Posted July 18, 2012
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad heard first-hand yesterday how the worsening drought could impact crop and livestock farmers during a public meeting in Mt. Pleasant.
Several crop and livestock producers addressed their concerns about the hot, dry conditions, including Iowa Pork Producers Association President Bill Tentinger of Le Mars, before a crowd of around 100 people.
“The drought and the impact on feed prices may be on the verge of creating a financial disaster for the pork industry and other livestock species,” Tentinger said. “Much of the media coverage has focused on crop producers who face large yield losses, however, the animal industries may ultimately fare even worse.”
The drought has caused significant increases in corn and soybean meal prices in recent weeks and pork producers have no form of income protection against higher short-term feed costs.
“These higher feed prices have to be absorbed by the pork industry, causing a collapse in margins,” said Tentinger. “The losses to pork producers will be enormous.”
Tentinger also predicted hog farmers will be liquidating the breeding herd to offset the higher feed costs.
“The process could be slow as unbred animals will be culled first and breed animals will be allowed to farrow,” he said. “Our industry is not easy to scale back. As sow farms are shut down, people will go unemployed.”
State climatologist Harry Hillaker has called this the worst drought in Iowa since 1988 and Tentinger believes it will force some farmers to exit the pork business.
“I predict that we will lose independent, family owned, probably younger producers,” he said. “Producers who raise no corn or soybeans are affected the worst.”
Tentinger also voiced concerns about the quality of corn that does mature.
Branstad said the state will be ready two seek disaster declarations to free up federal aid if it becomes necessary. He also will consider temporary changes in weight limits on Iowa roads to more easily move grain to hog farmers and cattlemen faster.
The governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were joined at the meeting by officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, USDA, and other state agencies.