Looking at the recent Hogs and Pigs report, Chris Hodges sees the U.S. hog industry in an expansion mode, but with that come challenges.
“As we move forward, one of the biggest challenges we face is keeping demand and consumer consumption up with production,” the National Pork Board’s new chief executive officer says, “The U.S. hog industry is pretty healthy and we need to make sure that demand is just as healthy.”
Hodges was announced as the new NPB CEO Jan. 12, and he sees his 30-plus years of experience with Smithfield Farmland as a benefit to today’s U.S. pork producers as he leads to the NPB into the future. “I spent 30 years selling pork domestically and internationally” he says. “I believe my passion and commitment to the industry speak for itself. … We need to continue to build demand.”
An improved market for U.S. pork may be established along with improved relations with a neighbor to the south. “In Cuba per capita (pork) consumption is high,” he says. “Financing exports into Cuba is a real challenge, and the new political and economic relationship with Cuba should facilitate proper financing of trade with Cuba. We hope to see more pork going into Cuba.”
Hodges comes to the NPB from Smithfield Farmland where he was last senior vice president of business development. He is a retiring board member of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), having served as chairman of the NPPC’s Packer Processor Industry Council since 2013.
Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus taught the industry a lot, and Hodges is excited to see the growth of the Swine Health Information Center, a new initiative announced late last year that is collaboration between the NPB, NPPC, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and producers.
Collaboration is key
Collaboration is also key in the development of the common industry audit, as Hodges sees the NPB, packers and producers working together to ensure animal care and food safety. “I bring a lot of experience and expertise in marketing,” he says, “I worked a lot with PQA-Plus, making that a big part of the marketing program to customers and consumers, so the audit process and the animal welfare and antibiotics are areas I’ve work in and am comfortable with.”
Hodges’ first week on the job will include meeting with producer-leaders at the NPB’s annual unified research committee meeting, Feb. 17-19, followed closely by speaking at the National Pork Industry Forum in San Antonio, March 5-7.
Hodges, raised in Laurens, Iowa, is a graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, with a focus in international relations. He also has a masters of arts in international affairs from Columbia University. Upon obtaining his graduate degree, Hodges was a project manager at the U.S Department of Agriculture, assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development where he managed extension projects in international grain markets. He later earned a doctorate in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.