Pork Producers Address Consumer Concerns

World Pork Expo helps producers understand consumer positions on policies and issues plus ways to address them to push the industry forward

Published on: Jun 6, 2012

Crop and livestock producers have both had some pretty good years recently. As a result, pork producers are pretty up beat and optimistic on the eve of the World Pork Expo. It runs through Friday at the Iowa State Fair Grounds in Des Moines.

The National Pork Producers Council sponsors the event. The council members focus on ensuring that NPPC is fighting for reasonable legislation and regulation, developing export market opportunities and protecting livelihoods of producers.

Farm Progress asked Randy Spronk, NPPC president-elect from Edgerton, MN, whether the pork industry would fare better under a Romney administration or a second Obama term.

(L-R) John Weber, Iowa pork producer and Randy Spronk, NPPC president-elect talk hot topics before the World Pork Expo.
(L-R) John Weber, Iowa pork producer and Randy Spronk, NPPC president-elect talk hot topics before the World Pork Expo.

"We work with administrations of both persuasions," he says. "The Obama administration has accomplished some goals that are very beneficial to the pork industry. One is success in negotiating and expanding free trade agreements. Another is efforts to resolve the trucking dispute with Mexico. Both better position U.S. pork in world export markets."

Producers have ample challenges. Animal welfare is one of most serious issues facing the industry in some time," says John Weber, a Dysart Iowa pork producer. "We've spent a lot of time and resources discussing how to address it. Certainly no easy answers exist.

"We have put together a couple of scenarios on how to approach it, working with retailers and consumers," he says. "We talked about the kinds of challenges we as leadership have in making sure producers are aware of how difficult this issue is and attempting to help our members understand the various sides of this complex topic.

"At the same time we're trying to work with all parties to help them understand how difficult it is to make some of the changes retailers have said they want us to make, how much time it will take and costs associated with making those changes."

Over the last six months, the pork industry has faced numerous announcements on sow housing issues. Some retailers are motivated because they feel their brand is threatened and they do not want to lose customers.

"We need to be careful how we approach the issue," he says. "Some people think it's time to make change or are willing to make change. We also have a segment that wants to defend gestation stalls as long as they can.

"In reality, room likely exists for both," says Weber. "We want to be in position to have choice and not be forced to one production system or another.

Water quality concerns are growing. "Midwestern crop and livestock farmers would be wise to learn all they can about efforts the Environmental Protection Agency has in place to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed," urges Spronk.

"Suppose EPA tries to do in the Mississippi watershed what they are doing in the Chesapeake Bay area on sediment and total nutrient loads," he says. "Adapting to the changes will be very difficult for both crop production agriculture and livestock agriculture.

"The challenge for crop producers will be meeting the requirements," he explains. "The stress on livestock producers will come from feed availability and feed costs as crop producers work to adjust to the new rules."