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The Nebraska Pork Producers Association is seeing a very positive outlook for those involved with swine production.

Nebraska farmers have more pigs in their barns (3.75 million based on latest USDA reports) since the mid-1980’s, said Al Juhnke, NPPA executive director.

“The diversification of our farms with the addition of livestock facilities is adding value to locally grown crops and income to the farm family’s bottom line,” he said. “The growth in Nebraska’s pork production is outpacing that in the United States — very good news for the farmers, suppliers and local economies that depend on this industry.”

U.S. pork production is forecast at almost 6.8 billion pounds, up 7% from a year ago, according to the USDA’s August Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook. Slaughter numbers were up by 5.4% as well. Domestically, per person pork consumption is up slightly at 51 pounds per person, Juhnke said.

“Marketing efforts to a new generation of shopper seem to be paying off,” he said. “Pork offerings to online shoppers via food delivery services and in restaurants are seeing positive results.”

Last year, Terry O’Neel, president of the National Pork Board and a producer from Friend, Nebraska, implemented a new domestic marketing strategy. He refocused marketing efforts to a business-to-business policy. He stated the desire to work closely with individual businesses and help them do marketing versus trying to do a comprehensive marketing program. He said that it was a more targeted approach.

There is also an increased effort to educate the consumer on proper cooking temperatures for pork (cook to 145 degrees and let rest for three minutes) and the health benefits of this protein source. Different pork cuts fit nicely into the high protein diets of many consumers today, Juhnke said.

According to the USDA, the protein content of lean pork can be as high as 89% — making it one of the richest sources of protein. It also contains all nine essential amino acids. Pork is particularly rich in thiamine, one of the B vitamins. An important mineral abundant in pork is zinc. It is essential for a healthy brain and immune system.

In the trade arena, Nebraska farmers are now exporting between 25-30% of what they produce, which is very positive, Juhnke said. The U.S. Meat Export Federation reports that a resurgence in the China market, an enlarging of the Russian Federation market and an increase in the Belgium-Luxembourg market accounted for the highest percentage increases in 2019.

As of September, records show that China had imported 117,000 tons more than they had at the same time last year. This was a 139% increase. Russia’s numbers were more dramatic with a 45,700% rise, although they imported only 457 tons more. Belgium-Luxembourg had a 287% increase, but imported only 155 tons more. Further upsurges in the Eastern European markets, as well as the South American and Middle Eastern markets accounted for the other metric tons of exports.

“Top U.S. export markets by both value and volume include Japan, Mexico, China, Canada, South Korea and South America,” Juhnke said. “Export values return about $53 per head to producers.”

With African swine fever taking a toll in places like China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, there is a good potential to increase sales to these international markets in the coming years. The recent trade agreement signed with Japan will provide a strong potential market in that country for years to come, Juhnke said.

“It appears that the new USMCA trade agreement will soon be ratified, continuing the benefit of strong markets in Canada and Mexico,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives is “proceeding with work on USMCA,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 26.

Foreign animal disease prevention efforts are underway in Nebraska and around the country. Farmers are participating in these efforts by implementing “Secure Pork Supply plans” on their farms, Juhnke said.

According to the Pork Checkoff website, the goal of the SPS Plan is “to develop procedures that pork producers, processors and federal and state agencies all agree are feasible to allow for the safe movement of animals from farms in a FAD Control Area to harvest channels or other production sites as long as they have no evidence of disease.” The SPS plan provides resources to help sites prepare ahead of time rather than during the chaos of an outbreak.

“Should a FAD such as African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease reach our shores, we are doing all we can as pork producers. We are prepared to quickly respond,” Juhnke said. “Biosecurity and animal health remain a top priority on our farms.”

Outreach will continue over the coming months and years to find and assist new growers interested in becoming a part of this growing sector, he said. Along with new farms, there is also a need for a good workforce. NPPA is reaching out to youth and students educating them on the opportunities for good paying jobs and rewarding careers in the area of swine production.

“Nebraska is open for business when it comes to pork production,” Juhnke said

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net.

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