Farm Food Facts

The Importance of Collaboration During Covid-19 with the National Pork Board

August 18, 2020 USFRA
Farm Food Facts
The Importance of Collaboration During Covid-19 with the National Pork Board
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
The Importance of Collaboration During Covid-19 with the National Pork Board
Aug 18, 2020
USFRA

This week we interviewed two members for the National Prok Board, CEO Bill Even and Brad Greenway, the2016 Pig Farmer of the Year.  Listen as they discuss the importance of collaboration during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Show Notes Transcript

This week we interviewed two members for the National Prok Board, CEO Bill Even and Brad Greenway, the2016 Pig Farmer of the Year.  Listen as they discuss the importance of collaboration during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 Honor the Harvest Forum. Farm Food Facts, w here every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to the U S farmers and ranchers in action weekly video podcast for August 19th, 2020. I'm your host Phil L empert today's episode is all about collaboration. With me is Bill Even the Chief Executive Officer for the National Pork Board based in Des Moines, Iowa, where he is responsible for leading checkoff funded research promotion and education projects. On behalf of the n ation's 60,000 pork producers, Bill also served as South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture from 2 007 to 2010 and m anaged six department divisions, including a griculture, regulatory services, agriculture development, state fair, wildland fire resource conservation, and forestry and agriculture policy. And he's also a farmer himself and his close just about 45 miles from our good friend, Brad Greenway and his wife, Peggy who f arm just West of Mitchell, South Dakota, where they run a diversified farm, raising pigs, beef, cattle, corn soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. Brad has served on the national pork board, pork checkoff from 2009 to 2015. He's given over a hundred presentations throughout just South Dakota and nationally about pig farming and modern agriculture. He currently serves on the U S farmers and ranchers and action as immediate past chairman Greenway. Most recently was selected as America's pig farmer of the year. And that year is when I met Peggy Bill and Brad. Welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Bill:

Thank you.

Phil:

So, bill, let me, let me start with you. Um, define for me what collaboration means when it comes to agriculture. There's CEOs of different boards such as the pork board. Um, how do you all work together? And I guess the first question is do you all work together?

Bill:

Absolutely. Thank you, Phil. And hello Brad. Yes . Collaboration is actually part of our core values here at the National Pork Board. Our board of directors has for decades , uh, set the standard for working with others. And so whether it's the United soybean board or the national corn growers, or even other commodity groups, such as , uh , the dairy industry or even the beef industry, we look for those areas where we can work together and stretch those check-off dollars farther.

Phil:

So Brad in talking to a lot of farmers. And a lot of ranchers. What I hear constantly is success is based on collaboration between farmers and with other farmers and ranchers. So talk to me about that. What have you learned from other ones, Do you share and also how you work with the national pork?

Brad:

You know , it is. And I think , um , the collaboration that , how farmers mean to succeed today in our own instance on our farm, I mean, it used to be, we did our own, no herb or pig operation was by itself. Now we collaborate with 14 farmers who are overseen by a management company. And so it's a way of being more efficient and then trying to work together wherever we can. And that's where, you know , boards and bill alluded to that is on the national pork board being part of a board. When I was sitting on the national pork board, just sitting there and bouncing ideas off of other farmers helps you not own your own operation, but I think helps as an industry, the more you can collaborate, share ideas and do what's good for as a whole, as opposed to just an individual.

Phil:

So Bill, you know, you're the CEO of the National Pork Board and you're a farmer. So, you know, talk to me about having both of those , um, both of those skills, as well as a former department of agriculture head. Um, and, and what have been some of the stumbling blocks that you've see in agriculture that could be solved by collaboration.

Bill:

Thanks, Phil. And, you know, growing up on the farm, I always thought that we were independent, right? You're you're independent family farmer. And , uh, what my father taught me over time through my thick skull was the fact that we're actually, we are interdependent. Uh, just like Brad mentioned, none of us does this ourselves. We're relying on our veterinarian. We're relying on a nutritionist. We rely on our agronomist or seed supplier. The people that bring us , uh, diesel fuel and parts , uh , we're relying on , uh , uh , an incredible group of individuals that helps feed the, not only the nation, but the world. And one of the things I learned as secretary of agriculture, as you try to balance a lot of these different competing interests , uh , whether it's from the cattle and the hogs and the corn and the soybeans and the wheat and working on those policy issues. When you got everybody together in the room and you really define the question, what are we trying to solve for here? And what can we agree on? There may be something that we disagree on. Okay. Let's just set that off to the side. Let's that let's not use that as a litmus test to exclude people from the, from the room or the decision making and focus on what , uh , what we can do together. And it gets pretty clear if you watch cable news right now in this country that , uh , there's a lot of stridency , uh, among different groups of individuals. And fundamentally, that's never got us ahead. If you want to go far, you have to go together.

Phil:

So the first time that I met Brad and Peggy , uh , was actually at the national pork board, a webcast that we did about antibiotics and Brad, I remember both of you really, And I'd like you to reiterate this, the collaboration that you had with your veterinarian as bill brought it up and how valuable she had been to you, um , on that topic.

Brad:

You know, it really is. And , and Bill alluded to that on some other, not only the veterinarian and when Peggy and I were on there , uh , you know, some of these, some of these issues that are really top of mind for consumers and customers, whether it's antibiotic , whether it's sustainability, whether it's climate change, whether it's taking care of the environment, all of those things are very important. I think farmers today, when you start to look at the bigger picture, we all, as individuals, we're worried about what happens day to day on our farms and with our families and in our community. But at the same time, we have to look at the bigger picture stuff. And so there's a number of people from veterinarians or agronomists . We're working with our agronomists all the time, our nutritionist, just before I got on this call or nutritionist called trying to balance their diets, we're changing things every day. And so again, you're doing that to try to be not only more efficient on your farm, but also to do with right, if we can do a little better, more efficient than feed with our nutritious in the pigs, that in turn helps the environment. And so using all those specialists and not being afraid to ask those questions and you give up some of your independence, but to me, we're looking at is using the expertise that we have available to us to do a better job all the way around and continue to try to improve.

Speaker 1:

So, Brad, how has, I'm going to ask you the same question Bill. So, so you can think of , think about your answer for a second. Uh , but Brad, how has COVID-19 affected , um, the farm and farming practices and what further challenges, what new challenges, you know, you mentioned that you've got to constantly be , be changing. I mean, this hit the industry like this, and I'm sure that you've had to make a lot of change.

Brad:

You know, it really has. And I suppose the thing that affected us and it was in the headlines, of course, when the packing industry, when it started, you know, at the slaughter houses and then the packing industry , uh , we were just at the time was starting to market at that time. And, you know, you always think about, well, what are you going to get for the price of that pig or the commodity you're selling? I don't think it's ever been a point, at least in my lifetime. And I visited my dad, my dad's 88, still on the farm that you literally didn't know how you were going to get rid of the livestock . And so it was a whole new ax to the situation. It was a whole new worry that you had to worry about. And so that, and we got through that. I mean, again, there was working together. We have a group of us that, you know, if somebody had a load that they didn't need, where we were on texting and, you know, Hey, can you take this one? Can I get one from you? And so there was a lot of that working together to get through that part of it, but even something as simple, we're dealing with that right now. Um, you know, the paperwork that goes with the USDA and I worked with a number of landlords and the paperwork, well, now you can't physically go and give it to them cause they might be concerned about it and the are closed. So a lot more emailing, a lot more scanning documents, a lot more getting signatures and things like that before you would just go to the office and he goes , sign them . Now you have to make arrangements how you scan documents. And so it really has changed a lot . There's just a lot of things going on every day and nutritionist literally was dropping off new diets . Normally we sit there and visit about it. He's been in other farms and then is worried about that. So he drops them off. I'll take a look at them and then I'll call him instead of visiting face to face. So just every day , there's something that has changed because the COVID-19 and you have to deal with them .

Phil:

And Bill, give us the big picture. Um, not only as you as a farmer yourself, but from a policy standpoint , uh, national pork board, obviously , um, very important , uh, to, to our nation's nutrition and our nation's food supply. How has COVID-19 changed? What, what the National Pork Board is doing?

Bill:

Thanks, Phil. Yeah. When the, when the plant started to close and , and the , there were a number of stay at home orders issued by governors. Uh, we started to move pretty rapidly as an organization. So one of the first things we did was a real aggressive outreach to the state, veterinarians and producers, and trying to determine what information do you need right now. Uh, let's get that developed. Let's get that pushed out in the form of , uh , webinars or in electronic newsletters and make sure that you have the information to manage. As Brad said, just these day to day things that were , that were hitting them . The second thing we did when most of the United States was , um, staying at home or sheltering at home, and many of the restaurants had closed is recognizing that our marketing plans, we had teed up completely had to change. And so we flipped , uh , the nation's pork marketing strategy literally in a week and thinking about, okay, we've got a, it looks like the beginning of a recession. So we gotta be very cost conscious how to cook once and eat three times the idea of leftovers. And suddenly you've got folks at home that have stocked up on food, but maybe don't really know how to cook. And so there's a lot of fundamentals we put out there about recipes and nutrition, and frankly, how do you keep the kids fed and entertained while they're trying to do their work and to do that? You need variety. And that's where pork shows up really well. Our sales have increased , uh, throughout all of this pandemic. And I think that's something that's a Testament to the marketing work that we've done.

Phil:

So Brad , you know, I don't remember the exact number of hours, but I think in our previous conversation, you were probably working 18 hours a day. Now with all that now with all this other stuff, are you ever sleeping?

Speaker 2:

Well? Yeah, probably no. Wait . We do. And I think the thing in our particularly we've got an employee and our son is actually come back here in the last year and a half. So he's, he's stepping per se right into the fire now. And so he started year two , so everybody's kind of at the table, but it is, it's just a , you'll probably do a little more at night and you're doing again, the paperwork and Peggy's involved and we scan and stuff. So yeah , it's just, that's what we love to do. I still, you know, I can still get up each morning and say, you know what, I love being part of the farm. I love doing what I do each day. It's just, there's changed. And then honestly, that's where that next generation only might have employ , but our son, me and back, and whether it's doing stuff with the technology, that's where, you know, they're , they've got the drive yet. And so that helps there. So it's kind of a balance. So

Phil:

You both to look into your crystal balls and post pandemic , um, what does , uh, the world of pork look like in hopefully a couple months or a year from now, when, when we're past all this, how has this experience changed the pork world , um , and , and really opened up pork producers eyes to what some of the possibilities are. Um, you know, bill, you've talked about more recipes, getting more nutritional information out there , uh, discovering that , that we really don't have generations of people who know how to cook just about anything. Um, so, so, you know, what is this post pandemic pork look like? Brad why don't you get us started on that.

Brad:

You know, I think the thing that I think a lot of people have realized, and I , and again, you can always try to look at some of the blessings that maybe come out of a situation like this. I think it gives as, as a general public, they all of a sudden got, I would say, a wake up call or a better understanding what it takes to have food on the shelves. And so I think out of all of this, you know, there was a lot of people, poor producers and pig farmers that tried to find alternative markets. And a lot of that was local slaughterhouses, local butcher shops. Um, you know, I sent some pigs a long ways away. I've actually got a little going out this week. It's going to be a long travel. It, it opened up the eyes to everybody of how I would say how good a food supply we have, but how vulnerable it is under certain situations. So I think that's going to be good coming out of that. People a better understanding of how food is grown and raised. And that's a good thing. The other thing is, I think personally, and , and as, as a producer, the appreciation for not all of the people, the workers that are working in those flats , that we depend on, we had where our baby pigs are born in our cell barn. They broke with COVID. And so, I mean , all of a sudden when you lose three, two thirds of the employees out of there, and you appreciate what they do for you each day. And so having an appreciation of the ones to make the whole food system go of , meaning you have a real appreciation and understanding of what they do. And so there's going to be a couple of good things that have come out of all this and no one what we gotta be prepared for in the future. And so there's always things you can learn in a crisis situation. I think we've known that as an industry.

Phil:

Yeah. And just to build on what you said for a moment, I mean, in , and Bill alluded to this for the first time in our lifetimes , um , we walked into supermarkets and saw empty shelves. And I heard from a lot of consumers. I mean, they were really nervous and they were , they were buying things. I think, you know, the people that make baked beans sold more baked beans than they've ever sold in their entire life. Not because people necessarily liked them, but because there was nothing else on the shelf. So Bill, what does the pork world look like to you.

Bill:

I'll build on what Brad had indicated. And that's, I think the general understanding and maybe appreciation that people have for where their food comes from , uh , like it or not, the pork industry was kind of ground zero for a lot of this. Um, you had a real stress and problems and emergency D population having to happen on some farms the same time or packing plants in the middle or processing was , was struggling to get back open and , and start the production lines. And then when you go to the other end to the grocery stores, you had folks, as you said, Phil, we're really looking for something that they were pretty accustomed to. And suddenly a lot of those items, maybe weren't there when they expected. And B and I think the other, the other positive came out that came out of this is really the recognition of what your family means to you. Uh , I talked about , uh , how we get through this and agriculture as , as a farm kid, I said , it's really , um, you have to have , uh , farming and believe in farming. You have to have faith in yourself and others. And the is the interdependence we talked about in the collaboration. Um, you have to really understand that concept of service. There are a lot of people out here that went to work , uh , that didn't get the chance to just do it over a zoom call. They had to physically show up and physically do the work. And that type of service , uh, is very important. And so , uh , those are the positive sides. I think the , where the industry is going to be out a year from now, a lot of the trends that were happening are going to be accelerated and that whether it's food delivery , um , greater reliance and dependence on cooking at home and having ample supplies of food available for us, the restaurant industries, it's going to take a while to come out of it, man . That's probably going to leave a Mark there on the dining out segment. And so that's, those are some of the major items we're looking at it , the national

Phil:

Well, Brad, Bill, thank you so much for joining us today on Farm Food Facts, wealth of information, And stay safe and be safe. And we'll talk again soon.

Bill:

Thanks, Phil.

Brad:

Thank you, Phil.

:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 honor. The harvest form or movement sponsors, United soybean board and national pork board. Our presenting sponsors, Wells Fargo and Cargil. Our gold sponsors, Bayer, Dairy West, Nebraska soybean board, McDonald's, Nutrien and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Our bronze sponsors, Purina and Ernst & Young, our youth sponsor Ruan and our donor sponsor Tyson. For more on all things, food and agriculture. Please visit [email protected] Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USFRA until next time.