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Monday, September 18, 2000


Wed, Sep 20th, 2000
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To the Editor,

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why I am going to vote NO during the pork checkoff referendum. First of all, even though I am voting NO, I am an optimist: I think consolidation and proliferation of factory farms is not inevitable. I believe that we can increase opportunities for hog farmers and thereby increase their numbers.

But we canít do that with the current system of collecting a mandatory pork tax to fund generic promotion of a commodity. The National Pork Board theorized that if they could increase consumption of the pork commodity, then increased price would result and everyone would benefit. In reality what happened was that expansion and consolidation were rampant and prices plummeted; the family hog farmer couldnít compete in a high volume, low margin generic commodity market.

If the checkoff is defeated, the Campaign for Family Farms would support a voluntary checkoff with individual farmers controlling who receives those checkoff dollars. I and other Campaign members would immediately begin voluntarily checking off dollars to organizations doing good work in pork production. This would cause great competition for these dollars. Competition gives results. For example, some purebred breeders could send their checkoff monies to their breed associations to develop branded products such as Berkshire Gold or Certified Angus Beef. Other farmers could direct their dollars to groups that are involved in alternative markets, such as antibiotic free, humanely raised, or organic pork. If a farmer is closely aligned with their packer, like Hormel, they could benefit by forming alliances with the packer to promote their branded product. All of these ideas lead us out of the generic commodity market into a value-added product market.

And such branded products are what consumers will pay good money for. Some want super lean pork, while others want juicy chops raised naturally. We could also differentiate our pork by using quality grades like the beef industry: Prime, Choice, and Select. These designations would help consumers and restaurants buy the type of pork they desire. Such differentiation can lead to many diverse opportunities in the pork industry. And opportunity is what entices young people.

The grape industry is an example of what can be accomplished by product differentiation. There are all types and sizes of operations. Many produce for the commodity market, but many also produce grapes for various wines. The wine industry has tremendous product differentiation and, as a result, tremendous price differentials. California in particular has built a strong demand for California wines.

I want a checkoff that doesnít just benefit the big boys and the packers. I donít want to follow the path of the chicken industry and become a faceless producer of a generic commodity. I want a pork industry full of opportunity like the grape industry. Voting NO on the pork checkoff is a vote for a positive future.

Dave Serfling
Preston, MNTo the Editor,

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why I am going to vote NO during the pork checkoff referendum. First of all, even though I am voting NO, I am an optimist: I think consolidation and proliferation of factory farms is not inevitable. I believe that we can increase opportunities for hog farmers and thereby increase their numbers.

But we canít do that with the current system of collecting a mandatory pork tax to fund generic promotion of a commodity. The National Pork Board theorized that if they could increase consumption of the pork commodity, then increased price would result and everyone would benefit. In reality what happened was that expansion and consolidation were rampant and prices plummeted; the family hog farmer couldnít compete in a high volume, low margin generic commodity market.

If the checkoff is defeated, the Campaign for Family Farms would support a voluntary checkoff with individual farmers controlling who receives those checkoff dollars. I and other Campaign members would immediately begin voluntarily checking off dollars to organizations doing good work in pork production. This would cause great competition for these dollars. Competition gives results. For example, some purebred breeders could send their checkoff monies to their breed associations to develop branded products such as Berkshire Gold or Certified Angus Beef. Other farmers could direct their dollars to groups that are involved in alternative markets, such as antibiotic free, humanely raised, or organic pork. If a farmer is closely aligned with their packer, like Hormel, they could benefit by forming alliances with the packer to promote their branded product. All of these ideas lead us out of the generic commodity market into a value-added product market.

And such branded products are what consumers will pay good money for. Some want super lean pork, while others want juicy chops raised naturally. We could also differentiate our pork by using quality grades like the beef industry: Prime, Choice, and Select. These designations would help consumers and restaurants buy the type of pork they desire. Such differentiation can lead to many diverse opportunities in the pork industry. And opportunity is what entices young people.

The grape industry is an example of what can be accomplished by product differentiation. There are all types and sizes of operations. Many produce for the commodity market, but many also produce grapes for various wines. The wine industry has tremendous product differentiation and, as a result, tremendous price differentials. California in particular has built a strong demand for California wines.

I want a checkoff that doesnít just benefit the big boys and the packers. I donít want to follow the path of the chicken industry and become a faceless producer of a generic commodity. I want a pork industry full of opportunity like the grape industry. Voting NO on the pork checkoff is a vote for a positive future.

Dave Serfling
Preston, MN

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