Pig farmers get creative facing COVID-19

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As a sixth-generation pig farmer, I thought I had seen, or at least heard, it all.

From the challenges my family and other pig farmers have weathered over the years, such as disease outbreaks and trade barriers to volatile markets that impact our bottom lines.

Yet, the food supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19 is unlike anything we have experienced.

Certainly, the virus spread has made planning for food production a challenge everywhere.

Iowa pig farmers raise one-third of the pigs in the United States.

Pigs continue to reach market weight on our farms in numbers that were normal in a pre-COVID-19 world.

An average workday in Iowa would usually see 150,000 pigs delivered to pork processing plants.

As those processing plants had to limit or halt production, we have experienced a bottleneck of pigs that farmers continue to struggle with every day.

Producers have worked tirelessly and creatively to find ways to make sure as many pigs as possible stay in the food supply chain.

Sadly, there are pig farmers who have had to make the gut-wrenching decision to euthanize some of their pigs.

This has been heartbreaking for pig farmers who chose their life’s work as providing food for others.

Yet, what gives me hope as we consider our new normal is the resiliency and work ethic of Iowa’s pig farmers.

They show up every single day to care for their animals and aren’t afraid roll up their sleeves and work to find solutions for the problems we face.

Our fellow Iowans have already rallied together to support our industry.

With Gov. Reynolds, the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship launched “Pass the Pork” in April.

Pass the Pork helps Iowa pig farmers donate pigs to Iowa food banks, getting the pork to local communities when they need it most.

While the program has been a success, processing capacity remains a challenge for the foreseeable future.

Pig farmers continue to come together  to find innovative solutions to this evolving crisis – just like we, and generations before us, have always done.

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