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National Hog Farmer Weekly Preview
September 14, 2009
In this issue:
  Pork Exports Can’t Compete With 2008
  Production Performance – Is Bigger Better?
  New Senate Ag Chairman Named
  Pork, Beef Export Sales Remain Sluggish in July
  Testing U.S. Pigs for Novel H1N1 Flu Turns up Potential Positives

Pork Exports Can’t Compete With 2008
July pork export data, released on Thursday by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (product weight and value) and on Friday by USDA’s Economic Research Service (carcass weight equivalent), indicate that U.S. pork exports for 2009 still suffer from the “older, smarter brother” syndrome with respect to 2008: They just are never going to measure up!

To illustrate that point, consider total pork exports for July in carcass weight equivalent – 355.6236 million pounds. That number is 13.2% below last July’s 409.5 million pounds, but is 61.6% higher than July 2007 exports. And the July 2007 total of 220 million pounds was just 5 million pounds below the largest July total in history. And I repeat: This year blew July 2007 away by over 60%. It is only the comparison with the remarkable totals of 2008 that look bad. It’s hard to measure up to a smarter, older brother.

Figure 1 demonstrates the exceptional performance of U.S. pork exports relative to any year other than 2008. As can be seen, the only months so far in 2009 that have been below the 2004-07 trend for pork exports are May and June. July was above that trend line by over 30 million pounds and was very near the polynomial trend line that best fits all monthly data since 1990. If not for the export spike of April –July 2008, we would be dancing in the streets over July exports!


Production Performance – Is Bigger Better?
Occasionally, we are asked whether farm size affects production, so we decided to take a closer look.

We divided the Swine Management Systems’ data set into four groups (see attached). The size breaks are:
    • Chart 1: under 1,000 mated females (141 farms);
    • Chart 2: 1,000 -1,999 mated females (130 farms);
    • Chart 3: 2,000-2,999 mated females (94 farms), and
    • Chart 4: over 3,000 mated females (32 farms).
The farms selected had to be in full production for 3+ years and producing 22+ pigs weaned/mated female for the last three years. Of the 619 farms in the database, 397 met those criteria (64%). The size groups in Charts 1-4 are broken out by pigs weaned/mated female/year (PW/MF/Y) for the most recent 12 quarters.

There are some interesting trends in the data sets.
    • Chart 1(under 1,000 mated females) shows very consistent production at 24+ pigs weaned, with very little improvement.
    • Chart 2 (1,000-1,999 mated females) shows a trend of steady improvement, gaining almost one pig weaned/mated female.
    • Chart 3 (2,000-2,999 mated females) has a trend line of very steady improvement, going from 23.51 to 24.88 PW/MF in the last quarter of the period.
    • Chart 4 (over 3,000 mated females) has some quarterly variation, but still showed the most improvement at 1.80+ PW/MF over the 12 quarters.


New Senate Ag Chairman Named
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is the new chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She takes over from Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who replaces Senator Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. Senator Lincoln said, “The committee’s responsibilities encompass a number of issues that are critical to Americans, particularly those living in rural areas. With such priorities as child nutrition reauthorization, farm bill implementation and regulation of commodities, the committee has a full plate. I thank Senator Harkin for his tremendous leadership. As chairman, I will work with my colleagues to build upon the committee’s strong record and devote my full energy to producing forward-looking, balanced priorities on behalf of all families and communities. I will continue to fight for the hardworking farm families and rural communities who provide the safest, most abundant and affordable supply of food and fiber in the world.” Senator Lincoln has been a strong advocate of farm programs; opposed various payment limitation proposals; and, opposed the packer ban proposal in the 2008 farm bill.

Free Trade Agreements Good for Agriculture — The Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined four free trade agreements (FTA) and found that they have benefited the American economy, with agriculture being a big winner. The GAO said, “Among sectors, we found that U.S. agricultural exports, such as wheat, corn, rice, edible fruits and nuts and dairy products, grew substantially post-FTA in several partner countries, with U.S. market share gaining against major trading partners.” The existing FTAs studied by GAO were Chile, Jordan, Morocco and Singapore. According to the report, U.S. agricultural exports to Chile increased from $25 million in 2004 to $256 million three years later. During that time, U.S. share of Chile’s imports of agricultural products grew from 6% to 26%.


Pork, Beef Export Sales Remain Sluggish in July
Lingering effects of the H1N1 influenza virus continue to produce sales of U.S. pork and beef products that lag behind last year’s pace for the first six months of the year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Agriculture Department statistics show pork exports of 2.38 billion pounds valued at $2.53 billion, 10% and 9% respectively, below last year’s record pace, but still 53% higher in volume and 48% higher in value than in January-July 2007.

Japan remains the leader for U.S. pork exports in terms of value in 2009, reaching 572 million pounds worth $944.1 million through July. Volume only slightly exceeds figures for 2008, but value exceeds last year’s total by 11%.

Testing U.S. Pigs for Novel H1N1 Flu Turns up Potential Positives
The Agriculture Department’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), Ames, IA, is working to confirm a preliminary diagnosis of novel H1N1 pandemic flu virus in swine samples collected during the Minnesota State Fair between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.

If the samples prove to be positive, it would be the first diagnosis of the novel flu virus in U.S. swine. The virus has circulated widely in the human population worldwide since it was first discovered in April 2009.

“Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses. We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is pandemic H1N1 influenza,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are working in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as our animal and public health colleagues and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”


Sept. 15-16, 2009: 70th University of Minnesota Nutrition Conference, Holiday Inn, Owatonna, MN; contact:

Sept. 19-22, 2009: Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, RiverCentre Conference Facility, St. Paul, MN; contact:

Oct. 6-7, 2009: The Center for Food Integrity’s 2009 Food System Summit, Hilton Kansas City Airport Hotel, Kansas City, MO; contact: Jim Fallon at (816) 556-3129 or visit

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The volatility of feed prices in recent years has heightened producers' awareness of the need for continual improvement in the efficiency of feed use. Click here for the complete Blueprint archive.

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This month's focus: Manure Management
Paper Trail Documents Manure Application Practices
Iowa firm helps reinforce that pork producers are managing manure conscientiously.
Adapting to Smaller Margins
The pork industry has entered a new supply-and-demand paradigm, and cost-cutting measures may be needed to survive the current downturn.

Plus: 2009 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards
Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa and North Carolina.

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National Hog Farmer offers 10 posters targeting key production areas, offering guidance in critical areas such as feet and leg soundness and reproduction traits soundness in replacement gilts. Others include pig anatomy, heat detection, sow condition, etc. All posters are in English. Select posters are translated to Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.


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