Industry Insights: Lessons from Labor

A common thread among those involved in agriculture is the experiences they had growing up and working on the farm. For most, it’s a time in their life when they learn not only the fundamentals of food production, but also the work ethic and responsibility that influence them throughout their lives.

So when the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division proposed revisions that would have changed the face of the family farm last September, it prompted a huge response from the agricultural community. According to Agri-Pulse coverage of the issue, more than 70 agricultural organizations submitted comments in opposition to the changes. The National Farmers Union said parts of the rules needed revision. The American Farm Bureau Federation called the rules an “over-reach” and a threat to the integrity of family farms.

From a review of the proposed rules and DOL news release, it’s not hard to see where these groups would get that impression. The regulations would have applied to all youth under the age of 16 working in agriculture, and would have made many, if not most, tasks on the farm off-limits for youth not qualifying for a narrow parental exemption. 

Relevant to the hog industry, the new rules would have banned youth from “engaging, or assisting, in animal husbandry practices” – specifically outlining breeding, castration, vaccination and other practices  integral to our industry. More broadly, it would also ban contact with animals in situations where behavior could be unpredictable. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure I was always taught to regard livestock as unpredictable, no matter the setting. These rules would have also prohibited youth under age 16 from working in or around manure pits, operating most machinery and working in “extreme temperatures.”

Perhaps what was most unsettling to me is that these restrictions could have had a serious effect on the ability of youth to show livestock or work around animals in 4-H projects or FFA Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs).  In a time when the Obama Agriculture Department, led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, is making its case for more support for beginning farmers and agriculturists, it struck me as ironic that the Labor Department was proposing regulations that would have prevented the next generation from gaining the experiences needed to help them develop necessary skills and a passion for farming.

Thankfully, the Department of Labor announced in an April news release that, after thousands of comments received and pressure from members of Congress, it would withdraw the regulations and assured that they “would not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”

 That probably has many of you wondering why I’m writing about this issue after it seems to have been resolved, but there are some important takeaways. While I don’t believe regulation is the key to improving farm safety, it’s likely someone in Washington might, and that means this issue probably isn’t over.

Also, not to be missed in the aftermath of these rules is the influence agriculture has when it stands united behind an issue. In part due to the nature of the regulations, the response from agriculture on this issue was heard loud and clear in Washington. The agriculture child labor rules represent merely one challenge facing agriculture in our nation’s capital. What if agriculture showed that kind of grassroots activism more often? What more can we do to tell our story to regulators and lawmakers alike?

At the end of the day, I’m pleased with how the child labor in agriculture issue sorted itself out. However, it was an important reminder that we need to be vigilant in telling our industry’s story. If not, we risk the chance that the next generation won’t have the same opportunities we have all been fortunate to have.

News & Views: WPX Reminders

The 2012 World Pork Expo is expecting record numbers. We need your assistance to make this event come together. If you are not bringing all the animals you entered, please contact the NSR/NJSA office, the CPS office and ABA office and let the staff know what your entry numbers will be. Thanks! 

Here are some helpful tips for junior and seniors exhibitors: 
  • 1) Please review the WPX health regulations (located on the NSR website and page 73 in the March issue of the Seedstock EDGE). All animals must be tested individually for Pseudorabies, and you must present this test chart along with your certificate of veterinary inspection at the vet station check point.  
  • 2) There is a designated parking area for trailers this year. After unloading your entries, proceed west on Dean Avenue (stoplight), turn left (south) on E. 30th street, travel on 30th over the overpass and at the intersection of Scott and E. 30th street, turn right. There is a white rock parking lot that will be used for trailer parking. The map for this parking lot can be found on the NSR WPX maps and directions page
  • 3) Junior Exhibitors: When loading out your entries Friday evening, you will get your trailer out of the lot at Scott Avenue, proceed north to University Avenue, turn right (east) on University, go to gate 2, you will park in the north parking lot there. From there, you will be directed to the swine barn for load out. This is a new procedure but should speed up and eliminate traffic jams for the load out.

While at the World Pork Expo, be sure to visit the America's Best Genetics display area in the cattle barn located directly north of the swine barn.

You can download a full WPX schedule as part of the new World Pork Expo smartphone app.

Safe travels, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Expo.

Beyond Banners: NJSA National Youth Leadership Conference

Forty-two  members of the National Junior Swine Association (NJSA), ages 14-21, flocked from 12 states to gather in Modesto, Calif., for the 2012 NJSA National Youth Leadership Conference, “Bacon’ in the Sun,” held May 18-20. Throughout the weekend, youth listened to panels and presentations from industry leaders, toured top-notch facilities and had a blast meeting fellow NJSA members and young swine enthusiasts.  
Beau Williamson and Coty Back of Greater Potential Leadership presented three separate leadership workshops throughout the weekend, helping participants define leadership and set SMART goals to become leaders in the swine industry. 
Bryn Jensson with the National Pork Board gave a presentation on Sending the Message of We Care, educating youth on how to embrace the changes happening in our industry and serve as examples for consumers. 
Youth participants took part in a Careers in Agriculture panel with Brett Kaysen, Colorado State University; Bryn Jensson, National Pork Board and Mike Paul, National Swine Registry. The trio offered helpful hints on choosing a career, searching for a job and preparing for college.

The NJSA Junior Board of Directors presented three leadership-themed breakout sessions including:
·         Effective Listening with Kayla Meyer, Tonya Fender and Amy Newnum
·         Leadership Fundamentals with Mackenzie Langemeier and David Ammann
·         Public Speaking with Kaylee Miller, Greg Krahn and Corey Carpenter 

Other professional development sessions included:
·         Excellence in Etiquette taught by NJSA Junior Board members, Kayla Meyer and Greg Krahn
·          Interviews that Impress presented by Ben Granholm, past state officer for the California FFA Association
·         Finding Internship and Job Opportunities with Brett Kaysen, Colorado State University

Rachelle Bailey, Golden State Genetics; Wes Barone, Bar-OneFarms, and James Backman, Small Town Genetics, participated in a Young Swine Breeders panel where they talked about the challenges they’ve faced in the industry and their motivation to raise pigs. They gave advice to youth wanting to raise pigs for a living. 
Another round of breakout sessions included:
·         A Packer’s Perspective with Mike Curry, Yosemite Meat Company
·         MVP (Mentoring Values People) Program Mentor Training with NJSA Junior Board members Corey Carpenter and Tonya Fender
·         Running for the NJSA Junior Board Panel with including past or current NJSA Junior Board members Kayla Wood, Mackenzie Langemeier, Kaylee Miller and Greg Krahn

Participants toured The Long Ranch, an all-in-all-out system specializing in providing custom pork to meet the needs of various cultures and ethnicities.  The ranch markets approximately 8,000 hogs annually to accommodate a wide range of consumers that can purchase ready-to-cook products from the on-farm retail store or order a whole pig and have it processed on-site for barbecues or roasting.  The Long Ranch is currently owned by Scott Long and has been a family run business for more than three decades.  Pigs are raised in hoop barns and fed antibiotic-free food, enabling them to offer naturally-raised specialty meats, marinated loins, ham, bacon and spare ribs all produced antibiotic-free and processed on site with the on-farm processing plant. 
James Backman showed the NJSA members around Small Town Genetics, a nationally recognized swine herd with a select group of sires and high-quality show prospects that they market nationwide.  James also explained to the youth how they’ve adapted to the new policies on sow housing, gestation stalls and other production practices passed in California seven years ago.

Participants also toured the Modesto Junior College Swine Unit, consisting of 60 sows and five boars, where they gained an understanding of raising hogs under an academia setting.

The family owned Duarte Nursery also opened their doors for NYLC participants. The largest permanent crops nursery in the United States, the company has a history of aggressively marketing innovative products, with current sales over $30 million and expanding.  Part of Duarte Nursery’s commitment to innovation and quality is the Dry Creek Lab, their on-site laboratory where they produce fruit and nut trees through micropropagation and tissue culture.  NYLC participants learned about fruit tree and vine grafting and were able to observe the micropropagation up close during the tour. 
Evening activities included a night of go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, rock climbing, bumper boats and arcade games at Boomers Family Fun Center and a barbecue and kickball tournament at the Modesto Junior College Agriculture Pavilion.

Meet the Interns - Katie Powers

Hey NSR! My name is Katie Powers and I am very excited to be the Pedigree Department Intern this summer. We are busy in the office preparing for the upcoming shows, and I cannot wait to attend these incredible events! Time is flying and they will be here in no time.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My background is diverse – I am a native of Townsend, Delaware, and a proud alum of Oklahoma State University. I just entered the “big kid world” on May 5th, when I graduated from OSU with my bachelors degree in animal science with an emphasis in livestock merchandizing. 

Raising livestock and working on my family’s farm throughout my childhood fueled my passion for the agriculture industry and still burns steady to this day. I grew up raising and showing all four species of livestock. My first show project was a crossbred lamb at the age of eight, and then I acquired my first show pig project – a Duroc gilt – when I was nine. As I got older, my devotion to showing continued to grow.

What started as a small farm operation of commercial sheep, hogs, turkeys and steers for ‘farm fresh’ meat sales quickly expanded to a small herd of purebred Duroc, Yorkshire and Poland China sows, 100-head purebred flock of Dorset and Hampshire ewes, along with a few goat and club calf projects.

Breeding and raising my own livestock and showing at the local, state, regional and national levels has allowed me to make many connections with industry leaders. My brother, Will, and I have experienced much success with our projects. We were both active in FFA and 4-H growing up and attribute many of our accomplishments to these agricultural education organizations.

The countless hours spent in the barn with my family taking care of livestock, getting ready for stock shows and managing our family farm was a full-time commitment. However, the memories made and time spent with my family, especially with my brother, and the friends I met through showing can never be replaced.

Growing up in this tremendous industry has taught me countless life lessons. These lessons truly helped me succeed in my college career, and are now helping me take on the challenge of pursuing a career to make an impact on the livestock industry.  To our junior members, I encourage you to appreciate the guidance and support of your mentors – ranging from parents, ag instructors and 4-H or industry leaders – these individuals will influence and shape your life.

I am very excited to be part of the NSR team and look forward to what this summer will bring. Best of luck in the upcoming shows – I look forward to meeting our breeders and seeing all of the entries at World Pork Expo!

Marketing & Communications Iowa Adventure

The first part of this week, the NSR Marketing & Communications team took a road trip to Montezuma, Iowa, to tour our new printing facilities – Sutherland Companies. Dave Sutherland, Sr., and his son, Dave, Jr., will oversee the printing of Seedstock EDGE starting with the June issue.

Along with Katie, Steve and I, we had our summer intern, Taylor Fritsch, along for the trip. After a long afternoon on the road Monday, we stayed at the Amana Colonies in Iowa, where we found abundant support for pork products ... including Baconnaise, bacon balm, bacon lollipops and several other "pig" products.

Tuesday morning we made the short jaunt south of I-80 to Montezuma, where we met “The Daves” at Sutherland’s printing facilities. Dave, Sr., gave us a tour of the plant, where we got to see the entire production process behind printing, binding and mailing a magazine. We were even fortunate enough to see the June issue of Seedstock EDGE rolling “hot off the press” and undergoing inspection by the print technicians.

The M&C crew got to see one of the June Seedstock EDGE press plates before the magazine started printing!

Pages of the June issue of SE hot off the press!

One of the print techs makes sure every page of SE is printed to the highest standards.

We had a great time visiting Dave, Sr., and his crew at Sutherland Companies!

This was a great learning experience and a fun team building trip for the M&C crew. We are really excited about working with Sutherland Companies to improve the quality, look and features of Seedstock EDGE to better serve our breeders. Look for the June issue at World Pork Expo and let us know what you think!

Until next time,


Ukrainian Swine Industry Representatives Visit NSR Office

A group of swine industry personnel from Ukraine recently visited the NSR office as part of the Cochran Fellowship Program. This program is coordinated through the USDA and is meant to provide training in a variety of agriculture fields for countries with developing industries. Dr. Tom Baas and Chad Yoder, both of Iowa State University, served as the U.S. hosts and coordinators for the training program. The training started at Iowa State University and included visits to a number of NSR members’ farms – Waldo Farms, De Witt, Neb.; Cedar Ridge Farms, Red Bud, Ill.; The Maschhoffs, Carlyle, Ill.; and Whiteshire Hamroc, Albion, Ind. The trip wrapped-up with visits to National Swine Registry and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Meet the Interns - Taylor Fritsch

Hello everyone! My name is Taylor Fritsch, and I’m pleased to introduce myself as National Swine Registry’s Marketing & Communications Intern for 2012. It’s such an honor – and such a pleasure – to be serving the members of the NSR. I’m very excited to jump right into the mix for the M&C division this summer assisting with writing, design, social media, photography and so much more.

My journey in agriculture didn’t begin with swine. As a proud Badger from the state of Wisconsin, my family is involved in the industry that makes up almost half of our state’s agriculture – dairy. Growing up I was active with my family’s 70-cow, 600-acre operation, feeding my fair share of baby calves and helping out in whatever way I could. When I became old enough to show, I was pretty excited about breaking a dairy heifer to take to the fair. When my dad also bought me a couple feeder pigs, I wasn’t quite sure what to think.

If you had told me back then that I would develop such a passion for pigs, I might have told you that you were crazy. But eleven years later, that’s exactly what has happened. By my freshman year of high school, show pigs had won me over – so much so that we quit showing dairy altogether.

Although our focus is the dairy operation, my family is no stranger to swine production and livestock. They operated a 90-sow commercial herd until I was about four, at which point the operation was liquidated in favor of the dairy and grain aspects of our farm. Showing has been our way of staying connected with the swine industry, and over the years, those pigs have taught my sister, Bailey, and me a lot. Showing at the Wisconsin State Fair, our local county fair and other Wisconsin circuit shows, we’ve both been fortunate to have moderate success in the ring. But more importantly, we’ve learned a lot along the way – both about pigs and about life.  

Without a doubt, my involvement with swine, 4-H and FFA has helped chart my course for the future. Next fall, I will start my junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying agricultural economics and life sciences communication. I have a strong interest in consumer outreach and public perception of agriculture, and I hope to eventually work in a role that allows me to tell agriculture’s story and address the challenges that face our industry.

I look forward to communicating and working with many of you over the course of the summer, whether it be in-person, through one of our NSR blogs or in the pages of Seedstock EDGE. If you see me at one of our shows or sales, be sure to say hello and pose for a photo. Have a great summer and best of luck in the show ring and on your operations!

Meet the Interns - Ali Harwell

Hi all!  My name is Ali Harwell and I am the NJSA Intern this summer. I am so excited to have the opportunity to be involved in another side of this awesome organization. We are already busy getting ready for WPX and NJSS and cannot wait for everyone to see what we have planned for this summer!

A little more about me… I am a senior Spartan from Michigan State University (MSU) majoring in environmental studies and agriscience with a specialization in secondary education. With this degree, I will have the opportunity to teach kids about the many aspects of agriculture. I hope to inspire future generations to be good representatives of agriculture and share the good news our industry has to offer. Activities that keep me busy at MSU include the livestock judging team, Sigma Alpha Agriculture Sorority and Block & Bridle.

A native of Coldwater, Mich., I grew up in an agricultural community – but not on an actual farm.  So, I had to make my own path showing livestock. I developed a strong passion for pigs that started with a 4-H project and has not subsided since. I have been showing pigs at the local, state and national levels for eight years. During this time, I have also been able to raise my own Yorkshire (my favorite), Chester White and crossbred showpigs.

Being part of NJSA has given me numerous experiences that have taught me valuable life lessons and skills, contributing to most of my successes in life. These accomplishments include being Reserve Senior Showman at NAILE, fourth Overall Senior Showman at NJSS and being able to sell hogs I have raised at national events. Showing livestock allows my whole family to work hard together in producing something we can be completely proud of at the end of the day.

Showing hogs helped me develop feelings of determination, competitiveness and accomplishment that cannot be replaced by anything else. Many of you know the feeling of getting up at the crack of dawn, walking your pigs with eyes half open, and then later in the day having to tell your friends you will meet them another night for a movie because you have to walk pigs again when it cools down. Although sometimes I may have asked myself – “Why?!” it was worth it in the long run. Some of the best memories I have go back to those moments in the pens with my pigs. Those times taught me to be patient, to be responsible and to always follow through.

I hope you are all excited about this summer, because we sure are! I can’t wait to meet many of you at our summer events – good luck to everyone in the show ring!

NSR Philippines Trade Mission

Pictured (l-r): Perfecto Corpuz, Pia Ang and Bill Verzani, all from the USDA/FAS Manila office, Justin Fix of the National Swine Registry and Tony Clayton of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc.

The National Swine Registry recently completed a Philippines trade mission, participating in the 21st Hog Convention and Trade Exhibit in Cebu City, Philippines, with an America's Best Genetics (ABG) booth. During the show, members of the USDA/FAS Manila office traveled to Cebu City to participate in several of the event’s activities. The group stopped by the ABG booth to visit with Dr. Justin Fix about the Philippines market (group pictured above). Thanks to all who stopped by the ABG booth!

Just prior to travelling to Cebu City for the tradeshow, Mr. Tony Clayton of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc., Mr. Bobby Badilla, Carmel Import/Export Corporation, and Dr. Justin Fix traveled to Cavite Pig City, located in General Trias, Philippines. During the visit, the trade team viewed some of the first litters farrowed as part of the Genetic Service Partnership between U.S. purebred breeders, the National Swine Registry and Cavite Pig City. Read more about this genetic partnership and consulting agreement here. Litter 7 (pictured below) was farrowed on March 26th with 13 born alive with 12 pigs weaned.

Litter 7 was farrowed by a gilt purchased from Waldo Farms, WFDM1 30-11 Ms Starburst, and sired by a boar purchased from Cedar Ridge Farms, 1CR1 Pikkus 722-5.

Pedigree Portal: How to Register a Litter

One question we are often asked in the Pedigree department is how to record a litter. For those of you who may be registering your pigs for the first time, I wanted to put together some information to help you get started. 

First, you will need to make sure you have been set up with a Herdmark. You can acquire a Herdmark by contacting the NSR office here. A Herdmark is a second form of identification that goes in the front of the name of each pig you record.

We allow you to record as a Member of the NSR or as a NonMember. Members receive discounted litter rates and a one year subscription to the Seedstock Edge magazine, along with voting privileges. If you are interested in becoming a member, visit the Pedigree Section of our website and click on ‘NSR Member Application’ or simply click here.

If the dam of your litter was artificially inseminated, you will need to contact the boar stud where you purchased the semen and ask them to issue an AI certificate. This is sent directly to us and will be matched with your litter once we receive your work.

If your sow was bred naturally by your herd boar, please send a DNA sample to the NSR prior to registering litters to complete the blood banking and the stress testing requirements.   

Now, you are ready to record your litter! There are two ways to do this: 

1.     Download a litter application from our members only page, then click on:  Registration Application & Sow Productivity Data Form. Fill this out then mail it in to the NSR office. In this same portion of the website, you can also download an NSR fee structure for prices; this will give you an idea of how much money to send with your litter.

2.     Record your litter online. Simply call the NSR and ask to be set up to record litters online.

Once your litter is recorded, as long as we have received all the necessary information, your pedigrees will be mailed to you.

If you ever have questions, just give us a call at 765-463-3594.  

Good luck!

Whitney Hosier

Stock Marketing: Does your website pass the test?

With the spring showpig sale season winding down, most of us have time to take a quick breath before plunging into show season. (If you’re not in the field, that is.) In the NSR Marketing and Communications Department, we’re using this break to catch up on paperwork, prepare for the next issue of Seedstock EDGE and start re-designing our website. 

I’m sure many of you will be sending show and sale results off to your web designers. But before you do, put your site through the paces and see if it passes these tests highlighted in Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think (a fast, surprisingly entertaining read on web usability):
  1. Don’t Make Me Think (or anyone for that matter) – Surfing the web should not be a critical thinking exercise and neither should navigating your website. Ensure that visitors to your site don’t have to think by making your site navigation clear. Anything “clickable” should be easy-to-locate and obvious. If it is a button – make it look like a button.  
  2. Scan Friendly Text – When was the last time you read a web page? No, I mean REALLY read a web page. If you can’t recall, you can join the majority of web users. The instant satisfaction of the Internet lends itself to short bits of text, known in the communications world as “copy.” The easier your copy is to scan, the more effective your message is. So use headlines, bulleted lists and paragraph breaks to organize your information according to its relevance and importance.
  3. Pass the “Trunk Test” – In Krug’s book, he talks about the “trunk test.” To perform the trunk test, go to any page on your website and pretend you were just dumped out at that page from a search engine – or for the analogy’s sake, you were just let out of a car’s trunk at this site. Would you know where you are? How could you get back home? Make sure your site has “signs” and breadcrumbs (those little words with the arrows) so your users can find their way home. Navigating a site should not be an adventure like Homeward Bound, which is why every page of your site should include the site name, a button to get home and a clear navigation menu.
  4. Home Sweet Home – Speaking of home, Krug says the home page should convey the “big picture” without overwhelming the user. Now, we know we’re guilty of overwhelming you with the amount of information on our homepage. So we’re taking our own advice, and Krug’s, and removing everything we think we can place elsewhere. The homepage is best suited for a welcome note and a company tagline – the rest is up to your user-friendly navigation.
I hope these four quick tips will help you improve your web presence. I know that we will be working hard for the next several months to improve ours. As always, if you have any ideas for us or need some marketing insight, feel free to get in touch with us.