Pork Checkoff is poised to address five key issues in the coming year.

The National Pork Board has signed off on a $51 million budget and operating plan for 2008 that addresses five critical issues facing the U.S. pork industry. The board approved the budget at its Nov. 13-14 meeting in Des Moines, IA.

The budget now goes to the U.S. secretary of agriculture for final approval.

The five critical issues funded are: the competitive advantage for U.S. pork; the safeguard and expansion of international markets; domestic pork expenditures; the trust and image of the U.S. pork industry; and the development of human capital.

“The 2008 budget plan combines programs that continue to work for producers with a number of exciting new ideas,” says Lynn Harrison, an Elk Mound, WI, pork producer and president of the National Pork Board. “Approximately 20% of this budget will go directly to state pork organizations to allow them to conduct their own checkoff-sponsored activities and to partner with national programs,” he adds. “On the national level, we have approved 22 new projects representing about $4.8 million of the budget.”

More than $5 million is allocated to building trust with consumers and improving the overall image of the pork industry using the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and Operation Main Street.

New to the trust and image area is an appropriation to work with other pork and farm groups and food chain partners to get a better understanding of modern pork production and its contributions to a safe, high-quality and reliable source of food.

An expanding program calls for grilling and conducting other promotions at major sporting events, food festivals, auto races and state fairs.

Research efforts will continue for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, porcine circovirus-associated disease, euthanasia procedures, nutritional efficiency, sow longevity, animal well-being, pork safety, environmental practices and antibiotic use.

The board also added financial support for a genome sequencing research project designed to help scientists make specific use of the pig gene sequencing work led by researchers at the University of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a consortium of international scientists.

Funding also continues to support the U.S. Meat Export Federation in building export markets for U.S. pork.

The national advertising campaign for The Other White Meat — Don't Be Blah program was also funded.