Bryan Humphreys, a veteran of the US pork industry, has been leading the industry’s major producer organization, the National Pork Producers Council, for the past six months. He was named chief executive officer following the retirement of longtime NPPC CEO Neil Dierks. Dierks, who led NPPC for 20 years, in March was inducted into the National Pork Industry Hall of Fame at the National Pork Industry Forum in Louisville, Ky.
Humphreys brings extensive experience to his new role. He formerly worked for NPPC, he was a state association executive, and National Pork Board senior vice president. He has also worked outside the industry in political campaigns, as a lobbyist and as a business owner.
At the National Pork Board, he oversaw a multi-million-dollar budget, and implemented a nationwide producer outreach program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, he served as executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council, fostering award-winning positive image campaigns, and fostering positive relationships with stakeholders and community members. He also directed the Iowa Pork Council and served as director of grassroots operations for NPPC.
“For years, Bryan has been seen as a top leader in the industry,” NPPC President Jen Sorenson said.
Humphreys is a native of Columbus Junction, Iowa, where he grew up on his family’s hog farm which is still farmed by his brothers. He earned degrees from Iowa State University and George Washington University. He lives outside of Des Moines with his wife Theresa, who is a veterinarian, and 10-year-old son Colin.
MEAT+POULTRY: What do you see as some of the value the National Pork Producers Council offers the industry?
Bryan Humphreys: NPPC represents 42 affiliated state associations. We work to ensure that the US pork industry remains a consistent and responsible supplier of high-quality pork to domestic and international markets. Through public policy outreach, NPPC fights for reasonable legislation and regulations, develops revenue and market opportunities, and protects the livelihood of America’s 60,000 pork producers.
In addition to working on legislation, regulations, and trade initiatives, NPPC has its own political action committee, PorkPAC, dedicated to educating and supporting federal lawmakers and candidates who support pork producers. NPPC also uses ad hoc task forces to study various industry issues and maintains strong relationships with other channel partners through the Packer Processor Industry Council and the Pork Alliance Committee. In addition, NPPC works closely with the National Pork Board.
M+P: What are the biggest issues facing the NPPC and pork industry today?
Humphreys: Issues like immigration, product labeling, and federal funding of agricultural programs impact pork producers, who support more than half a million jobs and generate more than $34 billion of gross national product to the US economy. Others include GIPSA, regulatory reform, mandatory price reporting, agricultural labor issues, the Farm Bill, and keeping food affordable for people. Protecting the environment includes our concern about the Waters of the United States Rule, which is overly broad, and sustainability, because pork producers’ livelihood is tied to protecting natural resources.
Animal well-being and food safety are important because pork producers care deeply about the health and welfare of their animals, and nothing is more important than an enduring, safe, nutritious food supply.
M+P: What are your priorities and goals as CEO of the National Pork Producers Council?
Humphreys: We are striving to advance the industry and protect producers’ freedom to operate through innovative strategies and new partnerships. Innovation is particularly important today. We collaborate with producers, stakeholders, state associations and everyone at NPPC to make a lasting impact on farmers across the country, building a coalition that is stronger than ever. That is because we are a collaborative organization, working together with other organizations and people. That is how you get things done in agriculture.
Other specific issues we are concerned about include preventing foreign animal diseases, including African swine fever. So, we are asking for more money for the US Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspectors and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. We would also like to see more staffing for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services.
We are also pleased that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by us and the American Farm Bureau Federation against California’s Proposition 12, which bans the sale of pork from hogs born to sows that were not raised according to the state’s arbitrary production standards.
M+P: How is the labor shortage impacting the pork industry?
Humphreys: There are great labor challenges to our industry that have been building up for years. The US pork industry suffers from a serious labor shortage that hurts both farms and processing plants. The US pork industry is largely dependent on foreign-born workers. But current visa programs fail to meet the workforce needs of US pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers.
To fight labor shortages and deal with these labor problems, we are asking Congress to change the H-2A visa program to cover agricultural workers who work here all the time, including processing plant workers. Right now, H-2A only applies to seasonal farm workers. We would also like to see a pathway to legal status for foreign-born agricultural workers already here in the United States. These challenges are huge, and we must be creative and innovative to meet them.
M+P: Why does the council have offices in Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, DC?
Humphreys: Efforts we make for reasonable legislation, regulations, trade initiatives and support for federal lawmakers to give pork producers the freedom to operate and succeed, are focused on in Washington, DC. So, we need to have a strong presence there.
Other NPPC activities, like career and scholarships for young people from our foundation and other activities supporting pork producers across the US, are focused on in Des Moines. They include farmer spotlights, which focus on pork farms and the pork industry across the US, and the Pork Leadership Institute, sponsored by us and the National Pork Board, to develop future leaders in the pork industry.
M+P: How has the global pandemic affected the American pork industry?
Humphreys: For the past two years, the challenges due to the pandemic have been difficult. With the importance of getting pigs into the market, the supply chain disruptions have been severe. Of course, we (the pork industry) have not been alone in this. All aspects of agriculture, as well as American industry and business have been greatly affected by the pandemic.
M+P: How important are exports to the pork industry?
Humphreys: Exports total 20% to 26% of our business. Therefore, they add significantly to the bottom line of each pork producer.
M+P: How important are trade agreements to the pork industry? What role do free trade deals play in expanding the pork industry?
Humphreys: Building new trade agreements is particularly important to pork producers. Opening new and expanding existing markets for US pork exports through free trade agreements (FTAs) are vital to the continued success of the American pork industry. The importance of trade deals is evident given the United States exports more pork to the 20 countries with which it has FTAs than to all other nations combined.
We have two new markets for pork that are especially important to us. They are Nigeria and India. India is a big win for us, because one billion people live in that country. Nigeria is also important because we can export sausage there. In fact, pork is the only meat in the United States with access to Nigeria.
M+P: How does NPPC maintain strong relationships with other stakeholders in the pork supply chain, such as pork processors and packers? Can you elaborate on the goals of the Packer Processor Industry Council?
Humphreys: Like any relationship, we have our good days and our bad days. The truth is, we really need each other. Pork processors need pork producers, and the producers need the processors, if the pork industry is going to continue to be successful. The main goal of the Packer Processor Industry Council is to continue that good relationship that needs to exist between the producers and processors.
The National Pork Producers Council uses ad hoc task forces to study various industry issues and to maintain strong relationships with other channel partners through the Packer Processor Industry Council and the Pork Alliance Committee. The council helps the producers and processors to continue that good relationship.