Last fall we reported that Dr. Barry Kerkaert had been given the opportunity to work with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in their Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program. At that point, he had finished the first of a three-stage study of public policy—after which he agreed to act as a swine industry spokesperson.
Dr. Kerkaert recently completed stages two and three of the program, having studied how our government handles agricultural imports, and how the USDA and FDA regulate food safety and animal health.
Dr. Kerkaert will now be asked by the NPPC to lobby for or against legislation, and to support allied industry groups.
“I’m excited to represent and defend our industry,” says Dr. Kerkaert. “We have a lot to be proud of, and we need people with the confidence to speak out. I’m hoping to be one of those people.” Too often people feel passionate about an issue, but because they lack an understanding of public policy, they are not confident enough to say what is on their minds. “Because of that, the opposition sounds like they are right and have all the momentum,” he states.
As an example, Dr. Kerkaert recently received notice from the NPPC that the Humane Society of the United States is pressuring Congress to pass its so-called Rotten Egg Bill (S.820 – The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013). This bill would allow the government to dictate the amount of space allotted to a laying hen.
“The swine industry does not feel the government should have this authority,” says Dr. Kerkaert, who refers to S.820 as a first step to regulating space in other livestock industries, including swine. “If this passes, the government will soon be telling us how to house our animals and we do not think that is right,” he states.
For the past 50 years, swine and other livestock industries have improved their efficiency at producing protein from meat by 2 to 3 percent per year, without regulation. “Farmers and their veterinarians are more qualified to determine space needed to be comfortable and productive than special interests in a government bureaucracy,” concludes Dr. Kerkaert, who was recently named 2013 Swine Practitioner of the Year by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.