Governor Doyle Asks to Help Struggling Pork Industry
MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today joined governors from several other pork-producing states in asking President Obama to take action to help the pork industry, struggling in the wake of declining exports and influenza fears.
“Wisconsin’s pork industry supports 5,000 jobs and means $200 million to our state’s economy,” Governor Doyle said. “That’s economic activity that supports our rural communities, and pays for schools, roads and law enforcement.”
Much of Wisconsin’s pork industry is located in the southwestern and south central parts of the state. The state is home to about 2,200 commercial swine operations and sent more than 940,000 head to market in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. About 95 percent of the operations have fewer than 1,000 head.
The governors’ letter calls the pork industry economic crisis “catastrophic.” Producers suffered their second worst financial year ever in 2008, squeezed between low market prices and high feed and fuel costs.
The international economic plunge beginning in September 2008 took a toll on exports, and the situation worsened in late April of this year when A/H1N1 influenza struck and was dubbed “swine flu.” That frightened consumers, despite the fact that hogs were not getting sick and that influenza is not transmitted in meat. Even more devastating was the decision in some key international export markets to ban American hogs and pork products. Hogs today are selling at about $55 per hundredweight, down from $70 or more before the H1N1 outbreak.
The governors asked President Obama to buy more pork for government nutrition programs and work to remove trade barriers to U.S. pork, particularly China’s ban based on fears of A/H1N1 influenza.