Collaboration builds community within pork industry

Josh and Courtney Berry, with their son Luke, at their farm in Fairfield County.

“That’s not true.” Over and over again, Josh and Courtney Berry found themselves uttering this phrase as they watched a CBS News “60 Minutes” program about the pork industry. Josh, who is a Fairfield County Farm Bureau member and on the Ohio Pork Council board, had received a heads up that the news program would probably be biased against the pork industry and to make sure he watched it. Even the segment’s title was inflammatory: “Is overuse of antibiotics on farms worsening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?”

“We were very disappointed with how it turned out. So much of it wasn’t true and it was such a biased agenda,” said Berry, who is an eighth generation farmer. “It was crazy how misinformed they were about how we raise hogs on modern farms and it made me so upset. I knew we had a lot of damage control to do.”

That’s why Berry jumped at the chance to dispel the news program’s inaccuracies when he was contacted by Ty Higgins, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of media relations. Higgins wanted to do a short video showing how pork producers work every day to ensure their animals are safe and healthy and that they follow strict food safety guidelines. During the 5-minute video, Berry described how he takes care of his hogs at his family operation, JCB Pork LLC. Also on the video were Ohio’s State Veterinarian Tony Forshey and Melissa Bell, then interim executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council, who talked about antibiotic use and why the U.S. has a safe, healthy and affordable food supply. The video was shared widely, including by American Farm Bureau.

Josh Berry helped Farm Bureau dispel myths about how pigs are cared for by pork producers by recently filming a short video about his family operation, JCB Pork LLC.

“We need to be able to tell our story better whether it’s through Farm Bureau or our ‘We Care’ initiative,” said Dave Shoup, president of the Ohio Pork Council and a Wayne County Farm Bureau member. In 2008 the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and state pork organizations started the “We Care” initiative, which promotes responsible practices in food safety, animal well-being, environment, public health, employees and community outreach. The program is financed through the Pork Checkoff which is funded when U.S. pork producers and importers pay $0.40 per $100 of value when pigs are sold and when pigs or pork products are brought into the U.S.

A partner in Farm Bureau

Shoup, whose family has a sixth generation family hog and grain operation, said he appreciates how Farm Bureau works with all of the state’s commodity groups to ensure agriculture remains a viable industry. 

“When we work together, we’re stronger, and Farm Bureau is the umbrella of all the commodity groups,” he said. 

Shoup said he appreciates Farm Bureau’s wide array of educational programs such as estate succession programming and workers’ compensation safety meetings that not only help educate members but bring them together. He learns about a lot of them from his niece, Lindsay, who is Farm Bureau organization director for Ashland, Medina, Summit and Wayne counties. 

“Ohio Farm Bureau provides a community and culture to help provide for strong farming families and how to transition to the next generation,” Shoup said. “A lot of times farmers are independent and isolated, but through Farm Bureau they get together as a community.”

Berry agreed, pointing out the sense of community he’s felt while attending Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals yearly conferences. He said the best benefit of being a Farm Bureau member is the organization’s interaction and influence with legislators at the local, state and national levels. Berry, who is one of four Ohioans on the National Pork Producers delegate body, has met with legislators in Washington, D.C. to talk to them about agricultural issues. 

“I’ll be able to have an operation for many years to come simply because (Farm Bureau) has got my back when it comes to contact with our elected officials. That’s the biggest bang for my buck,” he said. “They’re high on the totem pole in terms of being able to get to the right lobbyist in the right time frame.”

Specifically, Berry and Shoup praised Farm Bureau’s work with the pork industry on trade and labor issues. Both say having a level playing field for trade and a sufficient workforce is key to maintaining an affordable supply of pork products. They praised the recent passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which preserves zero-tariff pork trade in North America. U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico support 16,000 U.S. jobs, according to the National Pork Producers Council. 

Both men said water quality is an area that Farm Bureau has long been a leader in working together with farmers, conservationists, scientists, businesses, legislators and others to find ways to maintain and improve the state’s water resources while ensuring farming remains productive. Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Pork Council and other commodity groups support Gov. Mike DeWine’s comprehensive H2Ohio initiative to improve water quality over the long term.

“Without Farm Bureau constantly being with the governor and his staff, who knows what the H2Ohio would have become,” Berry said. “Our regulations might have been 100 percent dictated by those with an agenda. Farm Bureau is always there fighting for our rights.”

Novel, popular OSU Bacon Vending Machine is back in 2020

Bacon Vending Machine

What started as an out-of-the-box publicity project back in December 2018 has quickly turned into a new concept for promoting a product that America loves – bacon. Amidst trending conversations on fake meat, the Ohio Pork Council grabbed national media headlines with its Bacon Vending Machine.

The Bacon Vending Machine features ready-to-eat bacon. In 2018, it was on display at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences during finals season. After much success OPC released a new-and-improved Bacon Vending Machine at Ohio Stadium in fall 2019, featuring a touch screen interface with educational videos and facts about Ohio’s pig farming community.

“The Ohio Pork Council’s Bacon Vending Machine has created numerous positive news stories highlighting the work of Ohio’s farmers to provide high quality pork for consumers,” said Ohio Pork Council President Dave Shoup.

Serving as a unique conversation piece for Ohio pig farmers to educate consumers about their commitment to responsible animal care and providing quality pork products, the Bacon Vending Machine made its first appearance of 2020 at Ohio Pork Congress earlier this year. A fan-favorite at Ohio Stadium and beyond, OPC has more plans slated for the Bacon Vending Machine in 2020 and invites Ohio Farm Bureau members to join in on the fun. Follow @OhioHogFarmers on Facebook for upcoming announcements on the Bacon Vending Machine’s whereabouts.

Featured Image: David Shoup, who owns a hog farm, is president of the Ohio Pork Council.

Photos by Dave Liggett