Opinion by Anne Miller
Wyoming's Bacon Farmers by Anne Miller
As you root for your favorite team in a classic game of pigskin this weekend, Wyoming’s pork producers encourage you to have bacon on the menu. Why you ask? It’s simple. Where else can you find a mouthwatering taste as good as bacon and support Wyoming’s agriculture economy? What? No recipes? We’d be delighted to fix that for you as well, just keep reading.
Wyoming’s pork industry is alive and kicking, with gross market values of over $14.5 million in 2012. Of the 172,462 pigs marketed, 69 percent were feeder pigs. One distinct advantage to Wyoming’s rural landscape is distance between hog barns, allowing for additional biosecurity between pig herds. Young pigs weaned in Wyoming supply operations throughout the U.S. Market hogs and seedstock also form an essential industry component. Many of these operations are composed of youth producers, or those that first got into the business as a youth. In 2012 alone, 1,627 Wyoming kids were enrolled with 4-H Market Swine Projects. Ninety-five more participated in Breeding Swine Projects. Swine was the top livestock project within the 4-H programming, second only to Shooting Sports overall.
Wyoming Pork Producers Council (WPPC) wants to see these trends continue. Incorporated in 1972 as a nonprofit association, the Council represents all producers engaged in the swine industry, including both youth and adults at various scales of production. We serve as a liaison between the Wyoming swine industry and the National Pork Board, administering Checkoff programs in promotion, education and research, and also the National Pork Producers Council, which conducts public policy outreach on behalf of 43 member states, including Wyoming. Our office is a direct legislative link for producers at both the state and national representative levels.
The office operating budget relies on the mandatory 40 cents per $100 in Pork Checkoff receipts to administer programming in Checkoff areas. Funding for capital assets, such as computers, and legislative work comes from a blend of membership dues and a voluntary checkoff of 10 cents per $100.
Since a reorganization phase in 2009, WPPC has emphasized youth and education as the primary focus of the organization. By partnering with the 4-H Showcase Showdown event in Laramie, the Board has worked to engage more youth in our Annual Meeting, designed for education and to select delegates for our National Forum. Endowments totaling $22,500 were established at Northwest Community College, Laramie Community College and Eastern Wyoming College to encourage growth in the industry. A pool of $4,430 in direct scholarships is also available to qualified students in 2013. Additional sponsorships in 2012 included the FFA Golf Scramble, Wyoming State Fair’s Swine Arena, Casper Livestock Judging Camp and a series of FFA Learning By Doing grants. In fact, campers at the popular FFA Leadership Camp all returned home full of ideas and with WPPC-provided backpacks. Other major projects include primary sponsorship of the Cheyenne Hispanic Festival, with WPPC taking the lead as the first pork association in the nation to sponsor a cultural event such as this.
Remember our offer to help with bacon recipes? Whether you need cooking inspiration, scholarship forms or would like to become a member, wyomingpork.org can help. A convenient recipe search tool can help make you the star of all things pork. Under the “All About Pork” tab, a recipe request form is available for your own kitchen use, classrooms, BBQ events and other occasions. The same tab includes important cooking resources, including nutritional content, cooking temperature charts and diagrams showing various pork charts. March over to the “Consumer/Produce Resources” area for youth factsheets handy for swine projects, ranging in subject from food safety to clipping show pigs to estrus detection. Membership forms are also available along with, drumroll please, the option to join a directory listing. At their option, producer members can choose to list themselves via our website at no additional cost. Added this Spring after the February membership drive, the primary goal of this project is to link those seeking pigs with the industry members established within the state. Website links, contact information, pig breeds and operation types are included with this resource, searchable both by distance and by keyword.
We are proud to represent the Wyoming swine industry. From students with a single sow and a lot of promise to show pig producers mentoring youth to large producers working to produce quality bacon, our diversity makes us stronger. We are actively looking for new ideas, opportunities and members. Perhaps you can help – we’ll even serve you bacon.