The supply of pork has continued to go up over the last several years, and much of that is due to the industry's efficiency. “We have been cost-efficient, and production has increased,” said Jim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), on June 7 at the 2018 World Pork Expo.

However, Heimerl explained that producers within the last three years may have been looking forward to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). “Three years ago, when I did my last expansion, trade looked really good, I was excited,” Heimerl said. Heimerl and his family run three farrow-to-finish operations in Ohio and own 80 contract finishing farms in several states.

The NPPC is working with countries every day that were involved in TPP, as well as the U.S. administration, to encourage trade agreements.

Increase in supply has also helped rural America — with the production increase has come a demand for more employees.

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Will recent tariff changes change the supply of pork?

We’re dealing with a bump in the road right now politically, explained David Herring, president-elect of the organization. “Pork is still really popular. If you look at the metrics, there is more pork being consumed in the world today than ever,” Herring said. He added that once the industry gets through these rocky times he thinks the capital that has been invested by producers will be money well spent.

There is some speculation that should recent tariff changes be a long-term issue, large plants would be forced to shut down. That is only speculation, Heimerl said. “I’m an optimist. I always hope we don’t go backwards and have to shut down farrowing rooms, hog farms or packing plants,” he added.

“There are literally hundreds of thousands of decisions made daily by pork producers and the packer processing industry, and those decisions will be made as they feel the markets demand them to,” said Neil Dierks, NPPC's CEO.

Dierks added that the U.S. is the most cost competitive producer of pork in the world — the issue for U.S. producers is access. “If we can get in, we will compete with anybody,” said Dierks. The recent tariffs are a challenge, not a shut-out, he concluded.