By Tim Alexander
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – National Pork Board (NPB) CEO Bill Even keynoted the 2022 Illinois Pork Expo to unveil a sustainability program and encourage producers to complete checkoff-funded on-farm sustainability reports.
Speaking to a full board of directors and a packed gallery during their annual meeting, Even told members of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) “we need your information” in order to prove the industry’s sustainability efforts to an evolving consumer base, and to avoid further government regulation of farming practices.
“What the industry is now asking for is proof. And what we should do as an industry is to know what’s going on, on our farms, so that we have proof. We put together with your checkoff dollars the ability for any of you to create a sustainability report for your farm. We currently have 120 farms enrolled, 170,000 acres and 1.5 million pigs,” Even said, before laying out three examples of why NPB is recommending sustainability reports for pig farms.
“It empowers you for conversations that are going to start happening in this nation around carbon markets, carbon trading and the ability to start monetizing your hard work. Second, Jennifer (Tirey, IPPA executive director) is going to need the anonymous aggregated rollup data from Illinois if she is going to be able to talk confidently and competently with county commissioners or at the statehouse here in Springfield,” Even said.
“At the national level, the National Pork Producers Council is going to need this information so they can tell the national sustainability story in Washington, D.C. The more farms we have the better and richer the data is. All you have to do is call us at the Checkoff and we’ll get you set up.”
NPB’s new sustainability goals employ metrics to measure producers’ progress and are closely aligned with 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They build on the industry’s We Care Ethical Principles, introduced in 2007: animal well-being, environmental stewardship, people and employees, communities, public health and food safety.
By utilizing a pre-existing measurement infrastructure to collect real, on-farm data, each goal will be tracked and reported regularly on behalf of the industry. Progress toward the metric will be gauged on the percentage of pigs or farms for which NPB receives reports through an industry-wide database.
It generally takes about two hours to complete a sustainability report for a farm, with free help available to producers. “We have a third-party group that will come to your farm and do this work for you. The checkoff does not keep or control your information – it is all handled by a third-party firm,” Even said.
Environmental goals associated with NPB’s new sustainability program include:
- Continuously improve water-use efficiency through advanced agriculture practices, aggressive implementation of on-farm water-use targets and best management practices.
- Use agriculture practices that improve soil, land, and biodiversity, while restoring and protecting natural habitats to further decrease our footprint from a 2015 baseline.
- Contribute to improving the quality of surrounding water bodies through agriculture practices, including reducing nutrient run-off, implementing nutrient management plans, managing manure and protecting riparian areas located on farms.
- By 2030, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from a 2015 baseline. (NPB website)
The sustainability push is part of NPB’s 2022 goal to build trust and add value through a positive image of U.S. pork. Other 2022 goals include keeping a lid on African swine flu (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases (FADs) in the United States. To help veterinarians manage FAD outbreaks, Even encouraged producers to utilize AgView (www.AgView.com), a free contact tracing application for pigs supported by NPB.
“This is an app that sits on top of all of your existing systems and communicates with them to allow you at your discretion to share with your state veterinarian as they try and manage an ASF outbreak. This is about preparedness, and is part of your prevention strategy,” he said.