WISONSIN (WAOW)-- Data published this week by the USDA says mink pelt production in the U.S. and Wisconsin plummeted last year due to the pandemic and economy.
"China went from producing about 15 million pelts to some say close to 50 million pelts in close to two years and the market got flooded," said Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Trade USA.
Add in global trade issues because of COVID as well as virus concern in the mink themselves and production nationwide was nearly halved. New data published by the USDA says over the last two years mink production dropped 49 percent.
In 2019, the U.S. produced almost three million pelts. Wisconsin was the biggest state to help at just over one million.
In 2020, the U.S. saw just 1.4 million. Wisconsin saw less than a third of that.
"Wisconsin has always been a leader in U.S. mink production. The industry has always been centered in Wisconsin," Whelan said.
According to Fur Commission USA, mink prices were highest in 2011. However, prices fell from nearly $100 a pelt to just about $20. In 2016, prices started to rebound, but then last year COVID hit.
"We know that mink can become infected with that virus. We know that in the family mink belong to, Mustelids, are quite susceptible to that virus and we know that mink can transmit the virus at least to each other," State Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Konkle said.
Last year in Wisconsin, several mink farms reported potential COVID exposures resulting in the need to quarantine and kill of some of the animals, which further lessened the number of pelts that could be sold. However, things are now looking up.
Fur Commission USA says the current price of mink pelts, around $50 or $60 per pelt is a lot more sustainable for area farmers.