COVID ‘HAS HAD A LASTING, DISRUPTIVE IMPACT ON OUR FARM’

TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL PORK MONTH, HOTH IS TURNING OVER ITS AUTHORSHIP TO GUEST HOSTS TO OFFER UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES AND EXPERIENCES IN OUR SECTOR. THIS FOURTH AND FINAL HOTH FOR THE MONTH IS PENNED BY NORTH CAROLINA PORK COUNCIL VICE PRESIDENT LORENDA OVERMAN.

 

Tell us about your hog farming operation

My husband Harrell is a sixth-generation farmer, tracing his agricultural roots back to the Revolutionary War. After serving in the army during World War II, his father returned home and started our hog farm with four sows and a boar. Harrell and his father eventually grew the herd to a 750-sow farrow-to-finish independent hog farm.  After years of success, we converted to a nursery-to-finish farm, and began growing on contract.  Today, we own four contract hog farms: two nursery-to-finish farms, a wean-to-finish farm, and a 2,000-head sow farm – growing for three different integrators.

When I was a young girl, I never imagined I’d be where I am today. I was a city girl with dreams of becoming a marine biologist, but I fell in love with Harrell and life on the farm, especially the process of raising hogs. Now, we raise hogs and live on our more than 200-year-old farm with our children and eight grandchildren. I wouldn’t change a thing!

 

What challenges have you/producers in your state faced this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like many others, we have had a number of challenges since the pandemic began, taking a significant financial and emotional toll. When the packing plants first started shutting down, we got creative by changing the hogs’ feed ingredients to slow growth. However, as the hogs reached market size, their market dates were continuously delayed. This put a lot of pressure on our barns and more repairs were needed in the barns when the hogs were finally moved out.

The pandemic has had a lasting, disruptive impact on our farm as we adjust to the tremendous loss of income due to the significantly reduced value of hogs marketed. We also face the closure of one of our integrators. As of today, we have not been able to find another integrator to pick up our contracts and are extremely worried about the future of our entire farm. I spend many sleepless nights worrying and praying.

We were fortunate to receive some Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) money at the beginning of the pandemic, however we need significant assistance.

 

What help can Congress provide to ensure U.S. pork producers weather the COVID-19 crisis?  

PPP is the only Congressional assistance we have seen for our hog farms. All U.S. hog farmers are hurting, and we need help to weather this unprecedented crisis.

Through the National Pork Producers Council, the North Carolina Pork Council has reached out to Congress on a number of actions, including:

  • compensation for the lost value of euthanized and donated hogs. This should include related costs for donation and disposal.
  • additional direct payments to pig farmers without restrictions.
  • additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have assisted and shared resources with public health partners during the COVID crisis.
  • modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so responses to an unexpected national emergency, like this pandemic, qualify for USDA funding.
  • extension of the PPP program with modifications to make it accessible to more producers.

Another top priority for U.S. pork producers is ensuring African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases don’t enter our country. What needs to be done to keep U.S. agriculture safe?

U.S. pork producers need to continue our diligence to ensure African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases don’t enter our country. If a human disease like COVID-19 can cause this much damage to the pork industry, imagine what ASF–an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks–could do, wiping out our herds in a very short time. We need to continue to have our agricultural inspectors rigorously inspecting for contamination breaches and we need to ensure they are fully funded. Funding these programs and keeping inspectors at our borders and ports is essential to ensuring our herds remain safe and healthy.

 

On a lighter note, how do you plan to celebrate National Pork Month?

We celebrate National Pork Month all year! I enjoy simple pork products; nothing is better than roasting hot dogs over a fire on the beach or a pit in the backyard. We also enjoy slow-roasted Boston Butts in pulled pork tacos. Right now, our favorite thing to do is to fry up a big serving of bacon, usually a pound or two, and crumble it on top of our Fettuccini Alfredo. It’s so good!