Honorary Master Pork Producer Awards

Almost since the inception of the Master Pork Producer Awards, the Iowa Pork Producers Association has selected people who, through their work, have had a profound impact on the swine or pork industry. The IPPA Board of Directors considers nominations presented to them, and select one or two Honorary Master Pork Producers every year. 

Download the list of Honorary Master Pork Producers since the program began in 1944. And, meet the 2022 winners below:

Neil Dierks, 2022 Honorary Master Pork Producer

Neil Dierks dedicated 40 years to helping pork producers across the nation. His career included stops at the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), Iowa Corn, and, most notably, his 20 years as chief executive officer for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) that capped decades of leading Iowa farmers.

As CEO of NPPC, Neil Dierks guided the organization’s steady growth, expanding its resources for revenue while establishing it as a highly effective and influential national advocacy organization. Rich Degner, IPPA’s former CEO, says: “When the National Pork Producers Council was reorganizing and the volunteer leaders were giving consideration to the qualities the new CEO should possess, in my opinion, there was only one person in the United States who possessed the humility, leadership qualities, and presence necessary at that time. It was Neil Dierks.”

Dierks continued as that stalwart advocate for pork producers until his retirement in December 2021.

Sam Carney, a past NPPC president from Iowa, most admires that Dierks “would sit back and listen to everyone’s thoughts. When we finished talking, he would speak, and everyone listened. And when he got done, everyone realized he was right. His advice and counsel were unbelievable.”

Regardless of the challenge—potential regulatory restrictions, trade barriers, or producer profitability—Dierks’ No. 1 concern has always been what’s best for producers. When describing Dierks, another Iowan who served as an NPPC president, Howard Hill, used the following words: "integrity, honesty, intelligence, dedication, and leadership." Hill said, “I believe every NPPC board member and officer appreciated his ability to deal with and help solve the numerous challenges confronting our industry.”

Dermot Hayes, 2022 Honorary Master Pork Producer

Though much of his work has gone unseen by many, Dr. Dermot Hayes, the Iowa State University (ISU) Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness and Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences, is a key player in the swine industry’s trade markets.

Dr. Dermot Hayes has taught at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames since 1986, but his work extends far beyond the classroom and Iowa. Since 1995, he has been a consulting trade economist for NPPC (National Pork Producers Council). In that time, he’s focused on the economic opportunities and challenges for exporting pork around the world. This includes identifying and analyzing potential trade markets for U.S. pork and monitoring the production of competing nations. Once trade markets are secured, he continues to track the development of those markets over the course of years.

Hayes’ propensity to provide economic analyses accurately and reliably has not only impacted the farm. His work is well-known and respected within the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

Hayes has examined the ramifications of line-speed rulings and the impact of COVID-19 on the packing plant industry. He has spent decades working for the National Pork Board, NPPC, and IPPA on various issues.

John Weber, a past president for both IPPA and NPPC, said “Dr. Hayes’ knowledge of domestic and global economics has added untold wealth to America’s pork producers. He inspired us as board members to take action on multiple economic issues that we could not have done without his analysis. All this while maintaining his true love of teaching young people at Iowa State.”