Every morning I sit down at my desk, turn on my computer and wait to see what catastrophe has struck the world.
One never knows what it will be but there is almost always something, which makes an editor’s job eternally interesting. On the other hand, personnel at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the National Pork Board (NPB), likely wait with apprehension and consternation, hoping the latest sensationalistic news to hit the web has nothing to do with the pork industry.
Rest assured they will spring into action if it does, and are prepared well in advance to meet news-cycle challenges either real or imagined. The staff members who work on behalf of producers are dedicated, smart and well-prepared.
Both organizations are led by industry veterans with years of experience and passionate dedication. As CEO of NPPC, Neil Dierks is the person who jumps into action along with his staff and producer leaders to protect producers’ interests.
He provided an update on current issues at the Pork Alliance meeting, held recently in Des Moines, Iowa, and here are highlights.
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC): The commission started just before the Depression as a means to oversee the trading of the agricultural markets and futures markets used by buyers and sellers. In recent years, it has attracted interest from pension- and hedge-fund managers, and now these funds have made companies like Cargill and ADM into minor players. There have been three replacements on the five-person board and none of the three have an ag background. Fortunately the CTIC still needs to be reauthorized through the ag committee.
- Clean Water Act: “Secretary Vilsack has worked hard to get an ag exemption but the question has to do with ‘navigable waters,’ which is mentioned 88 times in the original Act,” says Dierks. “Critics want ‘navigable’ to be removed and if that were to happen it would have a huge impact on the amount of oversight.”
- Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus: A meeting in March brought together various segments of the industry to develop the PED Feed Research Collaboration. “There are lots of tough questions with PEDv and we’ve been dealing with them since last May,” says Dierks. “What’s the pathway that allowed it into the U.S.? The American Feed Industry Association has been very open and wants to look at the questions from a scientific perspective. The real issue is about how we all come together and work through the issues.”
Dierks says there also are discussions about product suppliers’ chains: “We’re looking at commonalities so we can improve distribution chains and look at systems of delivery that can help us harden our systems,” he adds.
- Sustainability: “The word ‘sustainability’ is unsustainable,” says Dierks. “Sustainability is important; in the last 50 years the pork industry has drastically reduced its use of water and land, and its carbon footprint also is much smaller. We never called it ‘sustainable’ – rather, it was about doing more with less and the industry has made tremendous progress.”