Swine Flu May Affect State Pork Producers

Wednesday, April 29th 2009, 9:31 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

WASHINGTON COUNTY, OK -- Misconceptions about swine flu are causing big problems for the pork industry, including producers in Oklahoma.

Lonnie Hoelscher is a pork producer in Washington County. The swine flu hasn't affected the health of pigs, but he's concerned about how perceptions are impacting the economic health of the pig business.

"The biggest concern is the effect it has on the pork industry as a whole, economically," Hoelscher said.

Hoelscher has reason for concern. Hog prices are already dropping as some people have second thoughts about buying "the other white meat."

"It has dropped more than $3 per pig, and I haven't seen margins, profit, of $3 per pig in nearly three years," Hoelscher said.

Even though the virus hasn't been found in any pigs, the use of the term "swine flu" is impacting the industry.

"This is something that shouldn't be happening, and we have no control over it," Hoelscher said.

To make matters worse, several countries like Russia and China who are big importers of U.S. pork have canceled those imports from the United States. Exports from U.S. pork producers account for 30 to 35 percent of their business.

Hoelscher wants to clear up misconceptions about the illness. It doesn't come entirely from pigs. It's a hybrid strain of human, swine and bird flu.

Also, the H1N1 virus is transmitted from human to human, and it can't be spread from eating pork.

"Pork is safe, and there's no reason to not have that pork roast on Sunday afternoon," Hoelscher said.

Hoelscher fears if perceptions don't change, many pork producers could go out of business.