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DES MOINES — Pork producers heard updates on trade, foreign animal diseases and other topics at the annual meeting of the Iowa Pork Producers Association here Jan. 21.

“We had a lot of ups and downs in 2019, but we had some opportunities as well,” said outgoing IPPA President Trent Thiele, a producer from Elma.

Thiele and others pointed to recent wins in the export market, including an agreement with Japan, phase one of a pact with China, and U.S. approval of the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Jen Sorenson, director of communications for Iowa Select Farms and an Iowa representative on the National Pork Producers Council, said the end of Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. was a big step in putting more dollars in the producer’s pocket.

She said NPPC continues to work with the Trump administration to erase more barriers for U.S. pork. Sorenson said the trade agreement with Japan, which is scheduled to be implemented early this year, will grow pork exports into Japan by $2.2 billion over the next 15 years.

Opportunities also exist in China, the world’s largest producer of pork, that has seen domestic production ravaged by an outbreak of African swine fever. Sorenson said the U.S. currently pays a 68% punitive tariff to import pork into China.

Other NPPC priorities in 2020 including reauthorization of mandatory price reporting and the return of the World Pork Expo in June. Sorenson said while the expo will return to the State Fairgrounds here, there will be no live pigs on site. The junior show will be held at a later date in Indiana.

Changes will be coming to the National Pork Board in 2020, said Bill Tentinger, a producer from Le Mars and one of Iowa’s representatives on the pork board.

“2020 will be the start of a new checkoff,” he said.

Tentinger said operational changes will allow the pork board to increase its agility when dealing with industry issues. Task forces will help increase producer involvement.

The board will also institute an annual planning cycle.

Tentinger said an emphasis on the WeCare program will continue, which should result in added value to pork and more trust in the product.

Planning for a possible foreign animal disease outbreak is also a top priority for the pork board in 2020, he said. The board participated with several other organizations and agencies in a preparedness exercise in September.

The exercise provided an opportunity to assess the pork industry’s preparedness, said Howard Hill, a producer and veterinarian from Cambridge and an Iowa representative on the NPPC board.

He pointed to the carcass disposal process as an area that is going to require further planning. The Iowa task force will look at other issues, including animal movement, permitting and surveillance testing.

Iowa producers may also be able to buy a pork tag for their license plates. A design has been chosen and will be sent to the Iowa Department of Transportation for approval.

The group’s annual producer survey showed foreign animal disease prevention is the top priority of Iowa’s producers, followed by funding for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University.

The survey indicated 32% of the respondents had a foreign animal disease plan in place. It also showed grass waterways as the technology of choice when it comes to water quality.

Resolutions dealing with mandatory price reporting and alternative protein labeling were also approved.

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.