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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
MUSA Council
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    Posted: Jan 25 2015 at 6:14pm

Posted: 7:00 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

Is Porkopolis making a return?

By Lance Lambert

Contributing Writer


    It might be an understatement to say the hog industry played a role in shaping the Cincinnati region: From companies that grew out of the region’s booming 19th century hog business to immigrants that settled in the region to work in what was then the largest pork-producing city in the world.

    For a region that bares the nickname Porkopolis, it’s been quite some time since the pig business was a “big player.”

    However, a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month paints a more positive picture of the direction of Butler County’s pig business. According to the data, the number of hogs in the county jumped 62 percent to 10,502, between 2007 and 2012. That’s the highest number of pigs recorded in the county since 1997, and the first time the county added to its hog population since 1987.

    That increase is putting more money in the pockets of Butler County pig farmers, who pulled in $3 million in 2012, double the amount they collected five years earlier.

    While the population is a far cry from the days when Hamilton farmers would walk their hogs to butchers in Cincinnati, it could spell the end of the downward spiral. The county’s swine population dwindled from more than 70,000 in 1950 to below 7,000 in 2007.

    The uptick also means Butler County’s hog population is now larger than Montgomery County — which from 2007 to 2012 fell 42 percent to 7,112. In fact, Butler County now has more pigs than neighboring Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren County combined.

    John Lake, a resident of Hanover Township, is one farmer who is playing a small role in the comeback. He jumped into the business in 2007, to raise pigs for his kids to show in 4-H.

Lake, 51, who’s a union electrician, says he now has a handful of pigs, which do not cost him much since he uses his extra corn as feed.

    “It’s good to hear the county’s pig business is growing,” he said.

Hog population growth a Buckeye State trend

    Pork production in Ohio is a $542 million industry, employing nearly 8,800 people and making it one of the top 20 pork producing states, according the the National Pork Producers Council. The 8th Congressional District, which includes Butler, Preble, Miami, Mercer, Clark and Darke counties, is the 39th largest pork producing congressional district in the U.S. accounting for $88.6 million in sales, $8.7 million in income and 236 jobs, according to the NPPC.

    “States like Ohio are finding it easier to compete,” said Steve Meyer, livestock market analyst and president at Paragon Economics in Des Moines, Iowa.

    The numbers agree: Ohio’s pig population in 2012 topped 2 million, its highest mark in the USDA’s Census of Agriculture since 1982 — up from a low of 1.4 million in 2002.

    Meyer said Ohio’s proximity to Lake Erie and the Ohio River makes it easy to get corn and other crops to the marketplace, thus leaving a lower corn surplus to be used for hog feed.    Whereas states like Iowa and Minnesota have a higher corn surpluses (cheaper feed), making it a more profitable place to raise swine.

    He said, because of the uptick in ethanol production, pig farmers in Iowa are now seeing higher feed prices, and as a result, places like Ohio are more able to compete.

Higher pork prices also a factor

    “There is more demand for pork products than we can keep up with, which might explain some of the expansion,” said Quinton Keeran, director of communications at the Ohio Pork Council.

    Meyer says some of the price increase can be contributed to the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which left its mark on pig farms in 2013 — killing more than 6 million U.S. hogs.

    It’s hard to tell how many pigs in Butler County might have been affected, but Meyer notes that Ohio wasn’t as hard hit as other states, with Ohio’s pig population climbing to almost 2.2 million in 2014. The totals for Butler County last year are unknown because the USDA only provides county level data every five years.

    Some Butler County farmers say the positive news is welcome, especially after all the negative media attention the county received in 2012, surrounding the swine flu.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2012 that at least nine people who attended the Butler County Fair tested positive for the H3N2 virus, or swine flu.

A rich pig history

    In the early 19th century salty pork became a U.S. food staple, and the Cincinnati region was quick to take advantage. In 1818, the city opened its first commercial pork processing facility and by the 1830s more than 100,000 hogs were processed annually in the city.

The meatpacking industry was a boon for local businesses. Cincinnati-based soap and candles manufacturer Procter and Gamble (Ohio’s most profitable corporation in 2013) was one such company that gained a competitive advantage from having a large supply of pig by-products, or lard, in its backyard.

    The city’s reign lasted until the 1860s, when Chicago topped the city as America’s largest pork producer.

Meanwhile, farmers in Butler County continued to play an important role in the business and maintained large pig numbers through the early part of the 20th century.


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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
MUSA Council
MUSA Council

Joined: May 16 2008
Location: Middletown, Ohi
Status: Offline
Points: 4187
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan 25 2015 at 6:15pm
I must say I really enjoyed reading this article about our local farmers.
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