The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division provided guidance on Friday for collaboration among U.S. hog farmers to effectively address unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
DOJ said it will not challenge the proposed collaborative efforts of (NPPC) to work with USDA to address certain hardships facing hog farmers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a DOJ release.
The favorable decision comes in response to a "business review" letter submitted to the DOJ by the NPPC. The letter seeks permission to allow hog farmers greater flexibility in working to maximize the number of hogs entering the food supply, minimize the tragic need to euthanize hogs, and facilitate the safe and orderly euthanization of those hogs which are not able to enter the food supply, according to a NPPC release.
"Our goal is to efficiently process as many hogs as possible into the food supply," said Howard "A.V." Roth, NPPC president and a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis., in the release. "Appropriate collaboration across the industry and with state and federal government officials will minimize the number of pigs that must be euthanized and ensure that it is handled humanely, and that disposal is environmentally sound."
Pork packing plant closures and slowdowns due to COVID-19 outbreaks among employees has caused a severe back-up of pigs on farms. Overcrowding not only increases aggression and injuries, but it also affects pigs’ ability to rest comfortably, NPPC said. As a last-resort option, some pig farmers have been forced to euthanize animals.
The letter determines that NPPC and its members may work at the direction of USDA and state agriculture agencies to achieve humane and efficient euthanization of hogs that have grown too large to be processed and are thus unmarketable. NPPC may also share general information with its members about best practices for depopulating unmarketable hogs.
“Today’s letter addresses some of the challenges created for farmers when packing capacity shuts down,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim in the DOJ release. “Meanwhile, we remain committed to vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws to ensure that farmers and consumers see the benefits of competition.”