By Bill Even

Bill Even, National Pork Board CEO

When I started farming in 1983, agriculture was facing a tough financial situation. We sharpened the pencil, tightened our belts and sought out new efficiencies as we looked for ways to stay competitive. Most of all, I knew we could not afford to be distracted.

Those experiences come back to me as the pork industry deals with a drop in cut-out values and a decline in profitability across the board. The team at the National Pork Board understands the economic challenges you are facing. We also know you are probably asking, “What have you done for me lately?”

You can be assured that we’re focused on leveraging every Pork Checkoff dollar you invest for research, education and promotion. Instead of taking a defensive position in this high-risk environment, we’re going on offense to find new opportunities to move more product while supporting programs that build trust and drive sustainable production.

You can read about these efforts on the following pages, but here are highlights of what the Checkoff is doing to address key issues on your behalf:

Guarding Against Foreign Animal Diseases (FADs)
• With the spread of African swine fever globally (page 8), being prepared for an FAD is critical. The Pork Board has a checklist you can use immediately to review your biosecurity plan and prepare to register for the voluntary Secure Pork Supply plan, which will help participants maintain business continuity in the event of an FAD.

Growing Pork Demand
• While an incredible amount of work is underway behind the scenes, unleashing the power of Google through a strategic alliance is one of this year’s most significant Pork Checkoff investments. The days of placing an ad or driving consumers to a website hoping that they find your promotional information are gone. Now if a consumer has a question, they “Google it.”

Moving away from traditional ad buys and investing in market-driven analytics, the Checkoff has generated $9.1 million in pork sales from a $1.5 million investment – a six-fold increase. Along the way, millions of consumers now view pork more positively (page 26).

• The Checkoff is partnering with Weber grills and others to emphasize the 145°F cooking temperature message to ensure consumers have a positive eating experience with pork.

• The Checkoff has worked with Subway® franchisees and more than 1,950 Ahold Delhaize-owned retail stores to showcase pork this fall and winter (page 14). These are representative of numerous programs in play with key national customers.

Going Global
• Working with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the Pork Checkoff continues to leverage partnerships worldwide to expand marketing opportunities for U.S. pork (page 16). The Checkoff is diversifying its export opportunities beyond China and Mexico, with a focus on Latin and South America, South Korea and Vietnam.

• The Pork 2040 research is providing a comprehensive study of key emerging export markets to determine consumer preferences, buying habits and market access. The insights will help U.S. pork attain its goal of being the world’s No. 1 pork and pork-product exporter.

• Checkoff producer leaders and staff have been engaging with international media and food bloggers/influencers. Media coverage is elevating U.S. pork’s profile in key markets abroad and positioning the U.S. pork industry as a leader in the global protein market.

Building Trust and Driving Sustainable Production
• The Checkoff and the National Pork Producers Council are developing We Care® 2.0, which will highlight pork as the responsible protein of choice. It will build on the original We Care initiative to share producers’ commitment to innovation and continuous improvement with customers.

• The Pork Checkoff has named finalists for the 2018 America’s Pig Farmer of the YearSM (page 46). The program honors pig farmers who follow the We Care ethical principles and who are committed to sharing their farming stories with the American public.

• Hosting farm tours for registered dietitians is changing how they view pork and more importantly, how they talk about pork with their clients (page 42).

Providing Solutions for Your Farm
• Stretching your dollars, the Pork Checkoff brings real-world solutions to your farm by collaborating on production research. For example, a multi-year collaboration with the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, a department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, the Checkoff saved an estimated $516,000 collectively on 10 FAD projects.

• This fall’s Checkoff-funded Human Resources and Safety Summit will focus on worker safety and how to attract and keep a reliable labor force, a major challenge on many U.S. farms. The findings will be incorporated into Checkoff resources to benefit all producers.

We’re Right Beside You
When you look at all these opportunities, there is plenty reason for hope in this industry. We have been through challenging times before, and we will get through them again by working together.

We welcome your ideas. If you see areas where you think the Pork Checkoff can do more on your behalf, let us know. We value the trust you place in us and appreciate the opportunity to work with you to advance the pork industry and to provide resources for your farms.

The Checkoff is partnering with Weber grills and others to emphasize the 145° cooking temperature message. Ensuring consumers have a positive eating experience with pork will make them want to come back for more.