High Plains Journal, KS 06-15-07 Pork program promises producer's accountability to the consumer By Jennifer Bremer Pork producers want to demonstrate accountability, trust and social responsibility to their customers and a newly launched program will do that. Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) was officially launched on June 7 at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. "The pork industry is working on programs that will demonstrate to our customers our accountability, trust and social responsibility in pork production," said Wayne Peugh, a pork producer from Edelstein, Ill., and National Pork Board president. "As producers there are a lot of things we do that make common sense, but now we need to demonstrate these to our customers." PQA Plus incorporates an animal well-being component into the previous PQA program. Basically it will be a combination of the Pork Checkoff's Swine Welfare Assurance Program and the Pork Quality Assurance certification program. The industry's solution is a continuous improvement system focused on producer education, certification, and premises assessment. An audit of a representative sample of sites will extend credibility to the program. Peugh stressed that the program was set up to be credible, workable and affordable for pork producers. It was designed to work for producers of all sizes and all production styles. "Acceptance of the program is critical between producers and veterinarians to work together to make it happen," he said. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians have participated in the development and testing of PQA Plus. "The AASV is pleased to support PQA Plus and we are looking forward to its implementation," said Dr. Daryl Olsen, AASV president. "Animal care and well being is important for the continued production of safe and high quality pork." He said that his group will continue to educate and train veterinarians in proper pork quality assurance practices. Prior to the launch of the program, it was tested with producers of all sizes and production styles to make sure it is workable for everyone producing pork. The Pork Checkoff has been conducting beta tests on pilot farms. Each PQA Plus pilot advisor brought a variety of swine experience and background to the development of the program by representing and working with all types and sizes of pork producers. "There were several challenges that were addressed and led to changes in production methods for the well-being of the animals," said Larry McMullen, Iowa State University swine field specialist. McMullen said that the challenges included determining the best environment for gestating, lactating, early weaning and finishing hogs. The program focuses on the needs of all producers and is set up to help save the producer both time and money with their management practices. "This program needs to allow all producers to assure pork safety and well being to the consumers," he said. A nationwide network of trained and certified advisors will work with pork producers to help them become PQA Plus certified. Nearly 70 of these advisors made up of veterinarians, extension staff and educators will be located in 35 states. The certification will be valid for three years and must be renewed. Producers currently certified in PQA Level III will continue to be certified until their current certification expires. However, all producers are encouraged to obtain PQA Plus certification at any time. Site status can be audited at any time after June 2008, when producers would be accountable for their practices. The first class of producers received PQA Plus certification at the World Pork Expo. That group included members of the National Pork board of directors and the Pork Leadership Academy. "Pork producers have always cared for our animals and now we have a way to demonstrate that care to others," said Peugh. "I encourage pork producers to achieve PQA Plus certification because it is the right thing to do."