The National Pork Board presented this year’s Distinguished Service Award to South Dakota farmer Jim Leafstedt for his leadership in improving swine health in the United States, including his role in the elimination of swine pseudorabies from the United States. The annual award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the U.S. pork industry.

Pseudorabies (PRV) is a viral disease that often causes young pigs to die, and its costly impact on pig health and producer profitability for many decades led to a coordinated national effort to wipe out the disease. Leafstedt, whose own farm near Alcester, S.D., was an early victim of PRV, was a member of the pork industry’s PRV Eradication Task Force, and then served on the National PRV Control Board that helped write the state-federal-industry cooperative program standards. Those standards provided the guidance for the eradication program that eventually led to eradication of the disease. The United States was certified as being PRV free in 2004.

“Jim has been a quiet and steady leader of the pork industry throughout his career,” said Dr. Paul Sundberg, the National Pork Board vice president of science and technology. “The thing that has made him unique is his ability to listen, digest and analyze and then give a producer's perspective in plain, simple terms that makes people pause and listen.  He recognized that people can make a difference if they have determination and really a very simple vision for the right thing to do. U.S. pork producers have benefited from his willingness to give his time and his talent.”

Sundberg said Leafstedt also earned national respect from his tenure as president of the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), an organization that brings together the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state veterinarians and industry representatives.

“He helped USAHA become a more modern organization,” Sundberg said. “You have to be a consensus builder in that position. Jim did a masterful job of leading it.”

Leafstedt also was a long-time member of what is now the Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health Committee, and in that role helped promote a more structured, science-based approach to U.S. swine disease surveillance. In this capacity, he was instrumental in promoting the ‘interstate movement report’ that enables pigs to move interstate within production systems without needing an individual interstate health certificate for every group of pigs being shipped. 

“That’s important,” Sundberg said, “because of the number of pigs that we move from state to state. It directly saves money and headache for the producer but still gives state animal health officials health assurances for state import and export of pigs.”

Source: National Pork Board