29.8%) PF samples that yielded PRRS virus- and RT-PCR positive results.

The proportion of positive pigs and litters changed over time, with more samples testing positive earlier in the outbreak. However, a transitory increase was seen in Week 8 post-outbreak, coinciding with virus inoculation with the same outbreak strain as an intervention strategy in breeding females. The proportion of PF RT-PCR-positive samples followed a similar pattern as the one observed with the serum samples.

At least one positive litter was detected in each sampling event during the whole study regardless of sample type tested, except in Week 11 post-outbreak for PFs. The parity distribution of the sows included in the study followed the expected parity distribution in a commercial farm, with 23 (29.9%), 14 (18.2%), 14 (18.2%), 10 (13.0%) and 16 (20.8%) of litters born to first, second, third, fourth and fifth-to-ninth parity sows, respectively.

The percentage of RT-PCR-positive PF samples was higher in lower parities. It was not possible to detect any positive pigs in parities above five, although some of the PF were RT-PCR-positive. There were significant differences between the proportion of positive litters from Parity 1 and 2 sows, 78.3% (18/23), compared to litters from Parity 3 or higher 21.7% (5/23).

A significant higher proportion of positive serum samples was observed in males (61/476, or 12.8%) compared to females (39/463, or 8.4%). A similar trend was obtained when comparing positive cycle threshold values by gender with values from males. Additionally, a significant association between parity and probability of detecting a positive pig was observed.

The probability to detect a positive PF significantly increased with the number of pigs infected in a litter, although a high uncertainty in the estimate for the association between positive PF results and presence of >2 serum-positive piglets was found due to the lack of negative PF samples. False negative PFs were identified in litters having two or fewer PRRS virus-positive piglets.

PF is practical
These results show PF samples are a valuable, practical and time-efficient way to monitor PRRS virus in breeding herds at processing. PF had a sensitivity of 87% to detect a PRRS virus-positive litter, compared with sampling all the piglets. That loss in sensitivity can be compensated for by the larger sampling. Each time processing fluids are tested from one litter, 10 to 12 piglets are actually being tested. This means a larger number of animals are being tested for the same budget in diagnostics.

Other important findings from this study are the association between positive litters with gilts and the longitudinal description of the outbreak. Those findings led to another study lead by Juan Sanhueza, University of Minnesota, to try to understand if gilts could be a delaying factor for PRRS virus stability in breeding herds. 

For more information, contact Carles Vilalta.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Dec. 31, 2018

There's a no-travel warning for the stretch of Interstate 29 through North Dakota. High winds have caused blowing and drifting snow.

There's an information void for farmers because of the government shutdown, as well as an aid void.

There's no night trading on the CME for the next two nights because of the new year.

American flags are back up to full staff, after lowering them for the death of George H.W. Bush. The flag was lowered for 67 days this year. 

Will ’19 bring a surprise?

iStock/Getty Images Plus/alexsl 2019 curved road sign

As we flip the calendar to 2019, we are offered the chance to look ahead as well as look back on what has been.

Heading into 2018, American farmers were bracing themselves for what might happen if President Trump would follow through with threats to place tariffs on steel and aluminum from global trade partners. Well, it didn’t take long to see that countries would indeed offer retaliatory tariffs of their own.

This was not good news for American pig farmers as they had been making great strides in the global marketplace, as almost 27% of U.S. pork production had been finding its way onto foreign consumers’ tables.

Not good news, but it wasn’t entirely a surprise as tariffs were on the lips of many heading into 2018.

What had been in the back of many pork producers’ minds moved to the forefront, as African swine fever started its spread across China and eastern Europe. At the start of the year, ASF was a still in the “if” it gets to the United States status, but after the Asian and European spread that “if” turned into a big “when” ASF reaches the U.S. swine herd.

The sad thing is, that try as we might, the swine industry can do everything within its power to keep ASF and other foreign animal diseases at bay, but one slip by a worldly traveler could expose our herd to ASF.

As we look forward to 2019, let’s hope that ASF reverts back to its “if” status.

In this new year, will the trade issues be resolved? Will disease spread be averted? Let’s hope 2019 doesn’t bring with it a surprise like ASF’s spread.

USDA scientist receives prestigious award for CSF, ASF vaccine work

Plum Island Animal Disease Center APHIS has approved 11 National Animal Health Laboratory Network laboratories to test for ASF.

Source: USDA ARS, JAVMA News
The National Association of Federal Veterinarians is honoring a research microbiologist for his work to guard animals against foreign disease after winning the prestigious Daniel E. Salmon Award. Manuel Borca, the lead USDA scientist at the Foreign Animal Disease Unit at Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, was recognized for his critical contributions to protecting world animal health against infectious diseases. 

Borca, a veterinary microbiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is an international leader in veterinary virology in foreign animal infectious diseases. His research, particularly in African swine fever and classical swine fever, has influenced animal health researchers worldwide and made significant contributions towards developing veterinary medical countermeasures critical to controlling foreign animal diseases.

Over the past 20 years, Borca and his team have made significant progress in understanding the CSF virus genome to develop new vaccines, called DIVA—differentiating infected from vaccinated animals—a critical feature used during disease outbreak efforts. The team identified more than 80% of all viral genes involved in causing CSF disease. Borca’s team has used this information to produce and patent 10 attenuated CSF virus strains that are potential vaccine candidates.

Borca has also made critical contributions to developing ASF vaccines. Borca has developed three ASF vaccine candidates, using technology he and PIADC fellow scientists developed earlier that allows them to genetically modify ASF viruses. These vaccine candidates, along with one developed by colleagues in Barcelona, Spain, are the only reported experimental vaccine strains that have been shown to prevent disease caused by the strain now circulating in Europe and Asia. 

Established in 1986, the Daniel E. Salmon Award honors the first director of the USDA’s Bureau of Animal Industry. The award is presented annually to a veterinarian in recognition of outstanding contributions and notable service in the public’s interest. A veterinary surgeon, Salmon earned the first DVM degree awarded in the United States and spent his career studying animal diseases. He gave his name to the bacterial genus Salmonella, which was discovered by an assistant and named in Salmon’s honor.

MORNING Midwest Digest, Dec. 31, 2018

A woman was killed by a lion at a game park in North Carolina. She was from Indiana. 

A big day for the NFL across the heartland yesterday.

Combines will be rolling in Brazil, but analysts continue to cut acreage estimates there. 

State-by-state health rankings are out. Minnesota and North Dakota are among the best.

Farm Progress America, Dec. 31, 2018

Max Armstrong shares insight on how the commodity markets are being impacted by the partial government shutdown. A key area of interest is whether China has started importing U.S. crops; in addition farmers need information ahead of planting for 2019.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

wlfella/iStock/Getty Images Plus

New Year brings both hope and fear

Risk Management Sign

With 2019 about to begin, U.S. hog producers are hopeful that the new year will deliver better financial outcomes for their operations than what 2018 provided. Among other casualties of the escalating U.S. trade war, the swine industry was arguably one of the most negatively impacted. The unfortunate timing of retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. pork exports by key buyers such as Mexico and China came at a time when hog supplies and pork production were beginning to increase. A recently updated monthly study conducted by Lee Schulz at Iowa State University estimating farrow-to-finish hog producer returns showed that there were only four profitable months throughout all of 2018 — January, February, June and July.

While hog producers continue to bleed red ink as December closes out, with losses expected to continue through the first quarter, the market projects positive margins heading into both the second and third quarters of 2019. Although not exactly strong from a historical perspective, margins are nonetheless above average and near the 70th percentile of the previous decade in the case of the second quarter which is much stronger than where actual second quarter 2018 margins were earlier this spring as well as those projected for the second quarter of 2019 at that time (see Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: 2019 Quarter 2 hog margin

Figure 1: 2019 Quarter 2 hog margin

Figure 2: 2019 Quarter 3 hog margin

Figure 2: 2019 Quarter 3 hog margin

Optimistic futures market
Part of the reason why the outlook for next year’s spring and summer quarters is looking better has to do with expectations for demand prospects despite the increased production we are seeing. In the most recent December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, the USDA increased their projection for 2019 pork exports by 250 million pounds to 6.45 billion. The verbatim text of the report states that continued strong global demand for U.S. pork was behind the revision, with China likely to be a big player in the market next year given their ongoing struggles with African swine fever. While expectations for large Chinese imports ahead of their Lunar New Year holiday have not panned out, the domestic hog industry in China is going through big structural changes with smaller scale operations being phased out in favor of larger commercial farms.

The current trade truce between the United States and China to allow time for negotiators to reach a broader agreement by March 1 is keeping hope alive that punitive tariffs on U.S. pork will eventually be lifted. However, there is no guarantee that a comprehensive deal can be struck on such a short timeline. Despite this uncertainty, the market is optimistic over demand prospects next year as summer hog futures are trading at record premiums relative to the current CME Lean Hog cash index for this time of year. In fact, the current premium of nearly $29 per hundredweight is close to a record set last year in late-August and early September of $33.45 per hundredweight for any time of the year (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: 2019 June lean hog futures minus CME lean hog index (10-year range)

Figure 3: 2019 June lean hog futures minus CME lean hog index (10-year range)

Obviously, in order for this spread to reconcile by mid-June when the futures contract expires, either the value for cash hogs needs to come up over the first half of the year and/or the futures price needs to come down. While it is normal for cash hog prices to move higher from the beginning of the year to mid-June, the average gain over the past 10 years has been $17.66 per hundredweight which leaves a lot of room for futures prices to decline — particularly if current demand expectations are not met. The latest quarterly Hogs and Pigs report from the USDA does add some optimism from a supply standpoint given the smaller-than-expected inventory of lightweight pigs that will come to market in late-spring, although there is still quite a bit of risk premium reflected in summer futures prices.

Risk management considerations
Given positive forward margins and the large premium of deferred futures prices to spot cash values, as well as ongoing trade uncertainties, it makes sense to implement a risk management plan to hedge against potential market weakness. We highlighted a couple months back that the market environment was reflecting increased uncertainties with a spike in the implied volatility of option premiums. This remains the case with implied volatility trading well above historical averages both on an absolute basis and from a seasonal perspective. Figure 4 charts the implied volatility of at-the-money options for June Lean Hog futures. At just over 27%, the current level of implied volatility is a full 8% above last year at this time, and trading at new 10-year highs for this time of year. It is also only 4.63% below the all-time high for June option implied volatility at any time during the calendar year.

Figure 4: 2019 June lean hog option implied volatility and 10-year range

Figure 4: 2019 June lean hog option implied volatility and 10-year range

We also pointed out previously that this spike in implied volatility has made it more expensive to purchase options and hedge against market risk in forward periods. Because implied volatility provides an objective measure of an option’s cost, this heightened volatility means that one is buying an inflated asset when purchasing options to protect against adverse price changes. This presents a challenge to risk management decisions in the current environment as most producers will want to initiate flexible strategies that retain the opportunity to participate in higher prices.

Because this flexibility comes at a high premium though, it makes sense to look for ways to minimize the cost in a risk management strategy. One interesting aspect of the current market revolves around the relative pricing between calls and puts an equal distance away from the market. This study, referred to as the implied volatility skew, measures the difference between implied volatilities of out-of-the-money puts and calls that are similar distances above and below current price levels. For certain markets such as livestock and equities, it is normal for there to be a downward skew, meaning that downside puts trade at higher implied volatilities than upside calls.

In the present environment however, the skew is nearly flat with upside calls trading at implied volatilities almost equal to downside puts a similar distance out of the money. The reason for this, of course, is that the market is concerned of the possibility of a large rally should China enter the market and purchase large quantities of pork over the medium to longer term. While this certainly is possible if a trade deal is reached given their ongoing struggles with ASF, it is important to keep in mind that deferred hog futures are already reflecting expectations for very strong demand next summer given their premium to spot cash prices. Figure 5 shows the spread or difference in implied volatilities of June hog calls compared to puts with deltas of 25 — roughly $8 to $12 per hundredweight out of the money.

 Call put skew

Figure 5: Call put skew

One way to take advantage of this implied volatility skew while addressing the high cost of options in the present environment would be to sell call options in order to finance the purchase of put options. Since the implied volatility skew shows that call premiums are inflated relative to put premiums, and implied volatility in general shows that option premiums are expensive, this type of minimum/maximum price strategy would address both market factors.

As an example in June Hogs, buying an $80 put option would cost about $5 while selling a $90 call option would bring in a credit of approximately $3 per hundredweight. Therefore, for a net cost of around $2 one would effectively have a minimum price of $78 and a maximum price of $88 before basis or any carcass merit premiums a packer would apply upon delivery.

While some producers may not like the idea of being capped at $88, it is important to keep in mind that this is still $6 over the current market and represents an over $17 per hundredweight margin at the 89th percentile of the past decade, holding feed costs constant. For an operation that is currently open and carrying all of the risk on their late-spring/early summer hog production, this probably isn’t a bad way to start at least taking some risk off the table for the second quarter.

For more help on evaluating specific strategy alternatives or to review your operation’s risk profile, please feel free to contact us.

There is a risk of loss in futures trading. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

This Week in Agribusiness – Dec. 29, 2018

Note: Start the video and all parts will play through as the full show

Part 1

Max Armstrong opens the last show of 2018 with the tradition of looking back on the year. Each year the show gets insight from farm broadcasters from across the country. Max talks with Alan Watts, WKDZ Radio, Cadiz, Kent., about the 2018 crop. Steve Bridge, WFMB Radio, Springfield, Ill., shares how well the season went for his part of the country. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje shares highlights of the weather of 2018; and he looks at key weather patterns that could impact agriculture in 2019.

Part 2

Max Armstrong talks with Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net, Columbus, Ohio, shares how the trade conflict with China is impacting farmers in that part of the country. In the FFA Chapter Tribute, Max Armstrong profiles two chapters – Shickley, FFA, Shickley, Neb., a small town with big dreams. Member Madeline Kamler, shares what she’s learned from her experience in FFA. And the River Edge FFA, Elizabeth and Hanover, Ill., is an active chapter with a range of projects. Member Connor Brown talks about how members are recognized for their work in the chapter. Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje continues his look at the rest of this winter and a potential view of spring 2019.

Part 3

Max Armstrong continues his conversations with farm broadcasters. Greg Akagi, Kansas Ag Network, Topeka, Kan., looks at what he sees for 2019 in his part of the country. And for dairy perspective, Max talks with Brian Winnekins WRDN Radio, Durand, Wis., about the significant slump farmers are facing.

Part 4

Max Armstrong turns the show over to Orion Samuelson who is at USDA to talk with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Orion talks with the Secretary about a range of issues from hitting the milestone of visiting 48 states to work to restore trade with China. He also discusses the new farm bill and its key features.

Part 5

Orion Samuelson continues his year-end conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. They discuss how Secretary Perdue leverages his travel schedule to connect with producers. He also shares some positive actions by the Trump Administration aimed at helping agriculture, including work on E15. And they discuss how USDA will engage areas struck by disaster both fires and hurricanes.

Part 6

Orion Samuelson continues talking with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and what he has learned from his listening sessions. Trade and other issues have taken the lead, but Perdue notes that farmers understand that agriculture is a long game. Perdue, just off a meeting with the new Minister of Agriculture in Mexico, also discussed some key features of the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement.

Part 7

Continuing an annual tradition, Orion Samuelson turns Samuelson Sez into the Secretary Sez. Sonny Perdue shares his thoughts and comments summing up 2018, including work on key topics from Waters of the U.S. to E15.

Get acquainted with the 2018 Global Mega Producers

Global Mega Producer is a comprehensive picture of the worldwide pork industry. Twenty-seven pork producers owning 8.2 million sows made the Global Mega Producer list in 2018. The mega global producers are as diverse as their geographic location. Together they own 8.2 million sows and are spread across eight countries — United States, China, Brazil, Thailand, France, Spain, Chile and Russia. Most of the mega producers hail from the United States; however, China is not far behind.

Smithfield, a subsidiary of WH Group, holds on to the top spot, but Wens is not far behind. Zhengbang made the biggest move up the ranking, rising from 24 to 10. 

As we get ready to unveil the 2019 Global Mega Producer list at this year’s World Pork Expo, let’s get reacquainted with this past year’s recipients.