The National Pork Board has approved a $51-million budget and operating plan for 2008 that addresses five critical issues facing the U.S. pork industry. The board approved the 2008 budget and plan at its meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 13-14. The budget now goes to the USDA Secretary for final approval.

This culminates a four-month planning process that began in July with the 15 producer board members identifying critical issues. The process includes input from more than 150 producers. The five critical issues are: The competitive advantage for U.S. pork; the safeguard and expansion of international markets; domestic pork expenditures; the trust and image of the U.S. pork industry; the development of human capital.

"The 2008 plan combines programs that continue to work for producers with several exciting new ideas," says Lynn Harrison, president of the National Pork Board. "Approximately 20 percent of this budget will go directly to state pork organizations to allow them to conduct their own checkoff-sponsored activities and to partner with national programs," he adds. "On the national level, we have approved 22 new projects representing about $4.8 million of the budget."

An example of blending the old and the new can be seen in the addressing trust and image as critical industry issue. "Just a few years ago, that was barely on our radar screens. Today, we have more than $5 million dedicated to efforts to  build trust with customers and to improve the overall image of the pork industry. That represents nearly 15 percent of our total programming budget and addresses key consumer and customer concerns through programs such as Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Operation Main Street.

A  new item is an appropriation that will allow NPB to work with other pork and agricultural groups and with food-chain partners to help consumers develop a better understanding of modern pork production and how it contributes to a safe,  high-quality and reliable food source. The board also authorized staff to continue its work in finding new ways, including using blogs, podcasts and video blogs such as You Tube, to reach young consumers.

"Another promising new program is a mobile marketing platform that enables us to introduce our product to millions of consumers at large-scale events, while integrating important marketing disciplines such as advertising, public relations and retail marketing for maximum impact," Harrison says. "This platform allows us to connect producers with target consumers and provides an outlet for states to be more involved in our marketing efforts."

The plan calls for grilling pork and conducting other promotions at events such as auto races, state fairs, food festivals and high-impact sporting events including college and professional football games. "It also gives producers an opportunity to share their product and their personal stories about their farms with an increased number of targeted consumers," he adds. 

 The 2008 plan and budget continues research efforts in a variety of areas including: porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome; porcine circovirus related diseases; euthanasia procedures; nutritional efficiency, sow longevity, animal well-being; pork safety; environmental practices; and antibiotic use.

The board also added financial support for a genome sequencing research project that's designed to help scientists make specific use of the pig gene sequencing work led by researchers at universities and USDA involving a consortium of international scientists.

The new plan and budget also maintains NPB’s commitment to the U.S. Meat Export Federation work in building export markets for U.S. pork. And it continues the national advertising presence for The Other White Meat – Don’t Be Blah program. It also continues the promotional activities that keep pork in front of the nation’s chefs, retail food marketers and restaurant operators.

"Successful organizations constantly look for new ways to improve their services and their products," Harrison notes. "I can speak for my 14 fellow producers on the National Pork Board when I say that we believe this plan builds on the success of programs that have worked for pork producers throughout the country while giving us a chance to try to some ideas that we believe will contribute to the profitability of our industry and our producers." 

The complete 2008 Operating Plan and Budget will be available at www.pork.org once it is approved by the USDA Secretary.

Source: National Pork Board