National Pork Board members have spent several hectic months preparing to assume direct management of checkoff-funded programs.



The transition and separation process outlined in the settlement agreement between the USDA and pork producers last March is the driving force of the restructuring.

With an eye on the agreement's July 1 target date, they began by enlisting the help of RSM McGladrey, Des Moines, IA, an accounting/business management-consulting firm hired to provide third-party, independent oversight for the transition-separation process.

The McGladrey staff has completed a business and operations review and offered recommendations for an effective transition. A transition business plan was filed with USDA in early June. Approval was pending at press time.

In addition, a National Pork Board management triad was appointed to provide temporary leadership to manage day-to-day business activities and to answer employees' questions during the transition process. This threesome, operating under the business moniker “Office of the President,” includes Neil Dierks, senior vice president of programs for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC); Jim Meimann, senior vice president of administrative services for NPPC; and Mike Simpson, executive vice president for the National Pork Board.

Transition Plans Advance

The National Pork Board met in early June to solidify actions pertaining to the target date.

The transition plans signal a major shift in responsibility for the National Pork Board, from granting contracts to outside vendors for operation and management of checkoff-funded programs to direct management of all checkoff-funded programs. Therefore, NPPC staff whose primary job responsibilities were tied to checkoff-funded projects were invited to become a part of the National Pork Board staff responsible for administering and implementing programs. Eighty-four full-time NPPC employees were offered the opportunity to become National Pork Board employees; 79 accepted.

National Pork Board President John Kellogg estimates about 80% of the housekeeping details, including those involving accounting and human resources issues, were completed by June 30. The USDA agreement provides a grace period to work through all remaining details by year's end, which may include providing some services to NPPC “on a cost basis,” he says.

By July 1, all National Pork Board and NPPC communications will be handled separately, including publications, newsletters and respective Web sites: www.porkboard.org and www.nppc.org.

The transition team also is working through a rental agreement that will allow the National Pork Board staff to maintain their headquarters at the existing NPPC building in Des Moines. A tentative lease agreement was based on a third-party appraisal of the property and a comparison of competitive lease agreements for the area. Monthly rent is projected at about $30,000.

Who Owns the Slogan?

One of the unresolved issues that remains is who really has the rights to use “Pork — the Other White Meat?”

On one hand, the campaign was introduced by NPPC before the mandatory checkoff was initiated. The monies to develop the campaign were voluntary checkoff dollars provided by producers. On the other hand, many mandatory checkoff dollars were used to implement the highly recognized slogan and campaign.

Muddying the waters even further, NPPC allocated non-checkoff dollars to mount legal defense against other commodities that tried to capitalize on its popularity. Ownership of the campaign currently rests with NPPC.

“Both groups agree that this issue must be resolved for the benefit of pork producers,” Kellogg comments. “We're dedicated to it not being an divisive issue.”

CEO Search

National Pork Board Vice President Hugh Dorminy, chair of the CEO search committee, provided timeline goals to fill the organization's top vacancy.

The committee selected EFL Associates of Kansas City to conduct the initial search for candidates. The search firm will narrow the field to about 10 in July. Those finalists will be interviewed by the search firm and recommendations presented to the committee in early August.

The search committee plans to narrow the field to three candidates who will undergo in-person interviews. The goal is to identify the leading candidate and negotiate a contract by early September.

“We're not in a rush to fill the position,” says Dorminy. “We want an open and transparent process that can stand the light of day.”