The National Pork Producers Council’s 20th Anniversary World Pork Expo was held June 5-7 with slightly lower attendance – a fact that comes as no surprise given the tough economic times producers are facing. However, thousands showed up to make the most of the market situation and learn how they can improve their operations in the future.

“In the past, all we could do was count the number of tickets used at the gate and those numbers included lots of people other than pork producers,” says Bryan Black, president of NPPC and Ohio pork producer. A new registration and ticketing system "lets us better understand what producers would like to see there," he notes.

NPPC reports that 17,756 pork producers attended the event, a number which does not include exhibitors, staff, state fair workers and others who came through the gates. Producer registration provided unlimited entry into the event for all three days.

“This is a much more meaningful number for our industry than we’ve had in the past,” Black says. 

Prior to the split between NPPC and the National Pork Board in 2001, World Pork Expo was a more consumer-driven event, Black explains. “Back then, the goal was to get as many people in the door as we could, so they could sample pork products and learn how to cook pork for their families.

“Today, the focus has shifted to professional pork production, offering producers an opportunity to meet with exhibitors and learn ways to improve their efficiencies, expand their knowledge of technical advances and interact with their peers,” he says. “We did have a little lower producer attendance than in the last couple of years from what we could gauge,” Black says. “U.S. pork producers are experiencing tough economic times and I’m sure some just felt they couldn’t make the trip.”

Weather also played a part in hindering attendance. “Weather conditions have just wreaked havoc across the country this year, so those farmers who could stay home and get into the field chose to do so,” he adds.

There was an increase in exhibitor booth spaces. “The increase in booth spaces tells us that allied industry appreciates the focus on pork producers,” Black says.

International exhibitors were on the increase, with companies traveling from Canada and Mexico as well as South America, Europe and Asia, to take part. An estimated 10 percent of the producer attendees were international visitors, coming from at least 45 different countries.

In addition, World Pork Expo Junior National hog show organizers reported that, while they anticipated a drop in participation for their show, they realized a 20 percent increase from 2007.

Next year, WPX will move from a Thursday, Friday and Saturday event to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Dates for the 2009 World Pork Expo are June 3-5, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines.

“Because we now draw a much more focused professional pork production audience, we’ve decided to make it easier for producers and exhibitors to participate in the show and still get home to spend their weekends with their families,” Black explains.

For a listing of the winners of the many contests, drawings and sales held at World Pork Expo, visit www.worldpork.org.

Source: National Pork Producers Council