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Pork producers adopt resolutions to improve unloading and handling at packing plants

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 03/05/2013 9:16 AM

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DES MOINES —Delegates at the Iowa Pork Producers Association annual meeting in Des Moines passed resolutions to improve unloading and handling of pigs at packing plants, increase the allowable protein requirement of school lunches and support the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Pork producers met last week at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.

Resolutions related to unloading hogs at packing plants generated the most discussion.

Korey Sargisson, a Le Mars pork producer and trucker, said it seems like there have been a lot of issues with timely unloading of hogs at plants. He spoke in favor of a resolution that IPPA, the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council work with packers to implement best unloading equipment and practices for safe, least stressful and timely unloading.

"Some packers tattoo hogs off the trucks these days," Sargisson said. "Some do not. It seems those packers that want to tattoo hogs off the truck are using the trucker as an employee. I find that when the hogs are tattooed off the truck, there's problems with the employee spooking pigs, turning pigs around and pigs going back on the truck. There's not a lot of common sense in this unloading procedure."

Another resolution directs IPPA, NPPC and NPB to work with the USDA on developing an animal handling action plan with uniform standards and uniform penalties that does not include a plant shut down.

"I just could never understand any common sense involved when there was a violation at a packing plant for animal handling when the solution was to compromise the animal welfare of thousands more pigs," said Gene Versteeg of Inwood. "That's what happens when a plant gets shut down. You have overcrowding in the pens at the packing plant and pigs backed up on semis. Even if you get a call right before you load that you can't load because they're shutting the plant down, that can disrupt your whole operation. To me there has to be a better way."

A resolution asking IPPA and NPPC to support increasing the total allowable protein requirements in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 passed unanimously.

The new law which was enacted on July 1 gives students a maximum daily requirement of no more than 2 ounces of protein for grades 9 to 12 and one ounce of protein for grades kindergarten through 8.

"When we went to register our kids for school this fall, the principal was almost apologizing for the meals they were going to get during the school year," said Jeff Beyer of Sioux County who has two children in kindergarten through 8th grade. "Since then I have had a lot of other parents raising concerns about kids coming home hungry. I think when it was passed by the government it was supposed to be for obese kids, but a lot of kids come home and eat junk food now and that's making the problem worse. A lot of obesity is because kids don't exercise."

Delegates passed a resolution supporting the voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy as presented by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. The resolution also asks IPPA to reach out to other states through NPPC to develop and implement voluntary nutrient management goals.

Leon Sheets, past IPPA president from Ionia, said some groups concerned about the hypoxia zone would like the EPA to set standards and rules.

"We think as pork producers we're good stewards of the land," Sheets said. "We support the Secretary of Agriculture's voluntary plan versus letting someone else set the standards and dictate how we operate on our farms. We feel that the word, 'voluntary,' is the key."

A resolution for packer continuity, consistency and equivalency of audit reporting mechanisms plus site assessments when packers develop their own animal well-being audit programs and a resolution in support of streamlining immigration applications and foreign work regulations also passed.