The pork outlook for 2019 could change in a heartbeat due to any number of factors, a leading livestock economist said last week at the Iowa Pork Congress.

“I’ve never seen, in my career, a market so ripe with risk on both ends,” said Steve Meyer of Kerns and Associates, an Ames-based livestock market advisory and risk management firm.

Current models show the top end of hog farmers will average profits of more than $14 per head this year, and average producers will see profits of $4 to $5 per head, Meyer said. But lack of progress in trade talks, continued industry expansion, inflation concerns and the risk posed by African Swine Fever have serious market impacts.

“We think there’s some clouds on the ...