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Hog farmer recovering from packing plant closures

An Upper Midwest hog farmer continues to work through the marketing disruption resulting from COVID-19 packer shutdowns. East central South Dakota pork producer Shane Odegaard was informed in mid-April of the temporary closure of the Sioux Falls Smithfield packing plant – where most of his hogs are processed – when hundreds of workers tested positive for coronavirus. He had to work quickly to find an alternative outlet for his market-ready hogs.

“We were marketing quite a few hogs, we marketed probably close to over 300 just through direct marketing going into a local butcher shop,” Odegaard told Brownfield Ag News Tuesday. “That helped us considerably to keep the top end weights down in our barn.”

Packing plants have reopened, although processing capacity has yet to catch up to what it was before the pandemic. Odegaard, whose farm is at Lake Preston, South Dakota, says he is working through it.

“With the markets being depressed now, the extra weights being marketed right now doesn’t help matters either,” said Odegaard, who is also first vice president of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, “but it’s something we’re trying to work through with our packers and with our lenders.”

Odegaard says he can’t let his guard down even though his production is back to as close to normal as can be expected.

“But Heaven forbid, if we have another disruption in the food chain,” he said, “this first disruption will look quite minor to what a second one would be.”

AUDIO: Shane Odegaard

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