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July 27, 2007 A Penton Media Property

Table Of Contents
Roller Coaster Ride
Proportion of Sows Bred by Seven Days
Administration Threatens to Veto the Farm Bill

What's new on National Hog Farmer?
- North Carolina Keeps Swine Lagoons
- World Pork Expo New Product Tour
- Illinois Swine Industry Recovers
- Read the full July issue

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Dale Miller, Editor, National Hog Farmer

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Financial Preview
Roller Coaster Ride
The swine industry is as dynamic as we have ever seen it. A month ago, the Hogs and Pigs Report was somewhat bearish, and as a result, we saw cash hog and futures prices take a dive. Then reports out of China indicated there have been large losses due to blue-ear pig disease, and the market has been on the uptick ever since. A release from China's Ministry of Agriculture said that the disease, also known as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, has already killed 18,000 pigs in China this year.

In addition to those developments, we have seen cash corn prices drop below $3.00/bu. in southern Minnesota. Suddenly, profit margins look very promising for hog producers again. Cash hog prices are at $70/cwt and all months on the board with the exception of December are above $70 (as of the close on July 26, 2007).

To give you an idea of the volatility in the hog futures market, let's look at what prices for December hogs did yesterday. Prices started the day at $69.30, went up to $72.25 and then dropped back down to $67.80, before closing at $68.85. This is a move of $4.45/cwt or $8.90/pig on a 200-lb. carcass. Those sudden price shifts mean pork producers must not only deal with production issues, they must now more than ever do a better job of marketing, have a little luck and possess management skills during these especially volatile times.

What to Do -- My telephone has been busy over the last couple of weeks, with producers asking my opinion as to what they should do: lock up these prices or let it ride, and my answer is generally the same: Number 1 -- first determine what your current cost of production is, what it will be going forward with feed costs, and what type of margin you intend to lock in. Ask yourself where that margin fits in historically. If it is in the 80% percentile, or in other words, you have only made this kind of money 20% of the time, then you need to take into account your own financial situation as to what to do. If for instance, you have some leverage, then you should lock up some profits from a downturn. If you are very sound financially, then your decision becomes less critical. But remember, you never go broke locking in a profit.

China Factor -- One big fundamental factor that people are talking about in these markets is the hog crop liquidation in China. Everyone has heard that blue-ear pig disease has taken off a big portion of the hog crop in China. But only recently have people been starting to put pencil to paper and been realizing the sheer size of the numbers we are talking about. A little background information is called for here. At the peak of Chinese hog production, there were about 470 million head of hogs in the country, about 55% of the world's total hog inventory. That compares to some 60 million head that we have in the United States.

Recent estimates are that the Chinese have lost about 20% of their pig crop, or something just shy of 100 million head of hogs. Some estimates are even larger than that. To give you an idea of the size we are talking about, that's 100 million pigs lost or, more than the combined total pig crops of the United States and Canada. The problem is that we do not know what the real facts are in China, and these reports are truly speculative on what is really happening in that Asian country. So far, the implications on our hog markets have been very positive, but remember things can change quickly. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride.

Mark Greenwood
Swine Industry Consultant
Contact Greenwood at


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Production Preview
Proportion of Sows Bred by Seven Days
There are various indices that can be used for benchmarking. Some of these are more appropriate for farm-to-farm benchmarking, while others are more appropriate for internal benchmarking purposes.

Internal benchmarking data generally are not available to the public, but the information can be important, nonetheless. An example found in the PigCHAMP Performance Monitor is "proportion of sows bred by seven days."

At first glance, this is an odd index because "seven days" sounds arbitrary. Why not five days or eight days?

The answer can be found by looking back to when all farms weaned on a weekly basis. Then, it served as a measure of being able to clean out the breeding pens for the next batch of weaned sows.

Today, many farms wean sows twice a week or more. Therefore, this may seem like an outmoded index but in truth, it remains an important measure even on the farms that wean multiple times per week.

The measurement remains important for two reasons. First, there is something special about a cutoff of seven days. The research is relatively old at this point, but it appears that sows that are not bred within seven days, especially sows bred 7-14 days after weaning, appear to have much lower levels of reproductive performance. It is unclear why this occurs, but it seems to be repeatable across many farms.

One hypothesis is simply that sows are not monitored as closely after the first week and those matings are of a lower quality. This seems to be supported by the fact that the number of single-mated sows in this group increases as well.

The figure below is from the 2006 PigCHAMP benchmarking data. Note the strong seasonal trend. This affects the culling rate and the inventory of open sows. It also has a strong correlation with farrowing rate and litter size.

This production parameter is an excellent internal monitoring measure. It is not one that we normally compare from herd to herd, and it is not included in our quarterly or annual reports. Yet, within the barn, it is easily seen when the sows accumulate.

In addition, a rapid response can be made to address this problem. The sows should be considered a specific, monitorable population that can be benchmarked from week to week within the farm. Factors such as season, feed intake during lactation, parity and estrous detection can be identified as contributing factors on any given farm and can be quickly remedied.

Figure 1: Trend Line of Proportion of Sows Bred for 2006

John Deen, DVM

Editor's Note: For all your agricultural news, markets and commentaries, go to For more information on benchmarking go to


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Legislative Preview
Administration Threatens to Veto the Farm Bill
The administration this week threatened to veto the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee. The administration believes the bill does not provide enough reform of the commodities title and the payment limitations need to be lowered. They also are calling the revenue measure to fund the additional $4 billion for nutrition a "tax increase." The House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation to pay for this additional funding by ending the practice called "earnings stripping," which allows foreign-owned companies to shift income to a country with lower tax rates.

The House Republican leadership in a statement said, "The Democrats' surprise tax hike would raise taxes on 'insourcing' companies operating inside the United States, potentially driving millions of American jobs out of the country. Specifically, the Democratic scheme would raise taxes on insourcing employers that operate throughout the United States and employ more than 5.1 million Americans."

The Democrats are saying the administration is flip-flopping on this issue. They are saying this "closes a tax loophole that allows foreign-based companies located in tax havens to avoid tax on income earned in the United States by their U.S.-based subsidiaries."

They also point to a 2002 Department of Treasury policy paper that identified "earnings stripping" as a tax abuse. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, released a statement saying, "This is not the first time that the Bush Administration has turned its back on American agriculture and rural America. They repeatedly threatened to veto disaster assistance for agriculture, which the Democratic leadership passed this year. The administration also vigorously opposed the 2002 Farm Bill, which Agriculture Secretary Johanns and others now praise as 'the right bill at the right time.'"

Farm Bill Moves Forward in the House -- The House of Representatives will consider the House Agriculture Committee's passed farm bill the end of this week. The budget has been a driving force during the farm bill debate. The committee was able to move forward after the House Democratic leadership tapped into the reserve fund to provide an additional $2.6 billion for the energy title and $4 billion for the nutrition programs. This farm bill also provides for the first time substantial support for specialty crops with $1.6 billion for research, market development and block grants. The bill includes payment limitations reforms and provides producers with a choice to either use the existing countercyclical program or a new countercyclical revenue program. The bill contains the strongest energy title of any farm bill considered. The major fight during the House of Representatives debate will be the amendment offered by Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) that would shift $12 billion from the commodities title to nutrition and conservation. It also limits program payments to producers with an average annual adjusted gross income of less than $250,000. (Next week's column will reflect the outcome of the floor debate.)

Key provisions of the House Agriculture Committee passed farm bill include:
Direct payments: remain the same as the 2002 Farm Bill.
Target prices: (committee passed bill vs. 2002 Farm Bill)
  • Corn - $2.63/bu., unchanged
  • Wheat - $4.15/bu., +23¢
  • Upland cotton -- 70¢/lb., -2.4¢
  • Rice - $495/cwt. -- unchanged
  • Soybeans -- $6.10/bu., +30¢
Loan rates: (committee passed bill vs. 2002 Farm Bill)
  • Corn - $1.95/bu., unchanged
  • Wheat - $2.94/bu., +19¢
  • Upland cotton -- 52¢/lb., unchanged
  • Rice - $6.50/cwt., unchanged
  • Soybeans - $5.00/bu., unchanged
Revenue-based CCP: For the first time, farm program participants will have a one-time option to receive a "Revenue Countercyclical Program (RCCP)" payment. A producer will decide between the RCCP and the traditional price-based countercyclical payment. National target revenue per acre and national payment yields per acre for each commodity are established.

National target revenue per acre would be set at:
  • Wheat - $149.92
  • Corn - $344.12
  • Upland cotton - $496.93
  • Rice - $548.06
  • Soybeans-$231.87
National payment yields for the RCCP would be set at:
  • Wheat - 36.1 bu./acre
  • Corn - 114.4 bu./acre
  • Upland cotton - 634 lb./acre
  • Rice - 51.28 cwt./acre
  • Soybeans - 34.1 bu./acre
Payment limitations: The committee made reforms to payment limitations. They include:
  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI): Under current law, individuals with three-year AGI greater than $2.5 million are ineligible for farm program payments (commodity and conservation) unless 75% of income is agriculturally related, in which case the $2.5 million limit does not apply. The committee will forbid the payment of subsidies to anyone with an AGI of more than $1 million, with no exceptions.

  • Percent of income from agriculture: Individuals with $500,000 to $1 million in income would have to have 66.66% of that income from agriculture to get payments.

  • Direct attribution: Would remove the current three-entity rule and move to direct attribution for farm program and conservation payments.

  • Direct payments: Would increase the current cap on direct payments to $60,000 (currently $40,000).

  • Countercyclical Payment (CCP): Would maintain the currentcounter cyclical payment limit at $65,000.

  • Generic certificates: Would remove the use of generic certificates, but there would be no cap on marketing loan gains/loan deficiency payments.

  • Married couples: Would allow payments to be doubled for a married couple.

  • Conservation payments: Direct attribution would apply to conservation payments as well as crop subsidies, while increasing the conservation program payment limitation to $60,000/year for participants in one program and $125,000/year for participants in more than one program. This increases the existing payment limitation for both the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Security Program, and lowers the current limitation for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) if participating only in EQIP and raises it by $50,000/year if participating in more than one program.
Payment limitations will be a major issue in the Senate.

Conservation: The committee provided an additional 35 % increase in conservation programs. Key conservation provisions include:
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) -- CRP is reauthorized at the current level of 39.2 million acres.

  • Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) - WRP is funded at $1.6 billion with the maximum enrollment at 3,605,000 acres.

  • Conservation Security Program (CSO) -- CSP collapses the three-tiered system and replaces the structure with an annual stewardship enhancement payment to compensate producers for new and ongoing implementation and maintenance of conservation practices and activities.

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) -- EQIP funding is increased by $2 billion by 2012.

  • Sod Saver -- Provides that native grassland and pasture that the secretary of agriculture determines has never been used for crop production shall be ineligible for crop insurance for the first four years of planting.

Livestock Competitive Issues -- The House Agriculture Committee's passed farm bill does not include a competition title. No amendments were offered in committee concerning packer ban, spot market requirements, contract reform, etc. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, plans to have a competition title in his chairman's mark when the farm bill is considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

COOL Compromise -- Proponents and opponents of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) reached a compromise on mandatory COOL. The compromise, which is in the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill, would require animals imported for direct slaughter to be labeled from the country in which they were derived. A U.S. origin product label would be for meat derived from animals "born, raised, and slaughtered" in the United States. Meat from animals born in another country, but raised and slaughtered in the United States, would be labeled products of the United States and the other country. Processed products would be labeled with a list of countries from which they were derived. The compromise will ease recordkeeping requirements for verifying an animals' country of origin. The compromise will go into effect Sept. 30, 2008.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.


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