While all ag sectors are taking an enormous hit during this global pandemic, the livestock industry is arguably one of the hardest hit.
A Smithfield pork processing plant in South Dakota, a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa, and other meat processing plants have shut down due to employees falling ill to COVID-19.
What if Indiana Packers in Delphi or the Tyson Foods in Logansport shut down too?
“It would be pretty devastating to the agriculture industry here and that’s what we’re worried about,” said Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron.
American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Michael Nepveux is concerned about not just closings, but slowdowns too.
“You keep hearing stories about some packers having to slow down to even as much as 50 percent capacity to maintain a safe distance between the workers. Keep in mind this is kind of elbow-to-elbow work, so it’s not exactly conducive to six feet minimum distance.”
Indiana Pork Executive Director Josh Trenary told Indiana Farm Bureau members on a call Tuesday that these backups in the supply chain will likely lead to more hogs in barns than have ever been in that barn at one time. They’ve made IDEM aware of that potential.
National Pork Producers Council President A.V. Roth from Wisconsin said on a separate call Tuesday that many pork producers might be faced with euthanizing hogs.
“Absent immediate and significant government intervention, sadly, it’s true. Euthanizing is a question that is going to come up on farms. As a pork producer, we care about our animals,” Roth said emotionally. “The last thing we would ever want to do is euthanize one. And we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that we don’t do that so that you can have pork on your plate tonight.”
NPPC is asking the federal government for over $1 billion in pork purchases by USDA to provide to food banks, equitable direct payments to producers, and that pressure be put on China to remove retaliatory tariffs on US pork.
NPPC Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano said that the crisis right now is on the farm and not in the grocery store. It’s likely that grocery stores could be stocked for months due to stored pork.