National Hog Farmer has a long-standing tradition of honoring inspirational figures within the U.S. pork industry on the pages of our May issue each year. We started the Masters of the Pork Industry series in 2006. Each of the Masters has spent the better part of his career in pursuit of excellence in his chosen segment of the pork industry.

Who in the pork industry would you most like to interview if given the chance? Would you pick the most successful pork producer you know? A specialist in your chosen field? Maybe you would like to know more about a researcher or veterinarian. The National Hog Farmer staff started a file several years ago. Each year we approach visionary members of our industry with an extensive list of thought-provoking questions about the series of events that led them down the path to success in their careers. 

The process of gathering the information for the stories is really motivating. The interviews begin with a discussion about each person’s rich heritage. Some of our Masters grew up on hog farms, others did not, but all share a passion for the business of pork production.

This year’s Masters include a pork producer, a professor of swine nutrition and management, a pork industry-friendly attorney and a swine veterinarian.

Bill Luckey is a Nebraska pork producer who became hooked on the pork industry at an early age. He has worked tirelessly to support his industry as a member of both the National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council.  He has set an example of both community and industry involvement that is being passed down to his sons. Three of the four sons have returned to the family farm. Luckey provides words of encouragement for producers of all ages when it comes to reaching out to promote their product. He says it may be as simple as talking to people standing in the grocery-store line with pork in their shopping cart. “I think it is always worthwhile to share your story,” he says.

Lee Johnston is a professor of swine nutrition and management, as well as the director of operations for the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN. He has a reputation for taking a common-sense approach to researching sometimes controversial issues pertaining to the pork industry. He has a knack for anticipating research needs and focusing on how proposed changes will impact the practical aspects of pork production. “Our job is to bring science to the table to make sure that any production transitions happen in a way that is good for the producer and the sow, and can be economically viable,” he says.

Eldon McAfee is an attorney with the Beving, Swanson & Forrest law firm in Des Moines, IA. If you look at his resume, listed on the law firm’s website, the first line grabs your attention: “Full-time farmer, 1978 to 1988.” McAfee has been a champion for Iowa pork producers in the legal arena for many years. His personal experience goes a long way in a courtroom, where other attorneys may try to make theoretical arguments about how pigs should be raised today. “I know what it’s like to raise pigs ‘on the ground,’ or on solid floors, and having to scoop manure every day,” he says. “I know the questions to ask, or when to call them on a particular point.”

Pat Halbur, DVM, was raised on a Carroll County, IA, hog farm before becoming a practicing veterinarian in southeastern Iowa. He went on to obtain advanced degrees in diagnostic pathology, and currently serves as professor and chairman of the Iowa State University Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine and executive director of the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. He shares fascinating insight about the important role diagnostic laboratories play in supporting a successful pork industry. “It’s really remarkable to think about the continuously growing interest of swine veterinarians and pork producers when it comes to accessing and applying the very latest technology in animal health. There is likely no other industry where useful information is translated so quickly from the research lab to the farm and back,” he says.

I hope you find value and inspiration in the thoughts of these pork industry veterans and visionaries. I know I was greatly inspired by their thoughts and insights.

Also in this issue, Candace Croney of Purdue University shares her perspective about the impact consumer perception can have on pork production, Bill Gnatzig provides an update on the progression of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), and Swine Management Services (SMS) shares information from its extensive database about finishing closeouts. Read about some of the exciting activities that will be on the schedule at World Pork Expo this year, June 4-6 in Des Moines, IA. You can formulate your World Pork Expo plans in more detail by downloading the World Pork Expo app for both tablets and smartphones.

We hope to see you at World Pork Expo. Stop by the National Hog Farmer booth, number 623 in the Varied Industries Building.