Pig Farmer Weighs In On Market Uncertainty And Impact Of Tariffs

Jul 25, 2018
Originally published on July 25, 2018 4:56 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The pork industry has been hit particularly hard by tariffs. So now let's hear directly from one farmer who's trying to adjust. Gregg Hora is president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. We reached him on his 2,000-acre farm in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he raises his pigs.

GREGG HORA: Well, I'm a typical Iowa farmer, like a lot of farmers in the Midwest, where I grow my own corn and soybeans on my crop ground. And then I have a pig operation that consists of bringing in 40-pound pigs, which we call the weaner pigs. And I market about 25,000 head of pigs per year on my farm, which means I have about - the capacity for 10,000 head of pigs at one time.

CORNISH: What share of that goes overseas as an export?

HORA: Well, it's a significant part of today's discussion with agriculture production. U.S. pork - we send about 26 percent of all of our pork production overseas. And here in Iowa, we're blessed with a lot of fertile land and a lot of pigs, which Iowa leads the nation. We're growing about one-third of the nation's pigs.

CORNISH: U.S. pork farmers were having a really good year, right? You had a fantastic month in April, exporting more than you ever had before. So when this tariff - these tariff tensions escalated, did you all hit a wall? Like, what were those conversations like?

HORA: There has been a negative effect of the tariffs, and it has reflected in less exports and a lower price to U.S. pig farmers because we do have a lot of red ink right now. Most pig farmers want to try to have a cost of production that we can cover. But at this time, we're having a $20 to $25-per-pig loss, which has negative effects across rural America.

CORNISH: The Trump administration announced yesterday it's going to be providing $12 billion in aid through the Department of Agriculture to farmers affected by the tariffs. Are you interested in that?

HORA: Well, absolutely. U.S. farmers are interested in the emergency relief, although we realize that it's a short-term aid. And we would rather have long-term trade agreements and new market opportunities. Essentially what it's going to do is help the loss of markets that we're dealing with in this short - hopefully this short term. All U.S. farmers hope for better trade deals into the future.

CORNISH: It sounds like you are supportive of what the White House is doing, even if it means that taxpayers have to help cover you guys in the meantime.

HORA: Well, U.S. pork industry and U.S. pig farmers have never been in favor of the government doing a bailout to our pork industry. We would rather have open and fair trade. And let us compete, and let us be in a free-market economy with others around the world. It's a bandaid on the short-term financial problem. And it is not a solution for the long term at this time.

CORNISH: When you hear from your fellow farmers - right? - I mean, as we said, you're president of the Pork Producers Association. Are they upset directly with President Donald Trump?

HORA: U.S. pig farmers are getting more disturbed with the longer time period of disruption of the markets that we've had because of the trade retaliation aspects. We encourage the president and the administration to quickly resolve these issues so we will not have to further erode financial conditions of the pork and agriculture sectors in the Midwest.

CORNISH: How much longer can you stand this? I mean, is it one month? Is it six months?

HORA: Well, most pigs that are being born today in Iowa farms or farms from across the United States - those pigs will be marketed next January and February. So we are optimistic that we can withstand a short period of time. But there is a harsh reality that some farmers will not be able to stay in business because of the losses that we're currently enduring.

CORNISH: Gregg Hora is a hog farmer and the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

HORA: Thank you for your time with me today.

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