Hogs feel drought's pinch
The U.S. drought could hurt livestock producers more than farmers, who often are protected by federal crop insurance.
July 20th, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Hogs feel drought's pinch

By Chris Welch, CNN

Washington, Iowa (CNN) - For Rachel and Dan Berdo and their four young children, hogs are everything:  They're the source of nearly all of the family's income.

The couple from the small town of Washington are particularly worried this year because of the drought, considered the worst in a generation.

“Obviously it's unsettling not knowing exactly what the coming crop is going to look like,” Rachel Berdo said as she sat in the kitchen holding her baby, speaking over the sound of her  three other little ones playing in the next room.

“Because that heavily influences what your coming pig decisions are going to be, what you’re upcoming household decisions are going to be.”

The Berdo family grows corn to feed to their hogs, but this year, there’s no telling what kind of corn harvest they’ll get. Farmers across the state and the rest of the Midwest  are seeing significantly reduced yields.  Some estimate they’ll get 30 to 60 bushels per acre, down from 150 to 200.

So if they don’t have a large enough harvest to keep their pigs fed, they’ll either have to purchase extra corn at a pretty penny because of the drought  or reduce the number of hogs they keep.

“It’s definitely going to impact our family in more ways than one,” Rachel said.

“In general, it bothers me quite a bit as far as the long-term financial situation,” Dan Berdo said, standing next to one of their hog barns. “But I try not to let it eat at (me)  day to day.”

Missouri farmer: Everyone will be affected by drought

In many ways, the drought could prove worse for livestock producers than for farmers.  For example, corn and soybean farmers have the option of buying federal crop insurance. Roughly 90% of Iowans take advantage of that — it doesn’t cover everything, but it helps get them by until next years harvest.

But there is no equivalent federal insurance for livestock. So if hog or cattle producers can’t afford to purchase the higher priced corn feed, they’re essentially out of luck.

And that'll mean higher prices at supermarkets across the country.   On average, food prices typically rise 1% overall for every 50% jump in corn prices, according to  Richard Volpe, an economist for the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Analysts and economists predict that prices of beef, pork and poultry will jump the most, as corn is the main feedstock for chicken, cattle and pigs.

CNNMoney.com: Corn, soybean prices shoot up as drought worsens

CNNMoney.com: Drought's impact on small businesses

For now, the Bardos say all they can do is wait for harvest season before they’ll have a better idea of what they’ll be faced with.

Until then, they say, they pray and try to stay optimistic.

“When it starts to upset me, I remember that God’s got a plan,” Rachel said. “Maybe God’s plan doesn’t have us raising hogs in the future. But it’s going to happen regardless of if I’m mad about it or fretting about it.”


Filed under: Agriculture • Heat • Iowa • Weather
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    Yay!
    You passed!

    July 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. HIDE BEHIND

    Thank you Mary, and I did note the*. and stand enlightened.
    Still my contentions that the dietary choices of the Habiri and other semitic tribals did not soley come from fear of illness stands.
    Correction noted and appreciated.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. hungry

    Kill em and grill em.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Angry Annie

    You are a pig Kenny

    July 21, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kenny Rogers

    I like my women to be plus sized in all regards.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Evolution

    We seem to be devolving. If only we could devolve back to cannibalism, we could end hunger by eating fat people.

    July 21, 2012 at 6:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. duckforcover

    It's so comforting to know our Right-Wing Conservative Iowa grain farmers can fall back on government-supplied insurance to guarantee their incomes using my tax dollars. I sure wish health insurance worked that way!

    July 21, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Honestly....

      Isurance companies are not really created for what you may think they are.

      July 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    I see someone is bast ar dizing my name once again.
    Who one earth could *that* be?

    July 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dale

    The United States food supplies is in big trouble, because of this drought.

    Wall Street Commodities continues to export American cattle, hogs and poultry, corn and alfalfa produce, to Asia because their currency is stronger.

    “”Food and feed crops are being manipulated”” less acreage being planted to increase price, Wall Street manipulation.

    Feed corn being made into ethanol, Congress subsidies going into fat cat pockets.

    July 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. rob breisch

    water is the issue-so-we are surrounded by it-pump salt water into lakes-convert into fresh water and distribute it where it is needed.Take water from the mighty us rivers that often flood-channel it into canal systems throughout the usa-either by pipelines or open canals. For what we spent on war in the middle east since 2001-we could have built an entire system by now-and there would not be any issues!

    July 22, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. cat

    I saw on Undercover Boss that 'buns' from White Castle bakery that did not make it to the stores, went to pig farmer to feed the pigs. Another program showed the leftover/food from plates in buffett also went to pig farmer via truckloads. So are their restaurants in the area where the farmer could pick up the food leftovers for his pigs? (I'm not sure corn is such a good option for livestock after seeing the e. coli in the stomach of a cow fed mainly corn.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
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