“With the unexpected change, the National Pork Board reached out to our America’s Pig Farmer of the year judging panel,” said Terry O’Neel, a pig farmer from Friend, Nebraska, and president of the National Pork Board. “The panel unanimously voted to elevate Sheets, a finalist from last fall, with the move adopted and supported by all members of the National Pork Board.”
For McCuiston’s part, she said, “First and foremost I would like to congratulate Leon and thank him for graciously stepping into the role of America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. He is a great representative of what pig farmers do every day. Although it’s bittersweet for me, on a personal level, one must evaluate professional opportunities as they are presented. I am excited to continue working with pig farmers and veterinarians in my new role.”
Raising pigs has been a life-long passion for Sheets, who started farming with his grandfather when he was a young child. Sheets raises 33,000 pigs on his farm in northeast Iowa, where he focuses on animal care and environmental sustainability. With the help of his employees, son and wife, Sheets also grows corn, soybeans, hay and cover crops.
“Working with pigs has been a rewarding profession,” Sheets said. “Every morning I wake up to new challenges, along with knowing what to expect when I head to the barns,” said Sheets. “Living on a farm is more of a lifestyle than simply a job. I look forward to sharing my passion and experience with others.”
The annual award recognizes a pig farmer who excels at raising pigs using the We CareSM ethical principles and who connects with today’s consumers about how pork is produced. Leon will serve in the role until a new America’s Pig Farmer of the Year is announced in October 2018.
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety and sustainability and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at pork.org.