This past fall, Dr. Barry R. Kerkaert had the opportunity to work with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in their Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program. A well-respected swine veterinarian and production consultant throughout the upper Midwest, Dr. Kerkaert was invited by NPPC to Washington, D.C. to study public policy and act as an advocate for the swine industry.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” states Dr. Kerkaert. “It allowed me to understand policymaking and legislation, and to come away with a new appreciation of how our government works.”
That was phase one of the Public Policy Advocacy Program. Phase two will begin in January. “We’ll be learning about the economic viability of the U.S. pork industry and its dependence on international trade,” says Dr. Kerkaert. The final phase will help program participants better understand the federal regulatory process.
“The whole purpose of the Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program is to help vets better understand government and how it impacts the swine industry,” Dr. Kerkaert explains. “Veterinarians and producers are considered experts in the field, and we do carry political clout, but we need to have the confidence to speak out for what’s right.”
Dr. Kerkaert applauds NPPC for representing pork producers in Washington. “If NPPC doesn’t do this, no one else will represent us,” says the swine specialist. “If we don’t represent ourselves, the policymakers and lawmakers can easily come to the conclusion that special interest groups like HSUS represent the majority.” Pipestone System’s client base has excellent representation at the national level including former NPPC president Don Buhl and 2013 NPPC president Randy Spronk, he points out.
When Dr. Kerkaert and other participants have been through the curriculum of the Public Policy Advocacy Program, the NPPC may ask them to speak to the policymakers in Washington D.C. on specific issues.
“One of the greatest threats facing pork producers today is that the government will enact regulations (such as those proposed by HSUS) that tell us how we must raise our animals,” says the swine veterinarian and consultant. “If the government dictates production, they will give away the freedom of the producer to make decisions for their animals.”
“Who other than the producer is in a better position to make decisions regarding the care of their animals?” says Dr. Kerkaert, who argues that productivity and efficiency of the swine industry has improved 2-3% every year for the last 50 years without regulation. “The people who do the best job raising their animals are rewarded economically and the people doing the poor job are not rewarded—the system is self-eliminating.”
“I look forward to the opportunity to talk one-on-one with our senators and representatives about that issue and others—answering their questions and giving them confidence in our industry,” Dr. Kerkaert concludes.