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Published May 07, 2012, 08:45 AM

In his genes

Randy Spronk likes to say that “hog production is in my genes.” Spronk, whose ancestors raised hogs in the Netherlands and who today is a pork producer in Edgerton, Minn., has been elected president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council. He becomes the organization’s president next spring.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Randy Spronk likes to say that “hog production is in my genes.”

Spronk, whose ancestors raised hogs in the Netherlands and who today is a pork producer in Edgerton, Minn., has been elected president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council. He becomes the organization’s president next spring.

His leadership roles come at a time that he says is crucial for deciding who will determine “caretaker rights and responsibilities.”

Will the determination be made by animal activists or by producers, “the people who know the situation best?” he asks.

Livestock producers will change how they do things when told to do so by a general public that knows all the facts and makes knowledgeable decisions, he says.

“I’m confident a fully informed public will make the right decision,” Spronk says.

Trouble is, animal activists too often present limited, biased information that provides a poor understanding of what’s actually happening in livestock production, he says.

An example of that, he says, is Burger King’s recent decision to seek cage-free hogs and chickens by 2017.

“It’s a decision that was made without fully understanding the consequences,” he says.

Spronk points to a recent news article that suggests hog production in the European Union could drop by 10 percent because of a new rule that will require producers there to keep hogs in larger pens. Many European producers must choose between barn remodeling or going out of business, according to the article.

The real issue, Spronk says, is not where animals are kept, be it “pastures or individual housing. It’s the ethics and training of caretakers.”

Risk, technology

Spronk, 52, is the managing partner for two family farm enterprises.

Spronk Brothers III is involved in pork production and markets 120,000 head annually. Ranger Farms LLP raises corn and soybeans on 2,000 acres.

Spronk has two brothers, one a veterinarian and the other a cattle buyer. The brother who’s a vet remains a partner in Spronk Brothers III.

One of the challenges for the pork industry, and agriculture in general, is becoming better at risk management, Spronk says.

“There’s a lot of volatility,” he says. “We need to be good at risk management.” Technology also is increasingly important, he says.

He spoke by cell phone to Agweek while sitting in a tractor planting corn. Other technology in the cab allows him to communicate by email and to search the Internet for weather forecasts and other information that enables him to make timely business decisions.

The communications technology also will help him keep in touch with National Pork Producers Council business, limiting the amount of time that he needs to spend away from the farm, he says.

The council represents 43 affiliated state associations and 67,000 U.S. pork producers. It works on legislation, regulations and trade initiatives.

Spronk has spent five years on the council and is a former president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

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