| DES MOINES, June 7
DES MOINES, June 7 U.S. hog producers are losing
hope for an early harvest of this year's expected bumper corn
crop, which could lower feed costs sooner rather than later, as
wet fields continue to impede planting in parts of the Midwest,
producers and analysts at a pork industry meeting here said on
"It's been a long haul," said Iowa hog producer Conley
Nelson, who was counting on a timely Midwest harvest after last
year's drought to boost corn supplies and ease prices in the
red-hot corn market. "You go into a survivability mode and try
to be as efficient as you can."
Iowa leads the nation in corn and hog production,
harvesting 1.88 billion bushels in 2012, down 20 percent from
2.36 billion in 2011. It currently has 20.3 million hogs, up 3
percent from 19.7 million a year earlier.
Demand for corn from last year's drought-ravaged crop has
been intense. Purchases by ethanol plants, livestock producers,
corn processors and exporters have made corn remaining from last
year's harvest scarce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has
forecast supplies will reach a 16-year low by the end of the
marketing year on Aug. 31, just before harvest starts.
The cash market price of corn in the Midwest ranged from
$7.16 to $7.56 per bushel this week, or 50 to 90 cents above the
Chicago Board of Trade July futures contract. CBOT July
corn futures closed Friday at $6.66-1/4 per bushel, about 70
cents more than a year earlier.
The cash corn market has been on fire all year, with ethanol
producers, who use up to 40 percent of the annual harvest,
paying top dollar. Cash prices are expected to go higher this
summer as corn supplies get tighter.
These historically high prices for corn - the primary
feedgrain for livestock - are squeezing hog, beef, dairy and
poultry farmers the hardest despite very high wholesale and
retail meat prices. Iowa State University researchers calculate
hog farmers in April, on average, lost $31.66 for each hog sold,
extending their streak of losses to nine months.
To stem the flow of red ink, some producers are feeding hogs
less, marketing them at lighter weights and using distillers
grains (DDGS), a feed by-product of ethanol production, Nelson
Before harvest this autumn there are places in the Midwest
where corn will be hard buy at any price "and it could get
ugly," Paragon Economics President Steve Meyer told reporters at
this week's World Pork Expo.
Rain-delayed U.S. corn planting, which is the slowest in 17
years, means early harvested supplies are unlikely to be in
marketing channels before September, crop specialists say.
The situation for soybeans, which are crushed into soyoil
and the feed additive soybean meal, is not any better.
Several Midwest soy crushing plants have shut early to
conduct summer maintenance, citing scarce soybean supplies.
Other crushers are scheduled to shut down for maintenance in
July and plan a longer-than-usual break, Meyer said.
Another Iowa hog producer, Leon Sheets, said farmers were
accustomed to minor variations each year in acquiring feed
either because crops were planted too late or too early. But the
extreme weather and markets in the last year had made planning
for worst case scenarios even more challenging.
"Perhaps the summer will change and we'll harvest on
schedule and everything will be fine," Sheets said. "But in the
event that it's not, you really don't want to wait until there
is nothing in the bin to feed hogs and wonder where you're going
to go find it."