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Pork producers need to take the time to tell their own stories, Lear said

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 02/06/2014 12:13 PM

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DES MOINES —Outgoing Iowa Pork Producers Association president Greg Lear challenged producers to take extra time to tell their stories.

"Research shows that consumers trust farmers," Lear said in his speech to delegates at last week's annual meeting in Des Moines. "We need to embrace that trust, and if we do not tell our own story, someone else will describe our way of life and our production practices in a negative manner. To do nothing is not acceptable."

Lear, who is co-owner of Spencer Ag Center and also owns a wean to finish hog business in Alton, said producers know best about caring for their animals.

"We have a responsibility to challenge the exaggerated language used by activists regarding pork production," Lear said. "We have a responsibility to positively share the many benefits of pork production. If we as pork producers don't do it, then who will?"

Lear said porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which is assaulting sow herds, tops the list of challenges. The first U.S. case was found on May 17.

"In less than three weeks, the National Pork Board approved $450,000 of checkoff funding, and the IPPA approved $78,000 to help get answers to pork producers as quickly as possible," Lear said.

IPPA has increased its funding to $242,000 to ISU to help fight the disease and also partnered with the Iowa Pork Industry Center to hold regional meetings to address the rapidly expanding virus.

On Sept. 11, Department of Natural Resources and EPA officials signed a work plan agreement that outlines procedures regarding federal NPDES permit inspections for Iowa animal feeding operations.

"The plan will increase inspection and oversight of Iowa farms," Lear said. "These inspections will continue to demonstrate the commitment of Iowa's pork producers to effectively manage manure nutrients and maintain water quality, as well as highlight the positive environmental results of modern production facilities."

He said all farmers need to work to improve Iowa's waters through the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which received significant funding from the 2013 Iowa legislative session.

"It may be a voluntary approach, but it is certainly not optional," Lear said.

Pork exports continue to be significant to Iowa's economy as a record $1.475 billion of U.S. pork exports originated from the state in 2012 compared to $1.42 billion in 2011, Lear said.

He was part of a February 2013 delegation led by Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds to Vietnam and the Philippines. An Iowa trade mission also went to Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras in April, and IPPA leaders participated in an Iowa trade mission to Japan and South Korea in November.

"Trade missions have been an excellent opportunity for me to personally share photos and the Iowa pork message on Facebook," Lear said.

IPPA teamed with county organizations and the National Pork Board to promote pork in 2013. Pork advertising was purchased statewide during the summer grilling time, in October featuring pork month and in December featuring pork holiday commercials.

Lear said IPPA works with the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers and the Iowa Farm Animal Care Coalition, a new organization launched in 2013 to answer questions about farm animal care and assist farmers with farm animal care resources.

IPPA's board of directors has authorized The Hale Group to review its organizational structure to see if the structure of its board of directors, committees and senior staff positions are aligned with its strategy to enable the organization to function effectively.

"The review allowed the board of directors to engage in dialogue regarding observations made by The Hale Group and to adopt changes," Lear said.