Hog numbers rise as tariffs on pork continue

By Justin Walker

It’s a mixed bag for hog farmers across the United States, as pig numbers are up nationwide and tariffs continue to impact pork.

According to the recent Quarterly Hog and Pig Report published by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), U.S. pig numbers totaled 73.5 million, an increase of three percent from this time last year. Numbers are still slightly down from December 2017.

Nationwide, both market and breeding numbers are up from a year earlier. Market totals finished at 67.1 million hogs, while breeding ended at 6.32 million.

Texas also saw an increase in hog totals, rising 25 percent to 1.14 million head. Market and breeding numbers also increased, up to 27 and 16 percent respectively.

While hog numbers continue to rise, attention continues to settle on the ongoing trade negotiations with China and Mexico, two of the largest importers of U.S. pork.

Mexico was the largest market by volume in 2017, and finished second by value. China was second by volume and the third largest market by value.

Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel of Global Government Affairs for the National Pork Producers Council, said U.S. pork producers are feeling the burden of trade disputes.

“Exports add significantly to the bottom line of each and every producer—all 60,000 of them, regardless of their size, regardless of where they’re located,” Giordano said at a Global Business Dialogue event last week. “Twenty-seven percent of production was exported last year, which added $53 to every pig marketed.”

Giordano said the current expansion has been caused by exports, but things have changed since tariffs began to roll in.

Numbers are still projected to rise, with experts predicting a five percent growth by the end of 2018.

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