With this spring’s late planting due to flooding and near-record low corn carryover inventories, feed costs and feed availability were top-of-mind concerns among pork producers attending the World Expo last week in Des Moines. For producers in certain areas, supplies of feed may become difficult to secure which raises uncertainty and unease.

“Feed availability is the number one concern for many producers,” says John Weber, Dysart, Iowa, pork producer and immediate past president of Iowa Pork Producers Association. “As tight as the use-to-stocks ratio currently is for 2011, we have producers who are concerned about having adequate access to corn.”

Efforts by the National Pork Producers Council are underway with USDA to develop a contingency plan that would help pork producers obtain access to feed stocks if shortages develop. “We just need to bring it to the forefront with USDA that there are legitimate concerns that certain parts of the country may not have access to feed grains,” said Weber in an interview at World Pork Expo. “The scenario may arise in the fringe areas of the Midwest grain-production regions where producers may encounter difficulty in securing the feed supply they need.

Corn prices rose last week on USDA’s June Crop report which indicated a lower estimate of crop acreage and ending stocks for 2011/2012. “The most recent estimate puts planted corn acres at 90.7 million, 1.5 million acres less than the May estimate but still 2.5 million acres higher than a year ago,” according to the CME Daily Livestock Report. “Harvested acres this fall are expected to be about 1.9 million acres less than a year ago.”

Last week’s USDA report has forced producers to consider ways to increase crop production by whatever methods possible. “Our approach to the USDA is to focus on increasing production,” says Weber. “We suggested that they release non-sensitive CRP acres to help in that regard.”

Producers should be looking to maximize the use of distillers’ dried grain with solubles, says Weber. “We have to look closely at the cost of these diets and use the least expensive ingredients while maintaining efficient production.”

Weber believes a more supportive role by the government is necessary to help ensure adequate food production. “I would like to see the government adopt the approach of ‘what can we do for farmers’ to enhance production and increase our food security as a nation.” Weber is concerned with the lack of a contingency plan that has been requested from USDA. “I just don’t want us to get caught off guard.”

Weber also believes that U.S. farmers and livestock producers need to be closely involved in the development of the 2012 Farm Bill. “We need to take a hard look at the new farm bill with regard to our nation’s energy policy and food policy because there are some serious flaws in our situation as it stands now.”