SALUTE TO PORK
By Pete Temple, Express Sports/Ag Editor
There was little doubt about what Scott Adams would end up doing for a profession.
His grandfather, Jim Adams, was a hog buyer for 30 years in Monticello. His father, Richard Adams, was a hog buyer for 51 years before he passed away in 2004.
Scott had no problem following in their footsteps, and currently operates the JBS hog-buying station in Monticello.
“I remember as a kid, in the summer, I’d ride my bike over here in the mornings, and stick around the stockyards, and then I’d go to the swimming pool in the afternoon,” Scott said. “That’s how I got exposed to it.”
Adams has been in the business for 28 years, taking over the Monticello JBS facility in 2010.
“I personally am responsible for about 200,000 hogs annually, purchased,” Adams said. “This facility runs anywhere from one to three semi loads a day.
“It’s a one man operation. I do it myself. I do the sorting, tattooing, weighing, truck scheduling, line the pigs up and do all the phone work.
“It’s like having your own business. I see my boss maybe twice a year.”
Adams buys the hogs from local farmers, then arranges to have them shipped to JBS processing plants in Marshalltown, Worthington, Minn.; and Louisville, Ky.
“I deal with people that might have as few as one or two, or as many as 200-300 on a daily basis,” Adams said. “There are two or three fourth generation families that come in here with pigs.”
Adams also deals with producers who sell full semiloads of hogs directly to the plants. In all, he deals with about 100 pork producers in Iowa and surrounding states.
“Typically what I get here are (loads of) 20, 30, 40 and 50, and we group them together to get a full semi load,” he said. “We run anywhere from one to three loads daily.”
Doug Toenjes, who has worked in the business for more than 40 years, hauls the hogs from the JBS station.
Adams said it’s “pretty much like owning your own business. I’ve been fortunate here. They give me some latitude to work on my own ideas and my own decision-making.”
He said he typically works from 5:30 or 6 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m. He’s in the middle of the busy season that runs from Labor Day to late March, so he currently works six days a week.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I’ve done this 28 years, and I’ve never called in sick or missed a day. It’s kind of hard to, because my replacement is 100 miles away.
“So you’re pretty much committed. You’re responsible for being here in the morning, you’re responsible for maintaining your facilities and your costs. It’s your baby.”
While he’s not able to get away for vacations, his hours do allow Adams time for family.
“That’s kind of the unique thing about it,” Adams said. “If you start early, I’m done at 2:30, so I’ve been able over the years to catch my kids’ events at schools, and been able to go to the football games. It’s an early morning job, but I enjoy early morning.”
Scott and his wife Jen, a respiratory therapist for Advantage Home Medical, live in Monticello. They have two children, college-aged daughter Ivee and high school-aged son, Justice.
Scott attended Kirkwood Community College and earned degrees in ag business and swine technology.
“I guess I had a passion for the hog industry,” he said.
From there, he worked with hog buying companies in Lincoln, Iowa; in South Dakota, and in Minnesota.
Adams took a job with Oscar Mayer in Oskaloosa, and worked there for five years until the company started to focus on processing more than slaughter operations.
He then went to work for Swift & Co. in Central City.
JBS, which originally started in Brazil, expanded to the Midwest and bought Swift & Co. In 2010, the Central City and Monticello hog-buying stations merged into the station where Adams currently works.
“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I’ve worked with some dynamic personalities in the packing business over the years.”
Adams said that hog producers, particularly the small ones, are holding their own in difficult times. In addition to high grain prices, producers are dealing with animal welfare and handling issues, which he calls “a big front-runner in the industry.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the producers because it’s such a huge capital investment right now to get into the hog business, and same with the packing business,” he said.
“It’s a tough business right now. You’ve got $8 corn and $63 hogs (as of Oct. 17). With $8 corn, you probably need $75 hogs. It’s going to cause meat and meat proteins from now into the future for consumers to be escalated in price.”
Still, Adams said there are bright spots.
“Right now the market for 2013 looks good, but we’ve got real expensive meal, and input costs are way high,” he said. “The corn crop has been a little better than what producers thought. That’s giving them a break; they’re not going to have to purchase as much corn.
“It will be interesting to see what the future will bring, what consolidation is yet to come. The industry is always kind of evolving. A lot of it is going to hinge on the grain prices.”
“The small producers wonder if there will be a market for the small individual, and there will be as long as they have genetics and herdsmanship in place. As long as they manage their operation well and follow the guidelines, regardless of whether there are two or 25, there will always be a market for those animals.”
With 140 production facilities in 10 countries, JBS calls itself “the largest animal protein processor in the world.”
“This company’s committed to the hog industry, and they’ve got the same kind of values I do as a business,” Adams said. “I’m committed to the industry along with the producers that I deal with.”