Neil Dierks is the chief executive officer for the National Pork Producers Council. He has been on NPPC’s staff for 12 years. Prior to that he worked for the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Q. Explain NPPC’s position within the pork industry.

A. NPPC’s role is to be the pork trade organization that deals with “freedom-to-operate” issues for pork production, including public policy, trade and communications.

NPPC remains a federation of 44 state pork producer associations. The organization has a 17-member Board of Directors that the producer-based delegate body elects. In addition, a representative of each state association sits on the Council’s Producer Advisory Committee.

NPPC is totally separate and distinct from the National Pork Board, the entity that oversees and directs the mandatory checkoff. Those dollars cannot be used for legislative or policy work.

NPPC has two offices: The Washington, D.C., office focuses on NPPC program implementation, concentrating on legislative, regulatory and trade issues. A small operation’s office is located in Des Moines, Iowa. The staff there works directly with our state organizations.

Q. What are some of NPPC’s goals? 

A. First let me relay my philosophy. NPPC is an
association, and as such its long-term success is driven by the members’ involvement, whether they are state organizations, producers or allied industry.

From a program perspective the challenges are:

  • Continuing to provide sound legislative, regulatory and trade-policy work, and building the organization’s capacity to do its job.
  • Effectively dealing with on-farm certification/verification processes for controversial issues such as country-of-origin labeling and animal welfare.
  • Effectively countering anti-meat opposition.
  • Working to convey to public-policy leaders and the media the various ways that producers are addressing environmental, animal-welfare and other production issues. For example, explaining ways that producers are incorporating new technologies, sound science and humane production methods.

Q. How will NPPC attempt to serve all types of producers?

A.  Participation in NPPC is not limited to any “type” of producer. Producers who choose to participate will – as in the past – set the criteria for the organization’s service and direction.

This inclusiveness and participation is broad and relies heavily on state associations. Not all issues are on the national level. It could involve an attempt to ban the use of animal-health products in Illinois and Minnesota, environmental issues in Iowa or animal-rights activity in Florida. As pork production moves forward, NPPC’s federation of states is critical to defending and supporting U.S. pork production.

Q. How will NPPC measure success?

A.  To be successful, NPPC will engage critical “freedom-to-operate” issues. This means focusing resources on issues that create burdens on responsible pork production.  Each issue will be evaluated for an ultimate goal or achievement. The reality is, we will win some battles and we will lose some. Many of the greatest challenges we face such as environment and animal-rights activities,  didn’t start yesterday and won’t be solved in a day.

It also means being “strategically aggressive.” We will attempt to be on the offensive, anticipating and preparing for issues in advance. They won’t all be solved in Washington, D.C., or on the national level. It means engaging the industry from Brussels, Belgium to Blue Earth, Minn.

Q. What are NPPC’s funding plans?

A.  NPPC is in a transitional phase as the organization develops and implements new funding mechanisms. One of which is called Producer Consent – a voluntary point-of-sale contribution. (See “With Your Consent” in the September 2002 issue of Pork.) The rate is 10 cents for every $100 in value of the animal sold. This effort will fund the legislative and regulatory efforts critical for providing producers with the necessary support they need in Washington, D.C. Half of all funds generated will go to the hogs’ state of origin to be used for legislative and regulatory work on state and local levels.

Support has been strong for the producer-consent program and the outlook is positive. The collection mechanism is being implemented, and producers can sign up by contacting their state pork producer office or by contacting NPPC at Box 10383, Des Moines, IA 50306.