The National Pork Forum was held March 6-8 in Kansas City, MO. This was my first Pork Forum and I am passing along 6 things I think you need to know about it, based on my experiences.
A little background information first:
Pork Forum is the annual meeting of both the National Pork Board (NPB) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). These are two different organizations, with different rules that govern them, but commonly serve all types of pork producers from across the U.S.
National Pork Forum is funded completely by Pork Checkoff dollars. Checkoff dollars are deducted from each pork producer’s check when they market hogs. It equates to $.40 for each $100 of pork sold. Pork Checkoff funds are highly regulated by the USDA and can only be used for education, research or promotion. The number of National Pork Board delegates is determined by the dollar amount of pork sold in each state. There is an approval process where each state pork delegate needs to apply and be approved by the USDA before they are eligible to represent their fellow producers by being a voting delegate at Pork Forum.
The National Pork Producers Council is funded by voluntary Pork Checkoff funds. Pork producers are part of the Strategic Investment Program (SIP) and the funds are not as closely regulated as the NPB checkoff funds. Typically the NPPC funds are spent on lobbying efforts and other projects that would not qualify under NPB regulations. Again, similar to the NPB delegate process, the number of NPPC delegates is determined by the amount of SIP participation.
So, back to the 6 things you need to know about Pork Forum.
1) Both the NPB and NPPC are grassroots organizations. Members and delegates are pork producers or members of allied industries (NPPC only on the allied industries part). While I was at Pork Forum, I purposely made it a goal to meet new pork producers. And that I did! I met pork producers who are conventional producers, producers who sell show and FFA pigs and producers who sell directly to customers. Not only are pork producers different in how they raise pigs and the type of pigs they raise, but they are also from all parts of the U.S. - even Alaska!
2) The voting process for NPB and NPPC board positions is fairly complex. Board candidates are ranked (based on certain criteria such as pork industry knowledge, Checkoff knowledge and leadership and communication skills) prior to Pork Forum, and the votes at Pork Forum are weighted depending on how delegates rank them in the voting process. States hold caucuses where each potential board member visits the caucuses to persuade delegates to vote for them. Voting can be a very strategic process because of the weighted voting process.
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3) The NPB and NPPC annual meetings each had a very different feel. Both NPB and NPPC can and do work on some of the same projects, but they also have different projects they work on. Because NPPC can use funds for lobbying and other projects not allowed with NPB, I felt the meeting tone was a little on the edgier side. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see this as negative. It just means there are differences in each organization.
4) You just never know whom you will meet. Pork producers had the opportunity to view a sneak preview of the movie Farmland (www.farmlandfilm.com). I was fortunate to meet Ryan, the pork producer from the movie. Because we signed a non-disclosure form, I cannot elaborate on the sneak preview. But what I can say is it was very good and I highly recommend making it a priority to watch it when released on March 26. And invite your friends to watch it also.
5) The pork industry definitely has some challenges. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), and animal rights activists are probably the two top issues facing pork producers currently. The NPB has earmarked $650,000 in research to find ways to test, develop a vaccine and eventually possibly eradicate, or at least control, PEDV. In addition, a new, expanded initiative www.porkcares.org, was introduced to attendees. This new initiative strongly encourages farmers and employees to understand and consistently use best practices in raising animals. America’s pig farmers are committed to responsible and ethical animal agriculture. I love the messaging of this new initiative.
6) And lastly, the camaraderie between pork producers is second to none. Even with some very serious issues facing the industry, pork producers are resilient and are eternal optimists by always thinking tomorrow will be a better day. And with that . . .
I couldn’t be any prouder of our organization!
Wanda Patsche shares information about her farm on her "Minnesota Farm Living" website and blog at http://www.mnfarmliving.com/ .
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