As pork producers struggle with record-high feed prices caused by the worst U.S. drought since the 1950s, the National Pork Board has approved domestic and international marketing budgets that will help drive pork demand at a critical time.

The board is committing $27.7 million in fiscal year 2013 for domestic marketing efforts and $7.1 million for international marketing efforts that will help stem producer losses that are forecast for next year. The board added almost $2 million in additional dollars to the marketing effort from its September preliminary budget.

The action came as the board approved a 2013 program budget of $69.8 million, slightly higher than the 2012 budget of $69.3 million. The budget now goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for final approval. USDA oversees the National Pork Board's spending of the Pork Checkoff.

“Pork is a great value in the grocery store today for consumers, but we know we face challenges in the year ahead,” says National Pork Board President Conley Nelson, an Algona, IA, farmer and pork production executive. “As pork prices rise next year because of reduced pork supplies, supporting the Pork Be Inspired advertising and promotional campaign is going to be important in moving more pork. During the first quarter of 2013, the Pork Checkoff is working to feature pork at retail, in foodservice and online for a short-term, measurable impact for farmers.”

Nelson adds, “The board added more funding for domestic promotional support to ensure that we can continue to build upon the success of the Pork Be Inspired campaign. The campaign has been able to grow its target audience – consumers who are medium-to-heavy fresh-pork eaters –from 30% of U.S. households to 35%.”

National data show that consumption of fresh pork is holding steady among all consumers while consumers in the Checkoff's Pork Be Inspired target audience are trending toward higher intake. In September, the amount spent per U.S. consumer on pork was the highest of any month since 2004.

In addition, the recent Pork Checkoff tracking study conducted in June surveyed 1,200 U.S. households and found that targeted consumers reported enjoying three servings of fresh pork in the previous two weeks. These consumers are open to fresh pork, with more rating fresh pork cuts higher compared with previous tracking studies.

Internationally, U.S. pork exports are on pace to match the 2011 record of $6.108 billion in value and 4.97 billion pounds. For the first eight months of the year, export value is more than $56 per head.

“Farmers have come to depend on export markets,” Nelson says. “Investing additional dollars into international marketing programs will allow the checkoff to expand U.S. Meat Export Federation promotions, as well as to fund research to continue to keep export markets open and look at new market opportunities.”