You may or may not be familiar with the Moline 90. Like many things historical, people and events that set the stage for the future often get buried under the daily tasks of life and business.

In a nutshell, the Moline 90 was to the pork industry what the founding fathers were to the U. S. Constitution. I know that’s tall praise, but it was a significant group of forward-thinking producers.

These producers participated in a meeting in Moline, Ill., in 1968, which spawned the first pork checkoff and a single industry organization to build a uniform voice for pork producers. The organization at the time was the National Pork Producers Council.

Much has transpired since that groundbreaking meeting. In some respects, the industry is barely recognizable from that day, in other respects it remains remarkably similar.

Two points that have changed dramatically, the pork checkoff is a mandatory program in question and there are now two very separate industry organizations — NPPC and the National Pork Board.

While change is inevitable and necessary, the change that has occurred in these areas has frustrated many pork producers. “We’re limited in how we can spend our own money; the strengths and efficiencies of having one organization are gone; we’re more divided today,” are common producer comments.

Without delving further into the history of the Pork Act, the mandatory checkoff, the lawsuits or the court rulings that severed activities between NPPC and NPB, let’s look ahead to actions that could set the stage for the future.

At last month’s National Pork Industry Forum, producers in attendance held an “unofficial” industry meeting following the completion of NPB’s annual meeting. Indiana producers presented a proposal to investigate a new, single industry organization.

During the session various producers spoke about the need to look ahead and determine how best to meet pork producers’ needs, and what such an organization might look like.

The uncertainty and the desire to pursue the design of a new pork industry organization starts with the unknown future of commodity checkoff programs. The U.S. beef industry’s checkoff program is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which could impact at least 120 commodity checkoff programs, including the national pork checkoff. The court’s decision is expected anytime by late June.

But some producers believe the industry needs to move forward with this single-organization focus regardless of what the Supreme Court decides about checkoff programs. Besides, there’s the potential for future challenges, referendums and continued opposition that can keep the program in flux.

There’s also the hard fact that with the current mandatory checkoff the bulk of producers’ annual contribution can only be spent on research, education and promotion. While those are worthy efforts, it leaves business-altering efforts in the legislative, regulatory and public policy areas to dig for the scraps.

This new producer effort is an evolving dynamic. The rough idea is to organize a pork-industry strategy group. The plan is for 15 or so pork industry leaders to analyze options for a future organization.

There is some concern that the group will be heavily stocked with NPB and NPPC supporters, and that the new effort could overlook input from industry individuals who are less committed to existing organizations. Indeed, that would be an unfortunate mistake.

It’s worth noting that no checkoff money can or will be spent on this endeavor. 

While the effort is still fresh and details are sketchy, it is wise for producers to ask hard questions and address their needs. So, from that standpoint this is an honorable effort.

The Moline 90 has had a dramatic impact on your business. Years of research, promotion and education can be traced back to their efforts, not to mention the pork industry’s place in export markets and in Washington, DC. It’s possible, but yet to be seen whether the producers in Orlando last month will produce a similar result.