The Strategic Investment Program is the funding mechanism for the National Pork Producers Council, and participation is growing, reported Bryan Black, NPPC president. As Black pointed out at last week's World Pork Expo, SIP participants contribute 10 cents per $100 value on all hog sales, which helps fund NPPC's legislative, regulatory and public policy efforts. NPPC receives no National Pork Checkoff funds for those efforts.

In the last five months, SIP secured 305 new investors, reported Sam Carney, NPPC vice president. Minnesota lead with 163 new participants, Iowa had 50 and South Dakota brought on 25. "Even in tough economic times, we're growing the program," he said. "That tells us they like what NPPC is doing and that it's important work."

Citing the national tally, Carney noted that there are 2,009 members. Of those, Minnesota leads with 469, Iowa has 317 and Indiana accounts for 162. In terms of market hogs, the membership represents 62 percent of the U.S. hogs marketed annually.

The membership includes individuals as well as farms and companies. "We're starting to work on involving custom feeders and sow co-ops," Carney pointed out.

LEADR is another NPPC program that is on the grow. It stands for Legislative Education Development Resource, said Pat McGonegle, with NPPC. It is a pool of producers who go through training to contact and work with state and national legislators, as well as the media."They become an instrumental tool for NPPC to call upon," he said.

Since World Pork Expo 2007, another 225 people have signed up. "People are willing to engage both with time and money," McGonegle said. Currently, there are more than 500 participants in the three-year-old program. NPPC's goal for the end of the year is 600, which will be easily attained, he added. The state pork producer groups play an active and vital role in the program.

"It has brought a lot of new faces and young people forward," McGonegle said. He estimates that the participants' average age is 34 or 35 years old.