The worst drought to hit the United States since the 1950s is prompting the National Pork Board to consider a boost to marketing efforts in its 2013 budget before giving it final approval next week. The board meets in Des Moines Monday through Wednesday.
"The drought has changed the landscape for pork producers," said National Pork Board President Conley Nelson. "Record-high corn and soybean prices have driven hog-production costs to record levels, resulting in significant financial losses. As a result, many farmers have marketed some of their animals earlier than they would have otherwise and kept fewer young female pigs for breeding.
Nelson said that increase means there is more pork on the market now than normal, and by spring there will be less pork on the market than usual.
"The National Pork Board is in a position to help its farmers now and in the spring with some additional promotional support, and that is what the board will address next week," Nelson said.
One proposal, Nelson said, is to add additional resources to both the 2013 domestic product marketing budget and international marketing programs.
"Pork Checkoff revenues for 2012 are projected to be slightly higher than we thought, and Pork Checkoff revenues for 2013 are going to be higher than earlier projected by about $3.3 million. We can put that money in our reserves for future needs, or we can use that money now to help producers," Nelson said. "I will be encouraging my fellow board members to use this money now to promote our product both at home and abroad."
The board typically approves its annual budget at the November meeting. A group of 50 producers that advises the board on the budget met in September and recommended a $67 million budget for 2013 based on revenue estimates then. If the board approves the additional marketing money and some research projects that were set aside in September, the 2013 budget would be approximately $69.8 million.
Final approval of the budget comes from the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees Pork Checkoff expenditures.
The board also will get a report on the efforts of pork producers to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Pork Checkoff's events trailer is in Tom's River, N.J., one of the areas hit by last week's record storm, serving 2,000 pounds of pork loin donated by Smithfield Foods and 8,000 sausage patties donated by Johnsonville. Ten farmers from northwest Iowa were first on the scene to grill and serve. Farmers from other states also are arriving to help the effort, which is expected to continue at least through this weekend.
"This is testimony to our farmers' belief in living out the ethical principles that underpin the pork production industry's We Care initiative," Nelson said. "One of our principles is a commitment to helping our communities, and this New Jersey community is in dire need of help."
In addition to budget deliberations and the relief report, the board will meet on Wednesday with directors of the Iowa Pork Producers Association to discuss mutual concerns. And on Tuesday, board members will have its annual celebration luncheon with Pork Checkoff employees.
The board also is expected to:
• Hear Allan Stokes, the board's director of environmental programs, outline a new definition for sustainability. Stokes also will lead a discussion about the future of the board's Environmental Stewards awards program.
• Get an update on progress at the Fair Oaks Pork Adventure project in Fair Oaks, Ind. The board has committed $1 million to the construction of an educational center there and an additional $1 million contingent on project organizers raising approximately $7.6 million.
• Receive a progress report on the Pork Be inspired campaign, now in its second year.
• Meet with officials of Tyson Foods to discuss Tyson's new Farm Check program, an effort that builds on the board's Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification and assessment program.