Dr. David Newman is the new president of the National Pork Board. Newman is an associate professor at Arkansas State University and raises hogs on the family operation in Missouri. In this edition of Pork Pod, Newman outlines the strategic plan that is being developed by the Pork Checkoff. Newman also highlights the current priorities for the National Pork Board.
David Newman, President, National Pork Board
Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is the new president of the National Pork Board, Dr. David Newman. Dr Newman is an associate professor at Arkansas State University and is an owner/operator of a swine operation, farrow to finish operation, in Missouri as well. David, let’s start off by taking a look at goals. What do you hope to accomplish in this year ahead?
David Newman: 00:37 Well, we have a very busy year ahead, an exciting year for pork producers, for America’s pork producers. Some of the big things that we’re working on right now, first and foremost, you know, the 800-pound gorilla right now in the industry is the threat of African swine fever. And so working with programs that we have at National Pork Board, like Secure Pork Supply, Pork Quality Assurance, biosecurity, making sure that we’re understanding the global threat, surveillance on where the disease is moving. Those are, those are big, big pieces right now because the threat of ASF would be trade limiting and it would be devastating, as it has been in China, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, Russia, places like that. So that, that’s going to be, you know, one of the biggest topics of things we work on, but also, you know, on the research, promotion, education side of the Pork Act, we are continuously looking at new avenues to promote US pork. Look at increasing the value of US pork, not just the amount we move, but the value that [inaudible] as a protein and work with producers on finding solutions to issues, whether it’s animal health, animal production, those types of things. So a real value chain, if you will, approach that we take at the National Pork Board, in using and spending our producer’s money wisely to promote US pork around the world.
Don Wick: 02:23 David, Pork Checkoff’s in the midst of working on a new strategic plan and really, probably different than a lot of strategic plans. You’re starting from ground zero if I understand it, really trying to redefine what the Pork Checkoff is all about. Tell me about this effort.
David Newman: 02:39 So that’s a great question! And yes, we are getting ready to embark on a new strategic plan. Something that our CEO Bill Even and the staff at the Pork Board believe very strongly in, as well as the board of directors. And you mentioned starting at ground zero. And I think that that’s an important statement where we’re always going to keep the core values of the Pork Act, and the Pork Act says that Checkoff dollars are used for research, promotion and education. What I’m looking at and really excited about is that we’re going to have some of the same look and feel in terms of the way we move product and the way we work together. But we are going to do this more strategic and the word that we’re using is we’re going to become a more agile organization. Something where we can move at the speed of business. We can spend our producer’s money wisely. We can work on programs effectively and immediately, and really be able to address some of the major topics.
Don Wick: 03:50 How do you go about doing that? When you look at a national checkoff or any national organization, sometimes it can be kind of unwielding. How do you do that working at the speed of business, as you say, being nimble like that?
David Newman: 04:03 Well, it’s a challenge and it’s unique and it’s definitely unique to a commodity organization. So the way I would say that the most important piece is to have strong leadership, to have the buy-in of the organization, our staff, our board of directors. And really be able to be open-minded and be able to understand that, that being nimble and being agile and working at the speed of business as we just said before, requires a different way of thinking. And how we do that is by thinking through things strategically and addressing things in a manner where we can tackle a subject quicker and easier than what maybe we have in the past. And I could give you an example is, we’ve worked on some very strategic programs surrounding animal health, swine health. We have an African swine fever task force. We have the Swine Health Information Center, otherwise known as SHIC, that is funded through National Pork Board. And we’ve also completely redesigned our domestic marketing efforts, led by Jarrod Sutton at the National Pork Board, where we’ve implemented some team changes. We’ve gone to a more digital strategy and we’re using technology to our benefit, to more strategically go after consumers and find out, you know, the avenues where pork has the most opportunity and potential.
Don Wick: 05:43 Does that mean the way you do research and some of those kinds of things differ as well or change?
David Newman: 05:50 Well, research is a huge component and role of the National Pork Board, but as we move forward, we will certainly continue to do research. What it means is that we will be able to tackle individual topics that are having the biggest impact on the industry right now. We will be able to put together a team, address what the research need is, tackle that need, accomplish the research and get it out to the producers, to the people who need the information from that research in a more timely manner. You know, the industry is shaping itself somewhat different too, Don, where we need to adapt and change with the industry. Research is a great example of that because many of our large producers are conducting their own research. And university research will continue to be critical, research from vet schools, research from a variety of different areas that is still going to be a top priority for the National Pork Board. It’s more about the way that we strategically conduct and get the research out into the hands of the people who need it.
Don Wick: 07:05 Ultimately, building demand is what it’s all about, both domestically and internationally. Do you see any changes on that horizon?
David Newman: 07:16 Well, ultimately, as you pointed out just in that question right there, the entire pork industry, if I say routinely, comes down to the fact that we are consumable product. So someone in the world has to enter a retail grocery store or a food service establishment, buy pork and love it enough that they’ll come back and repeat the purchase, the process again. Right? Exports are going to continue to be a huge piece of the puzzle. As you know well, China, China, China has been the discussion from the government to all commodity organizations this year, the past several years, looking at what African swine fever, the impacts are going to be, what trade negotiations are going to happen. We just brought on a new international director at National Pork Board, Norman Bessac, and he’s leading a really great effort. So between Norm’s efforts on international marketing and Jarrod’s new strategic vision in domestic marketing, I think we’re as strong as we’ve ever been. So you’re going to continue to see changes, but from the outside look and feel, the promotional activities we do are all geared towards targeting the customers who are looking to buy US pork.
Don Wick: 08:49 Do you find that customers are more interested in some of the, I guess I’d call social issues? The things of sustainability, environment, animal welfare, those kinds of things today?
David Newman: 09:01 Sustainability is critical and we certainly are, have seen a nationwide, global event that our customers, from food service, international, retail, that they care about sustainability. We’re rolling out a new Pork Quality Assurance program this year. Dr Brett Kaysen, who works on our sustainability at Pork Board, has done a tremendous effort in really showcasing the excellent sustainability practices that we use in the Pork Board, in the pork industry, rather, to be good social responsible stewards. And that’s really what we are. We’re not just stewards of swine. We’re stewards of the land and we certainly have seen a huge push there and major corporations are hiring sustainability officers and looking at carbon footprint. And those efficiencies are the way we understand those are through the research efforts we talked about earlier. You know, finding ways that we use less water, that we manage manure correctly, that we look at the environmental impact of all types of production. So it’s a huge focus that we care very deeply about and we think is going to continue to be one of the primary issues in our industry going forward. At least for the short period of time.
Don Wick: 10:30 David, obviously the Pork Checkoff is, National Pork Board’s a 15 member board, but it’s that grassroots producer that has so much impact. How do you work with that as you take on this new role?
David Newman: 10:45 Well, you know, Don, the thing I would say about that is this is, this is what’s unique about the US pork industry. My family, we operate a medium size farrow to finish swine operation in southern Missouri. And, our board is very diverse, so we have everything from small to medium sized producers, to large integrators. But ultimately the backbone of the Pork Checkoff is the 60,000 plus members who pay into the Checkoff program. And that represents people who have show pigs, that represents people who have 10,000. It represents people that have a hundred thousand sows or more. And that strategic plan is, our new strategic plan, is really designed to focus on people of all shapes and sizes of operation, that we make sure that we’re addressing their needs. Something I told someone, this was just last week at a meeting as we were talking about, you know, the way that the Pork Board can help small producers versus integrators.
David Newman: 11:55 And I said animal health diseases and issues, they don’t know the difference between the size of operation, so it can impact everybody. So this research and information that we’re getting out on the importance, of the critical importance of maintaining biosecurity and keeping herds healthy, that can benefit producers of all size. And that’s just one example amongst a hundred. So we will never forget our base and, it’s their money. It’s our money. I’m a Checkoff paying producer. So we’re as a board of directors and as president, it’s very critical to me that we are responsible stewards of the money that is put in our hands so that we can effectively promote pork all around the world because we do have the safest, healthiest supply of pork on the planet.