How the Pork Checkoff pays off

By Darcy Maulsby

Money reveals truths. That’s true in farming, and it’s also true at the Pork Checkoff. During challenging financial times, it’s more valuable than ever to reassess how Pork Checkoff dollars are working on your behalf through pork promotion, research and education.

“I think of the Pork Checkoff in terms of strength in numbers,” said Steve Rommereim, a pork producer from Alcester, South Dakota, who serves as president of the National Pork Board. “Without the Checkoff, how could a pig farmer like me from southeastern South Dakota represent the pork industry to the nation and the world?”

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to connect with national foodservice chains, social media influencers, export markets and more the way the Pork Checkoff can.

“Helping the public to better understand today’s pork production is a challenge,” said Rommereim, who finishes 10,000 pigs per year. “I’m reminded of this by my wife, Charlotte, who is a registered dietitian and hears people’s concerns and questions about the food they eat.”

That’s why Rommereim appreciates the resources supported by Checkoff investments, including the Pork Quality Assurance® (PQA) Plus program, which was introduced in 1989 to help pig farmers and their employees use best practices to promote food safety.

He also values the Checkoff’s Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA) program, which helps people understand how to handle, move and transport pigs properly to promote pig well-being and pork quality.

“These programs, along with the industry’s six ethical We CareSM principles, help us connect with customers,” Rommereim said. “We want people to know that we are doing what’s best for people, pigs and the planet every day in our barns.”

Staying Focused
Providing practical, proven solutions drives the 15 elected members of the National Pork Board, as well as the Pork Checkoff staff who are responsible for managing the Checkoff, said Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board.

“We focus on leveraging every Checkoff dollar for research, education and promotion programs that make a difference,” Even said.

This includes grassroots efforts, such as 1,300 Operation Main Street speakers who share pork’s story of innovation, quality and stewardship to diverse audiences. And it also includes collaborating with retail and foodservice partners on new ways to promote pork.

“Consumers’ needs are changing, and they’re demanding certain things of pork today, such as protecting the environment,” Rommereim said. “Today, we’re raising healthy food with less water and less land than we did in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and we need to continue to share that.”

Delivering 25:1 Return

Source: 2017 study conducted and released by Harry Kaiser, Cornell University

While stories are interesting, what’s the true return on the Pork Checkoff investment? According to the most recent study that reviewed program performance from 2011 through 2016, it’s about 25 to 1.

“That means for each $1 a pig farmer invests through the Pork Checkoff, it generates a return of value of $25.50,” said Steve Meyer, an agricultural economist with Kerns and Associates who also consults with the Pork Board.

By law, the Pork Board conducts an economic study of the Pork Checkoff’s performance every five years. The analysis has been conducted by economists at Texas A&M University, Cornell University and other leading higher learning institutions.

“The Checkoff has consistently delivered a positive payoff since it was established in 1985,” Meyer said.

Since it’s easy to take all this for granted, it’s worth asking some key questions, Rommereim said.

“If we didn’t have the Pork Checkoff, then what? Who would represent the pork industry?” he asked.

The Pork Checkoff continues to invest in education, research and promotion to benefit pork producers, from developing demand for U.S. pork in emerging markets in Asia and South America to supporting research to increase producers’ efficiency.

“The pork producers we work for are going to need us all aggressively pulling together as a team in the coming months as production increases and global market access continues to be under pressure and in flux,” Even said.

Rommereim agreed, adding, “Guided by producer leaders and staff who care deeply about the pork industry, we are focused on programs and initiatives that truly make a difference.”

Read about program-specific updates on the following pages to find out more about your Checkoff investment at work.