"I was looking at the minutes of that first meeting recently and noticed some striking similarities with today's board," said Everett Forkner, NPB president. "Virgil Rosendale of Illinois was the first elected producer leader of the new board and he noted at that first meeting there were many challenges ahead. The minutes show he also talked about how ensuring producer involvement would be very important to the new board's success. I can say the same things today.”
Before 1986, the US pork industry had a voluntary Checkoff created in 1966 by a group of producers known as the Moline 90. By the early 1980s, pork producers sensed shifting consumer preferences toward leaner meat and ffelt increasing market pressure from other proteins.
Producer leaders determined they needed additional resources to compete and agreed to ask Congress for legislation requiring every pork producer who benefitted from national promotion, research and education efforts to help support those programs. Congress created the framework for the new Checkoff in the 1985 Farm Bill. The legislation required for the Checkoff to continue, a majority of producers must approve it. In 1988, that referendum was approved by producers.
Collections of the new Checkoff began in November 1986, the same month the newly created 15-member NPB met for the first time. The first Checkoff deducted 0.25 percent of the proceeds when a pig was sold and producer leaders hoped to collect about $27 million. Today, producers have increased their support of the Checkoff to 0.4 percent of sale price. In 2011, those proceeds are expected to total approximately $72 million. Law dictates the money can only be used by the national and state pork organizations for promotion, research and consumer education.
During the new board's first meeting, the Other White Meat campaign was approved.
"Our current board approved the Pork Be inspired campaign, an equally ground-breaking marketing and branding effort that helps consumers understand why pork is such a good choice and value for all types of meals," he said. "I'm pretty sure producers who were in the business in 1986 would agree we continue to face challenges not unlike those of 25 years ago. But we've also made great progress, thanks to the Pork Checkoff, in the last 25 years.
Successes include Pork Quality Assurance and Transport Quality Assurance; the growth of exports taking the US from a net importer to being the leading exporter of pork in the world; the research that has led to genetic improvements and swine disease management; the Operation Main Street program that allows producers to tell their stories and promote their product to influential groups all over this country; and the We Care initiative that is building trust among our customers.