World Pork Expo wrapping up

The World Pork Expo wraps up today and some of the lighter, funner stuff is happening now.

I apologize for not updating my post yesterday, but got caught up with chasing around after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and chasing the world’s biggest pork burger. This has been one of the newsiest WPE’s I’ve ever covered and that had a lot to do with PEDv, which is consuming 90 percent of the hog industry’s attention.

So here are some of the highlights from the rest of Thursday:

U.S. MAKES PEDv A REPORTABLE DISEASE

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that PEDv would immediately become a reportable disease in the U.S., but hog movement will not be restricted. This was widely anticipated but big news nonetheless. There has been lots of finger-pointing and blame-assigning between farmers, industry and government over whether or not PEDv should have been reportable from the beginning, if movement should have been controlled before it spread widely (now had 4,700 infections nationwide), etc.

Vilsack said infections now must be reported and vets, USDA and farmers will come up with management plans to rid the disease from each infected farm. USDA money will help pay for the development of each plan, so Vilsack believes farmers will cooperate. Many in the industry suspect the number of known infections to rise once reporting occurs because both integrated operations that were not moving animals to other producers might not have revealed if they were infected. Now they will have to.

WATERS LAW

U.S. hog farmers are worried that new environmental regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency will hurt farms. NPPC officials said they hope new proposed rules are simply poorly-thought-out, rather than intended to hamstring farmers. The U.S. farmer/EPA relationship is almost toxic, with farmers not only not trusting the EPA to care about their concerns, but with many farmers believing it contains officials that see farmers as environmental problem-causers and who are opposed to animal agriculture. The situation was not improved when EPA accidentally released personal information on thousands of U.S. farms and farmers during the winter. Many farmers worry the information could be used by activists to target individual farm families.

WORLD’S BIGGEST PORKBURGER

Yes, the World Pork Expo knows how to fun things up, and this year was no exception. Many of us remember the bacon ice cream of a couple of years back (perhaps “are traumatized” would be a more accurate description) but this year the Ex brought a heartier delicacy to our mouths: a 345 pound pork burger. Man, that thing was big. Massive. A 40 pound bun to contain the beast. For a good description and slideshow go see this blog.

POSTED 9:53 a.m. THURSDAY

Feel sorry for me readers: I spend my life these days running around looking for power outlets to boost my iPhone, I just ran out of battery power for my video camera halfway through an interview, and my brain is on fire.

All part of the crazy life of the modern multi-platform journalist.

Anyhow, here’s what’s going at the World Pork Expo today. Will update a couple of times during the day:

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELING

The ugly issue that didn’t arise in the trade session yesterday was discussed by National Pork Producers Council leaders today. As I was listening to NPPC leaders yesterday denouncing Japanese attempts to protect its farmers and ag markets in the present Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, and holding up the U.S. as a champion on free and fair trade, I kept thinking: “Yeah, but what about COOL. Doesn’t that totally undercut American credibility on trade?”

That was a concern raised by NPPC VP Audrey Adamson and fellow NPPC VP John Weber. NPPC wants COOL “fixed” and non-discriminatory against Canadian and Mexican livestock so that those countries don’t impose retaliatory actions, Weber said. “We need to come up with a fix.”

As long as I can remember NPPC has been against the kind of mandatory COOL labelling that has the effect of stopping U.S. packers wanting to slaughter animals than have spent any part of their lives in Canada. That’s still their position. Weber said he thinks the U.S. will lose the WTO battle.

Adamson noted that this issue undermines the U.S. in other trade negotiations because it just doesn’t look good interfering with trade from neighbouring countries.

“This is not a meat issue. This is an international trade issue,” said Adamson.

A TRUCKNADO ABOUT TO HIT THE U.S. HOG INDUSTRY THIS SUMMER?

A trucking problem might be about to hit the U.S. hog industry this summer. New rules about to go into affect will force trucks hauling hogs to stop every half hour so that the truck driver can get out of the vehicle and walk around. This is intended to be good for drivers to ensure they are rested and alert, but on a hot summer day it is inhumane to leave a load of pigs baking in the sun for half an hour, NPPC officials said. The rule even stops trucks with a sleeping compartment and two drivers to stop every eight hours, since the requirement is for any trucker “on duty” to have that half hour, and a sleeping or non-driving trucker is still considered to be on duty if he is with the truck.

The NPPC is trying to get this situation fixed before it goes into affect.

STEVE MEYER ON THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

PEDv is damaging the U.S. pig herd and boosting prices. Farmers are gaining more in market prices than they are losing from production losses because each one percent reduction in the herd tends to create a two to three percent increase in the price.

Canadians are especially fortunate, Meyer noted, because little PEDv production loss has occurred there but the same price increase has been realized by Canadian farmers.

Meyer said everyone should watch out for fireworks in the soybean meal markets this summer as the last old crop supplies disappear before the new crop comes in. Anyone who isn’t covered for summer protein meal needs better get it on now.

About the author

Ed White — Ed White has specialized in markets coverage since 2001 and has achieved the Derivatives Market Specialist (DMS) designation with the Canadian Securities Institute.

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