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Hog, Cattle Farmers Receive Good News
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- News of government payments for some hog farmers and improved cattle prices will bring some relief to Mississippi livestock producers after years of depressed markets.
The second phase of Small Hog Operation Payment program moneys will soon be available to hog producers who have struggled to break even for the last couple years. The program will pay up to $10 per slaughter-weight hog marketed during the last six months of 1998. With a limit of 500 market hogs, or an equal number of feeder pigs, the maximum payment for any one operation is $5,000.
"Every little bit helps," said Dr. Charlie Forrest, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Prices are now running in the low $30 per hundredweight. Break-even prices are the upper $30s to low $40s."
Sign-up for the new hog payment program will take place from Aug. 9 until Sept. 24. Producers who did not take part in the first phase of the SHOP program will need to apply at their local Farm Service Agency office to receive the payment. During the first phase of the program, $50 million were paid to small hog producers earlier in 1999.
"Since 1995, the number of hog farms has dropped 40 percent nationally, from 182,000 to 114,000," Forrest said. "Those are mainly small hog operations, which have closed. The average size of remaining farms has increased."
To qualify for the SHOP program, farmers must still be in business.
As cattle prices have struggled for about four years, producers are finally seeing some improvement this summer.
"We are expecting the smallest calf crop this year since 1952," Forrest said. "Feeder calf prices are running between $85 and $88 per hundredweight for 400 pound steers, up about $12 from a year ago."
Forrest said the forecast continues to be good for cattle prices, but it will be awhile before hogs reach breakeven levels.