The National Pork Board honored Barry Carpenter, retired deputy administrator of the Livestock and Seed Division of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, with its 2012 Distinguished Service Award during the National Pork Industry Forum in Denver March 3. The Distinguished Service Award is given annually to recognize contributions of an outstanding leader to the U.S. pork industry.
In his position at USDA, Carpenter was responsible for overseeing the programs of the National Pork Board, including the budget. He helped guide several key Pork Checkoff programs through the maze of USDA approvals, including investment in key research such as the National Air Emissions Study, the initiation of PQA Plus, the board's purchase of "The Other White Meat" and Foreign Market Development programs that have helped U.S. Pork achieve record export levels.
Carpenter also assisted in helping the board through a very difficult period in 2000, following a national referendum of hog farmers who had voted against continuing the Pork Checkoff. That referendum was eventually found to be illegal by a federal court, resulting in a settlement agreement that shifted many of the responsibilities of the Pork Checkoff from the National Producers Council to the National Pork Board.
The decision to shut down the Checkoff "was very traumatic," Carpenter said. "I spent many hours talking to the leadership of the USDA trying to explain to them why that was not the right decision, but at the end of the day that was the decision that was made, and having to deliver that message to the Pork Board was very challenging, very painful, but it was something as a public servant I was obligated to do, and carry that mission out. But certainly my heart wasn't in it, and I was elated when the decision got reversed."
Jim Meimann, the National Pork Board's senior vice president, worked closely with Carpenter for many years. "Barry is an ag guy at heart," Meimann said. "He knows markets and producers and wants what is best for them. He saw government as a partner with the pork industry working together to make a positive difference."
Meimann said even after the referendum was overturned, the settlement agreement required a lot of new guidelines and systems. "Barry did his job and said no when necessary, but he always listened and tried to understand what we were trying to do. When the guidelines were unclear he looked for ways to help producers get done what they wanted with their money. That takes courage and leadership. I don't think we'd be nearly in the place we are today in terms of the ability for producers to manage their own programs."
Carpenter, who grew up on a Florida farm where he raised pigs, maintains a healthy respect for the pork industry. "It is a great industry," he said, "made up of a lot of families, a lot of people who really have their heart in it, and I think it's a great product. Great strides have been made through production management and genetics. Those are all paying off now in the domestic and export markets, and I think they will continue."
Since his retirement from the USDA in 2007, Carpenter has been serving as the chief executive officer of the National Meat Association.
"The pork industry has a long list of truly outstanding Distinguished Service Award winners," said Everett Forkner, National Pork Board president and a pork producer from Richards, Mo. "Barry Carpenter is a most worthy addition to that outstanding group of people."