Though pork producers have rebounded in the wake of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) and rebuilt their herds to record levels, these successes translate into formidable woes.
According to Reuters, the value of feeder pigs has plunged by nearly 75% since January.
PEDv decimated the pork industry, killing an estimated 8 million pigs at its peak in 2013 and 2014. But by 2015, Steve Meyer and Len Steiner reported fewer piglet losses and improved piglet survival. As Meyer and Steiner noted, this improvement was not just due to PEDv.
"It is due to a sharp increase in the general health status of the U.S. herd. PEDv is the leading factor due to its huge impact one year ago," the duo wrote.
Cheaper feed prices also pushed U.S. producers to expand their herds, and it wasn't just U.S. producers rebuilding. Iowa State University economist Lee Schulz told Reuters that Canadian feeder pig imports to the U.S. are up 8% so far in 2016.
Competing protein meats also pressured pig farmers' gains over the past few months in particular, eroding hog prices since July. Fewer producers are now looking to expand their herds by buying young pigs, and other producers may be rushing pigs to market which also can contribute to weaker hog and piglet prices.
The result is a perfect storm that hits as the prime grilling season nears its close. The hope now is to see if domestic demand for pork can grow, helped in part by the Pork Checkoff's "Grill For It" campaign. Another aspect is continued export demand for U.S. pork, which would be significantly helped by passage and implementation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In a recent poll on the PORK Network website, 40% of participants don't believe TPP will be passed this year. Just 20% believe it could still be passed.