It’s been a difficult operating year for pork producers as hog prices have been depressed in light of record hog supplies. With new plant capacity coming on line in 2017, we knew there would be some serious bumps in the road – there was no way that growth in hog supply was going to coincide perfectly with when the doors opened to the new plants. Thankfully, record harvests brought low grain prices; margins have been red, but it hasn’t meant massive red ink.
Pressures on the production sector on antibiotics, animal rights and technologies continue.
For me, it got rather personal when the Prestage Foods plant proposed in my home town, Mason City, Iowa, was rejected after three grueling public hearings following initial unanimous approval. I had a “front row seat” as the people I admire – pork producers – were maligned by activists who spread misinformation, fear and hatred – yes, hatred – in successfully convincing city leadership to ultimately reject the proposal.
As producers and allied industry during this process, we didn’t show up enough. We were outnumbered. We also didn’t have a consistent enough and targeted enough message and, frankly, we were too kind and respectful to the activists who were very unkind and disrespectful to us. It was difficult to see Iowa pork producers after working a long day have to show up to a meeting that lasted into the wee hours and defend (defend!?) their way of life...all this while activists who typically didn’t work a long day would march to the podium and often use misinformation and intimidation in their rants at the podium. And they won. Mason City lost.
As producers, we really are poor advocates for our industry. Caring for our animals, our people and the environment are the most important elements of producing safe, affordable protein for the world. We do this every day, better than anyone in the world, in what is a difficult business. We deploy significant capital resources and people resources to care for animals 24/7 in an industry where we play no role in determining the price of our output and our primary inputs. And in addition to this tremendous price risk, we manage biological/disease risk, animal rights activist risk, and the risk of threats to technology, among others. We do this with our heads down, trying to do the right thing every day, in this profession that is noble. You work hard and do the right things every day, and everything should work out well, right? Unfortunately, today, that isn’t enough.
We need to be better advocates. We have to tell our story, because others are trying to tell it...misrepresenting it for their own agendas.
Can you do your part?