It has been a long winter for most of the nation. If you are like me, you are getting spring fever. Spring means warmer weather, new calves and grass reappearing from underneath snowbanks. Spring also means baseball season has begun.

We grew up as a baseball family. My grandfather Anthony Even was a baseball fan his entire life, so much so that he would stop picking corn in the fall to come into the house and listen to the World Series games on the radio.

When the Minnesota Twins formed their franchise team in 1961, he became a loyal fan, instilling that love of the Twins into my father and me, and I passed that loyalty along to my son.

We grew up listening to baseball games on WNAX in tractors, trucks and our JD 6600 combine, and we played pick-up games on Sunday nights at the Humboldt, South Dakota, baseball diamond with neighboring farm kids. Whether I was playing first base, shortstop or in the outfield, the quintessential summer sport taught me a lot about teamwork. Some people are better at certain positions than others, but everyone has a role to play.

Some people are better at certain positions than others, but everyone has a role to play.”

Getting in Gear, Working Together

I think about this when I look at how the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and state pork associations work as a team to serve the pork industry.

  • The Pork Board administers the Pork Checkoff to support education, research and promotion that benefits America’s pork industry at home and abroad.
  • Through public-policy outreach, NPPC pushes for reasonable legislation and trade regulations.
  • State pork associations work at the local level to promote pork, to educate consumers and to provide a strong voice for sustainable, globally competitive pork.

When these groups embrace teamwork, we function like finely meshed gears, working together to keep everything running smoothly.

On the flip side, it’s easy to tell when things aren’t running well. Gears grind against each other. Teams fail to hit their stride, even if they have great talent.

Babe Ruth said it best:  “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

The same is true for the pork industry. It’s important to recognize and respect our teammates and play our unique roles without duplicating each other’s efforts.

Investing in the Pork Industry’s Future

Like a successful baseball team, the pork industry’s leadership groups also need to be equipped with the resources they need to succeed. That includes financial resources.

Consider what we’re up against. The pork industry’s investigative research has identified massive networks of well-funded foundations operating at the national and international levels, and they have agriculture in their crosshairs.

These groups question the role of meat protein in a healthy diet. They challenge the legitimacy of owning and raising animals for food. They attack today’s agricultural production practices. The opposition to animal agriculture is strong, and it continues to be funded annually with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dollars also are invested continually to keep the pork industry strong, thanks to the Pork Checkoff. Your Checkoff team works hard every day to maximize value for your investment with an average return of 25:1 on every dollar invested.

The Pork Checkoff was established in 1985. I am amazed that pork industry leaders believed so strongly in the need to band together and pool resources that they were willing to establish and fund this team during the depths of the 1980s Farm Crisis.

We stand on the shoulders of those giants, and we take seriously the tremendous legacy we have been entrusted to carry into the future. I believe 2019 is the year to step back and assess our heritage to gain a clearer perspective moving forward.

How will we continue to field a winning team in a world that has changed dramatically since the Pork Checkoff was created nearly 35 years ago? What strategy, structure and playbook do we need to keep winning tomorrow?

Your current team is scrappy and can win, even against opponents with deep pockets. What we can’t afford is a defeatist bunker mentality, looking in the rear-view mirror, constantly spotting problems instead of bringing forward solutions or being frugal to a fault. Let’s use 2019 in a way that would make Pig Paul and the Moline 90 proud.

Strength in Unity

As we look to the future, staying competitive will come down not only to resources, but also to unity. Teamwork is a form of trust. It’s what happens when you surrender the idea that you can go it alone.

If my love of baseball has taught me anything, it’s that you won’t achieve your goals without the support of others. Thanks for being a key part of the pork industry’s winning team.

Bill Even

Bill Even

CEO, National Pork Board