Jon Caspers, President of the National Pork Producers Council speaks exclusively to ThePigSite.com
Jon Caspers of Swaledale, Iowa, is co-owner and general manager of Pleasant Valley Pork Corp., a farrow-to-finish operation that markets 20,000 hogs annually.
A member of the NPPC Board of Directors since 1999, Caspers was named vice president during the 2001 National Pork Industry Forum. Caspers has been both an NPPC and Pork Act delegate at the National Pork Industry Forum. He is chairman of the Swine Health Committee and the Price Discovery Task Force.
He is a member of the Science Committee, Trade Committee, National Swine Center Oversight Committee and the National Pig Research and Information Center Liaison Committee. He is a member of the Contracting Technical Task Force. Also on the national level, he is a representative to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Caspers is past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and has served on the Iowa Board of Directors for many years. In 1993, he was named a Pork All-American for Iowa.
Caspers earned an associate's degree in farm operation and management from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls. He and his wife Carol have two children, Joni and David.
Today the United States is one of the world?s leading pork-producing countries and is second to only Canada as the largest exporter, tied with Denmark. U.S. production accounts for about 10 percent of the world?s supply.
Currently, there are approximately 85,000 pork operations in the US compared to nearly three million in the 1950s. Whilst the number of farms has decreased, the size of those remaining has increased such that nearly 80 percent of hogs are grown on farms which produce 5,000 or more hogs per year.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is one of the nation?s largest livestock commodity organizations. It has producer members in 44 affiliated state associations and provides a unified voice for America?s pork producers on a wide range of industry and public policy issues.
Our intrepid reporter caught up with Jon Caspers, the President of the NPPC and put the following questions to him:
What are some of the biggest policy issues that U.S. pork producers face now in Congress?
NPPC has actively lobbied members of Congress to replace the current provisions for mandatory country-of-origin meat labeling into a "workable voluntary" program for pork. The proposed law could have significant costs for the U.S. pork industry including additional on-farm costs for producers and impacts on pork exports. In addition, NPPC is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accelerate the implementation of an enhanced mandatory animal identification system to ensure that a rapid response would be mounted in the case of a foreign disease outbreak.
Other policy issues of importance to U.S. pork producers are the continued usage of antibiotics to treat livestock, access to environmental quality incentive program funding to comply with environmental regulations aimed at livestock feeding operations and increased market access for U.S. pork throughout the world.
What can less sophisticated pork industries in other countries around the world learn from the success of some public policy initiatives NPPC has undertaken?
Credibility is the key issue. Arguments that are based on emotion or that
seek only to protect producers from change undermine the credibility of
producers. Arguments must be based on sound science, the rule of law, and
market economics. When an organization loses its credibility, it can not be
How has international trade impacted the US pork industry and what do you consider the future should bring ?
International trade has provided a huge boost to the U.S. pork industry. Last year, U.S. pork exports set records with 726,484 metric tons (MT) shipped overseas valued at $1.504 billion. Future success depends on expanding U.S. access to foreign markets, as much of the growth in U.S. pork exports is directly attributable to new and expanded market access. NPPC will continue to work with the Bush Administration and update officials on key issues of concern to U.S. pork producers in the trade arena.
On the animal welfare front there have been some initiatives across the US of late to ban the use of gestation stalls, a common housing method for sows. Why does NPPC believe this is happening and how is the organization reacting to this specifically and other similar initiatives in general?
NPPC believes that the initiatives that have cropped up around the U.S. to ban the use of gestation stalls for housing pregnant sows are significantly aimed at reducing meat consumption in the nation and are not concerned with welfare of the animal. Last year, the state of Florida banned the use of the stalls following a ballot initiative in the November elections that forced the only two producers in the state, which used the stalls out of business.
Pigs housed in gestation stalls in modern buildings are provided with a more uniform temperature and protection from the weather. In addition to keeping sows from biting one another, nutritional programs can also be more evenly distributed and the young are protected from potentially being crushed by the sow when they are nursing. All production systems have challenges to animal welfare which management must effectively address.
NPPC believes that every pork producer should have the freedom to operate in a responsible manner. These attempts to force producers out of business, are being taken very seriously. The organization is working closely with state associations and the National Pork Board to provide producers with educational information and legislative counsel. Of concern right now, is a similar attempt in the state of California to place a ban on the use of the stalls on the ballot. In other states such as Texas, Maryland and Rhode Island, where similar legislative attempts were conducted, those attempts were successfully stopped. NPPC believes strongly that it's very important that science dictate what is the best method of production rather than the legislature.
In the UK, pork sausages come in countless sizes, shapes and flavors. We at ThePigSite.com believe the next big product to hit the U.S. market will be the Great British Breakfast sausage?what is your view?
Although I am partial to the wonderful sausages (also known as bangers) produced in Great Britain, I would be very surprised if they made a big splash in the U.S.
American consumers have so much variety to choose from these days in retail meat cases. Today, there are sausages not only made from pork, but also from chicken, duck, beef, and turkey. Health conscious consumers in the U.S. also look for lean choices and the sausages produced in the U.K. contain a great deal of salt and bread filler, which also would prompt low-carbohydrate diet followers to pass over the bangers and reach for the bacon.
One of the fastest growing center of the plate items in the US is dinner sausages, however.
Jon Caspers, President of the National Pork Producers Council
is a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa.
Source: ThePigSite's intrepid interviewer - October 2003