Twenty U.S. pork producers were selected to participate in Pork Leadership Academy, a program sponsored by the National Pork Board, which is used to identify and train swine industry leaders.
"Through the Pork Leadership Academy program, the checkoff is helping build new leaders who will work with both consumers and other producers," said Bill Kessler, chair of the National Pork Checkoff, Mexico, Mo.

PLA participants were chosen by their individual states and represent different production styles. The checkoff provides initial leadership training, as well as long-term support for preparing presentations and interviews to the media or people in their community.

Pork Leadership Academy focuses on training producers to be spokespeople who can relay accomplishments of the pork industry to the public. PLA also teaches producers how to communicate one-on-one with other producers about issues facing the pork industry.

During their first meeting, PLA participants will receive Pork Quality Assurance Plus training. The PQA Plus program provides pork producers with information on production practices that uphold consumer expectations regarding food safety and animal care. The participants will also learn how to be better prepared for a crisis on their farms.

2009 Pork Leadership Academy participants include:

  • Fitzhugh Bethea, S.C.
  • Chris Britton, Ala.
  • Dereke Dunkirk, Ill.
  • Mark Ebaugh, Pa.
  • Todd Erickson, N.D.
  • Devin Gandy, La.
  • Tommy Goodwin, Idaho
  • Bradley Hohn, S.D.
  • Aaron Kavan, Neb.
  • Lee Letsch, Ore.
  • Todd Marotz, Minn.
  • Brady Otto, Calif.
  • Derrick Sleezer, Iowa
  • Tim Steinkamp, Mo.
  • Scot Strauss, Wis.
  • Jim Webb, Utah
  • Neill Westerbeek, N.C.
  • Andy White, Mich.
  • Chuck Wildman, Ohio
  • Mark York, Ind.

These producers will attend five Pork Leadership Academy meetings throughout the year. Each meeting will focus on a different swine related issue, and will include a checkoff program update.