The announcement of Excel Pork converting the Marshall, Mo., plant to consumer-ready meats may reduce national slaughter capacity enough that production may again exceed slaughter capacity in 2002.

The Excel plant, which will stop killing hogs July 25, was able to slaughter about 8,000 hogs per day. Excel will increase capacity at its Wapello County pork plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, by about 2,000 head per day to offset some of the loss in slaughter capacity.

The May hogs and pigs report shows that April farrowings were down 0.4 percent from April 2000, which indicates slaughter capacity will not be challenged this year, says Ron Plain University of Missouri agricultural economist.

However, the situation does not look as good for 2002. Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economist, predicts that critical capacity could be reached at 2 percent growth. Productivity has been 3 percent higher than a year ago, so even with no growth in the sow herd capacity could be pressured. The upward trend in productivity appears to have slowed some, as 5 percent increases from a year ago have been commonplace in the past year.