Outstanding pork producers have one thing in common: they cultivate customer trust every step of the way. The Pork Checkoff’s new America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM award program will honor the U.S. pork producer who best excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and wants to share this with consumers.

“The public is the main audience, rather than our own industry, because that’s who has questions about how we raise pigs,” said Brad Greenway, vice president of the National Pork Board and chairman of the Stewards Task Force, which oversaw creation of the new program. “Producers demonstrate the We Care ethical principles on their farms every day, and the new award is a unique way to share that with the public.”

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ABC’s The Bachelor, Chris Soules, addresses Pork Forum delegates.

Announced during its 2015 Pork Industry Forum meeting in San Antonio on March 6, America’s Pig Farmer of the Year opens its six-week nomination window on April 1. The program builds on many elements behind the successful 20-year run of the now-retired Environmental Stewards Award program.

The intent is to establish the America’s Pig Farmer of the Year winner as a practical expert in pig handling and pork production.

“Consistent with the National Pork Board’s new strategic plan, we want to build consumer trust through on-farm transparency and accountability,” said Dale Norton, National Pork Board president and producer from Bronson, Mich. “The focus is on environmental sustainability, along with animal welfare, production efficiency, the adoption of best practices and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Celebrity Judge Touts New Award 

To help build awareness and momentum for the new program and the We Care ethical principles at its core, the National Pork Board has teamed up with Iowa farmer and TV celebrity, Chris Soules. He also will serve as a judge to help select the eventual winner of the new award.

“I’m honored to be a part of the America’s Pig Farmer of the Year award program,” Soules said. “As farmers, it’s our responsibility to tell our story to audiences outside of rural America, especially in the big coastal cities so that they can learn how their food is raised by farmers who care about their animals and are committed to improving every day. This award format will help us do that.”

According to Norton, Soules’ participation in the new award provides a unique opportunity. “This partnership will help us encourage producers to apply for the award and will help us reach consumer audiences with the real-life stories of how American pig farmers raise pigs today in an ethically responsible way.”

A panel of third-party judges will help determine the final award recipient, which will be announced during National Pork Month in October. The public will also be engaged during the final judging process via the Pork Checkoff’s social media outlets. Short video clips of the finalists will be displayed at americaspigfarmer.com, where people can vote for their favorite.

“I encourage producers to consider applying or to encourage other producers who would be great candidates to do so,” Greenway said. “This new award will showcase what we do best – raise pigs in an ethical, responsible and transparent way.”

All U.S. producers are welcome to apply April 1 to May 15. More details are available at americaspigfarmer.com. Specific details also will be available through state pork associations.