Oklahoma's climb in hog production may take a big hit after a moratorium battle in the state legislature. Oklahoma legislators began their session in February by placing a one-year moratorium on large hog farms.

Because the legislature was still in session at presstime, the outcome of the moratorium and a pending bill are unknown. Because of this, the state's pork industry's fast growth may be slowing down.

In 1987, the state marketed only 203,439 pigs/year. Last year, more than 1,100,000 head were marketed.

"Percentage-wise, we've been the fastest expanding state for the last 3-4 years," notes Bill Luce, Oklahoma State University (OSU) extension swine specialist. "We certainly saw growth again last year. Even with the last inventory on March 1, we still showed an increase. We were 129% of a year earlier."

The breeding herd grew even more. Their herd in 1997 was 139% of the year before, according to USDA.

"However, we're in a political situation now and we're not sure what growth is going to be," Luce says. "Expansion will continue, but at a much slower pace."

Economic Gold Mine The growth of hogs in Oklahoma has been a gold mine economically. Luce says a recent economic impact study shows the pork production business resulted in more than 18,542 jobs. It increased the state's economy by $501.3 million worth of income with jobs paying an average $27,000. The study was conducted at OSU and looked at the pork industry, processing and allied industries.

Most of Oklahoma's expansion has come from large hog operations. And most of that expansion has been in the western part of the state.

Seaboard now owns 54,000 sows in western Oklahoma, Luce notes. The company needs the production to help fill the 4 million hogs needed for their packing plant located in Guymon, OK.

Some other large players in western Oklahoma with new facilities include Murphy Family Farms with 18,000 sows, Land 'O Lakes with 13,000 sows, Hitch Enterprises with 15,000 sows, and Vall Inc. with about 12,000 sows.

Eastern Oklahoma has been populated with contract facilities for Tyson Foods.

Luce believes the expansion will slow because the large operators are now building units in Colorado and Texas. Stricter regulations in Oklahoma are holding them back some, too.