What is in this article?:
• Despite its well-documented economic value and historic place in U.S. agricultural production, some contend the country’s livestock industry is rapidly being replaced by off-shore operations that are quick to tap into the meat needs of U.S. consumers.
IOWA FARMER Tom Vincent, shares his thoughts on the perils of U.S. livestock production.
Doing fine right now
Despite the gloomy long-term predictions for U.S. animal agriculture, the numbers indicate the industry is doing just fine right now.
Of the seven Southeastern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky) only Florida and Virginia lost in dollar value of their respective industries over the past decade.
Combined, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina increased value of their livestock industries by $1.43 billion over the past 10 years. North Carolina is the livestock superstar in the Southeast, with an increase value of $2.25 billion over the last 10 years.
Combined Virginia and Florida lost about $900 million in value since 2001. Ironically, these two states are in the top 10 nationally in terms of acres of farmland lost.
More ironically, considering the dramatic growth of the state’s livestock industry, North Carolina loses more farmland annually than any other state in the country.
There is no doubt animal agriculture has played a key role in building the U.S. agriculture industry and that it played a key role in softening the most recent economic recession in the country.
The question is what would it cost Americans to lose a big component of their livestock industry.
Speaking at the recent Commodity Classic, Iowa hog farmer Tom Vincent speculated what it would mean to his way of life and to the community in which he lives.
Vincent worked in the banking industry for 22 years to build his family hog and grain farm big enough to support his family. “It was, and is, a dream of mine to be able to make a living farming and to build a farming enterprise I can leave for my children to enjoy,” Vincent said.
He grows about a thousand acres of corn and soybeans and runs a 6,500 hog finishing operation.
In looking at the long-term stability of the hog business in Eastern Iowa, Vincent said some interesting and potentially dangerous parallels can be drawn from what is happening to the swine industry in the United Kingdom
Speaking at the same program, Andre’ Williamson, Senior Consultant on Latin American Market Analysis, Agrolytica, , says comparing the loss of the swine industry to the U.S. would be a near catastrophic loss to the U.S. industry—not just our livestock industry.
Williamson points out that the U.S. livestock industry is the largest in the world. Currently, U.S. producers are the world’s largest exporters of turkey and eggs, second in pork and chicken, and third in beef.
“We export twice as much livestock products as we import. Our net export/import profit is almost $11 billion,” Williamson noted.
“In the U.K. in 1999 a government regulation was enacted to improve animal welfare and this one piece of legislation drove swine production cost so high that within five years the number of animals drove by 40 percent and cost the industry $400-700 million.
“If you convert these losses in the U.K. to the much larger U.S. industry, the losses would be on the order of $6 billion,” Williamson added.