March 8, 2007


Corn boom may offset pork rise in US, Canada


Poor pork prices in Canada could lift pig production over the border into North Dakota, though the increase likely would be offset by higher corn prices stemming from the demand for ethanol.


Canadian pig producers are paring pig lots as feed and transportation costs increase, Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said.


A strong Canadian dollar and a moratorium on pig farm development in Manitoba also work against pig producers north of the border, he said.


The state's 420 pig producers are "seeing pretty favourable prices right now," said Charlotte Meier, executive director of the Regent-based North Dakota Pork Producers, but they are also looking at the continuous soar of feed costs due to escalating corn prices.


Meier said the ethanol boom could create a shortage for corn.


She added the increasing feed costs could cause smaller pig operations to shutter. Johnson, who has supported more pig operations in North Dakota, said the state's pig producers would be among the hardest hit by the increased corn prices.


Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, D.C., said the nation's pig production soon could be cut by 15 percent with higher feed costs which could translate for higher pork products.


Warner illustrates: "A 100 million gallon ethanol plant creates about 80 jobs and when you take that corn out of pork production, you lose 800 on-farm jobs. Obviously, those jobs are rural."


North Dakota, ranked 17th among the states in US pig production, had 169,000 hogs as of December 1, up 12,000 from the previous year, the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service said. The number of hogs in the United States as of December 1 was 61.1 million, up 1 percent from a year ago.

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