A new study by the National Pork Board finds slaughter capacity at federally inspected plants in the U.S. at a manageable 408,000 head per day. But USDA's latest hogs and pigs report shows the swine breeding herd is up 1 percent over a year ago ... and that producers plan to boost sow farrowing by another 1 percent. Some analysts see expanded capacity at new and existing packing plants as the only way to meet rising slaughter demand in the fall of 2005.
The origin of the young pigs that replenish hog inventories isn't always domestic. That's a factor being pondered this week by the hog industries of two nations embroiled in a fight over import tariffs.
Hog producers north of the border are charging the U.S. with protectionism. Oficials with the Manitoba Pork Council claim "the Commerce Department decision could cost Canadian hog producers $50 million over the next six months."
The National Pork Producers Council claims, "Canadian hog producers unfairly benefit from huge subsidies that cause overproduction in Canada and allow Canadian producers to sell their hogs in the United States at artificially low prices. NPPC alleges the flood of low-priced hogs from Canada has inflicted severe financial hardship on U.S. hog producers."
But the Pork Trade Action Coalition, which represents U.S. farmers who buy Canadian hogs, called the duties an "unjustified and unfair tax on American farmers." The coalition, which also counts some Canadian pork production groups in its membership, vowed to fight against the duties on behalf of hundreds of American farmers who rely on the imports for their livelihoods."
According to the Commerce Department, Canada in 2003 exported to the U.S. some 7.4 million hogs valued at more than $389 million.