The National Pork Board is cutting 18 staff positions in response to the prolonged slump in hog prices, which has reduced pork checkoff revenues. The layoffs, from a staff of 96, are effective July 15.

“Many hog producers have been losing money over the last 18 months, which has turned out to be one of the most severe dips in the price cycle ever,” says Steven Murphy, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. “Producers have had to take a critical look at their own operations, and they expect the same of their checkoff organization.”

The drop in market prices paid producers, together with a 5-cent reduction in the pork checkoff rate approved in 2002, has resulted in a 17.5% drop in the Pork Board's budget in just two years. Last year's budget was about $57 million. The 2004 budget is projected at $47 million.

Technology advances, including new Internet tools, are helping the Pork Board maintain producer programs with fewer full-time staff, says Murphy.