Pat McGonegle is the chief executive officer of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, a position he has held since October 2015.
McGonegle was formerly with the National Pork Producers Council for 19 years and had served as the vice president of state relations and resource development since 2002.
The Vincent, Iowa, native has worked in the pork industry for more than 30 years and started his career with IPPA as a field director in 1983. McGonegle was a vice president at the National Pork Board and was once the executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. He also worked in sales for ADM Animal Health and Nutrition.
McGonegle grew up on a diversified farm and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University. He currently resides in Urbandale with his wife, Julie. They have two adult children.
IFT: You have been involved in the pork industry for many years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your career?
McGONEGLE: There’s no doubt one of the biggest changes in the industry since the mid-’90s has been exports. We’re now exporting 25-30% of our production. Certainly, that changed the landscape for the industry and pork producers.
Another key change is the integration of technology on the farm and within barns. Any given barn today can have five to seven computers in it, for a variety of uses like controlling the climate inside.
The commitment and professionalism of pork producers to take care of their animals and the environment is better than ever. Not that it was bad before, but taking care of your animals and the environment are crucial components of the pork industry’s We Care principles. It is expected that’s what you’re going to do on the farm.
IFT: What are some other changes that might be out there on the horizon?
McGONEGLE: One question is whether we can continue to grow exports like we have over the last 20 years. That remains to be seen. Another thing is the integration in the marketplace impacts on sustainability, carbon and other environmental activities, and then production practices, like Prop 12. What kind of impact is that going to have on the farm? I think those things are all kind of uncertain for the future.
IFT: What are the biggest challenges pork producers face today?
McGONEGLE: Right now, it’s profitability without a doubt — 2023 is not going to be a very profitable year for pork producers. Another big challenge for some farms is how they’re going to handle Prop 12 and what changes they’re going to make, if any.
IFT: Biosecurity is always on the industry’s mind. Is the pork industry in good shape when it comes to being prepared for a potential foreign animal disease outbreak?
McGONEGLE: I’m never satisfied enough to say we’re in good shape. I am satisfied in saying we’re better today than we were a year ago, and we were better a year ago than we were before that. We must continue to remain vigilant. I think with AgView and US SHIP, and the outstanding efforts from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the commitment from the Iowa Legislature to fund some additional foreign animal disease preparedness activity, we’re better today than we’ve ever been, but that is not a reason to be satisfied. We must keep moving forward every day.
IFT: It’s always a challenge for young people to get involved in agriculture. How does the pork industry look when discussing the next generation of producers that will be expected to lead the industry in the future?
McGONEGLE: This might be the most difficult of all your questions. We need to continue to grow both our domestic and export markets because that provides opportunity. If you have a shrinking market, opportunities go away.
I think the other key part of it that I’ve seen is diversity. We have niche markets here in Iowa, like Niman Ranch, and we have the largest conglomeration of independent producers that are of commercial size and mentality. Continuing those kinds of opportunities will be very important for us. It’s certainly not going to go back to being like it once was, but I think there are going to be great opportunities for anybody that wants to get involved in the industry.
IFT: Consumer demand is always a key issue. What are some things the industry is doing to get people to eat more pork?
McGONEGLE: Certainly, demand has become a key issue in the last 12-24 months. The Iowa Pork Producers Association is committed to working with the National Pork Board to see how we can grow the domestic market. We are being more aggressive with our retail friends, because that’s where we can move the most product the fastest.
The leadership of the National Pork Board is driving some innovation for new products and those kinds of things that can hopefully allow us to grow into the future with our demand.
IFT: As you look into the future, what do you see the industry looking like in 2033?
McGONEGLE: I believe it’s going to be prosperous. There are only so many places in the world where pork production is going to happen in a substantial way and Iowa is one of those places. Obviously, we have competitors around the world that want to take our position and that’s a good thing. But we’ve got to continue the job we’ve been doing while getting better every day. Whether it’s meeting consumer demand or biosecurity or food safety regulations, we must continue to get better every day and that will ensure the Iowa pork industry succeeds through 2033 and beyond