Each morning you likely wake up with a schedule of tasks that you want to accomplish for the day. Yet, the best-laid plans don't always get accomplished.

On any given day an opportunity, problem or any number of surprises can surface and force your plans to take an unexpected turn.

That seems to be the everyday nature of pork production outside the confines of your operation as well. As you read or listen to the news, you never know if new legislation, an activist movement or public attitudes will force an unexpected turn for your business.

Last month, I presented three trends and developments that will impact the pork industry in the years ahead. Certainly there will be more – some more surprising than others. So, in keeping with my schedule, here's a look at what else lies ahead.

  • Market Access: Year after year, this issue finds a spot on the industry's list of challenges. However today, it's less about price and more about actual packing plants. This industry segment is aging and prospects for new facilities are dim. More communities are closing their doors to new plant proposals regardless of the jobs that would follow. Long term, this will limit opportunities for the U.S. industry and open the door for other countries. It also will encourage some (large) U.S. producers to expand production elsewhere, which will then compete with U.S. pork supplies.

    Now, the Senate's proposed packer ban on livestock ownership – if it makes it into the final Farm Bill – would create a whole new set of uncertainties. The amendment appears to exempt marketing contracts, the purchasing method for 83 percent of all U.S. market hogs and producers' only nugget of marketing security.

    What the ban would do is force some packers to sell production operations and end production contracts. Ultimately, this would result in nothing more than creative purchasing, with production units simply changing hands. It will not end the shift toward large or coordinated production.

    It also will temper pork's ability to expand its value-ad packer-ownership bill would reduce pork's competitiveness with the poultry industry, as well as in the pork export market.

    The amendment is expected to meet challenges in the conference committee, and the White House doesn't appear to be too fond of the a from suppliers, this could be a step backward.

    Producers and packers were just beginning to establish more alliances, as were packers and retailers. The result, while it still had long way to go, was a more coordinated marketing chain.

    Ultimately, the packer-ownership bill would reduce pork's competitiveness with the poultry industry, as well as in the pork export market.
    The amendment is expected to meet challenges in the conference committee, and the White House doesn't appear to be too fond of the provision. Still the point remains, this will continue to be one of those issues that can pop up on any given day and force you and the industry to change plans.

  • Antibiotic Use: Talk about your bad penny – opposition against subtherapeutic antibiotic use in food-producing animals won't go away. This topic seems to find new life on a regular basis, but the gaps between episodes are shortening.

    What's more, the somewhat surprising move by three poultry producers – Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms – to voluntarily stop feeding antibiotics to their flocks raises the stakes for other producers and industries. You can bet these companies will market their products as "fed no antibiotics." Some fast-food chains, including McDonalds, Wendy's and
    Popeye's already refuse to buy poultry products that receive feed-grade antibiotics.

    Sweden has banned subtherapeutic antibiotic use in food-producing animals. (See page 37.) Denmark appears to be close behind, which presents a challenge for the U.S. pork industry in the export market where that kind of niche marketing determines who's in and who's out.

    Of course, central to this issue is the debate whether antibiotic use in food-producing animals leads to antibiotic resistance in humans. There's no scientific evidence to support that position, but then, science doesn't always rule. This is an emotional issue that plays well with the public.

    Life is full of surprises, but keeping an eye on trends and developments can help you respond quickly if you're forced to change plans.