Swine flu proving to be a killer -- to the hog industry

porkWhat's in a name? The pork industry is discovering the wrong name can become a multi-billion dollar calamity.

Since April, when many of us first heard the name "Swine Flu" used for the H1N1 virus, the pork market has been in a tailspin.

According to the National Pork Producers Council, this is the second body blow absorbed by hog farmers in the last two years, resulting to date in $5.3 billion of lost revenue.

The first was the sudden dramatic increase in the price of corn, which almost doubled within the six months following September 2007. The second blow was the Sw*** flu, a misleading moniker for a virus that you cannot, cannot, cannot contract by eating pork.

Nonetheless, the nickname caused many in the public to steer clear of the "other white meat." From April to September, hog prices have fallen 11.9%. Agricultural economist Ron Plain of the University of Missouri told NPR that, by his calculations, the bug has cost the U.S. market more than $900 million already, and eventually could drive over 15% of the American producers out of business.

The National Pork Producers Council has lobbied the government to take steps to help resuscitate the industry. It wants the feds to buy more pork for food subsidy programs and to convince other countries to drop their embargoes on U.S. pork.

Fearing a pork-import ban response, it has also come out against including a ban of Chinese chicken imports in the fiscal year 2010 agricultural spending bill currently under consideration. The association also favors allowing the import of ethanol fuel and the dropping of tax credits to local producers of ethanol, both moves which would lower grain prices domestically.

In the meantime, the frugal WalletPop reader will keep an eye out for the opportunity to stock the freezer with pork at rock-bottom prices. As the supplies tighten, prices are bound to climb by next spring. Now is the time to buy more bacon!

Also read: Chinese chicken? Which U.S. fast food vendors sell chicken from China?
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