Participation in the Pork Checkoff-funded Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program has reached record highs since its inception in 1989. Nationwide, more than 59,000 pork producers have achieved PQA Plus-certification with an additional 28,000 young people certified through the Youth PQA Plus program.

In Iowa, nearly 16,000 hog farmers are certified in PQA Plus and just under 700 young people are certified in the youth program.

“The rising participation in the PQA Plus program shows pork producers’ commitment to doing the right thing on their farms and to providing consumers with high-quality, responsibly raised pork,” says Karen Richter, National Pork Board president and pork producer from Montgomery, MN.

The PQA Plus program sets industry standards for food safety and animal well-being. It provides information to ensure producers can measure, track and continuously improve animal well-being. Revisions are made to the program every three years to increase its effectiveness by updating industry practices based on new research.

The revised PQA Plus program rolled out this year, has been enhanced with an online recertification option for producers and a written test portion.

“While PQA Plus remains an education program, producers wanted to take it to the next level,” says Bill Winkelman, Pork Checkoff’s vice president of producer and industry relations. “Adding a testing component reinforces the learning objectives, similar to the Pork Checkoff’s successful Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) program.”

To support continual improvement, the site assessment portion of the program encourages producers to work with their PQA Plus advisor in developing and submitting a corrective action plan in the event that a farm-site assessment identifies an area of the operation that needs an improvement to bring it into compliance.

“While the focus remains on animal care and producing safe food, the new PQA Plus program also highlights the importance of protecting public health, safeguarding natural resources and providing a safe work environment,” Winkelman says.

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Pork importers also invest a comparable amount. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety.

For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-PORK or visit www.pork.org.