The National Pork Board has its 2006 strategic plan and budget that calls for spending $48.8 million in pork checkoff revenue to address the nine critical pork-industry issues, which the board identified. The budget and plan now go to the U.S. secretary of agriculture for final approval.

The board is recommending that $20.6 million (approximately half of the budget) be used to promote domestic pork demand. That effort involves a several strategies, including continuation for the second year of a new marketing and advertising program focused on the tagline “Don’t be blah.”

Danita Rodibaugh, NPB president, reported to board members that early research results from the ad campaign's first year show the program is successfully changing the purchasing and cooking habits of its target audience – women less than 40 years old.

The 2006 demand-building efforts include nationwide retail promotions as well as focused promotions in the test markets of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Sacramento, and continuing efforts to get more pork on U.S. restaurant menus. Efforts in 2005 have resulted in an 8 percent growth in the number of pork items featured by the foodservice industry.

The budget also calls for market research, continued emphasis on promoting pork to Hispanic consumers, continuation of the Pork Racing program and additional efforts to inform consumers about pork's nutritional benefits.
 
Other critical issues identified for 2006's strategic plan include: the early identification and management of issues; transfer and deployment of knowledge to producers; developing partnerships and alliances inside and outside of the pork industry; improving the pork industry's overall image; resolution of the swine welfare issue with customers; developing a long-range strategy for U.S. Pork exports; continuing to develop future industry leaders; and finding answers to the odor issue.

The board also earmarked about $10.5 million for state pork organizations to conduct their own promotion, research and consumer information programs. The board approved the state budgets.

“This is an aggressive plan that builds on the success of our new planning process,” says Rodibaugh. “Beginning last year, we decided to build our plan and budget from scratch each year. The board meets in June to identify what it sees as the critical industry issues for the next year. We involve several hundred producers from all over the country to help develop strategies and tactics to allocate Pork Checkoff resources to attack those critical issues. The end result is a producer-driven process that works to increase the competitiveness and opportunities for all U.S. pork producers.”

She notes that the 2006 budget is built on an industry forecast of 104.2 million market hogs at an average live weight of 271 pounds. Market prices for live hogs are expected to average $42.50 to $45.80 per hundredweight. U.S. pork producers contribute four-tenths of one percent to the Pork Checkoff from the sale of their hogs.

The board also approved three research projects designed to provide producers with the tools to address the porcine respiratory and reproduction syndrom. All three projects involve work to improve vaccination strategies.

Additionally, the board approved a $220,000 project to help prevent or respond to an especially virulent form of porcine postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome. It was first discovered in Quebec and is now surfacing in Ontario. PMWS is a disease syndrome of weaned piglets – as well as market-weight pigs – with clinical signs that include progressive weight loss, jaundice and high mortality rates.

Finally, the board reviewed results of its 2005 scientific producer opinion survey, which showed that 71 percent support the national pork checkoff and the programs it supports, 19 percent oppose it. In 2004, the support level was 61 percent in favor and 26 percent opposed.

“We’ve made a major effort in the last several years to reach out and let producers know all of the work that’s done on their behalf through the checkoff,” says Rodibaugh. “These results show that when producers become aware of all of these programs and activities on their behalf that they see the real value of their checkoff investment.” 

National Pork Board.