For the 21st consecutive year, the number of U.S. farms raising hogs declined in 2001, but profitability has slowed the dropoff, according to Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist.

U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there were 81,130 hog operations last year. That is down 5,230 farms (6.1%) from the year before — and 585,420 (87.8%) fewer farms than in 1980, the last year the number of hog operations rose. Plain says the 6.1% decline was the smallest drop since 1992. Typically, the decline in hog farms has been 10% a year over the last 20 years.

Plain says profitability of the industry the past two years, which has slowed the falloff in operations, will likely continue through 2002. He says to look for the December USDA's hogs and pigs survey to report around 78,000 operations.