News 642 views last update:Mar 8, 2007

Potential rise in North Dakota pig numbers

Poor pork prices in Canada could push more pig production over the border into North Dakota, though the increase likely would be offset by higher corn prices stemming from the demand for ethanol.

Canadian pig producers are paring pig lots as feed and transportation costs increase, Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said Tuesday. A strong Canadian dollar and a moratorium on pig farm development in Manitoba also work against pig producers north of the border, he said.

Feed costs doubling

The state's 420 pig producers are "seeing pretty favorable prices right now," said Charlotte Meier, executive director of the Regent-based North Dakota Pork Producers. But she said they are looking at the prospect of feed costs nearly doubling in the next year with the increased demand for ethanol. "It's going to create a real shortage of corn," Meier said. Pig producers could pay as much as $4 a bushel for corn this year, up from $2.40 last year, she said.
Meier said soaring feed costs could cause smaller pig operations to shutter. Johnson, who has supported more pig operations in North Dakota, said the state's pig producers would be among the hardest hit by the increased corn prices.

Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, D.C., said the nation's pig production soon could be cut by 15% with higher feed costs. That would mean higher prices for pork products, he said. "We're already seeing some higher production costs," Warner said.

North Dakota, ranked 17th among the states in U.S. pig production, had 169,000 hogs as of Dec. 1, up 12,000 from the previous year, the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service said. The number of hogs in the United States as of Dec. 1 was 61.1 million, up 1 percent from a year ago.

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