Are you in favor of the National Pork Producers Council's idea of organizing a producer-owned packing plant? Pork editors wanted to know, so we sent out a survey and posted questions on our Web site.

First off, let me drive home the point that this is not a scientifically accurate survey. It is simply meant to be anecdotal in nature.

Those in favor of producer-owned packing totaled 40 percent, followed closely by the "undecided" at 36 percent. "Do it," was one producer's plea. Another said: "It's too little, too late."

Asked whether NPPC is qualified to direct and implement such a project, the responses reflected the current restlessness with the association. The votes split evenly between "yes" and "no" at 36 percent each.

There was a healthy margin of "undecided" that NPPC needs to pay attention to. Ask Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, about the importance of the undecided vote.

Some of the comments emphasized the desire for producer control of the process. Others reflected a concern that NPPC would "bow to certain (packers' and producers') interests."
The idea of getting one plant up and running, followed by the prospect of adding more, set well with more than half of the respondents. "We need at least that many," said a producer. Nearly one-third admitted they weren't sure how many plants are needed.

Asked about plant location, "in my neighborhood" was a popular response. Mostly the producers agreed the plants should be located "any place with the appropriate hog production and limited packers" Also, "close to consumers" surfaced time and again.

One of the more telling questions was: "What's most important to you in resolving marketing issues today?" We offered these choices: 1) Honest, sincere communication with my packer; 2) Linking further into the pork chain to capture more value; 3) Getting a packer contract to secure hog prices or shackle space; 4) Producer ownership of packing and processing.

Communication was the dominant response. Producers have a renewed distrust of packers, and the packers are partially responsible for that. Over the past few years, producers have gotten numerous lectures about working with packers. Now, it's the packers turn. In this era of mergers, independent packers need to work with independent producers. It may be a clichT, but producers and packers have to think outside the box. They have to work together.

Linking further through the pork chain, and producer-owned packing both came in second at 28 percent. Producers clearly want to find ways to provide the appropriate consumer goods and get a share of the pie. I don't think most care if it's done through packers, or a producer-owned plant. They're looking for the end result.

Who should foot the bill for a producer-owned plant? Surprisingly 48 percent said producers. The other options were government, private industry, a business loan or undecided. Since respondents could select more than one source, several picked a combination. Many wanted the government to at least help out.

There is a misperception about where the producer money would come from. "That's what checkoff dollars are for", said one producer.

Well, not exactly. The Pork Act dictates that checkoff can be spent only on promotion, education and research. Running a packing and processing plant doesn't fall within those areas.

Lastly, we asked whether the producer would "participate in an NPPC-directed producer-owned packing plant." The responses mirrored that of who is/isn't in favor of such a project. (See chart) "I would have to know the costs involved to participate" and "it would depend on the economics of hauling pigs to the plant" were typical responses.

Getting even one packing plant built is still a long way away. NPPC has a consultant drawing up a business plan right now. Meanwhile expressing your views is key to the process. Thanks to those who shared theirs with us.