A new study by the Iowa Pork Producers Association shows the importance of the hog industry to the state’s economy. Iowa’s 5,418 pig farms generate work not only in pig production, but also in hog harvesting and pork processing. In all, there are 147,105 Iowa jobs created by the pork industry through direct, indirect and induced jobs.
Pig production on farms generates 46% of the jobs. The state’s 14 commercial hog harvesting facilities create 45% of the jobs. Commercial pork processing contributes an additional 9% of the jobs.
A study released a year ago by the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers showed that livestock production was the only ag sector that was increasing the number of jobs in Iowa. One in 12 working Iowans has a job tied directly or indirectly to the pork industry.
In the three areas of the pork industry, labor income from those Iowa jobs is $6.84 billion, according to Decision Innovations Solutions, an economic research firm that conducted the study for IPPA. This study used a 2018 Iowa data set, data from the USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture and other USDA National Ag Statistics Service sources and used modeling to project data to reflect 2019 numbers and dollars.
The three pork industry sectors generated $40.8 billion in sales. Pig production accounted for 34% of the total, or $13.9 billion in sales from Iowa's pig farms. Hog harvesting facilities had 55% of the sales, and pork processing accounted for 11% of sales.
Using locally grown feedstuffs
There are several reasons Iowa is the nation's No. 1 producer of pork. The state's pig farmers not only have a proud heritage, they have built upon the experiences of that heritage and combine it with using new research and technology to become more efficient in producing nutritious, safe and delicious pork. Another reason is the availability of key feedstuffs for raising pigs.
A balanced pig diet contains energy and amino acids, which come from corn and soybean meal diets. From weaning to reaching market weight, an average pig eats 12 bushels of corn and 2.5 bushels of soybeans. Over the course of a year, Iowa pigs consume corn that is the equivalent of 22% of the state's corn production and 23% of the state's soybeans. That means nearly one-fourth of Iowa's row crops are marketed for nearby use, thus reducing the cost of grain transportation.
Pigs, number of farms
The number of pigs in Iowa in December was 24.8 million hogs. And 95% (23.79 million) of those hogs were market animals, which have increased by 3% annually for the past decade. Iowa holds 32% of the U.S. hog inventory. Conversely, Iowa's breeding herd (1.01 million head) has been declining slowly despite growth (1.2%) in the national breeding herd (6.46 million).
The size of pig farms is increasing, 69% of Iowa's hog inventory is now on farms with 5,000 or more pigs (20% of all pig farms). However, the most common commercial-size hog farm (32%) in Iowa is in the category of 2,000 to 4,999 head. Farms with 1,000 to 1,999 pigs are 13% of Iowa's pig farms.
The top five counties in pig inventory are Washington, Sioux, Lyon, Hamilton and Plymouth counties. Each of these counties has more than 1 million pigs. In addition to analyzing state data on the impact of Iowa's pork industry, additional analysis was conducted on 35 counties in Iowa to review local economic contributions.
Jobs benefit from more barns
The DIS study also included information about the economic activity in a community when a new 2,400-head hog finishing barn is built. This part of the study considered the construction and first-year operations of a barn this size, which is typical for Iowa. Building the barn would create 12 jobs (half in construction and half in operations) and sales activities of $2.5 million.
A new pig barn sources about 35% of inputs locally. The construction of a new pig barn requires several purchases such as steel, concrete and equipment. Once construction is completed, pig farms purchase feed, veterinary and other professional services, and many other inputs to produce market hogs for sale.