LARGE PORK PRODUCERS INCREASED PRODUCTION BY 14%
Low prices and moratoriums on feedlots do not appear to have had an
impact on hog production amongst the largest producers in the U.S. The
top 50 hog producers increased their sow numbers by 14% to 2.6
million. By the middle of next year, the 50 largest producers are
expected to market half of the pigs in the U.S. This continued growth
has kept the price of pork below production prices and contributed to
the detriment of small farms and the livelihood of rural communities.
Laws of supply and demand appear to take on a different form among
these conglomerates. When Myrl Morenson, vice president of Hanor
Company (12th largest producer) was asked about the tight pork market,
he stated that their game plan is to "finish what we've started and
look for acquisition opportunities." Leland Southard, a hog industry
economist at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington,
said "The big guys are really putting the squeeze on the little guys.
The big companies can sell at a loss for a while, but the small,
independent farmer can't."
Most of the large pork producers are not anticipating further growth in
the coming year. The exception is Seaboard Corporation, fifth on the
list with 125,500 sows, which plans on constructing three 12,500
units. Thirteen of the 50 largest pork producers are headquartered in
North Carolina. Despite North Carolina's March 1997 moratorium on the
construction or expansion of commercial hog farms, the state's hog
numbers increased nearly 7% to 10.2 million.
North Carolina producers claim that they would have raised three
million additional pigs if it weren't for the moratorium. Using an
innovative accounting system, North Carolina State University
agricultural economist Kelly Zering estimated that the moratorium will
cost farmers at least $100 million. Indeed, some hog producers are
feeling the pinch. Wendell Murphy of Murphy Family Farms saw his
personal fortune drop from $1 billion to $850 million in the past year.
The list of the 50 top pork producers in the United States is available
on the Successful Farming Web Site at
Betsy Freese, SUCCESSFUL FARMING, October 1998; Bob Williams, NEWS-
OBSERVER, September 30, 1998
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