The economic downturn in the U.S. pork industry has led the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) to ramp up efforts in the United States and abroad to keep pork on the table.

IPPA has launched an aggressive campaign to promote pork sales at home and boost pork exports to a number of key countries abroad.

“We want producers to know the association will continue to do all it can to help move as much pork as possible on the supply side during these challenging times,” says Nevada, IA, pork producer and IPPA President Dave Moody.

Seventeen Iowa pork producers and IPPA staff traveled to Miami, FL, in March to promote pork at 10 Hispanic grocery stores and at the largest Hispanic festival in the country. More than 16,000 pork chop sandwiches were grilled and handed out in one day at the event, attended by an estimated 1.4 million people.

IPPA will also be partnering with Culver’s restaurant to serve ground pork and bacon burgers at each of the nine racing events at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA, from April through September.

Iowa producers will also be participating in the National Pork Board’s new mobile marketing tour this year. IPPA will promote pork at 15 of the events on “The Other White Meat Tour” from Washington, D.C. to Albuquerque, NM, between June and October.
IPPA leaders have teamed with the Iowa Department of Economic Development on missions to Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Mexico in the past two months to boost sales of U.S. pork to those countries.

Those efforts couldn’t come too soon. Following three-plus years of profits, the pork industry now faces its most difficult period in the past decade. Hog farmers have been losing an average of $30/hog since last fall, and prices aren’t expected to rebound anytime soon.

Combining low prices with record fuel and grain costs have made it difficult for many producers to continue raising hogs.

“The situation is not good, and with recent reports on pork inventories and forecast crop plantings this spring, no one is being led to believe the market is heading in a direction to make things better,” Moody says.

Contributing to the current challenges are record numbers of hogs going to market. Most agricultural analysts predict the herd reductions needed to reverse the current economic downturn won’t occur until sometime next year.

In response to this crisis, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) sent a letter this week to Agriculture Department Secretary Ed Schafer, asking for additional Section 32 purchases of pork to help provide some stability for the pork sector, and supply the protein source to users of the nation’s nutrition programs.

“Additional Section 32 purchases would help the pork industry at this critical time,” says AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We request that you evaluate such a purchase for the benefits that it would provide both producers and consumers.”

Section 32 is a fixed emergency fund that could help pork producers during this critical time, while enhancing nutrition programs.