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Swine flu hurts state hog farmers as pork consumption declines
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MONROE - The recent panic of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, has had an effect on hog prices, even though it is not transmitted by eating pork products.

"They (hog prices) dropped like a rock," said Green County UW-Extension agent Mark Mayer.

Mayer said consumer pork consumption slowed amid public hysteria and fear.

"There is nothing to fear (from eating pork)," Mayer said.

The National Pork Board took out full-page ads in major newspapers across the county in early May to counter the fears of contracting swine flu through pork consumption.

The ads quoted U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention specifically stating that people could not get swine flu from pork.

"Actually the reverse is true," Mayer said. "A herd in Canada was infected by a person who had gone to Mexico."

Hog producers are being more diligent about who they let into their barns, he added.

While Green County once was a top producer of swine products, many farmers went out of business years ago when hog prices hit eight cents a pound, Mayer said.

"One or two people in the county still have pigs," he said.

Wisconsin does not keep track of hog prices.

Hog prices nationwide dropped to an average of about $59 per 100 pounds of carcass weight April 28, down from about $62 the Thursday before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seasonal prices typically climb past $70 in late April and May. The actual average price in 2007 was $61.91. The price prediction for 2009 was to be $67 to $72, above the projected 2008 average price range of $63 to $64.