Last Wednesday as my colleague Kevin Schulz and I sat in editorial meetings in St. Charles, Ill., both our phones vibrated on the table. It was a Pork Crisis Alert text and it was from the National Pork Board.
There was no major industry-wide emergency, which you would know if you had received the text. It was only the Pork Checkoff’s annual test to make sure the industry crisis text news service was up to snuff and still reaching the U.S. pork producers and industry members who had signed up for the service since it was released in 2016. Right now, with heightened concerns surrounding African swine fever, “no news is good news” in the industry, but it’s good to know our first line of communication is working.
“We’ve been working on our crisis plan for more than two decades now, and this is just one more way to take advantage of technology to assist our producers in their planning,” says Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of Communications for the National Pork Board. “The faster we can notify producers of a major crisis in the industry the more rapidly they will be able to respond on their farms.”
The Pork Crisis Alert texts are just one part of the pork industry’s unified crisis response plan which includes four crisis level plans built on the same framework: National Crisis Plan, State Crisis Plans (which state associations have their own plan), Farm-level Crisis Plan (that each farm can create for their specific farm) and Show Pig Plan (for use at any show or exposition). The goals for each crisis plan are to establish position, communicate accurately and effectively, act quickly, maintain producer and customer confidence and return to business as usual as quickly as possible.
“We’ve had this system in place for about three years now and we have a number of producers who are already signed up for this alert service,” Cunningham says. “We just want to make sure that all pork producers know that the services out there are free of charge, but with charges that may apply through their phone company. But it’s a great way to get the latest information should there be a crisis in the pork industry.”
Didn’t get a text last Wednesday from the NPB and interested in signing up? All you need to do is text “PorkCrisis” and that’s all one word, “PorkCrisis” to 97296. The service will then ask you to opt-in and walk you through several steps. According to Cunningham, it’s really the same type of service that you would have for schools in the area or for others who may have an alert service through a text system.
Finally, Cunningham says the system is not used for any kind of promotion or anything other than a major crisis in the pork industry, and of course routine testing of the system.
“There are so many things happening in our industry, but one that we’re all very concerned about right now is African swine fever,” Cunningham says. “We do have this text alert service that would notify you if you’re signed up for it, in the event of a major industry crisis. You would be able to get information right away and know where to turn for accurate information dealing with that situation.”