Last July I wrote an editorial, "Selling Your Hog Operation," where I encouraged pork producers to set aside their favorite feed, seed or "Pork - The Other White Meat" hat and, instead, don their "business" hat.
I wanted pork producers to see their hog enterprise as an integral part of the business community, to accept the social and business obligations that go with it. Like the Chrysler dealer, the grocery store owner, or the lawyer, business people are expected to promote the products and services they offer. Likewise, they are expected to operate within the social and legal boundaries set in the community, county, state, country.
Pork production has moved well beyond the general, diversified farms of the past. That's not to say the diversified crop and livestock farms are a thing of the past. Not at all. It does say that people in most communities - your friends and neighbors - care about how you conduct your business. They care about how waste from your hog enterprise is stored and utilized. They care about the insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers you apply to your crops.
For various reasons, farm-based people producing food and fiber may have come under less scrutiny than the industries that didn't blend into the landscape quite so well.
Production systems have changed the view on the landscape and the public has become more interested.
This community consciousness may reflect the environmental attitudes of recent years. It may even be the evolution of the Baby Boomers with their many causes and pleas for accountability with events ranging from the global warming to Vietnam. This accountability may have rubbed off on their sons and daughters - and that's not all bad either.
Most people involved in production agriculture follow the rules. The frustration comes when, after their best efforts to abide by them, the rules are changed.
Presently, the pork industry has a patchwork of rules and regulations that would rival grandma's most elaborate quilt. It's becoming tougher to play by the rules because someone keeps changing them.
I hold in my hand a document that could help change that. It's called the "Comprehensive Regulatory Framework For Pork Production." It is a comprehensive effort by the citizenry - including input from pork producers - to bring some rhyme, reason and standardization to the rules of pork production.
This document, destined to become known simply as "The Framework" document, is the culmination of over eight months of dialog about pork production's impact on the environment. During scads of meetings held around the country, all sides had an opportunity to present their thoughts, concerns, supportive science and personal experiences as they pertain to pork production today and in the future.
The document will be widely circulated and discussed at state pork producer meetings and events this winter. Take time to read, study and discuss it. Start with our synopsis of the "Framework" (page 8). If you can't find a copy, call the National Pork Producers Council (1-800-456-7675) or me.
Whether the Framework will be utilized for its intended purpose remains to be seen. The goal was to draft a template or blueprint to guide regulatory officials and decision-makers involved in permitting new or expanding hog businesses. The recommendations will have no effect unless and until they become law or are otherwise adopted by federal, state, county policymakers.
Here's my "first take" on the document:
It does not restrict where you can raise hogs; rather, it offers guidelines to help you do so wherever you choose. This document could easily serve as the precursor to developing a long-range, strategic plan for your hog operation. Whether you intend to expand, get out, or maintain the status quo, the document provides a solid basis for building the "marching orders" for your business.
It provides standards that, when met, allow you to go about your business. You will be expected to develop a manure management plan, (manure) nutrient utilization plan, emergency response plans and operator certification.
"Operator certification" gave me cause to pause. Goodness knows we don't need more red tape. Yet, we must make sure that everyone involved with things like feed mixing, waste application, etc., knows what they are doing. You must pass a driving test before you can operate a motor vehicle. For our own good, and to reassure the general public, this could help. I need to think on that a little more.
The Framework also calls for financial and technical assistance to help the industry put these "programs of responsibility" in place.
Finally, there's a call for more research. Obviously, the answers aren't all in. Why do identical operations emit different levels of odor? What management practices have an impact on water quality? Good science will prevail.
If you make no other New Year's resolution, make this one - familiarize yourself with the "Comprehensive Regulatory Framework For Pork Producers." Your future may depend on it.