Elected officials see, learn the ‘real’ pork story

Elected officials see, learn the ‘real’ pork story

Public officials and other guests get a personal view of a swine finishing barn near Winthrop.

A handful of state politicians and area county officials were among the nearly 70 people who attended an invitation-only event last night that took guests to several Buchanan County hog farms.

The Aaron and Trish Cook family of Winthrop, past Iowa Pork Producers Association President Al Wulfekuhle of Quasqueton, the Buchanan County Pork Producers Association and IPPA hosted “An Evening on a Pig Farm” open house to give public officials an inside look at modern pork production and the hardworking families who responsibly raise pigs.

When our county board of supervisors passed a resolution earlier this year calling for a moratorium on industry expansion and the state’s Master Matrix scoring system that most producers must use to get approval for a new hog barn, we knew we needed to find a way to educate our public officials about what we do, Wulfekuhle said.

The “Evening on a Pig Farm” was developed to allow officials who make the laws and decisions to actually see what modern pork production is all about, see the different aspects of production, ask questions and meet the people who raise pigs.

The event started at the Cook family farm. Aaron Cook talked about his family and the pork production part of the business. The family produced a short video of its pork staff that explained the different phases of production, from farrowing to finish.

The guests were then bused to a nearby Cook hog site that featured a barn full of five-week old pigs and a new barn that is under construction. From there, the group was transported to another site to see a newly constructed, unpopulated, 2,400-head finishing barn that is owned by two young brothers who will soon begin raising pigs for the Cook family. After enjoying a

Past IPPA President Al Wulfekuhle.

pork dinner grilled and served by the county producers inside the new barn, Wulfekuhle held an open discussion with the crowd and the hosts answered questions about the barn and production and conducted a tour of the facility.

The public officials who attended the event applauded the Cooks for opening their farm to them to let them see and learn for themselves what modern pork production is actually about.

“I’ve heard a lot of negative things about these confinements and I was anxious to see how this actually works when it’s done right,” said Delaware County first-term Supervisor Pete Buschmann of Greeley. “I’ve got a lot to learn as a new supervisor and this is one of the main things.”

A couple of the public figures felt strongly that the pork industry needs to have more events such as “An Evening on a Pig Farm.”

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Rep. Lee Hein of Monticello. “More events like this should be held around the state to inform supervisors and local officials what’s really out here in the country, what [farmers] are trying to do and that some of the things they’re listening to when they’re making decision maybe aren’t the truth.”

Sen. Craig Johnson of Independence agreed with Hein, saying he felt the event should be duplicated in all Iowa counties. “Producers are doing a great job, but some of the terminology that is used and what the public hears causes misunderstandings about how animals are being raised. If more of the public saw what we saw tonight, I think it would be a whole different story,” he said.

At night’s end, the guests left with a better understanding of the families and practices behind today’s pork production and the hosts were satisfied that their efforts were appreciated.

“I think it went really well. I thought we had the people here that we were really targeting, wanting to talk to and explain things to,” Aaron Cook said. “I thought they had some really good questions and I’m very happy with how it went. I think it made a difference.”