The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

October 2, 2012

Bacon shortage 'baloney,' but prices to rise

(Continued)

"Given the huge amount of interest in the United States created by our earlier press release maybe more producers will now hang on in production, in the hope of recovering their losses next year and in 2014," Digby Scott told The Associated Press in an email. "We agree with the view of some economists in the (United) States that supplies will tighten and prices will rise BUT maybe you won't see 'standing-in-line' shortages in supermarkets. Time will tell."

The stubborn drought in the U.S., the world's biggest supplier of feed grains, undeniably will affect pig production. The Corn Belt's lack of moisture twice has prompted the U.S. Agriculture Department to slash its forecast for this year's corn output. The government now expects U.S. production of the grain to amount to 10.8 billion bushels, the least since 2006.

Those lowered expectations sent prices of corn — also used in ethanol, further squeezing supply — to record highs through much of the summer. Feed generally makes up about 60 percent of the expense of raising a pig. Rather than absorb the higher costs, swine and beef producers often have culled their animals by sending them to slaughter.

As of Sept. 1, the nation's inventory of hogs numbered 67.5 million head, up slightly from a year earlier, the USDA reported Friday. But the USDA suggested that pork supplies will tighten next year as the nation's breeding stock and intended farrowings — birthings of litters of pigs — likely will drop due to high feed costs.

"I think we're going to (still) see pretty substantial liquidations" of livestock, Meyer said, guessing that 3 percent of the nation's breeding pigs could be sent to slaughter by next March. "And by my estimation, that's a big move."

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