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More Pigs Drag Summer Market Down

In last week’s Preview, I pointed out that one of the factors in lower-than-expected hog prices this summer is being driven by some unexpected production. Those extra head and extra pounds continue to be a drag on this market and have now persisted long enough to call into question some of the lighter-weight category inventory numbers in USDA’s March Hogs and Pigs Report. That’s the bad news.

The good news, of course, is that we will get a fresh count of pig numbers this Friday, June 26, when USDA’s June Hogs and Pigs report is released. Next week’s Market Preview will address the key numbers and their implications for hog markets over the next 12 months.

But what’s going on now?

Figure 1 shows actual slaughter levels and the levels that I had forecast coming out of the March Hogs and Pigs Report. Those numbers have not matched up well on a weekly basis all the way back to early March, but they had, on average, matched almost perfectly until the week ending May 9. That week was the expected slaughter week for the last of USDA’s 120-179-lb. weight category. Since the week of May 16, slaughter has exceeded my expected level by 3.1%. That number differs from the 1.6% reported in last week’s column due to a couple of factors:

  1. This number does not include the weeks ending May 2 and May 9, and
  2. The addition of last week when slaughter exceeded my expected level by 2.4%.
I derived my forecasts back in March from last year’s slaughter levels, the percentage change in various weight-class inventories in the March Hogs and Pigs Report and my expectation of lower imports from Canada. The first of those is a hard and fast number and the last has played out almost exactly as I had expected. Therefore, I have to conclude that USDA’s 60-119-lb. category on March 1 was somewhat undercounted.

It is possible that we backed up a few hogs in the early stages of the H1N1 crisis, but slaughter weight data belie that idea. Figure 2 shows average carcass weight data for the animals reported as part of USDA’s mandatory price reporting (MPR) system for barrows and gilts. This data series includes only “top” butcher hogs since sows are excluded and plants that slaughter lightweight pigs are not covered by the MPR system. So, these weights are higher than USDA’s barrows and gilts weights (which are always two weeks behind and include light hogs) and are about the same as USDA’s hog weights, which include sows and light hogs and also run two weeks in arrears.

It is clear that average barrow and gilt weights have not responded to lower hog prices or rising feed costs, even with higher slaughter numbers. About the only reason that could be true is that there are more hogs available and packers do not want to process them at a rate sufficient to keep marketings current. And this is not at all an issue of capacity. As was reported last month in National Hog Farmer, U.S. slaughter capacity is nearly 445,000 head/day. Recent slaughter rates have been roughly 410,000 head/day, some 8% below capacity.

The issue is getting the product moved. Packers are willing to push chain speeds only as quickly as they can move product across the loading docks. Exports that by all accounts are still slow mean that more of that product must go to domestic uses and consumers are only going to buy so much even at discounted prices.

A Little Good News
The encouraging news for this week, of course, was a sharp rebound in Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Lean Hogs futures prices on Friday, driven by a healthy increase in the cutout value on Thursday and some technical response to what appears to be an over-sold market. The July contract managed to move above the 10-day average – one of the first positive technical developments in several weeks.

Lower futures prices for both corn and soybean meal helped the outlook as well. The main driver there was the “better late than never” arrival of good crop growing conditions in much of the Midwest. And the forecast for this week is for more of the same – low 90s temperatures and plenty of humidity in Iowa and similar conditions elsewhere. Those are good for neither people nor pigs, but couldn’t be much better for corn and soybeans!




Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: steve@paragoneconomics.com

Improving wean-to-first service interval

To improve farrowing rate and increase litter size, it is critical that sows cycle fairly quickly after weaning. Several factors affect how soon a sow cycles after weaning – number of pigs nursed, pigs’ age at weaning, parity, body condition, weight loss during lactation, feed and water intake during lactation, temperature of farrowing room, ventilation design, supplemental cooling system, feed intake from weaning to first service, and estrous detection procedures and capabilities of breeding technicians.

Chart 1 shows the wean-to-first service interval for the most recent 52 weeks in the Swine Management Services database, ranging from less than four days to over 10 days and averaging 7.03 days.

Table 2 shows the sows in the top 10% of farms averaged 6.30 days to first service with a farrowing rate of 88.3%. All farms averaged 7.14 days to first service with a farrowing rate of 83.1%, while the bottom 25% of farms averaged 8.52 days to first service and a farrowing rate of 78.5%.

Wean-to-first service interval is a key driver for improving farrowing rate and increasing litter sizes of the subsequent litters. The sooner a weaned female returns to heat, the more fertile she is and the more eggs she will shed, thus improving litter size.

Suggestions for reducing wean-to-first service interval:

  • Weaning age. As weaning age increases, days to cycle should decline. This occurs because the hormone levels triggering estrus decline the lactation length increases. Most sows weaned at 18+ days after farrowing should be in heat within 4-6 days after weaning, on average.
  • Feed intake. This may be the biggest factor affecting sows’ returns to heat. Feed intake the first 7-10 days after farrowing affects how soon a sow returns to heat, number of eggs produced and their survival in the uterus. Sows must be fed as individuals. Feed intake should average 14-16 lb./day with a weaning age at 18-20 days.
  • Water intake. Water is the forgotten nutrient. For a lactating sow to optimize feed intake, she must have an adequate source of water. Most farms use nipple drinkers to reduce water wastage and excess spraying of water in the crates. The water line should have a pressure regulator set at no more than 30 PSI with a minimum flow rate of 2 quarts/minute. Sows only drink a few times a day for a few seconds. They will not compensate for low flow rates. When first-litter gilts are placed in the farrowing crate the first time, it is important to help them locate the water source and how to use it. With gilts, lower the nipple drinkers to a height of not more than 26 in. When a sow in a farrowing crate is not eating, the first thing to check is water flow and volume.
  • Parity of weaned sows. Low-parity females, especially Parity 1 females, often take longer to cycle after weaning. To help shorten wean-to-first service interval, do not breed gilts weighing less than 300 lb. and be sure they have had 1-2 recorded heat cycles.
  • Supplemental cooling. Sows in farrowing facilities feel heat stress when temperatures exceed 78-80° F. That is when supplemental cooling, such as cool cells, stir fans, and/or drippers are needed. Stir fans should come on at 80° F. Drippers should be set to come on at 82-84° F. Most are set to run 2-4 minutes, then off for 12-15 minutes. Cooling system should be checked and serviced before warm weather arrives.
  • Boar exposure and heat checking. Newly weaned sows need boar exposure starting at Day 1 after weaning to stimulate their hormonal systems. Chart 2 and Table 1 show some sows start cycling soon after weaning. Farms weaning at 18+ days will have 1-4% of weaned sows in heat by Day 3. These might be nurse sows, sows in good body condition, sows that have had pigs weaned early, or sows with older pigs. To see if breeding technicians are missing some of these early cycling sows, look at the number of sows bred 18-22 days after weaning. Those sows probably cycled within the first three days after weaning and were missed. It doesn’t take very many sows in this category to significantly raise the average wean-to-first service interval.
  • Feeding sows after weaning. Newly weaned sows need more feed to replenish their body reserves. Giving sows 3-5 lb./day and 15-30 minutes to eat will not meet their needs. Weaned sows need 6-10 lb. of feed until they are bred.

Standard operating procedures for handling sows going into and coming out of farrowing, and their feed and water intake before, during and after farrowing need to be reviewed. How young females are managed, when boar exposure began and the breeding procedures for newly weaned females also should be reviewed. If you can lower wean-to-first service interval, you will improve farrowing rate and have larger litters in the subsequent farrowing. Remember, a 4% improvement in farrowing rate could increase pigs/sow/year by 1.35 pigs.

Key performance indicators
Tables 2 and 3 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: mark.rix@swinems.com or ron.ketchem@swinems.com.




Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC

Animal Identification Funding Eliminated

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee zeroed out funding for USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the subcommittee, said, “After receiving $142 million in funding since fiscal year 2004, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has yet to put into operation an effective system that would provide needed animal health and livestock market benefits.” There has been growing congressional frustration over the past two years regarding USDA’s animal identification (ID) efforts. USDA is currently conducting animal ID listening sessions and is expected to announce its plan afterward.

Food Safety Passes Committee — The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act. The legislation is to increase the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to respond to and prevent food contamination. The bill will require the creation of a tracing system that would make it easier to track the source of food-borne disease outbreaks. FDA would be given authority to inspect all food facilities and impose mandatory recalls. High-risk facilities would be inspected every year. The committee accepted an amendment that exempts meat, poultry, eggs and the farms and facilities that produce and process them. This was a major issue for the livestock industry. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “We are pleased that the Energy and Commerce Committee addressed our key concerns with the food-safety legislation. They recognized that USDA has sufficient authority and the expertise to oversee livestock and poultry operations.” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) offered an amendment that would ban the use of certain antibiotics for livestock. The amendment was not voted on, but Schakowsky and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the committee, plan to have the committee address the issue later. This is going to be a major issue for the livestock industry.

USDA FY 2010 Appropriations — The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed USDA’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill which provides $20.4 billion in discretionary funding – an increase of $2 billion over last year. The bill gives greater funding for nutrition programs and food safety. The bill provides:

  • $7.5 billion for the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) feeding program, which is an increase of $681 million. WIC now represents 40% of USDA’s FY 2010 discretionary budget.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is funded at over $1 billion.
  • Foreign Market Development (FMD) program is fully funded at $34.5 million.
  • Market Access Program (MAP) is fully funded at $200 million. The Obama administration and the House Republican leadership had urged cuts in this program.
  • Conservation programs are funded at $980 million, which is approximately $12 million more than FY 2009. The subcommittee did not cut the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program as proposed by the administration.
P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.

NPPC: Climate Change Bill Would Raise Producer Costs

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has voiced opposition to climate change legislation it said will raise the cost of pork production.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, HR 2454, could come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week. Among other things, the bill would set a limit or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large industries such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. A business that has an emissions amount that falls below its cap could sell the unused amount up to the cap as offset credits; one that exceeds its cap would need to buy credits or reduce its emissions. In addition, uncapped sectors could sell offset credits for adopting practices and technologies that reduce emissions. HR 2454 treats agriculture as an uncapped sector,” NPPC says.

“America’s pork producers are intensely concerned over any policy proposals that will further raise the cost of production,” NPPC adds. “In particular, producers fear the impact that HR 2454 will have on the cost of electricity, diesel fuel, propane, animal health products, fertilizer, chemicals, farm equipment and materials such as steel and concrete that are necessary for the continued operation of their farms and well-being of their animals.

“Pork producers are already losing money for every pig sold – currently about $30/hog – and any additional costs will drive them deeper and more firmly into financial despair,” NPPC continues.

NPPC estimates energy and input costs would spike more than 20% under the proposed climate change legislation, and doesn’t believe that revenues from the sale of greenhouse gas offset credits will balance that increase. The organization is also wary of the impact legislation would have on pork producers’ ability to compete in world export markets.

Before the NPPC would support a climate change bill, a number of improvements must be made. The bill should designate the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Environmental Protection Agency, as the lead agency on developing and implementing the agricultural greenhouse gas offset credits program and on the development of any regulations affecting livestock producers.

The bill also needs to more clearly take into account the tremendous progress that livestock producers have already made in reducing their carbon footprint. Since 1990, agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased only 3.5%, while U.S. meat production has increased 40%, NPPC states. Since 1948, manure generated by U.S. livestock has declined 25%, while meat production has climbed 700%.

Smithfield Plans to Cut 3% More Sows

Smithfield Foods reported its first annual loss in three decades, but says it expects performance to improve this year as the struggling hog industry cuts production in order to boost live prices.

For its part, Smithfield, the nation’s largest hog farmer and pork processor, said it is reducing the size of its sow herd by another 3%. Last year, Smithfield cut its sow herd by 10%.

In a conference call with analysts earlier this week reported by the Wall Street Journal, Smithfield CEO and President Larry Pope told analysts that the rest of the hog industry needs to reduce production by 10% in order to raise hog prices above production costs which are threatening producer equity positions.

Pope told analysts that the equity drain out of the hog industry is so large that lenders will put pressure on farmers to cut production. He added that process of liquidation could take the rest of the year to be realized.

Pope said the latest sow herd reduction by Smithfield involves its Dalhart, TX, hog farming operation which supplies live hogs to Seaboard Corp.

National Hog Farmer

INTERVET/SCHERING-PLOUGH ANIMAL HEALTH ADDS FOOD-INDUSTRY STAFF TO FOSTER

New positions serve to identify common ground and connections with food-industry audiences

Roseland, N.J., June 16, 2009 — Jennie Hodgen, Ph.D., and Bob Giblin, APR, have joined Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health in two newly created positions established to develop the animal-health company’s relationships within the food chain.

Hodgen joins the animal-health company as technical service specialist — meat science, and Giblin serves as manager of food industry communications. They will support the meat industry by deepening collaboration, partnerships and communications with retail grocery, restaurant and foodservice-management companies; meat distributors and suppliers; and food-industry organizations, policy makers and key influencers.

"As a partner to those directly supplying the food chain, it is vital that we understand and support all segments of the meat industry — from producers to consumers," says Eric Alsup, D.V.M., business unit director, fed cattle, Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health. "The globalization and integration of the food industry requires stronger relationships, collaboration and sharing of knowledge and ideas among all of us who — in one form or another — are responsible for the quality, safety, affordability and availability of today’s food supply. In creating these two new positions, we are improving our ability to build and support crucial relationships throughout the food chain, at levels where decisions are made that have profound impacts on our core customers —livestock producers."

Jennie Hodgen, technical service specialist – meat science

Prior to earning a doctorate in meat science and muscle biology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Hodgen earned both a master’s degree in food science, with an emphasis in animal byproduct utilization, and a bachelor’s degree in animal and food science from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla.

Hodgen brings a host of research experience and food-science expertise to the position and most recently served as a food-safety consultant and teacher. As a consultant, she helped a pet-food company navigate regulations to gain export status for several products. She also helped create new-product ingredients and assisted in the development of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and recall strategies for several small meat processors, food companies and a pet-food ingredient company.

While Hodgen has worked in numerous food-product categories, a significant amount of her experience has been working with animal proteins. From running all facets of meat processing to conducting consumer and trained sensory panels, she has employed her background to ensure safety, quality and efficiency in meat production.

Bob Giblin, manager of food industry communications

Giblin comes to Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, where he served most recently as interim deputy director of public affairs. Prior to that, he served as an account manager for issues management at the communications agency Charleston/Orwig and as senior public relations counsel and director of research, measurement and insight at the firm Morgan&Myers.

With a background in managing issues spanning the agriculture and food industries, Giblin has led and participated in efforts to influence market development, procurement strategies and corporate social responsibility/sustainability initiatives for leading agriculture and food companies and organizations. His experience with the food industry spans across the produce and protein markets. Giblin, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Department of Defense Information School, will focus on outreach with industry partners up and down the food chain.

About Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is a leader in research and dedicated to the development, production and marketing of innovative, high-quality animal-health products for all major farm and companion animal species. For more information about Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health visit: www.intervet.com and www.intervetusa.com.

Schering-Plough is an innovation-driven, science-centered global health care company. Through its own biopharmaceutical research and collaborations with partners, Schering-Plough creates therapies that help save and improve lives around the world. The company applies its research-and-development platform to human prescription and consumer products as well as to animal health products. Schering-Plough’s vision is to "Earn Trust, Every Day" with the doctors, patients, customers and other stakeholders served by its colleagues around the world. The company is based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA, and its website is www.schering-plough.com.

SCHERING-PLOUGH DISCLOSURE NOTICE: The information in this press release includes certain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements related to expectations or forecasts of future events. Schering-Plough does not assume the obligation to update any forward-looking statement. Many factors could cause actual results to differ materially from Schering-Plough’s forward-looking statements, including market forces, economic factors, product availability, patent and other intellectual property protection, current and future branded, generic or over-the-counter competition, the regulatory process, and any developments following regulatory approval, among other uncertainties. For further details about these and other factors that may impact the forward-looking statements, see Schering-Plough’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including Part II, Item 1A "Risk Factors" in the Company’s first quarter 2009 10-Q, filed May 1, 2009.

National Hog Farmer

Bobcat Finds a Home at the Smithsonian

craig_orr_and_alison_oswald.jpg

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently acquired 56 cubic feet of records from Bobcat Co., which manufactures compact construction and agricultural equipment and is based in North Dakota. This donation includes corporate records relating to American manufacturing and marketing as well as business development. Housed in the museum’s Archives Center, these papers join the museum’s extensive collection of agricultural, industrial and business papers. A selection of these records is scheduled to be on view from Nov. 30 through Jan. 17, 2010.

Bobcat Co. originated as Melroe Manufacturing Co., a Gwinner, N.D., family-owned agricultural equipment maker founded in 1947. The original compact loader was invented by Louis and Cyril Keller, who operated a small family blacksmith shop in Rothsay, Minn. Based on a request from a local turkey farmer, the brothers set out to develop a small loader that was lighter and more maneuverable. After a few prototypes, a move to North Dakota and an acquisition by Melroe Manufacturing Co., the three-wheeled Keller loader went into production in 1958 as the “Melroe self-propelled loader.” In 1962, as a four-wheeled model, it was branded the “Bobcat” skid-steer loader, because of its “tough, quick and agile” characteristics and “skid-steering” ability to turn within its own length. This single product became so successful that the company later took the Bobcat name, while adding several other machines to its product line.

“Bobcat Co. of North Dakota represents the ingenuity and innovation of American business,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “These records contribute to the better understanding of American entrepreneurship.”

The Bobcat Co. records focus primarily on production, marketing and advertising. They span a period from the 1940s to the present and illustrate the progression of a once-small, family-owned company that emerged as an industry leader. The donation includes photographs, product literature, advertisements, employee newsletters, drawings, scrapbooks and audiovisual materials. The collection also contains notes on a 1985 trip to Japan where employees learned about Japanese manufacturing and engineering techniques, some of which were implemented in Bobcat factories. These papers are available for research and complement the Archives Center’s agricultural holdings, which include the Everett Bickley Collection, the William C. Kost Farm Records and the Southern Agricultural Oral History Project.

“Equipment industry experts have called Bobcat a national treasure, and we are pleased the Smithsonian archivists agreed that our materials should be preserved for future generations,” said Leroy Anderson, marketing communication manager and Bobcat historian.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. After a two-year renovation and a dramatic transformation, the museum shines new light on American history, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

National Hog Farmer

Von Haden Joins Motomco as Territory Manager for Central U.S.

von-haden.jpg MADISON, WI – Steve Von Haden joined Motomco in June as Territory Manager for the Central United States where he represents Motomco’s rodent control products to distributors and integrators/producers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

As part of Motomco’s technical sales team, Von Haden provides product sales and technical support to Motomco distributors, their representatives and farm store dealers. Working closely with producers/integrators, he conducts on-site visits and advises producers on setting up comprehensive rodent control programs to protect their operations from commensal rodents. Von Haden also represents Motomco at producer/integrator association shows in his 7-state territory.

Von Haden brings two decades of experience in agricultural sales and marketing to his new position. Prior to joining Motomco, Von Haden worked for Northwestern Supply Company, now Midwest Supply & Distributing, in St. Cloud, Minn., as a territory manager where he represented the company’s products and programs to dealers, fleets and veterinarians. His professional experience also encompasses sales to large dairies as a marketing representative for Monsanto Dairy Business.

Raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, Von Haden received an associate degree from Western Technical College in LaCrosse, Wis. in 1987, and worked as a dairy specialist before returning to school to earn a bachelor of science degree in agriculture and animal science from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1998.

Von Haden is based in LaCrosse, Wis.

National Hog Farmer

DESTRON FEARING LAUNCHES UPDATED WEBSITE

SOUTH ST. PAUL, MN (June 2, 2009) – Destron Fearing™, a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of electronic radio frequency and visual identification devices for the companion animal, fish and wildlife, and livestock markets, announced today that it has launched an update to its website, www.destronfearing.com. The new site features enhanced product data and more detailed international sales contact information. This new website provides an effective resource for individuals to gain information regarding cutting edge technology in the world of animal identification.

The new website provides detailed information regarding the new and innovative products, which provide real world solutions for producer’s management challenges. There is an r.Tag™

Dynamic demonstration and live web cam available on the site. From here producers can see how this new technology can track animal behavior and provide specific details of how often an animal is feeding and drinking. Since multiple tags can be read at once and from over 150 feet this new product meets the high standard of moving at the speed of commerce. In Addition the completely wireless system, making it suitable for the difficult and challenging environments that are often associated with livestock operations.

An informational LIFECHIP® video demonstrates how the chip is easily placed in the animal and illustrates the benefits provided by permanent identification. Horse owners can learn how the chip’s exclusive BioBond® Cap and BioThermo® technologies work together to limit migration and allow on going monitoring of body temperature. These two features make LIFECHIP the most advanced microchip available.

Destron Feaing has been a partner with producers since 1945. Within the enhanced website, one can find links to industry partners and how to order any of our innovative products, including our visual tags. Complete customization is available.

About Destron Fearing™

Destron Fearing is the Animal Identification segment of Digital Angel Corporation (Nasdaq:DIGA). Destron Fearing develops, manufactures and markets electronic radio frequency and visual identification devices for the companion animal, fish and wildlife and livestock markets. In livestock markets, Destron Fearing also provides a full complement of radio frequency identification products designed to automate the collection and utilization of production information to help meet the growing identification demands of the market place. For additional information, please visit www.destronfearing.com or call 1-800-328-0118.

Contact:

Destron Fearing

Dan Ellsworth

(651) 552- 6588

dellsworth@destronfearing.com

Senator Harkin Pushes for Pressure To Lift Unjustified Pork Trade Bans

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) called on U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to take more assertive action to lift unfounded and damaging trade barriers on U.S. pork products. Harkin is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“With all the hardship facing U.S. pork producers, it is high time to ratchet up our case pressing nations that are unjustifiably refusing U.S. pork imports, especially China and Russia. If they persist in these bans, we must move to apply more formal diplomatic or trade sanctions against them,” Harkin says.

“Since China is a member of the World Trade Organization and Russia is not, the forms that those sanctions take will likely differ. However, the principle of fundamental fairness and the precarious state of the U.S. pork sector demand that we take strong action as soon as possible,” he observes.

Following the April 24 initial case of the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus, a number of countries banned U.S. pork imports on the incorrect assumption that the virus could be transmitted by pork.

Since that time, several international human and animal health groups have indicated there is no risk of contracting the H1N1 virus from eating pork.

Several countries lifted their bans, but 15 countries still block pork products from the United States.

Harkin states this has caused a sharp decline in hog prices. June hog contracts are only $57/cwt. (carcass weight), compared to $69/cwt. before the outbreak in April – putting a huge strain on the U.S. pork industry.

Pork and pork variety meat exports declined by 10% in volume compared to April 2008, and the drop in value was about 4%, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

For the first four months of the year, pork export volume at 1.43 billion pounds is about 3% above 2008 and the value has increased about 6% to $1.495 billion.

“The good news is that in spite of the turmoil we saw in the latter part of the month, April pork exports were not down as much as had been predicted given the continued economic slump,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “But while international markets are still a relative bright spot for the pork industry, we know they’re one part – an important part – in the profitability of the U.S. pork industry. USMEF’s team around the world is focused on expanding export opportunities and helping to provide the kind of momentum hog producers need right now.”