"In the worst economic period that the industry has faced, the Strategic Investment Program has increased again," says Neil Dierks, National Pork Producers Council's chief executive officer. SIP is the membership and funding base for NPPC, which is responsible for the pork industry's legislative, regulatory and public policy programs and actions.

SIP membership grew for the seventh consecutive year in 2009 with 128 new participants. That brings the tally to 2,200 total SIP participants, which includes pork producers and contract growers. Investments from SIP members provides 48 percent of NPPC's total revenue, or $4.9 million in 2009. that's up 3 percent from 2008's level and represents 64 percent of the pigs marketed in the United States.

For the year, eight states added at least two new members, they were Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Most impressively, Iowa added 63, Minnesota 18, Illinois and South Dakota both added 10 new members. Reporting the progress of the SIP program at the National Pork Industry Forum Mark Legan, chairman of the SIP committee, pointed out that Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio and Mississippi all increased their SIP revenues by 40 percent.

Participation from the packer/processor sectors also increased in 2009.

As Legan outlined, the SIP priorities for this year includes getting more contract growers involved in the program, retaining current members and continuing to illustrate NPPC's value to the industry.

SIP participation is vital to NPPC's efforts at the state level and in Washington, D.C. NPPC will become even more involved in economic, political and social issues, notes Dierks. "The activists are not going to go away." He also acknowledges that in the "state associations are facing as much of a battle as is occurring in Washington, D.C."