Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Big Pig gets eaten up

After hearing about it over coffee and then reading it here, our neighbors to the south in the North of Missouri, Premium Standard Farms, has been bought out by Smithfield Foods. PSF, or as we call them in The South of Iowa, "BIG PIG," is the #2 hog producer in the nation. Smithfield is #1. Put them together, and well, you've got an even bigger pig.

So, how does this affect us in Iowa? Well, for one thing, it shows that the hog industry continues to consolidate until Smithfield and a few wannabes are the only owners of pigs. If you want to get into hogs as a farmer, you raise them for someone else; you won't own them. At this point, they can dictate to you the terms by which you will work for them (using a half-million dollar facility that you own, by the way). You're not longer a farmer but a serf.

I'll say this, however; PSF has provided a good market locally for our corn. Princeton, the headquarters and the location of a feedmill, is about 35 miles away, so it's pretty easy to take multiple loads down in a day. The workers are a bunch of good ol' boys who spend their off hours drinking beer and shooting deer.

I'm a bit concerned what the corn market will do once Smithfield takes over. Will they rail it in from further away? Will they no longer need our local corn? We'll see...

A few years ago National ByProducts, the company that picks up dead animals and processes them into all sorts of wonderful..., well, byproducts, informed the farmers of The South of Iowa (south of Hwy 34) that they would no longer venture into our area to pick up a dead cow, horse, or pig. Wasn't profitable enough, they said. However, they had no problem running down to PSF to pick up a load of dead pigs. Big Pig even built a special "carcass cooler" that would keep the bodies cool until the truck arrived. The truck would back under this cooler, and the dead pigs would drop right in. Once in a while a National driver needed to wet his whistle and would stop at our local Casey's store with a load of dead pigs headed back to Des Moines. I joked with my Dad that if he ever lost a cow he could just drop it off at Casey's for NatByProd to pick up for him. He never took me up on the idea, however.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your story about National Byproducts. Here's one like it from 25 years ago.
I worked at a coal wash plant near Lovilia in the early 80s and we used independent truck drivers to deliver washed coal to Iowa State University and Iowa Electric's power plant at Marshalltown. The wash plant removed shale, pyrites and other non-burning materials to make the coal higher in BTU value. The same trucks carried this "waste" back to the coal pits and during winter months, these loads would release steam and dripping water from the tailgate of the trucks. Our salesman, John and I stopped for some cigarettes at a little store near Bussey just as one of these trucks went by with its steaming load. The store clerk asked, "What with that hot steamy stuff dripping out of the trucks, John?"
Never one to miss an opportunity for a good laugh, John responded, "Oh, that? That's something we're bringing back as a backhaul from the Palo power plant. We send up a load of washed coal, then bring back a load of nuclear waste and bury it in the pits around here. Been doing it for years."
The story made it to reporters at the Albia and Knoxville papers but never was published, fortunately.

3:51 PM, September 22, 2006  
Blogger Jordan said...

This isn't my blog, but create a user name so we can get to know you if you choose to comment again.

6:52 PM, September 22, 2006  

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