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Tentinger tells producers to defend right to operate

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 03/05/2013 9:13 AM

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DES MOINES —Bill Tentinger, 2012 Iowa Pork Producers Association president, told producers that their right to operate is being challenged.

"The freedom to farm isn't free, and it isn't guaranteed," Tentinger said last week at the association's annual meeting in Des Moines. "The freedom to produce pork isn't free. The regulatory environment that we face and the additional burdens that we face to have access to the marketplace are being brought by a handful of activists who are challenging our freedom."

Producers have a responsibility to defend their freedom and their right to operate, said Tentinger who farms near Le Mars. He urged them to work through their county organizations, IPPA, the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council, but producers also have to be willing to take a stand as individuals.

"We need to communicate with our neighbors, our friends, our distant relatives and our government representatives about how our freedoms are being challenged," he said. "Consumers care about safe, high quality and affordable food. If we continue to be forced to make major changes in the way we farm and the way we care for our animals, food costs will certainly increase."

This past summer restaurants and supermarkets, due to pressure from the Human Society of the United States, began announcing plans to discontinue pork purchases from suppliers that use gestation stalls, Tentinger said.

"Many pork producers who use gestation stalls quickly point out that they have moved to using gestation stalls as a production system that is better than pen gestation for sows in many ways," he said.

In 2003, IPPA delegates passed a resolution that the group "supports all commonly used current production systems including the use of gestation stalls." The resolution is still appropriate today, he said.

Producers faced challenges from the 2012 drought with input costs climbing daily as the marketplace tried to sort through anticipated production and use of corn and soybeans. Water availabity for livestock also became an issue as a result of high temperatures in late summer.

"IPPA leaders attended several drought related meetings and news conferences to provide a livestock farmer's perspective," Tentinger said.

IPPA announced a $1 million research initiative to find the cause of foaming in deep-pit swine manure systems. The work will continue into 2015. Tentinger encouraged producers to be responsive to researchers' requests as they work to solve the issue. Pork Checkoff research is also making headway in solving Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

Pork exports continued to be strong in 2012 with preliminary numbers suggesting another record. In February IPPA along with the Iowa Corn and Soybean Associations co-sponsored a state dinner for visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to become China's president in March.

Tentinger said attacks by activist groups will likely continue, and while IPPA leaders will work hard to preserve producers' freedom to farm and produce pork, it will take individual effort as well.

"That one on one contact is still the best," Tentinger said. "Those who oppose what we do in ag have gained ground over time doing it that way. They do it one person, one statement, one event at a time, all with personal contact. That is the way we in production agriculture must defend what we do."