Don't Worry Be Happy

Prairie Gleanings

Illinois hog farmers are still smiling, despite years of losses.

Published on: March 3, 2009

Over the past year, I've visited quite a few Illinois hog farms. The hog business has been a money-losing proposition for about two years now. Each time I visit one, I always expect a plethora of grim faces. Luckily, that's hardly ever the case.


Last week, I visited one of the farmers caught up in the Meadowbrook Farms situation. Meadowbrook is a farmer-owned coop, with a pork packing facility in Rantoul. Recently, the company idled the Rantoul plant. Many do not expect it to reopen.


Most of the approximately 100 farmer/owners are still owed for hogs that were delivered. Not to mention, their shares are now worthless. One of the farmers I visited with estimated his losses at seven figures. Despite his misfortune, he was all smiles the day I visited.


Near the end of the visit, I finally asked, "How can you be so upbeat?" He smiled and said, "Well, there's one thing you have to understand about the livestock business, it's very cyclical." He went on to explain that when times are good, he stockpiles inputs and makes infrastructure improvements. When times are bad, he only buys what he absolutely needs.


He said the toughest part is finding a banker who will remain cool in the face of adversity. In fact, he's having a tough time convincing bankers that things will turn around. And the current economy isn't helping his case.


With 50+ years of farming experience, I think he knows what he's talking about. I only hope it didn't take him 50 years to realize this. It would appear the earlier a hog farmer realizes this, the more heartache he could save himself.