News from the National Pork Board

Pork Checkoff is working with producers to build a stronger industry

Pork Checkoff Logo Accountability, trust, and social responsibility serve as the foundation for what the Pork Checkoff did on behalf of pork producers in 2008. The same principles guide the work to be done in 2009.

For the past 6 months, the National Pork Board, its committees and advisors, and Pork Checkoff staff have been working on developing the 2009 plan of work for the organization. The successes and challenges of 2008 are being taken into account throughout the process.

The Checkoff is capturing the world market by focusing on export success and future opportunities. United States pork exports, which are supported by the Pork Checkoff, marked the 16th consecutive record year in 2007. United States pork exports in the first quarter of 2008 were valued at more than $1 billion. In 2008, one in every 4 pounds of pork traded on the world market today originated from the United States.

The Checkoff also focused on domestic marketing by promoting pork at home. The Pork Checkoff launched The Other White Meat›š Tour to celebrate pork’s positive benefits with target consumers through cooking demonstrations, product sampling, and one-on-one interactions. The tour will be stopping at over 23 high-trafficked consumer events across the United States that reach a large percentage of the Checkoff’s target audience – females 25 to 49 years old who have children at home and want to be better cooks. A total of 250 million pounds of pork were sold as a result of Checkoff retail programs during the first and second quarters of 2008. Of that, 52 million pounds are incremental increases, compared to the same time period last year.

Putting more pork on the food-service menus continued to be a focus throughout the year. Achievements include grilled breakfast sandwiches at 1000 Panera Bread Bakery locations and a new Butcher’s Block line of fresh and frozen pork at 77 Sysco distribution centers.

In this long period of high costs for feed and other inputs, the Checkoff worked toward helping producers face the challenge. The Checkoff compiled several resources to assist producers, including the brochure “Practical Ideas to Address High Feed and Production Costs,” a list of management tips and resources to assist producers in identifying opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce cost, and the resource “Alternative Feed Ingredients in Swine Diets,” a list and explanation of feedstuffs that producers can consider to reduce costs in their herds’ diets.

The Pork Checkoff also partnered with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group and state pork associations to develop risk-management webinars. Through them, producers learned about hedging, trading, and financial-safety opportunities directly from experts through online interactive presentations.

With all this in mind, planning for 2009 began in the summer with the theme “Producers working together to build a stronger industry.”

An early step in the process was to identify the critical issues for 2009. With producer direction and input acquired at the 2008 Pork Industry Forum, board meetings, and committee meetings, the board approved the following 2009 critical issues:

1. The competitive advantage for US pork.

2. The safeguard and expansion of international markets.

3. Domestic pork expenditures.

4. The trust and image of the industry and its products.

5. Human capital – the development of producer leadership and technical advisors and the growth of a quality workforce.

Desired outcomes were defined, and throughout the summer, producer technical committees developed tactics, specific and measurable objectives for each tactic, and the cost of each tactic.

In September, producers invited to the plan-of-work meetings and National Pork Board members met in Des Moines, Iowa, to review tactics, outcomes, and budgets. From that meeting, a working 2009 budget was created and sent to the board for their review. The US Department of Agriculture will receive a final draft of the budget for approval in November.

In 2008, work at the Pork Checkoff was marked with the resignation of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Murphy in March. With Murphy continuing to serve through the year until his replacement was found, a CEO search was put in gear. A professional search firm worked with producers to determine the needs of the organization and the industry. The firm reviewed over 100 applications and offered a total of 10 candidates to the National Pork Board. Board members and others on the CEO search committee interviewed the candidates and selected the two top individuals. In early September, Chris Novak was announced as the incoming CEO of the National Pork Board. Novak was scheduled to start his new position October 1.

As is done every year, a new president and vice president were elected to lead the National Pork Board. Steve Weaver of Elk Grove, California, now presides over the 15-member board and Tim Bierman of Larrabee, Iowa, functions as vice president. The new officers were elected at the July meeting of the board.

PRRS update

In July, the US Department of Agriculture announced it was to renew its funding of the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP). The USDA will invest $4.8 million over the next 4 years to reduce the animal and economic losses associated with the disease.

PRRS CAP was funded in 2004 and led by the University of Minnesota. The program brought together a community of scientists, veterinarians, pork producers (represented by the Pork Checkoff), and industry to develop innovative strategies to lessen the impact of PRRS and work toward the eradication of the virus. The program is now led by Bob Rowland of Kansas State University.

Some successes of the effort include development of vaccines, understanding how the virus spreads, and development of successful biosecurity practices to control infection and reinfection. Recent findings now provide guidelines for maintenance of PRRS-free herds without the use of vaccination.

The Pork Checkoff represents the industry on the PRRS CAP stakeholder board and Lisa Becton, Director of Swine Health Information and Research for the Pork Checkoff, is project co-director of the program. Among other things, Becton helps coordinate program goals, research calls, and research findings through the and Web sites.

The International PRRS Symposium is to be held in Chicago, Illinois, on December 5 to 6. This year, the meeting is titled “PRRSV Reverse Genetics: From the Laboratory to the Field.” Deadline for registration is November 10. The symposium will be held immediately before the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases and will be hosted by the PRRS CAP, the National Pork Board, and the NC-229 Respiratory Diseases Committee. A program draft and proceedings from past symposiums are available online. More information on the symposium can be found online at