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Editor's Note: In the summer of 1999 the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) formed a task force of approximately 50 pork producers, which evolved into a steering committee of about 30 members. The Task Force and the Steering Committee was designed to look into the probability of forming a national pork cooperative. The cooperative, simply put, is to assist producers increase their return on investment in the pork business. Pork America will provide the tools necessary to make that happen. Voting members are actual pork producers and groups of producers. In December of 1999 the first interim board was selected: Jack Rundquist as chairman, Jim Lewis as vice-chairman and Linden Olson as secretary/treasurer. Following are Rundquist's responses to results thus far.

AM: How would you rate your beginning months in coordinating pork production from farm to market?

JR: Pork America became a legal entity in late December 1999 incorporated under Minnesota laws. Because Pork America is a national organization, covering numerous states, it took well into May of 2000 just to get approval from various states to seek membership. A few of these states still require some time for final approval. Considering the legal ramifications and the consumptive time spent in developing a membership base, which is ongoing, we are just now at the point of studying possible entries into the pork business. Because of the number and breath of factors involved, the research and development of entry into the pork business will take a great deal of travel and conversation in the domestic as well as the international arena. We are "pork producers" not meat people, thus we must develop and receive input from a number of wide ranging sources of expertise. We are setting the foundation for entry into the pork merchandising business, with the thought in mind of "where is Pork America and its pork producers members going to be in 10 years, as well as 100 years from now?" We are not developing this business as a "quick fix" for the short haul.

AM: You've said this marketing cooperative would revolutionize pork marketing. What do you mean and when will this revolution occur?

JR: The mere fact that Pork America became a legal entity is a revolution in and of itself. In fact it probably should have occurred many years ago. Over the past several years, through the pork producer-funded checkoff, the increase in pork demand has been substantial. However, the producer has benefited from this increased demand for only a short time before others in the pork chain found out ways to capture the value of that demand at the expense of the producer.

Pork America and its members do not just want to evolve and adapt to the future. We want to create the future for pork from our live hogs. We do not want to market hogs - we want to be merchandisers of pork. With the speed of change in today's world we are creating an organization that will be flexible enough to make changes fast enough to be competitive in a fast-paced marketplace for years to come.

AM: What marketing tools are you using to make this cooperative different and convince pork producers to join you?

JR: Pork America was exceptionally different from the day it became a legal entity because producers own it. In no country has such a concept been put in place. Denmark, to a certain degree, could be an example, but not in the beginning. Producers, producer organizations and other co-ops have needed very little convincing to be a part of Pork America. They want to change and create the future, not adapt to it. Their comments are that they have adapted too often and too much and have had little or no say in the changes that were made.

AM: How would you grade the overall efforts of Pork America so far in terms of memberships, marketing alliances and efforts to increase producersí return on investment?

JR: Taking all factors into consideration - from the initial idea, to the legal entity, to the present - we are pleased with our status, but never satisfied. It is not our intent to become complacent.

We are preparing our organization and its members for long-term entry into the pork meat business in various forms, be it alliances, partnerships or joint ventures. This process, among other things, involves the input from numerous knowledgeable sources. We operate on the theory that true genius is to work with sources far more knowledgeable who understand the pork meat business in the domestic and international arenas. AM

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