The National Pork Board's budget for 2006 calls for spending $48.8 million in pork checkoff revenue to address a host of critical issues. The budget was sent to the secretary of agriculture for final approval.

The board recommends that $20.6 million be used to promote domestic demand for pork. Funding would support, in part, the “Don't be blah” marketing and advertising program that debuted in the second half of 2005.

That program is changing purchasing and cooking habits of its target audience — women under the age of 40, according to Danita Rodibaugh, Pork Board president and a producer from Rensselaer, IN.

Demand-building efforts in 2006 include nationwide, focused retail promotions in the test markets of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia and Sacramento.

Efforts will also continue to promote pork's place on restaurant menus; those efforts yielded 8% growth in 2005.

The budget also calls for market research, additional promotion of pork with Hispanic consumers, continuation of the Pork Racing program, and enhanced efforts to inform consumers of the nutritional benefits of pork.

The board also identified several key issues to be addressed: improving the overall image of the pork industry, resolution of the swine welfare issue with consumers, developing a long-range strategy for U.S. pork exports and finding answers to the odor issue.

The budget allocates $10.5 million for state pork producer groups to conduct their own promotion, research and consumer information programs.

Rodibaugh says the 2006 budget is based on an industry forecast of 104.2 million hogs marketed at an average live weight of 271 lb. Market prices are projected to range between $42.50 and $45.80/cwt. Producers contribute four-tenths of 1% from the sale of their hogs to the pork checkoff.

The board approved three research projects for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), all dealing with improving vaccination strategies.

A $220,000 project aims to help prevent or respond to an especially virulent form of postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) first spotted in Quebec, which has spread to Ontario. PMWS is a wasting disease of weaned pigs, now seen in market weight swine as well. It is characterized by progressive weight loss, jaundice and high death losses.

The board reviewed results of its 2005 producer opinion survey. In the survey, 71% of producers supported the pork checkoff and 19% were opposed. In 2004, 61% of producers were in favor and 26% were opposed.

“We've made a major effort in the last several years to reach out and let producers know all of the work that's being done on their behalf through the checkoff,” explains Rodibaugh. “I think these results show that when producers became aware of all of these programs and activities on their behalf, that they see the real value of their checkoff investment.”