Orlando, Fla. – The National Pork Board on Saturday presented its Distinguished Service Award to South Dakota farmer Jim Leafstedt for his leadership in improving swine health in the United States, including the role he played during the elimination of swine pseudorabies from the United States.
The award was presented here during Pork Industry Forum, the industry’s annual business meeting. The award is presented each year to someone who has made an extraordinary contribution to the U.S. pork industry.
Pseudorabies (PRV) is a viral disease that often causes young pigs to die. Its effects on pig health and producer profitability for many decades led to a coordinated national effort to wipe out the costly disease. Leafstedt, whose own farm near Alcester, S.D., was an early victim of PRV, was a member of the pork industry’s PRV Eradication Task Force, and then served on the National PRV Control Board that helped write the state-federal-industry cooperative program standards. Those standards provided the guidance for the eradication program that eventually led to eradication of the disease. The United States was certified as being PRV free in 2004.
“Jim Leafstedt has been a quiet and steady leader of the pork industry throughout his career,” said Dr. Paul Sundberg, the National Pork Board vice president of science and technology. “The thing that has made him unique is his ability to listen, digest and analyze and then give a producer's perspective in plain, simple terms that makes people pause and listen. He recognized that people can make a difference if they have determination and really a very simple vision for the right thing to do. U.S. pork producers have benefited from his willingness to give his time and his talent.”
Sundberg said Leafstedt also earned national respect from his tenure as president of the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), an organization that brings together the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state veterinarians and industry representatives. “He helped USAHA become a more modern organization,” Sundberg said. “You have to be a consensus builder in that position. Jim did a masterful job of leading it.”
Leafstedt also was a long-time member of what is now the Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health Committee, and in that role helped to promote a more structured, science-based approach to U.S. swine disease surveillance. “He helped to give some structure to the concept of basing surveillance for a disease on the sources of risk to get it,” Sundberg said. “For PRV, the biggest risk now is feral pig contact, so we started and are still working with USDA to focus PRV surveillance where there are the largest populations of feral pigs.
Leafstedt, as a member of Swine Health Committee, also was instrumental in promoting the ‘interstate movement report’ that enables pigs to move interstate within production systems without needing an individual interstate health certificate for every group of pigs being shipped.
“That’s important,” Sundberg said, “because of the number of pigs that we move from state to state. It directly saves money and headache for the producer but still gives state animal health officials health assurances for state import and export of pigs.”
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at www.pork.org