Posted by Stephen Hoesel on Apr 08, 2019
Greg Hora, Past President of the Iowa Pork Producers was Rotary's guest on Monday.  Greg discussed issues of pork production, especially the recently opened Prestige Foods plant approximately 15 miles east of Fort Dodge.  As the world increases from 7 to 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050 pork will become increasingly important to the world food supply.  Specifically, Iowa is now the world's leading pork producer by population, a role that will play heavily in its future economics.  The fragile position of food is further emphasized by the occurrence of an African Swine Fever in the Chinese hog population that has caused the mass slaughter of over 9 million of their 30 million herd count.  Depending upon how the Chinese control this outbreak will greatly help determine how much pork will be imported in the future.
 
Prestige Foods is a family operation that in the recent past purchased the swine operation of the former DeCostser Farms.  They are now attempting to maximize their economic value (approximately $55 per head) by incorporating processing with their growing farms.  The plant which is slated to utilize 10,000 hogs per day (currently they are operating at 5,000) now employs 700 to 800 of the shift one projection of 1,000.  Because of issues with securing labor and housing base wages have increased to approximately $16 per hour with significant benefits, including health benefits.  This plant will yield a very significant economic retail boost to the Fort Dodge area of Northcentral Iowa.  Also, a large industrial park being constructed south of the facility has preliminary location discussions with at least two support industries.  The message in this section is that we have more than enough pigs for the facility, but not enough workers.  We also know that workers are being hired from other industries within Iowa because of the greater wage benefits.  This ripple effect creates the very important upward movement in society past lacking in the area. 
 
The economic impact to America is also important as more than 30% of the plant's production will be shipped overseas.  At the current time, because of the ongoing trade difficulties with China, Canada is supplying China with their pork imports, but America is then back-filling the need for pork in Canada.  Politics can make the issues difficult, but can not change the fact that the world needs food.  We also see a similar regional trade shift with Soybeans as the U.S. has exported to date as many soybeans as in prior years. 
 
The state of the art facility is very capable of providing multiple packaging of meat according to end user requirements, an advantage older processing plants do not have.  Robots and other technology has been incorporated into the process to great success, but also requires significant training for new employees.