Pork Month gets underway

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Rolland "Pig" Paul (Photo contributed)

October is THE month for Iowa's pork producers.

This month, producers nationwide focus on an industry that in Iowa contributes nearly $5 billion to the state's economy.

Over 39,000 jobs directly related to Iowa hog production.

These figures, provided by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, signify efforts by pork producers in Plymouth County and throughout the state to continue supplying quality pork products for today's consumer menus.

The area's older and long-time pork producers may well remember an 'icon' of the state and national pork industry picture, Rolland 'Pig' Paul.

As field secretary in the late 1950s and 1960s, Paul spearheaded the state's new pork check-off program. Later, he went on in 1966 to become the first executive secretary of the National Pork Producers Council.

Iowa's dependence on the pork industry for economic contributions and jobs is evident, he said in phone interview.

Plymouth and Sioux County pork producers continue to play a major role within the industry.

Paul, now retired and a Mesa, Ariz. resident, continues to monitor Iowa's pork industry.

Ron Birkenholz, communications director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, in Des Moines, shared an additional look at the pork leadership shown by the two counties.

"Northwest Iowa, particularly Plymouth and Sioux counties, has been a heavy livestock producing area for years," Birkenholz said.

One of the primary reasons is that corn has historically been cheaper in northwest Iowa, he explained.

"The corn could be fed to hogs at a low cost, and the farmer could make money," Birkenholz said. "Furthermore, the area is a livestock-friendly region with livestock packing facilities also available in the area. Livestock contributes greatly to the region's economy."

Data taken from U.S. Ag Census of 1959 and 2007 help to substantiate this strong leadership, he said.

These figures show Plymouth County ranked second in Iowa and seventh nationally (out of 2,958 counties with hogs) in hog inventory numbers in 1959 with 282,596 head.

Sioux County, the 12th ranking county in the state at this time, recorded 225,237 head.

Plymouth County ranked third in the state in 2007 and seventh nationwide, recording its hog numbers climbing to 765,318.

The 2007 data shows Sioux County taking over as Iowa's top producer of hogs with an inventory of 1,094,258 head and the fourth place national ranking out of 2,958 counties with hogs.

The 2007 data is the most recent available.

That 2007 Ag Census indicates that Plymouth County's pork production during this period provided 1,469 jobs and generated $37 million in household income with economic activity totaling $227 million, Birkenholz said.

The Sioux County Ag Census for 2007 shows the county's the pork industry provided 1,625 jobs, generating $41 million in household income, and was responsible for $317 million in economic activity.