Meeting 25 years and a few days after the first National Pork Board convened, members of the National Pork Board will gather Nov. 15-16 in Des Moines to celebrate the board's silver anniversary and to continue the work begun with the launch of the Pork Checkoff in November 1986.

“I was looking at the minutes of that first meeting recently and noticed some striking similarities with today's board," says Everett Forkner, a Richards, MO, pork producer and president of the National Pork Board. “Virgil Rosendale of Illinois was the first elected producer leader of the new board and he noted at that first meeting that there were many challenges ahead. The minutes show he also talked about how ensuring producer involvement would be very important to the new board's success. I can say the same things today," Forkner says.

The board's observance of its 25th anniversary will include a luncheon where members of the National Pork Board will honor staff and the nine employees who have 25 years of service.

Prior to 1986, the pork industry had a voluntary Checkoff created in 1966 by a visionary group of producers known as the “Moline 90.” But by the early 1980s, pork producers were sensing shifting consumer preferences toward leaner meat and feeling new market pressure from other proteins. Producer leaders determined they were going to need additional resources to compete and agreed the best solution was to ask Congress for legislation requiring every pork producer who benefitted from national promotion, research and education efforts to help support those programs.

Congress created the framework for the new Checkoff in the 1985 Farm Bill. The legislation required that for the Checkoff to continue, a majority of producers must approve it. That referendum was approved overwhelmingly by producers in 1988.

In the meantime, collections of the new Checkoff began in November 1986, the same month the newly created 15-member National Pork Board met for the first time. The first Checkoff deducted 0.25% of the proceeds when a pig was sold and producer leaders hoped to collect about $27 million.

Today, producers have increased their support of the Checkoff to 0.4% of sale price. In 2011, those proceeds are expected to total approximately $72 million. By law, the money can be used by the national and state pork organizations only for promotion, research and consumer education.

Forkner says November 1986 was a historic month in yet another way that has similarities to 2011. He notes that it was during the new board's first meeting that the Other White Meat® campaign was approved. “Our current board just months ago approved the Pork® Be inspiredsm campaign, an equally ground-breaking marketing and branding effort that helps consumers understand why pork is such a good choice and value for all types of meals.

“I'm pretty sure that producers who were in the business in 1986 – and that includes me – would agree that we continue to face challenges not unlike those of 25 years ago. But I think we'd also agree we've made great progress, thanks to the Pork Checkoff, in the last 25 years. I can name a few just off the top of my head: Pork Quality Assurance® and Transport Quality Assurance®; the growth of exports taking us from a net importer to being the leading exporter of pork in the world; the research that has led to genetic improvements and swine disease management; our Operation Main Street program that allows producers to tell their stories and promote their product to influential groups all over this country; and our We Care initiative that is building trust among our customers."

Forkner adds, "We focus so hard on the everyday challenges we as producers face that we sometimes forget to pause and reflect on all the good things we've accomplished. That's what we're doing with this 25th anniversary celebration."

During its business meeting, which begins at 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, the board is expected to:

  • Approve the 2012 budget submitted to the board by the producer Plan of Work Task Force in September. The budget calls for program spending of $69.9 million.
  • Receive a progress report on certifications and site assessments completed in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program. With a goal of having all sites with pigs assessed, sites representing approximately 73% of all pigs in the United States have been assessed by a trained third-party advisor.
  • Hear recommendations to improve the way the national and state pork organizations work together.
  • Begin planning for 2012 Pork Industry Forum in Denver, March 1-3.

Meetings of the National Pork Board are open to the public. Those wishing to attend are asked to contact Lorraine Garner, lgarner@pork.org, (515) 223-2600.