Pork producers had a little spring in their step as they walked the Iowa State Fairgrounds last week. Some 20,000 producers and 400 exhibitors celebrated the pork industry’s return to profitability during the 2010 World Pork Expo from June 9-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The 2009 World Pork Expo fell in the midst of the Novel H1N1 influenza outbreak, and producers’ spirits were lower than the hog prices. Now one year later, exports are up significantly. Excitement and optimism set the tone for the 2010 World Pork Expo as producers and exhibitors have finally seen the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

"The mood has just been great," said National Pork Producer Council President Sam Carney. "Producers are excited, exhibitors are upbeat and the industry is back on track."

NPPC, WPX’s sponsor, was eager to welcome international attendees back after H1N1-related travel bans prevented many from attending last year’s event. More than 30 countries were represented at this year’s WPX.

Attendees from seven countries participated in the two-day industry tour held June 7 and June 8. The sold-out tour stopped at PDI, IVESCO, Hawkeye Renewables, Christensen Farms, Kinze Manufacturing and Cinnamon Ridge Farms, offering a glimpse of Iowa’s agricultural industry and a taste of Midwestern hospitality.

“I have attended World Pork Expo since 1990. This is the first time I’ve participated in the industry tour, and I had a great experience,” said Doug Richards, swine grow/finish specialist from the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs in Ontario, Canada. “The tour offered a snapshot of Iowa, and it presented a great opportunity to network and develop relationships with other international attendees.”

While the industry tour provided a first-hand agricultural education, producers also had opportunities to learn in a more traditional setting. The Educational Seminars, Marketing Information Center and PORK Academy enabled producers to learn about key issues from industry leaders. Animal welfare, the economic climate, environmental policies, herd health, international trade and politics were all on the agenda. Seminars were well attended, and producers were provided the information they need to make smart business decisions and improve their operations’ efficiency.

Despite stormy weather conditions on Thursday and Friday, attendees eagerly participated in new events and loyally supported old favorites. 

The People’s Choice Barbeque Contest, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, debuted at this year’s WPX. Three professional barbeque teams, Big T’s Q Crew, Iowa Outlaws BBQ and Ponderosa BBQ, fired up their smokers and prepared mouth-watering baby back ribs and pork sausages for the inaugural event. More than 1,000 people voted for their favorite recipe, and Iowa Outlaws BBQ smoked the competition in both categories. 

Participation in the annual Junior National Swine Show was up 22 percent from last year. The Junior National Swine Association received more than 1,740 registrations from 630 exhibitors hailing from 27 states. Showmen between the ages of 2 and 21 proudly paraded their animals during the purebred and crossbred shows.

“We’re extremely excited about the growth of the event,” said National Junior Swine Association’s Director of Junior Activities Alan Duttlinger. “It is great to see mature, responsible kids caring for their animals and developing into young leaders.”

MusicFest is always WPX’s social highlight, and this year was no exception. Attendees feasted at three Pig Pickin’ Hog Roast stations as they packed the Grand Concourse on Thursday, June 10. Producers and exhibitors danced into the evening hours to live music performed by Tony Valdez and the Retro Rockets, Bryan White and the Classic Rock All Stars.

“This was the biggest turnout for MusicFest that I’ve ever seen,” said John Wrigley, WPX general manager for NPPC. “It’s great to see producers and exhibitors laughing again. Everyone is breathing a little easier now that they have more revenue coming in.”

 The 2010 World Pork Expo will be fondly remembered as a beacon of light after the industry’s darkest days. Photos from the event are available on World Pork Expo’s Facebook page. You can find more WPX updates at PORK magazine’s 2010 WPX resource center as well.

The barbeque smokers are barely cold, but it’s never too soon to start planning for the 2011 World Pork Expo. Mark your calendars, and join us in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 8-10, 2011, and monitor WPX’s web site for information about next year’s event.

Source: NPPC