Pork Board Mounts Efforts To Help Producers Survive

The National Pork Board (NPB) has instituted a three-pronged approach to help financially strapped pork producers

The National Pork Board (NPB) has instituted a three-pronged approach to help financially strapped pork producers, building upon a foundation of accountability, trust and social responsibility.

“We know that many producers are struggling right now with a profitability challenge,” says Steve Murphy, chief executive officer (CEO) for the National Pork Board. “The pork checkoff is helping producers work together to build a stronger industry. Producers are using the checkoff in many ways to build demand, move more product and raise a better product.”

Pork exports are a key ingredient, capturing the 16th-consecutive record year of growth in 2007. U.S. pork exports in the first quarter of 2008 were valued at more than $1 billion.

“One in every four pounds of pork traded today originates from the United States,” says Murphy.

Domestically, the pork checkoff program launched The Other White Meat Tour to celebrate pork’s positive attributes with target consumers through cooking demonstrations, product sampling and one-on-one interactions. The tour will stop at 23 major consumer events across the United States that reach a large percentage of the pork checkoff’s target audience: females 25-49 years old who have children at home and want to improve their cooking.

“A total of 250 million pounds of pork have been sold as a result of checkoff retail programs during the first and second quarter,” reports Murphy. “Of that, 52 million pounds are incremental increases compared to the same period last year.”

He adds: “From grilled breakfast sandwiches at 1,000 Panera Bread Bakery locations to a new Butcher’s Block line of fresh and frozen pork at 77 Sysco distribution centers, putting more pork on the menus continues to be a focus.”

Efforts are also being made to focus on input resources with creation of Practical Ideas to Address High Feed and Production Costs, comprised of a list of management tips and resources to help improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

“The CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) Group, pork checkoff and state pork associations have come together to develop risk-management webinars,” says Murphy. “These online, interactive presentations give producers direct access to industry professionals.”

The 2009 NPB budget will be based on producers working together to build a stronger industry.

“An early step in the process is to identify the critical issues for 2009,” notes Lynn Harrison, NPB president. “With producer direction and input from Pork Forum, board meetings and committee meetings, the board approved the 2009 critical issues.”

Five critical issues include:
-- The competitive advantage for U.S. pork;
-- The safeguard and expansion of international markets;
-- Domestic pork expenditures;
-- The trust and image of the industry and its products; and
-- Human capital – the development of producer leadership and technical advisors and the growth of a quality workforce.

“We will continue to work with producers and staff through the next few months in the budget process with the approval expected in November,” says Harrison. “We are also in the process of a search for a new CEO.

“Earlier this year we contracted with a professional search firm and worked with producers to determine what is needed in a new CEO,” he comments. “We are moving through the process and expect to make an announcement later this year. This is an important decision and we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for our producers as we hire this position.”