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4 Takeaways From World Pork Expo

National Pork Producers Council hosted World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6-8, 2018. More than 20,000 pork producers and ag professionals from 40 countries attended. Here are four takaways from the annual event.

1. Pork is taking it on the chinny-chin-chin. Retaliatory tariffs by China and now Mexico are testing the nerves of producers. On June 5, the day before World Pork Expo opened, Mexico levied punitive tariffs – 10% now, escalating to 20% on July 5 – on unprocessed pork in retaliation for tariffs on its metal exports to the U.S. Mexico’s decision follows China’s decision in early April to impose 25% tariffs on U.S. pork. Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel, global government affairs for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), says producers are “hanging tough and being patriotic, but they are taking it on the chin.” The pain could go on for some time. Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States Trade Representative, told producers on June 7 to expect more tariffs. “The tip of the spear is pork. You guys are being retaliated against more than anyone else.”

2. Don’t panic yet. Yes, Mexico is the largest buyer of U.S. pork, but ag economist Steve Meyer, Kerns and Associates, says it is too soon to panic. “It’s not a disastrous thing,” says Meyer. “The quantity shipped there will go down eventually, but it won’t adjust quickly because they have to have product.” The tariff will drive up the price of whatever products Mexico is making from our pork and that means the quantity they buy from us will eventually go down, he explains. “That will take time.”

3. The hog industry will stand strong while under attack, not just from tariffs, but from activists and nuisance lawsuits, say producers and others in the business. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds told hog farmers at lunch during World Pork Expo on June 7, they should be proud of their industry. “One in 12 working Iowans work in the pork industry. We need a lot of fertilizer to grow this corn.”

4. There is still work to do on pork eating quality. “Consumers struggle with a consistently delicious eating experience with pork,” says Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board (NPB). He says the NPB is working hard on this issue. Chris Rademacher, Iowa State University Extension swine veterinarian says, “Part of this issue is that too many restaurants are still cooking pork to 160°F. The Pork Checkoff needs to increase efforts in this area and producers need to educate chefs when dining out. They really appreciate the feedback!”

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