Eight representatives from the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) traveled to Washington, D.C. for two days as part of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) legislative action conference.
While there, Mike Haag (Current IPPA President), Pam Janssen (IPPA President Elect), Dale Wietekamp (IPPA Vice President), Jason Propst (District 8 Director), Bob Frase (At-Large Director), Phil Borgic (NPPC board member), and Jennifer Tirey (IPPA Executive Director) conducted 20 meetings, one with each member of the Illinois Congressional delegation.
Key issues discussed during those meetings were: visa reform to support a viable workforce for U.S. agriculture, the importance of positive trade relations, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), keeping food affordable by allowing producers the opportunity to choose their production methods, and export relations with Thailand.
This two-day event allows pork producers from Illinois the chance to join fellow producers from across the states in the United States Capitol. “One-on-one conversations with our Illinois congressional members, and their staff, gives us an opportunity to advocate for our industry and get in front of issues that impact us,” says Haag, current IPPA President.
The U.S. pork industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage that undermines its commitment to the highest standards of animal care. Current visa programs widely used by pork producers are not effectively addressing the issue. Without visa reform to support a viable workforce for U.S. agriculture, animal welfare is jeopardized, and production costs will increase, leading to higher food prices for consumers.
Illinois pig farmers depend on solid trade relationships with countries, such as Canada and Mexico. Losing the NAFTA agreement would cost the United States pork industry $1.5 billion. Over the past 10 years, on average, the United States has been the No. 1 exporter of pork in the world. Trade is vital to the livelihood of Illinois pig farmers.
A farmer’s ability to choose the production method that maximizes productivity, increases sustainability, reduces disease exposure and improves the health and welfare of his or her animals is critical to the pork industry’s success. This freedom has been jeopardized by recent state prohibitions on scientifically-sound production methods. These state mandates raise food costs while reducing consumer choices. Our industry is in favor of letting the farmer choose his or her production method.
Currently Thailand has a number of trade barriers that operate as a de facto ban on U.S. pork exports. Pork producers in the United States would like to see Thailand expeditiously open its market to U.S. pork, knowing their significant per capita pork consumption. Positive trade relations with Thailand would be beneficial to both countries.
There are currently more than 2,000 farms producing 5.1 million total hogs in the state. In Illinois, the pork industry contributes over $1.8 billion to the state’s economy, generates more than $170 million in taxes and provides more than 21,900 jobs.