September 1, 2009

Any Pork Bailout Should be Tied to ‘Retooling & Improving’

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

k5657-3In a letter to president Obama the former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), Robert Martin, suggested that any federal money used to bailout the ailing pork industry be tied to “retooling and improving the swine industry.”

The pork market’s slide is reportedly attributed to overproduction, high feed costs, misplaced public fear over the swine flu, and, of course, the global recession. Martin believes if taxpayers are going to bailout the pork industry, which is dominated by a handful of large corporations, the federal dollars “should be paired with changes to the swine production system that would not only improve long-term sustainability of the industry, but also the environment, public health and rural communities.

Based on the PCIFAP’s recommendations, Martin suggested that those changes should include:

  • phasing out the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics and requiring veterinary involvement in all antibiotic use in livestock
  • replacing the gestation crate system with hoop barn or pen systems
  • replacing liquid waste management systems with solid waste composting

It seems to me that the biggest victims in the pork market plummet are family farmers who are tied to contracts to large corporations like Smithfield Foods and small independent farmers who can’t sell their food across state lines without breaking the law. Independent farmers have a difficult time selling their meat in regional and some local markets, because accessing USDA-approved slaughterhouses is becoming almost impossible due to the fact that the numbers have shrunk greatly across the country and most slaughterhouses only deal with large high yielding corporations. I would hope some of that federal money would go to construct regional slaughterhouses that can be accessed by small producers.

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