What are the three biggest challenges facing the pork industry?

Pork Board CEO Talks About Biggest Threats to Pork Producers

By JoAnn Alumbaugh, Editor, PORK Network January 19, 2017


Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board is concerned about foreign animal diseases, a disruption in trade, and consumers’ fear of science.

Photo by JoAnn Alumbaugh


  1. Foreign Animal Diseases

A foreign animal disease outbreak would be devastating. I want to pull into this conversation the work the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is doing. One of NPPC’s areas of emphasis is looking at an FMD vaccine bank and they will be working with Congress on that in the next Farm Bill. That’s an example of our sister organization and their role on the policy side. With our checkoff money, we’re making sure we’re working with veterinarians and the industry on facts and crisis management and disease planning – all of it needs to come together if we’re going to be successful in managing it. Again, it’s not if, but when, something happens.


  1. The Future of Trade

Another threat I see is anything that would negatively impact free trade. That can encompass a lot of things – a disease outbreak, and the shutdown of export markets, and suddenly having 25% of the U.S. pork supply stranded here on shore in the U.S.


There’s been a lot of talk about trade and trade issues – fair trade and free trade in this last campaign season. America’s pork producers are excited to see Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa being appointed the ambassador to China – someone who comes from a leading ag states and understands the importance of trade to agriculture. I would encapsulate a lot of that into things that could impact our ability to conduct business globally. We’re part of an inter-connected global system, whether you like it or not. That’s been coming since after WWII and it’s a reality. Trade wars or retaliation – you tend to see ag as one of the poker chips that gets played pretty quickly, because ag has a positive balance of trade in the U.S. and U.S. pork has contributed to that positive trade balance.


  1. Consumers’ Fear of Science

The other threat, I would characterize it as fear of science. A lot of things can come under that umbrella. The public’s fear and/or misunderstanding of science can and will lead to freedom-to-operate issues for pork producers. It impacts decisions that policy-makers make; it impacts the decisions producers make on their farms – their animal health choices, their facilities-management choices – all of those things.


One of the strengths of the NPB is we’re a science and fact-based organization that also builds and maintains deep relationships with the supply chain.

It’s important that when anyone in the C-Suite of the supply chain is thinking about an issue or making business decisions, they know they can turn to the NPB for advice, counsel, insight, context and facts, and the ability to connect back with producers to understand the implications of business decisions.


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