The National Pork Board’s challenge is working to maintain strong pork demand in the face of rising retail meat prices and continuing challenges to producer profitability. That challenge will be addressed next week as the board begins work on its 2012 plan and budget. The board will meet Tuesday during the annual Pork Industry Conference at the Wisconsin Dells.

The planning process begins each year by assessing market conditions, projecting available checkoff revenue and establishing a fiscal year spending target. Steve Meyer, agricultural economist who consults for the board, predicts next year should look much like the current year. “We don’t expect much change in supply, and given strong demand for pork and strong export demand, prices should remain strong,” he says.

For 2011, the board projects about $72 million in revenue from the Pork Checkoff. Pork producers contribute 0.4% of the sales price of each hog they sell. Pork importers chip in a similar amount based on sales. Projections are for 108 million hogs to be marketed in the United States in 2011. Of checkoff contributions, the board distributes roughly 20% to state pork organizations to promote pork and conduct research, with the remainder devoted to national programs in promotion, research and consumer information.

“We reached agreement at our last meeting that we intend to maintain about two months of anticipated revenue in reserve for contingencies and emergencies,” says Board President Everett Forkner, a pork producer from Richards, MO. “So once we agree what 2012 looks like, we should be able to set a reasonable target for 2012 spending. We’re committed this year to funding only those projects that are consistent with the strategic plan we approved two years ago. And we’re also committed to addressing our management of the pork industry’s most pressing issues.”

Once a spending target is established, producer-led committees and National Pork Board staff start addressing program and budget requests. The staff will present a proposed balanced budget to a task force of 75 producers from across the country in September. Task force members review that budget and forward their recommendations to the board for final consideration in November.

The board expects to hear requests to continue funding the new Pork. Be Inspired branding initiative for 2012, which includes national television advertising – the first promotion on national television since 2006. The board also expects producers to request continued research into feed efficiency and alternative feedstuffs as record-high feed costs are projected to continue to threaten producer profitability.

The board is also expected to review its participation in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. The alliance is comprised of more than 40 commodity associations and businesses involved in production agriculture working to improve consumer trust in today’s agriculture and increase farmers’ voice in public dialogue about healthy food. The board has been represented by Dale Norton, a pork producer and Pork Board member from Bronson, MI.

In addition, the board will hear updates on the success of its branding initiative and work to strengthen partnerships with state pork organizations.

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