Hog farmers facing tough decisions during pandemic

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 19:27:45-04

BUTLER COUNTY, Neb. (KMTV) — The farming industry continues to be impacted by COVID-19. With some workers at meat packing plants getting sick, it resulted in the temporary closure of some. Processing is still delayed and the farmers supplying the food are feeling the effects.

“My dad always said farmers are the best gamblers, so it’s a risk,” said Lukas Fricke, a hog farmer in Butler County

That risk is something Fricke enjoys taking. “I enjoy working with my brother, my family, and everybody on our farm every single day.”

Fricke is a 6th generation hog farmer. Sometimes the risk with his profession, is dealing with things you can’t control, like COVID-19.

“We need to get pigs out the door, they’re very efficient animals,” said Fricke.

That issue with processing is causing a backup for those animals and is having a ripple effect.

“A backup at the processing plant means a backup at the farm means that I’m not going to be able to purchase feed and that’s going to affect another family,” said Fricke.

With those backups some farmers are considering euthanizing their pigs if they start running out of room on their farms. Fricke isn’t considering that yet, and hopes he never does.

“It’s not easy, you raise these animals from a small size to a large one you’re invested in that process,” said Fricke.

“Farmers are trying to be as optimistic as possible and look towards the future but right now they’re pretty stressed out,” said John Csukker, President of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

Csukker adds with demand being down, the cost of the pigs has also dropped. “We’re looking at about $30-$37 loss per head, and you don’t have to do math for very long to figure out where that’s going to hurt.”

Even with being concerned for his farm’s future, Fricke remains optimistic. He hopes with President Trump’s orders to keep meat packing plants open, processing will continue, and that people need to continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene during these times.

“Let’s all work together to get this stomped out and return back to normal,” said Fricke.