MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Three months since COVID-19 first impacted their businesses, Minnesota pork producers have gotten a clearer idea of what it will take to bounce back.

The pork industry is expected to take a loss of about $660 million this year. That’s according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

“We’ve seen the most volatility in the pork market really within a 45 to 60 day period than we’ve seen almost ever in history,” said David Preisler, CEO of Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

Already dealing with a trade war, pork producers were dealt a pandemic. An unprecedented time that’s seen prices fluctuate but not necessarily for the better.

“Now we are back to low prices which is just awful from a farm standpoint,” said Preisler.

COVID outbreaks among workers at pork plants like JBS in Worthington and Hormel in Austin, mean those plants aren’t running at full capacity. Farmers have more hogs than the plants can handle.

“We’ve probably been more dramatically impacted recently in that our pigs go to Hormel,” said Brandon Schafer.

Schafer’s family has been raising hogs for 6 generations near Goodhue. Instead of disposing of his extra pigs, he’s trying something else.

“We put more fiber in the diet and put them on what we’ve called a holding diet,” said Schafer.

While that’s helping, restaurants slowly re-opening could be another boost. 60% of all bacon is consumed in restaurants. But what’s needed most of all is for plants to safely return to 100% capacity to help with the backlog of hogs.

“We just need to figure out how to get it from the farm to the dinner plate and get that system better coordinated than we are today,” said Schafer.

Minnesota and Iowa make up 45% of the nation’s pork supply. The pork producers association says exports and demand will also be key for a rebound.

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