2020 National Pork Industry Forum

The National Pork Industry Forum, held meetings to discuss some of the key issues facing the industry, including African swine fever, trade and engagement with consumers.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pork producers from around the country gathered here March 4-6 for the National Pork Industry Forum, talking about some of the key issues facing the industry, including African swine fever, trade and engagement with consumers.

The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council held meetings as part of the event.

Scott Phillips, a pig farmer from Drexel, Missouri, in Cass County, said consumer outreach was an important topic for the Pork Board this year, including its “We Care” initiative to highlight care for the animals and environment, as well as food safety. He said consumers would like to be more connected to and knowledgeable about their food supply.

“They want more information from the farm,” he said. “… We’re wanting to be consumer focused, and we have to provide what the consumer wants.”

During a session, the National Pork Board named Chris Hoffman, a pig farmer from McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, Pig Farmer of the Year. He spoke about the need to engage with consumers.

“I realized that education had to be where we needed to focus,” he said. “I had to talk about what we did. … Wherever I go, I try to create that conversation.”

Neil Dierks, CEO of the NPPC, said it has been a year of progress on trade.

“Compared to where we were a year ago, we’ve had a lot of successes,” he said, including getting U.S. approval of the USMCA trade deal, a deal with Japan and a phase one deal with China. Dierks said the deal with Japan gives producers a more fair opportunity.

“It’s been doing what we wanted it to do, and that’s provide a level playing field,” he said.

Dierks said there has been good cooperation among the Pork Board, NPPC and U.S. Meat Export Federation on trade. His organization is monitoring the ongoing talks with the European Union. He said the NPPC is a free trade organization, but it will need to see the details before knowing if they group will support the trade deal, should it happen.

“If it doesn’t bring value to you, we won’t support it,” he said.

There could also be marketing opportunities in India, the second-most populous country on earth.

“We are optimistic that we will see access,” Dierks said.

Overall, he said U.S. pork is in a good position to compete for global markets.

“We’re very competitive,” he said. “We’re very highly valued.”

The NPPC passed a resolution directing the organization to strengthen efforts to prevent African swine fever, as well as a resolution directing NPPC to encourage federal regulatory agencies to investigate the risks of pet food and pet products containing pork from disease-positive countries.

They also passed a resolution to advocate for “accurate and truthful” labeling of plant-based and cell-cultured products, particularly those designed to mimic real meat.

The group also passed resolutions to support reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, with increased export data transparency, and to increase the contribution rate of the voluntary NPPC strategic investment program from 10 cents to 20 cents per $100 of hogs marketed, effective July 1, 2021.

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.