By Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Checkoff International Marketing Intern
Growing up in the cattle industry I know what drought, foreign animal diseases, and other factors can do to small ranchers, larger ranchers, and the entire industry. What seemed to be apparent to me was that as an agriculture industry we did not appear to be doing risk prevention and crisis management until it was too late. This realization is one of the reasons that I combined agriculture and international affairs to create a graduate program at Texas A&M University that will not only provide me an education on both production practices and government relations, but also agricultural policies and crisis management.
To my surprise, by day three as an intern at the National Pork Board (NPB) I was proven wrong. For four and a half hours the staff at NPB, along staff at the National Pork Producers Council, state pork associations staff and pork producers, discussed the opportunities that could (and should) be taken into consideration in order to mitigate major risks and vulnerabilities to the pork industry. Everything from foreign animal and emerging diseases, exports and international marketing, and sustainability, to consumer demands and emerging technologies, the opportunities that the Pork Checkoff along with state associations and producers have to really protect not only the industry, but consumers and the environment is incredible. As I look back on my notes from the meeting, the complexity of each subject discussed and the overlap between subjects shows just how much the Checkoff and the industry really is invested in protecting the pork industry but also the general public.
When a crisis such as foot and mouth disease or lawsuits over environmental effects hit the industry, they have the potential to make a big splash in the media. Producers could lose their livelihoods, prices to consumers may increase because of lack of supply, and export markets may close. These are detrimental and unsettling effects to think about not only as someone who has grown up in the agriculture community and is dedicated to serving the industry throughout her career, but also as a member of the general public that depends on the United States to provide enough food on the shelves at stores to be purchased at a reasonable price. But walking out of the strategy session there was not a dreary cloud over the participants, but a “we can, and we will do this” mentality.
So for those of you in the industry who are too scared to think about what kind of risks we could face tomorrow, don’t be. The National Pork Board is aligning its staff to be ready for whatever the future may hold. To those who worry every night about what tomorrow may hold for your pig farm, let me tell you, the National Pork Board is working on developing strategies and opportunities to not only prevent the risk but mitigate any effects too. Lastly, to the public: keep trusting in the pork industry. We hear your concerns and we are doing our best to proactively address them.