Pork buyers go bankrupt leaving farmers with excess of pigs

On a recent camping trip with his son's Cub Scout troop, Curtis Barwick ended a talk about his job managing contracts for the now-bankrupt Coharie Hog Farms with a desperate plea.

"I really don't care if you eat the sausage or not," Barwick told the Scouts. "Just buy it."

North Carolina's hog industry needs all the customers it can get to bring it back, Scouts included.

After two years of losses, Clinton-based Coharie and three smaller North Carolina pork producers recently declared bankruptcy, causing scores of grain and hog farmers to lose once-stable contracts to raise hogs.

Many hog farmers fear that other companies could go under or greatly reduce their contracts, further damaging the hog-dependent Eastern North Carolina economy.

The average cost of raising a hog is now $20 more than the hog is worth at sale, thanks to high grain prices and weak demand, said Don Butler, the president of the National Pork Producers Council, who works for Murphy-Brown, a Warsaw hog and turkey company.

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