Feed costs are steadily rising, and so is the cost of raising hogs. The average corn price at Omaha in early March was $5.35 per bushel, up $3.45 compared to two years earlier. Decatur soybean-meal prices at the time also more than doubled those of March 2006.

John Lawrence, Iowa State University ag economist, calculates that the typical Iowa farrow-to-finish operation needed $52.85 per hundredweight (live weight) to break even on hogs marketed in February. That’s $7.56 higher than 12 months earlier and $14.07 higher than in February 2006. Breakeven prices are quickly closing in on the all-time record set in the summer of 1996, which was the only other time corn prices have exceeded $5 per bushel.