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Southwest Iowa producer steers group through effects of COVID

Southwest Iowa producer steers group through effects of COVID

Dennis Liljedahl serves as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association

Page County producer Dennis Liljedahl serves as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. He farms near Essex in southwest Iowa.

ESSEX, Iowa — It’s a muggy day in southwest Iowa, with storm clouds on the western horizon, as Dennis Liljedahl wraps up his daily chores.

“We could use that rain,” he says, knowing most of the western third of the state remains mired in a drought.

Liljedahl, who serves as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, farms with his wife Diane and son Drew near here in Page County. In addition to growing corn and soybeans, they also operate a wean-to-finish hog operation.

“We stopped farrowing a year ago, so now we use a broker to buy us pigs,” he says. “It’s worked pretty well.”

The farm has a finishing capacity of 1,250 head, with hogs marketed twice a year, primarily with Tyson Foods in Perry, Iowa.

Liljedahl came home to farm in 1975 after graduating from Iowa State University. He started farming with his father, and eventually established his own operation.

“There have always been hogs on this farm,” he says. “Dad bought the stock that were on the farm when he bought it, and we’ve gone from there.”

Liljedahl became involved in his county pork producers group, at the urging of longtime Extension director Ron Sanson.

“He got me to do the Iowa-Minnesota leadership program, and part of that project was to re-activate the Page County Pork Producers,” he says. “We were able to get that done in the mid- to late-’80s.”

Over time, Liljedahl served in most of the offices at the county level. A few years ago, he began serving as a district director for IPPA.

“I had been involved with our school board, so I knew I would enjoy doing something like that,” he says. “I was at the stage of my career where I knew I had time to become more involved in the state association.”

He assumed the IPPA presidency in January 2021, helping to steer the state pork industry that was still feeling the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. With better hog prices in the future, Liljedahl says producers are optimistic.

“We have prices to a level where we can handle the higher feed costs we have been seeing,” he says. “When prices are up, there are many more opportunities for all of us.”

With travel restrictions slowly being lifted, Liljedahl says he hopes to get out and get to know the producers he serves. He looks forward to the next few months of his term, adding he is grateful to be part of the hog industry.

“We have a great staff at IPPA, and I really enjoy the people I get to work with,” he says. “The pork industry has treated us well, and I’m happy to serve in any way I can.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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