Reaffirming their commitment to the U.S. pork industry and its customers, 10,000 pork producers have become certified in PQA Plus. The milestone reflects the industry's renewed commitment to social responsibility and accountability. 

PQA Plus was launched at the World Pork Expo in June 2007. "We launched with the goal of having 5,000 PQA Plus certified individuals by the end of that year," said Tim Bierman, a producer from Iowa and a member of the National Pork Board. "That first target was reached and program support has grown steadily since then. We consider it a success that 10,000 producers have become certified."

The base of PQA Plus Advisors, the individuals responsible for imparting producer education, spans over 28 states and includes over 780 people. "We could not have reached these many producers without the tireless work of the PQA Plus Advisors and Trainers," said Bierman "Having the support of these highly educated individuals is additional proof to me that there is value in this program."

Bierman attended PQA Plus training and received certification in October 2007. In November, he and his advisor performed the site assessment of Bierman Farms. "In today's world, most people don't really want to know the details of my job. They just want to know that the pork I produce is safe and that the pigs are humanely cared for," he said. "But, while it used to be enough for me to do the right thing, today it's important that I prove that I do the right thing.

"By becoming PQA Plus certified, packers, processors, restaurants and retailers can have the confidence in the safety of my product and the husbandry practices that I employ as I care for my animals," Bierman added. "It's a step toward gaining their trust."

Bierman and the rest of the National Pork Board members recognize the value of gaining the trust of customers and consumers. With that in mind, they have encouraged the development of other image-building practices for the industry.  One of them, the Statement of Ethical Principles for U.S. Pork Producers, was presented to producers at the Pork Industry Forum in St Louis, Mo., in early March.

Bierman said, "The statement of ethical principles, PQA Plus, the Transport Quality Assurance program, the responsible use of antibiotics program [Take Care] are proof of our commitment to producing safe pork and prioritizing the well-being of our animals and the development of our communities. But, without producer support, these programs don't mean anything.

"Producers have the tools to satisfy customers' concerns and show consumers that we are accountable for our actions. The programs are voluntary and it's up to us to receive the training and make sure we follow good production practices," Bierman said. "With 10,000 certified producers, and many more achieving certification every week, we are sending the message that as an industry we are committed."

At the recent Pork Industry Forum, pork producers representing 43 states voted in support of PQA Plus by advising the National Pork Board to ask all U.S. pork producers to participate in the program within the next three years. 

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management.

Source: National Pork Board news release