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The closure of Tyson Foods’ pork plant in Perry could pose challenges for producers later in the year as the loss of slaughter space will drag down prices in another year that is expected to be financially challenging.

Last year, Iowa and U.S. pork producers suffered the worst losses in history, surpassing even the 1998 downturn that bankrupted thousands of U.S. producers, Steve Meyer, chief livestock economist at Ever.Ag, said Wednesday at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

With around 128 million pigs slaughtered in 2023, losses could have been $3.6 billion, although market strategies such as hedging likely mitigated the damage to producers.

Tama County pork producers line the grill preparing lunch at the World Pork Expo on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

“This year it will be better, but not great,” Meyer said at the two-day pork show held annually at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

About 10,000 pork producers are expected to attend the conference on Wednesday and Thursday in Iowa, the country’s largest pork producer.

Learn more about the challenges facing the pork industry here:

Why is Arkansas-based Tyson closing its pork plant in Perry?

Tyson announced in March that it would permanently close its central Iowa plant, which slaughters and processes about 9,000 hogs a day. The move will put nearly 1,300 workers at the city’s largest employer out of work. The plant is scheduled to close on June 28.

Tyson, with operations across Iowa, reported that the company suffered a loss of $648 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $3.2 billion in 2022, due to weak chicken and pork prices.

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