Pork producers stress advocacy

With fewer county pork boards now active in Iowa, involvement and advocacy are more important than ever, according to the speakers at the annual Webster County Pork Producers banquet Monday night.

About 60 people from the pork industry and agribusiness attended the banquet to hear about challenges and trends in the industry.

“We are one of only about 60 counties that still have an organized pork group,” said Gregg Hora, county board president.

But the Webster County organization has excelled at being active, said Stephanie Carlson, of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“You as county pork producers are extremely involved,” Carlson said. “We have a points program, so everything you do as far as grilling, promotions, education, getting in the classroom – those all earn you points. You have exceeded the 2,000 point mark, which earned you an award for county involvement.”

High school junior Samantha Dischler, who was selected as 2014 pork queen, shared how she was bringing information about pork to different classes at Fort Dodge Senior High.

Kelly Sheets, another IPPA staff member, said profitable times are ahead for the industry over the next year or two.

“Some of you producers will be making upwards of $50 a head,” he said.

Sheets also gave an update on the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PED.

“It has near 100 percent mortality in baby pigs. It’s just tearing the pork industry apart right now,” he said.

The National Pork Board has contributed $800,000 toward research on the disease, and the Iowa board has spent more than $115,000, he said.

“We’re close to a million dollars in support to help figure out this disease, and we’ve got several vaccine companies working with us,” Sheets said.

That will take some time to get onto the market, though, he said.

Hora also said the pork organization was “going to take a more proactive approach” to communicate with the consumers of pork products.

“What is happening with a lot of areas right now, as agriculture comes under attack, whether that be from the environmental stewardship aspects, water quality aspects, air quality, that topic about beef flatulence You’re going to be hearing a little bit more about what we call operating freedom,” Hora said. “The freedom to operate our businesses.

“We’re here to protect the rights and the abilities of the U.S. pork producer to produce pork in a socially responsible way that’s also cost-competitive.”