A positive economic outlook amid expansion of the U.S. hog herd created an optimistic vibe among farmers at the annual Iowa Pork Congress last week in Des Moines.

“It’s been good this last year, and we think it’s going to be good again this coming year,” said Steve Meyer, a pork economist for Kerns and Associates in Ames. His analysis shows the top hog farmers are making average profits of $26 to $27 per head.

“The cash markets are good, and the futures market is offering even better than that,” Meyer said.

He urged farmers to lock in profitable margins now with summer futures prices above $80 per hundredweight, which is $5 to $10 above where Meyer sees cash prices heading. He is projecting pork prices to peak at $73 to $77 per hundredweight in the...