The U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has provided guidance for collaboration among U.S. hog farmers to effectively address unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The favorable decision is in response to a “business review” letter submitted to the DOJ by the National Pork Producers Council seeking permission to allow hog farmers greater flexibility in working to maximize the number of hogs entering the food supply, minimize the tragic need to euthanize hogs, and facilitate the safe and orderly euthanization of those hogs which are not able to enter the food supply.
COVID-related pork packing plant closures and slowdowns have caused a severe back-up of pigs on farms. Overcrowding impacts pigs’ ability to rest comfortably and may result in aggression and injuries. Maintaining air quality and temperatures that keep animals comfortable is also challenged. To prevent animal suffering, farmers are being forced to euthanize animals.
“Our goal is to efficiently process as many hogs as possible into the food supply,” said Howard “A.V.” Roth, NPPC president and a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. “Appropriate collaboration across the industry and with state and federal government officials will minimize the number of pigs that must be euthanized and ensure that it is handled humanely, and that disposal is environmentally sound.”
The letter explains that the processing plant closures addressed in President Donald J. Trump’s April 28, 2020, Executive Order have had impacts up and down the supply chain. The letter determines that the NPPC and its members may work at the direction of the USDA and state agriculture agencies to achieve humane and efficient euthanization of hogs that have grown too large to be processed and are thus unmarketable. The NPPC may also share general information with its members about best practices for depopulating unmarketable hogs.
Following is an example of the type of productive industry collaboration NPPC cited in its letter to the DOJ:
“To aid farmers in their unprecedented need to depopulate large numbers of hogs, NPPC is assisting its state organizations, state governments, and farmers in identifying sources of euthanasia equipment and is participating in discussions regarding the organization of centralized euthanasia and disposal stations. This process includes disseminating projections as to the number of hogs those facilities may handle each day. NPPC and its members may seek to collaborate to discuss the most orderly and efficient euthanization process.”
“Today’s letter addresses some of the challenges created for farmers when packing capacity shuts down,” stated Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. “Meanwhile, we remain committed to vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws to ensure that farmers and consumers see the benefits of competition.”
For more information about the state of the U.S. pork industry, including much-needed federal assistance, please visit the NPPC website.