Growing up on our family’s farm in South Dakota, there was never any shortage of work to be done, especially when it was time to pick sweet corn, can green beans, butcher and process a hog or beef, dig potatoes, sort hogs, herd cattle, paint buildings or fix fence.

Mom and Dad would round up all four of us kids to create a mini-assembly line to get the work done. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest had a job to do. “Many hands make light work,” is one of my Mom’s favorite expressions.

When I look back on those days, I realize how those jobs taught me something important, not only about teamwork, but ownership. When you own something, you have a duty to take care of it. Period.

This ownership responsibility applies to your land, to your buildings, to your crops and to your livestock. This responsibility exists seven days a week, 365 days a year and in good times and bad.

Meeting Today’s Challenges

There are a lot of pressing issues facing the pork industry today, including:

  • The threat of foreign animal disease, including African swine fever
  • The rapid pace of change in agriculture and the food supply chain
  • The volatility of export markets and global trade
  • The tight labor market
  • Well-funded activists who oppose animal agriculture

All of these challenges highlight why the Pork Checkoff is more important than ever to the continued success of America’s pig farmers. When Congress established the Pork Checkoff in 1985, it marked a milestone in U.S. pig farmers’ commitment to pooling their efforts and resources to benefit the pork industry.

It grew out of the voluntary Nickels for Profit Checkoff that pork producers nationwide embraced in 1968. The mission of those who supported the Checkoff was clear: Invest in education, research and promotion to benefit America’s pig farmers.

The solid foundation that those leaders established decades ago created a legacy of success that continues to benefit the pork industry today. But we cannot rest on our laurels.

We Need You

The investments you make in the Pork Checkoff come with responsibility because you own the Pork Checkoff. The National Pork Board needs your assistance as we implement the Pork Checkoff’s new strategic plan in 2019 and beyond to keep the pork industry strong.

I know how easy it is to sit back and criticize, especially in this age of email, text and social media. Uninformed armchair quarterbacks and problem spotters are a dime a dozen. What this industry needs are leaders who are willing to step forward and contribute time and talent to support the organizations they own.

Think about the organizations that enhance the quality of life in your rural community. The churches, schools, volunteer fire departments and civic groups depend on members, not spectators; volunteers, not critics; and leaders, not only followers.

If this does not happen, apathy and a lack of leadership take a toll. Groups disband. Churches close. Buildings fall apart. Schools fail. Cherished traditions vanish.

These outcomes are not inevitable, however, if people work together to cultivate a sense of community and find new solutions to make things better. It goes back to the idea that ownership equals responsibility.

That is why I encourage you to stay informed about the Pork Checkoff, to serve on a task force or to step up and serve on the board of directors. While the Pork Checkoff team works hard every day on your behalf, we need your support, your leadership and your commitment to create the kind of future that creates opportunities for the pork industry today and tomorrow.

Ownership equals responsibility, but the rewards are worth it. That is as true today as when I was growing up on our family farm. I invite you to join the Pork Checkoff in its mission to keep the pork industry strong for generations to come.

Bill Even

Bill Even

CEO, National Pork Board