Sign on the dotted line. That's what the National Pork Producers Council is hoping you will do as it rolls out its new Producer-Consent Program on Sept. 1.

The program will generate funds to address pork industry advocacy issues, which are comprised largely of state and federal legislative, regulatory and legal activities. While it's true that only non-checkoff money could be used for these issues in the past, the USDA-directed division of NPPC and the National Pork Board has further complicated the funding picture.

For producers, it can be particularly confusing because you're already contributing to the national pork checkoff. However, the two programs are very different.

Here's a snapshot of some basic details of the Producer-Consent Program.

  • It's a voluntary program.
  • Contribution rate is 0.10 percent of $100-value per hog.
  • Deductions will be taken at the market after you sign a form giving your consent to participate. You may pick up and submit the Producer-Consent form to the market where you sell your pigs, NPPC or your state pork association.
  • The deduction will occur on sales involving market hogs, weaned or feeder pigs and seedstock animals.
  • The market will collect the funds and send them into NPPC each month.
  • The funds will be split, with half going to NPPC and half going to the state pork association that represents pigs' state of origin. (See sidebar.)
  • To revoke your participation, you must submit a form or a written request and deliver it to NPPC, the market or your state pork association. It will take about 30 days to end your deduction.

Of course there are more details about the program and the funding that you need to know for a thorough, long-term perspective. Perhaps the most significant point goes back to the fact that checkoff funds cannot be used for legislative or regulatory issues at the state or national level.

Some examples include: international market access, confined-animal-feeding operation regulations, pork-safety standards that the Food Safety Inspection Service or other government agencies might set.

But a lot of advocacy issues start at the state level before reaching the federal spotlight, which is why the states get a piece of the pie.

Producer-Consent Task Force member and executive director of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, Dick Isler, points to an initiative in Florida to ban sow-gestation crates as a current example of a state issue that NPPC and other state associations are assisting with. It also is an example of how states with small hog populations and small budgets benefit from being part of a coalition.

"NPPC is federation of states, and those states are critical to the program's success," notes Pat McGonegle, NPPC's vice president of resource development and state relations.

State organizations will largely be responsible for soliciting markets and producers to participate in the Producer-Consent Program. "We're working on a state-by-state plan, so that states can implement the program individually yet uniformly," says NPPC President Dave Roper.

In fact, NPPC's program will roll out in stages, with Iowa, North Carolina, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri taking the lead. Some states have membership or voluntary checkoff programs already in place, which has required some strategic planning to coordinate funding collections. "Our goal is not to have anyone pay twice," says McGonegle.

The big participation drive will come in late fall and into the state associations' winter meetings period. This timing will prove challenging as fall and winter hog prices could temper participation.

"But when is a good time," notes Isler. "The consensus wasùa lot of issues are facing us now."

The goal is to have 40 percent to 60 percent of hogs in the United States contributing. Isler sees that as appropriate for the first year. "Our (Ohio's) long-term goal is 66 percent to 75 percent, and I don't see why we shouldn't be looking at that nationally too."

Key to participation, according to NPPC's board of directors, is to have those hogs represented by a critical mass of U.S. producers.

The hope is for the Producer-Consent Program to generate $3 million annually.

There are other revenue vehicles, the highest being World Pork Expo. Pork Alliance involves paid membership from allied industry, as does the Packer/Processor Industry Committee. On a voluntary basis, state pork associations also can provide an annual assessment to NPPC based on the number of pigs marketed within the state. NPPC also owns the Des Moines office that the National Pork Board rents.

Of course anyone can donate money to the cause, however, NPPC's Board of Directors have not yet outlined all of the details associated with that, including how those funds would be shared with states.

"As in the past, NPPC will have a pork industry focus to it," says Roper, "but it will have heavy pork producer involvement."

Since most of the money will be generated from market-hog sales, packer cooperation is important.
McGonegle says that sector has been supportive. "Our supply is dependent on the producers viability and ability to compete in the world market," says Gary Mahon with IBP. "So as a packer, I am sensitive to the growing outside influences that will increase producer production costs."

"Producers that are looking to the future know that we have to have this money to address issues in our state capitals and in Washington," says Isler. "This is more urgent than promoting our product, because if we don't address these challenges, we will be out of business."

Establishing the State of Origin

Where pigs are raised – not sold – is an important element of the National Pork Producers Council's Producer-Consent Program. That's because 50 percent of the collected funds go to NPPC and 50 percent go the hogs' state of origin.

For example, say you raise pigs in Minnesota and in Iowa, and you've signed up to participate in the voluntary funding program. Then regardless of where those hogs are sold, 50 percent of the money collected from your pigs raised in Minnesota would go to the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. Half of the money generated from the pigs raised in Iowa would go to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

What about Canadian weaned pigs that are finished in the United States? The contribution would be dependent on the producer who finishes out the pigs. Fifty percent of his contribution would go to the state pork association in which those pigs were finished.

Why the state of origin? Because legislative and regulatory issues tend to impact the production phase of the business.