Pork Board President Rommereim embraces Checkoff’s bold direction
Along with strong family values and an unwavering dedication to a hard day’s work, change that spurs new opportunities has long been a mainstay on the sixth-generation Alcester, South Dakota, farm that Steve Rommereim and his wife Charlotte call home.
Rommereim says the same holds true for the pork industry. His decades-long involvement has included serving at the local, state and national levels, including on many key committees and his current post as president of the National Pork Board.
“I’ve seen firsthand that bold is the norm when it comes to Pork Checkoff initiatives, and as a producer, I appreciate the overall 25:1 return that the Checkoff delivers,” Rommereim said.
He points to innovative Checkoff initiatives such as partnering with Google on new ways to reach consumers and launching Pork 2040 to explore new export opportunities for U.S. pork around the globe.
“The groundbreaking work is changing what’s on the horizon for pig farmers and our pork industry partners,” Rommereim said. “It’s exciting to see the Checkoff, led by CEO Bill Even, a fellow farmer from South Dakota, taking us to new places to market the pork we raise on our farms.”
As the world – and consumers – have evolved, producers have had to adopt a new mindset.
“The Pork Checkoff is committed to working at the speed of business to keep pace with our changing world,” Rommereim said. “Some of us remember a time with no cell phones, and now consumers are turning to them for recipes, shopping and more. We had to change what we do to keep up with our customers.”
He added, ”For example, we’ve gone from traditional ads and billboards to working with YouTube creators on videos featuring pork. The videos have been viewed by millions, leading to millions in sales. It’s incredible to see the power of these collaborations.”
Rommereim, who says it is all fueled by having a new mindset, believes Albert Einstein said it best:
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Rommereim and his family own and operate Highland Swine, marketing 12,000 pigs annually. They also are part owners in SDI Pork LLC, which finishes 120,000 hogs annually. Highland Farms produces corn and soybean crops on 1,600 acres.
The Rommereims’ daughter Leah, her husband Josh Gradert and their son Jameson farm with them and live in Sioux Center, Iowa. Their daughter Lara, her husband Matt Fodness and their son Milo farm near Luverne, Minnesota.
The Rommereim farm, homesteaded in 1874 with a sod hut, has raised hogs since the early 1900s. Rommereim kicked off his role in family pork production as an 8-year-old with a small 4-H project to breed and raise pigs.
“I enjoy taking care of pigs and, like other farmers, I’m proud of how many meals that we provide,” he said. “I also look at the continuous improvement we have all made in how we raise pigs.”
He noted that the new University of Arkansas study confirmed that U.S. pig farmers are producing a product that has become increasingly more sustainable over the past five decades. The study shows that pig farmers today use less land, water and energy, with an overall smaller carbon footprint.
“On our own farm, we’ve gone from plowing land to high-tech advances in tillage and manure management,” Rommereim said. “And moving pigs inside has allowed us to improve animal care and the environment.”
He added, “With my daughters and grandkids, I think about sustainability often. I want to hand down our part of the earth in the same or better shape for generations that follow.”
Like his fellow pork producers, Rommereim says the We CareSM principles are part of their daily routine, from pig care to donating and preparing pork for a host of community events.
“We Care gives us a starting point with consumers,” Rommereim said. “They increasingly want to know how their food is raised.”
As a registered dietitian, his wife Charlotte has helped answer questions. She has represented the Pork Checkoff at several dietitian meetings.
“With her farm knowledge, she’s been able to connect with her dietitian peers to change how they view and talk about pork with their clients. That’s powerful.”
Rommereim added, “It all starts with conversations and listening to what our customers want. As we continue to take bold new steps, I can’t wait to see what’s over the horizon.”