The Lone Star state represents one of the pork industry's new hog growth areas. In the last 10 years, the state's annual hog marketings bumped from 705,000 to 1,086,000 hogs, according to National Pork Board data.

"We anticipate continual growth," reports Ken Horton, executive vice president, Texas Pork Producers Association. "It's not going to be as fast as seen in some states because of our stringent environmental rules."

But Horton expects hog marketings to hit 2 million in a couple of years.

Large hog operators are settling into the Texas panhandle area. Horton says some independents are expanding, too. But the majority of the growth is from large farms like Vall Inc., Texas Farms, Seaboard and Premium Standard Farms.

Recently, Horton has heard that three large hog operations not currently in the state are considering sow farms in the panhandle area.

"The panhandle of Texas is very adaptable to hog production," Horton explains. "It has an excellent water supply. It is a grain-producing area. The climate is dry, yet moderate in temperature most of the year. And it has access to packing."

Plus, Horton notes it is the closest site east of the Rocky Mountains with good access to the West Coast market. This fact played a role in the development of the large cattle feedlots also located in the panhandle area.

Strict state environmental rules were passed three years ago, Horton says. In fact, these rules were widely used in the model legislation called Environmental Framework for Pork Production Operations. This framework serves as model national legislation.

However, this past winter, a lawsuit regarding Texas' rules meant feedlot permits were stalled until the suit was recently settled. Now he expects construction to pick up some again.