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. MakePeace

    There is always a reason for everything why it happened the way it did. If raising hogs is getting expensive, switch to an organic vegetable field which requires less resources. It is healthier and cleaner and growing corn is only for human consumption.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Endgame65

      How does that help in a drought? Growing vegetables organically that can't take the heat and won't yield a percent of the value in the same amount of space.

      July 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • asdfa

      It takes more water to grow most veggies than it takes to grow corn.

      July 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • LOL

      You are truely clueless. An organic veggy garden? So how many tomatoes do you think it would take to replace this guys income off of hogs? 100k, 200k, half a million? Now imagine all the hog farmers in Iowa switching to organic 1 acre gardens. They might be able to get a GROSS income of 3-5 grand a year. I know this because I have a one acre garden and sell produce. But its a supplemental income, and a lifestyle, not a living wage.

      I guess its just sad that people are so disconnected from reality.

      July 20, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Teeah

    A grilled cheese, really? Where do you think the grain comes from to make the bread? Where do you think the milk comes from to make the cheese? Farmers grown the grain and raise the cattle. A drought affects everything we eat!

    Also, an organic vegetable garden will be just as affected by the drought as other crops. Being organic and vegetable does not make it immune from the lack of water.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Not


    July 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. NC Farmer

    Woohoo! No drought in North Carolina. Our pigs are big and juicy. This sounds like more money for me!

    July 20, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. NC Farmer

    Mmmmm, bacon. It tatses so good, like mother nature's candy. What kind of pig knows karate? A pork chop!

    July 20, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Teeah


    July 20, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. RK

    Now these are some free ranging pigs! How happy they look in their 4×4 fenced in area.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • bobjective2

      How can you tell what size the pen is? I can't see the back side of the pen in the picture? And if part of the pen is in the shade can you blame them with the heat we have. If you saw pigs out side in this heat you would argue animal cruelty. Lose the agenda and wake up.

      July 20, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Nissley Dairy

    In hard times we all hurt in one way or another.lets be kind. in a drought we should remember what Ronald Reagan used to quote' read 2 chronicles 7 :14

    July 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. laughing-buddha

    Grill your fat ass, and make yourself a sandwich.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Grammar police

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

    That "you're" up there ought to be a "your," Chris. Come on.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. this is stupid

    If there's a smaller population of pigs, we can expect higher prices of bacon McBurgers

    July 20, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. freelance

    I bet these are liberal hogs! If they are conservative hogs, they would have learnt to adapt to anything – Tea Party Saying!

    July 20, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Chickenhauler

      You're correct, these are liberal hogs (pun intended). Their entire lives they lay about relying upon someone to supply their every want and need. And in the end, they are led to the slaughter.

      July 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • grumpy

      True. If they were conservative hogs, one or two would claim all of what food and water there was for themselves, and the others would just die.

      July 20, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Kianasmum

      Liberal hogs eh? See how many of them are being housed, controled and confined and eventually slaughtered by just a couple of tea party masters? Wow what a comparison and it actually makes sense. With the tea party mentality – do what you have to do to succeed even if it's at the expense of the masses – that sounds about right and the main reason why President Obama will be re-elected.

      July 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fantail watch

    What are you smoking banasi, the price of everything is going up. Who would even think of eating ham after looking at this.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. Karen P.

    I'm so glad that I recently stopped eating meat. Seeing these intelligent pigs crammed into barren, indoor pens is horrific. I hope these farmers DO stop farming animals but continue farming plants for human consumption. It's the only way to go for the future of our planet.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      you're a nut job. people have been killing and eating hogs since time began. If hogs were really intelligent, they would devise some way to stop us from killing them. until then, i will proudly consume boston butt, ham, pork chops, pork shoulder, sausage, etc...

      July 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thanks

      Thanks, Karen, for your viewpoint. Everybody's so busy making stupid jokes they don't even think about the poor animals. Mike, nice of you to call her a nut job. Being concerned about animal welfare doesn't make one a nut job. Insulting others for their viewpoint, however, makes one a troll.

      July 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay1776

      There WILL be pork chops on my grill tonight

      July 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fantail watch

    Banasi, truly what is wrong with you. If you eat at Bennigans surely you should know how to spell it.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
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