U.S. pig farmers take great pride in raising high-quality, nutritious and affordable pork. I am proud to be one of these farmers. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has jeopardized a farming lifestyle that has served my family, the rural economy and consumers so well. There is hope to minimize the damage exacted on our farm sector by COVID-19, as Senate legislation introduced earlier this month would provide a critical lifeline to pork producers. With the Senate expected to swiftly proceed to the next coronavirus aid package later this month, we urge Congress to act quickly, otherwise thousands of generational family farms could go out of business, leading to the consolidation and contraction of U.S. hog production.
I farm in South Central Minnesota with my wife, our two adult children and their families. I started farming in 1984, based on core values of honesty, team work, safety, respect for people and animals, hard work and communication. Those core values have sustained us throughout the years and continue to do so as we work through the COVID-19 crisis in the pork industry. We’re proud to be part of a resilient community of farmers and industry partners, but COVID-19 has put a serious emotional and economical stress on pig farmers and their families across the country. I fear that farms like mine may not make it through this crisis without government support.
The impacts of COVID-19 have caused hog values to plummet, with collective losses of more than $5 billion anticipated this year for pig farmers. These losses are just for the lost value of hogs that are processed into the food supply. Sadly, farmers face additional staggering costs and a severe emotional toll for the lost value of pigs euthanized due to COVID-related pork processing plant shutdowns and slowdowns that created a lasting bottleneck in the pork supply chain. Since the implementation of the Defense Production Act, which prioritized the continuity of packing plant operations, the situation has improved, but hogs are still backed up on farms with no place to go. Millions of pigs that can’t be harvested and enter the food supply may ultimately be euthanized.
Without prompt government assistance, many generational family pig farms could go bankrupt. This would negatively impact our communities and could lead to consolidation in a farm sector that generates more than 500,000 jobs and $23 billion in personal income.
Earlier this month, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced the RELIEF for Producers Act of 2020, offering pork producers a critical lifeline, providing compensation for farmers who are forced to euthanize or donate animals that can’t be processed into the food supply as a result of COVID-19, among other provisions. We appreciate the tireless efforts of our Senate champions to address this crisis and urge Congress to work together to quickly pass much-needed legislation to stabilize a farm sector teetering on long-term disaster.
My fellow pork producers and I will continue to work through this crisis to ensure the supply of high-quality protein remains available, but the size of the problem is too great for us to fix on our own. We’ve made the U.S. food supply our priority. Now we ask Congress to make our recovery their priority.
Kevin Hugoson farms with his wife, Mary, and two grown children on their family hog farm near Granada, Minnesota. Kevin and Mary started Hugoson Pork when they bought the farm from Kevin’s parents in 1984 and have grown the farm with the next generation returning to the family business. Kevin has been a leader in many pork organization at the local, state and national levels.