How would you describe the climate in the pork industry today?

I've struggled with the right choice of words to put on the cover of this issue for several weeks. As the National Hog Farmer staff outlined the stories for this issue, tracked down leads, conducted extensive interviews and, in effect, blanketed the pork industry to bring you this annual update, the choice of words and graphics took on more meaning.

Given that weighty package of editorial material, what few descriptive words can we place on the cover to effectively convey the activities swirling throughout the swine industry - the victories, the losses, the challenges, the opportunities?

Is the word "controversy" too strong? Surely there is not universal agreement about who should raise the hogs, nor where. Many environmental/water quality issues are still being debated. And the list goes on - food safety concerns, foreign diseases, checkoff issues, etcetera, etcetera.

Would it be better to describe the pork industry climate as turbulent? Perhaps, in some communities. But again, the criticism leveled at pork production usually comes from a segment of society with their own agenda, which runs counter to pork industry trends.

Would terms like "evolving" or "in transition" be more descriptive of the activity we're seeing?

Any number of verbs or adjectives could be used to help describe the underlying momentum that has carried the industry through several decades of transition. From the introduction of confinement systems to present-day technology like separate-site production, segregated early weaning, wean-to-finish, specialized feed grains, artificial insemination and so on and so on, pork producers have remained progressive and increasingly proficient at their trade.

The term I like best in describing today's pork industry is "dynamic."

Webster's first listing, by definition, is "a: of or relating to physical force or energy." What follows is even better: "b: marked by unusual, continuous and productive activity or change; energetic, forceful;" also "an underlying cause of change or growth."

True, plenty of "controversy" exists. But controversy isn't always bad. Again, turning to my trusty Webster's dictionary, the definition reads: "an expression of opposing views." Differing views is exactly what's driving producers and allied industry to solve odor problems, to establish safer farm-to-fork handling methods to ensure food safety. Even better, there are people on both sides of the negotiation table working toward solutions.

The public's attitude toward pork production has changed in proportion to the adoption of new methods and technology. Whether you want to be or not, the issues surrounding the pork industry and the reporting of those issues in the general press has placed you in the public's subconscience.

It is the hope of the National Hog Farmer staff that the issue you hold in your hands will provide a better understanding and appreciation for the "state of the industry." These pages should help arm you with some solutions and some insight to help us avoid certain pitfalls.

I like the word "dynamic" because it's more positive. And, on that note, I'd like to offer one final thought. I've often felt that the general public - even some people in your rural community - may lack an appreciation for the impact your pork production business has on the economy. Therefore, I'm proposing a campaign using this coupon to help spread the word. Just clip it and take it to your local quick-print shop and have a couple hundred reprinted. Feel free to reproduce it as much and as often as you'd like.

Then, every time you write a check, pay a bill, eat at the local diner, go bowling, buy gas ... every time you spend dollars generated by your pork production business, put one of these coupons with your payment. It will help remind the proprietor that your pork business allows you to support his/her business. Pass it on.