On Hold in South Georgia

first_imgPork producers, industry leaders and bankers have put on hold their efforts to bring300 jobs back into south Georgia.The group is working to reopen a pork processing plant in Moultrie. But industrycompetition seems to be working against them.”All of our plans to start the plant up and provide a local processor for Georgiaproducers are on hold,” said David Bishop, an animal scientist with the University ofGeorgia Extension Service.The only large processor left in Georgia closed down in early June. Many figured thatwould be the end of the Georgia pork industry.Directly and indirectly, Georgia hog farmers support about 3,400 full-time jobs acrossthe state. Extension economists figure the pork industry creates a $500 million to $1billion impact on the state’s economy.There’s too much at stake to give up easily.”Right now, the best approach for this agreement is a cooperative effort betweenthe Georgia Pork Producers Association and banks in the area,” Bishop said. “Thefarmers decided they wanted to keep pork in Georgia and make it profitable, too.”Under an agreement with bankers, Georgia pork farmers will partially own the onlyvolume slaughterhouse in Georgia. Bishop said it’s also only one of three in the nationowned in part by farmers.Bishop said the new partners are working to open a slaughter facility and later add aprocessing wing. They hoped to buy an equipped building in Moultrie. But a large Virginiapork processor has obtained an option to buy it.”We’re back to square zero on our building,” Bishop said. “But thatgives us time to get more producer and agribusiness commitment to raise the high-qualityhogs it will take to keep us viable in an ever-changing industry.”Recent years have taught Georgia pork producers some tough lessons. Some have learnedthem well. Bishop said others still have a lot to learn.”Part of staying in business is responding to your customers,” he said.”They told us they wanted leaner pork. And we’re working to give it to them. But itmay take up to two years for farmers to change their breeding programs to raise leanerhogs.”A cooperative effort between the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciencesand the GPPA helps Georgia farmers produce pork with less than half the fat of just 15years ago. They do it with selective breeding and careful nutrition and management.”Lower-fat meat might end up costing shoppers one or two cents more perpound,” Bishop said. “But think of it as quality insurance. It helps make sureyou can get high-quality meat every time you want it.”Farmers can produce the pork people want. But if they don’t make money at it, they can’t keep doing it.The new producer group is negotiating with large farms to provide the qualityGeorgia-grown hogs they’ll need for their processing lines. Until a Georgia slaughterhousereopens, though, the state’s farmers don’t have a reliable market for their hogs.”Part of the problem when the Moultrie packer closed was that it drove down theprice farmers got for their hogs,” Bishop said. “They couldn’t be certain they could evensell their hogs without a nearby packing plant.”When farmers have to ship their hogs to out-of-state slaughterhouses, they get lowerprices for them. They lose money, too, as their hogs lose weight during the truck ride todistant packers.After the hogs are shipped out-of-state for processing, the pork is shipped back in toGeorgia wholesale or retail markets.”The security of having a pork slaughterhouse and packing facility back in southGeorgia is especially important to hog farmers,” Bishop said. “But it’s also nice to know it’s providing security in theform of jobs to a lot of people in south Georgia and across the state.”last_img

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