Craig Jarolimek is the immediate past president of the National Pork Producers Council. He raises hogs and crops near Forest River, N.D. He serves on the pork industry's Trade Policy and Negotiations Advisory Committee.

Q What did you take away from your tenure as NPPC president?
A I have a greater appreciation for those working for the health and success of the U.S. pork industry. It strengthened my belief in how important it is to work together for the future benefit of producers. The national checkoff is a vital ingredient to bind all parts of the industry together to accomplish our many goals. It is the producers and the people that make this industry a leader in agriculture.

Q What are the more critical challenges that the pork industry faces?
A The most critical challenges will continue to come from the activists. One of the more serious is from the Water Keeper Alliance. Its attacks on the pork industry, if successful, will affect every producer regardless of operation size.

WKA participants have said their goal is to shut down U.S. pork production. This could mean a total transfer of an industry to another country, like Brazil.

The impact on all of agriculture is scary. I am very troubled by the Farmers Union choosing to join in the efforts of WKA. I don't believe Farmers Union's leaders understand the impact that this could have on farm families all across the nation. These groups try to divide agriculture so their agenda can prevail. These groups are well funded, and the threat that they could destroy the U.S. pork industry is real.

Q What positive trends do you see for the pork industry?
A Consumers are recognizing the value, taste, versatility and the safety of pork. It is an exciting time to be involved in the pork industry, as demand grows each day.

Value-added agriculture is the future for farms of all sizes and locations. With increased worldwide demand for U.S. pork and our ability to produce the products needed, producers are in a good position to capture that value.

Q What insight or advice can you offer fellow pork
A I would offer three pieces of advice. Keep a watchful eye on your industry. Don't let the distracters and activists hinder the pork industry's future.

Second, use your knowledge and skills not only to produce the product, but to market it in the world. The U.S. farmer is recognized among the most skilled at food production. Use that to your advantage.
Third, look for ways to form alliances with other producers to gain the efficiencies needed to keep you profitable. We all have an area that we can gain help from others.

Q What do you expect the pork industry to look like in five years?
A Producers, packers and retailers, (you could add consumers) need to understand that they need each other, and that each needs to profit from their link in the chain.

"Story book food" will be one of the driving forces in these systems. A farm family can flourish in this type of system, as its production talents are needed to insure the consumer that their pork was raised, processed and delivered in a safe manner. Production will be linked closer to the end use.

Q What role do producers need to play in the industry?
A Producers need to be leaders. I don't mean that everyone should run for an office, but they need to be leaders in their communities and agriculture. We cannot let other individuals dictate our future or distract us from our goals. We almost lost the checkoff that way.

One thing I learned during the last year is that you must standup for what you believe is right. Producers must take an active role in their industry's future.

Q How can producers become more involved in how the national checkoff is program is being run?
A Of all the things that were said before and after the checkoff vote, the comment that most bothered me was "producers don't have a say in how their dollars are spent".

NPPC and the National Pork Board has several committees that address everything from demand enhancement to swine health. Producers from all over the country, of all sizes and types of production chair those committees. The Federation Council, state presidents and others are great decision-making resources for the board of directors (who are producers). The Pork Forum delegate body is largely made up of producers – and if you've ever been to Pork Forum, you know that they don't always agree. Through a democratic process they work out a decision that benefits all. Producers need to make the effort to become part of this process so their voices and needs can be addressed. NPPC and NPB are made up of producers. The producers need to remember that.