A relative example is that USDA is establishing a research lab on
alternative hog housing in Ames, Iowa. While this is a step forward from
conventional confinement buildings, it presupposes that one needs to have
some kind of building. Your outdoor production system has already moved past
that supposition and has established success without buildings. Yet, mega
amounts of money will be spent on promoting production in housing in the
In many years of involvement with federal farm policy, almost never have I
seen the "right" people at the table when policy proposals have been
developed. Additionally, the people who are involved with policy
development, have a deep belief in government solutions.
As you know, Sustainable Earth promotes market solutions linked to consumer
choices. We believe that industrial agriculture will dominate no matter how
many regulations are in place. The special interest commodity groups, land
grant universities, USDA and large agribusiness corporations all compose the
"circle of industrial agriculture" that has led to virtual monopolies in
food production. The "economics of scale" is a foolish notion that only
appears to be true because the apparent cost of production is not the actual
cost of production.
Betsy Freese, an editor of Successful Magazine verified to me this week the
numbers that you gave me: forty percent of hog production in the U.S. is in
the hands of 50 producers and that hog prices are headed for lows similar to
those in 1994 that eliminated almost half of all hog producers in the
country. Coupled with information from syndicated columnist Alan Guebert, it
appears that the percentage of production controlled by those fifty will
Guebert reported in a speech at the Small Farm Today Show on Nov 7, 1997,
that IBP, the nation's largest meatpacker, was going to, for the first time
ever, begin contracting for hog production. Immediately ADM purchased 10% of
IBP and also purchased Moorman Manufacturing Company (Moorman Feeds), who
not only was a competitor of ADM in the soybean crushing business, but also
is a very large feed company whose customers are the very largest hog
producers in the areas where IBP has slaughter facilities. This is the same
ADM who just paid the largest industrial fine in U.S. history, 100 million
dollars, for price fixing. One economic analyst has determined that ADM
earned at least 700 million dollars from the price fixing strategy.
Regulation will never rein in these agribusiness juggernauts. Informed
consumers voting with their food dollars in the marketplace is not only the
best hope, it is the only hope.
Keep up your good work. The fifty people registered for the Alternative Hog
Production Conference on Dec. 5 will provide strength and linkage to your
efforts and will help with the development of community food systems.
At 09:30 AM 11/26/97 PST, you wrote:
> I just sold a guy 20 gilts to start a pasture hog operation last night.
He spent about $3000 on
>breeding stock including the boars. He spent a little bit of money on
fence. He has to buy enough huts
>for them to farrow in this coming spring. And the biggest thing is he
should have no problem being able
>to quit his factory job in about two years!!!
> I really think the solution to the confined feeding situation is that we
need more independant sustainable
>producers. These big guys would go away if they thought there was a
serious threat of enough true low
>cost producers in the US. They aren't fooling me. They are after market
control, just like happened in the
>chicken industry. They are also laughing at regulations and proposed
regulations. Yes that isn't a typo.
>Get out in the country and see who the regulations are slowing down. Its
the smaller family farms that have
>to live in the communities that they raise hogs. The big guys are adding
sows at about 20% per year. I think we
>should give this more regulations theory some more thought. Any thoughts?
I imagine I am opening a can
>of worms here.
> By the way, I am raising about a thousand pigs a year. All on pasture.
Farrow to finish. I am not affected
>by any of the regulations. I just know that somebody has done an awful
good job of scaring the small hog
>farmers. Both that you shouldn't raise hogs because they smell and that
you always have to be cautious that
>you won't be able to sell your pigs. Something needs to address these two
issues, plus the issue of putting
>decent information on raising hogs on pasture, in hoop houses, etc. This,
is my opinion would help. Most farms
>in my area were made sucessful with hogs or dairy cows. These weren't
confinement animals. Its only since
>our wonderful government has pushed buildings for so long that we started
to see confinement operations
>pop up. The only ones that last are the ones that paid for their buildings
with the outside animals of previous
>years. The big guys understand that raising hogs in confinement is a high
volume low margin game. They have
>the advantage. They don't have any advantage over me. They may some day
if I can't sell my pigs. It doesn't
>make a bit of difference if I am the lowest cost producer in the country if
I can't sell my pigs.
> We still need more independant producers. If a new regulation doesn't
address that then it is just going to shift
>the large hog producers to a different area of the country.
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Indiana Sustainable Agriculture Association
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W. Lafayette IN 47906
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