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Farmers want producer groups to be vocal

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

Computing pork spread data has become more challenging as packers have blurred the lines between wholesaling and retailing.

Many packers have moved into selling branded value-added cuts.

Retailers are also reluctant to lower prices when farm gate prices drop because consumers are fickle, they don't remember price decreases, only price increases. And if prices decrease, consumers may wonder if the product is less desirable, said Steve Meyer, National Pork Board economics director.

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But specials, on the other hand, lure people. The Pork Board wants to take advantage of low hog prices to move more pork through the system by encouraging retailers to feature pork.

Will Anthony, who farms near St. Peter, and Tim Henning, who farms near Lismore, say they want commodity groups to be vocal about the price spreads.

"My main concern is this does mess up the efficiency of the market," Anthony said.

Henning said there needs to be more connection between consumers and farmers. Allowing small town butcher shops to slaughter without requiring federal inspection is a place to start. Federal inspection is required if meat is to be sold in individual cuts. Government policy needs to be changed to help independent businesspeople, he said.

"We've got to get what farmers want …; money in the marketplace," Henning said.

Ultimately, pricing power rests with pork producers, Meyer said. Only they determine who many sows will be bred. Better coordination within the industry and continued work to eliminate the traditional hog cycle should also help to keep farm gate prices stable.

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