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Why pit farmer against farmer?

WASHINGTON -- In response to National Pork Producers Council President Don Butler's recently publicized letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Caro...

WASHINGTON -- In response to National Pork Producers Council President Don Butler's recently publicized letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, stating that "pork producers since October 2007 have lost an average of $20 on each hog marketed; the industry has lost between $3 billion and $3.5 billion in equity over the past 18 months" because of higher corn prices caused by expanded ethanol production, I wish to set the record straight.

As a hog and corn farmer and a neighbor to many abandoned hog buildings in the last 30 years, I've seen the low price of grain hurt farmers and their communities much more than it ever helped. Even surviving hog farmers should know this.

The saying was, "low-priced corn makes for low-priced hogs" and "high-priced corn makes for high-priced hogs." Hog farmers cut back production in "good-priced" corn years, making for a good-priced hog year the following year. Now the NPPC calls "good-priced" corn years or high corn prices bad. Is this their desire to pit farmers against farmers, to divide and conquer?

All farmers need to make a profit, but today's prices are below cost of production for both hog and corn farmers. It is counterproductive to wish destruction upon your neighbor. Instead, let us work together to raise the price of live hogs so that the hog farmer can make a modest profit rather than a massive loss, which is what they have today.

The enemy is not ethanol, or the grain farmer, but the companies that fix the price hog farmers receive, prices that are too often below the cost of production.

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Where is Butler's voice on Smithfield, Excel and Tyson? He chooses not to speak out on them because he's received money from them. Just remember many hog contract farmers also raise corn. His desires will hurt his founding members, the American farmers, who used to own the land, the hogs, the chickens and the cattle, but his advice to the president will surely continue the downward spiral for us all.

-- Keith Bolin

Editor's Note: Bolin is president of the American Corn Growers Association.

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