PPR Elizabeth Hodges

Elizabeth Hodges of Oak Hill Farms in Julian, Midwest Messenger Producer Progress Reporter

Julian, Nebraska

Obviously, the biggest topic in the news for the past couple weeks has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is it closing schools, restricting fans at the state basketball tournament, and stripping stores of toilet paper, it has also begun to slow down the pork business for Berkwood Farms.

For example, a regular customer of the cooperative in the Pacific Northwest has reduced the volume of their weekly purchases due to reduced customer traffic in their restaurants. We expect this trend to continue as we all work our way through this historic event. Not only are sales slowing down, but Berkwood’s annual producer meeting that was scheduled for March 20 had to be postponed, as well. This meeting is extremely important to the cooperative’s membership. New board members are elected, the past year’s performance of the company is reviewed, and the outlook/goals for 2020 are shared. Hopefully, they will be able to meet sometime in June after spring planting has concluded.

As we all focus daily on COVID-19, pork producers are also thinking of another disease specific to the swine industry that spreads easily and is unstoppable. This disease is known as African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF has killed well over half of China’s swine population, according to an article recently published by the Washington Post. Fortunately, this disease has yet to reach North America. However, because of international trade and travel it remains a possibility for this virus to affect American farms, as well. Just like we are putting all efforts into stopping the spread of COVID-19, swine producers are putting up barriers and emphasizing biosecurity in an attempt to help keep their operations safe. In the end, it is best for us all to try to be as informed and knowledgeable as possible. — Elizabeth Hodges