Farm Food Facts

Ep 42 Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Maddie Hokanson, Women in Pork

September 17, 2019 Episode 42
Farm Food Facts
Ep 42 Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Maddie Hokanson, Women in Pork
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Ep 42 Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Maddie Hokanson, Women in Pork
Sep 17, 2019 Episode 42
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

Our thought leader today is Dr. Liz Wagstrom currently serves as the Chief Veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council. She leads NPPC’s Science and Technology efforts, including on responsible antibiotic use and antibiotic use data collection and reporting. 

The news you need to know:
1. This summer the USDA released its annual Technology Transfer Report on tech innovation in the Ag sector.
2. The radical Farming system that puts Pigs in the Shade.


The Farmer of The Week is Maddie Hokanson is part of the 7th generation at Schafer Farms located in Goodhue, Minnesota, where they have been raising pigs and beef cattle since 1886. 



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for Wednesday, September 18, 2019 I'm your host Phil Lempert.Today, we're going to discuss pork. More importantly, women in the pork industry and with us are two women who are perfect for this discussion. Dr Liz Wagstrom and Maddie Hokanson. Dr Wagstrom currently serves as the chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council. She leads NPC's, science and technology efforts including on responsible antibiotic use and antibiotic use, data collection and reporting. During her career, she's worked at the intersection of animal health, public health, including as a practicing veterinarian and Public Health Veterinarian, an industry organization, staff member, and an academia. Maddie Hokanson is part of the seventh generation of Schafer Farms located in Goodhue, Minnesota, where they had been raising pigs and beef cattle since 1886. In addition to the farm, Maddie works and freelance communication for the national pork board being part of the planning and execution of farm tours and video shoots across the country. Welcome both of you to farm food facts.
:
1:17
Thank you.
:
1:18
So Dr Wagstrom. Let's start with you. Um, tell me a bit about the swine veterinary public policy advocacy program.
Dr. Wagstrom:
1:26
The Swine Veterinary Public Policy Advocacy program, which now I'll just call "The Program" cause that's too much of a mouthful of words to say, is a program we've been running for about 10 years at National Pork Producers Council and it's a way to help veterinarians expand into the area of advocating for the pork industry in the veterinary profession. We have three sessions, one in Washington DC that focuses on how legislation's made. So how do you get laws passed? How do you influence that those laws are the right laws for our industry. Then we do a second session focused on trade.
Phil Lempert:
2:06
Before you get to that, explain to me why it's important for a veterinarian, um, to understand how laws are made.
Dr. Wagstrom:
2:15
We look at our industry, both the veterinary practice as well as the pork industry. Um, there are a lot of people that may be interested in, um, legislating how we practice medicine or how we grow our animals. And a lot of those people have no concept of what we do on the farm story. In our practices. So as a veterinarian, we can come up to Capitol Hill, we can talk from experience about what veterinarians do and how we work with our farmers that raise pigs.
Phil Lempert:
2:45
So when we talk about these legislators and you get in front of them and other veterinarians get in front of them, what are some of the kinds of questions that they bring up? Are some of the issues that they bring up that, that you as a, as a say, oh, well, you know, how do you not know this? Um, and, and you know, legislating and, you know, what are, what are those kinds of things?
Dr. Wagstrom:
3:09
Oh, we have misinformation out there such as every pig every day gets antibiotics, couldn't be further from the truth. So the veterinarian, we can talk to them about, um, why we use antibiotics, why we work to minimize the need to use antibiotics and, and just the care that we take to make sure that our animals are healthy and produce safe food. Got It.
Phil Lempert:
3:33
So move onto the course number two on trade
Dr. Wagstrom:
3:36
Course number two is a trade policy. Um, to the last two years we've been going to Columbia to show how a free trade agreement has worked to benefit both countries. We've actually done, um, advertising in Colombia just for pork, assuming that if it's Colombian pork or if it's u s pork, if pork sales increase total in Colombia, it's good for Colombian farmers in US farmers. Um, talk about some of the, what we call sps as you sanitary and phytosanitary issues that might prevent trading partners from wanting our pork, whether it is, um, testing for certain pathogens, whether it is requiring either that we don't use certain, um, animal health products. And so we talked about how we resolve those issues and you know, we export over 25% of the pork that we produce in the United States. So trade is extremely important.
Phil Lempert:
4:33
And then of course, number three
Dr. Wagstrom:
4:34
Course number three is the regulatory structure. So before I came to DC I just assumed that somebody in Capitol Hill wrote a law and it just became implemented, not realizing that that whole executive branch of the regulatory structure, whether it's FDA or USDA or EPA, they have to write rules. They have to write rules that, um, in force what the legislation was intended for. But we need to be involved in that rule writing to make sure that it is, um, those rules are, um, achievable that we can comply with them and that they do follow the intent of the legislation. So we often bring veterinarians in to FDA and USDA to talk about how they work on the farms with our farmers.
Phil Lempert:
5:24
So you actually served as chairman for the USDA Secretaries Advisory Committee on animal health. I'm so, so clearly from a policy standpoint, you understand it. What are some of the biggest challenges that the pork industry has right now with the folks in Washington?
Dr. Wagstrom:
5:43
For the science and technology issues that I focus on, we've got two main focuses. One is that in the 2018 farm bill, we got, um, a significant amount of funding to help purchase a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank as well as to have some grants to states for either diagnostics or prevention. Um, we wanted that money start to be spent. The minute the ink was dry on the farm bill, there's still just now starting to get out the, um, request for proposals and identifying vendors to do that. So we've had to keep up a constant pressure on to make sure that money is spent as intended. The second big thing we're working on is with the advent of African sign fever in Asia. It is a animal only pig only disease doesn't effect pork safety or humans. Um, we are advocating very strongly to decrease the number of agricultural inspectors that customs and border protection would have at airports, sea ports and land crossings. We need 600 more inspectors. It's a huge lift, but, but we've been working hard on that too.
Phil Lempert:
6:52
So talking about Asia, let's switch over to Maddie. Maddie, first of all, congratulations on, on graduation. Thank you very much. And, um, I understand that right after graduation, I don't know if this was a, uh, present a graduation present or just something that you chose to do, you went over to China four 15 days. Why?
Maddie Hokanson:
7:13
So I actually chose to take a class through the the College of Agriculture, Food and environmental sciences at SDSU the spring of my senior year. So it's a semester long class where we studied about topics in agriculture, specifically relating to China and then just the culture of China as well. And then after graduation, the Monday after, actually we have done a plane headed over to China for 15 days and we went to Shanghai Shyanne Inner Mongolia and then also Beijing. And during that time we got a whole mix of talking about, like I said, the culture that China has and how different it is from the United States as well as understanding their agriculture industry and how it's so dramatically impacts hours.
Phil Lempert:
7:55
So what did you learn? What was the biggest surprise? I had been to China as part of a UN delegation a long time ago. Um, and I walked away. Um, very, very surprised. Um, with, with everything that I learned now I know that they've gotten, you know, fast track on a lot of technology and so on from the time that I was there. But what did you learn that really surprised you about China and agriculture?
Maddie Hokanson:
8:21
Yeah. Well great question. I would have to say the biggest thing that I learned regarding agriculture in China is just how similar they really are to our day to day practices. And we went to a full tree farm, we went to beef farms, we went to dairy farms, we didn't go to a fork farm due to African swine fever and making sure that we were mitigating any risk of bringing that back home. But everything was actually very similar in the way it was done. The scope and scale of how it was completed and just the amount that people care, I would say is very similar there. The biggest though would be the way that it's all, so almost all of those large scale farms are owned at least in large part by their governments as well. So I think that was the biggest difference to go and learn about and how much impact their government has on the decisions that are made within those farms instead of it just being the decision of the farm owners themselves.
Phil Lempert:
9:17
So culturally, what did you learn that surprised you
Maddie Hokanson:
9:21
and no, I think the biggest thing I learned culturally was just the fact that the people ,they care so much about what their images looking like. And I think whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, uh, people do things to say fates the college and make sure that what they're doing is going to look good in a light. So they work really hard every day. [inaudible] work is their number one priority. And um, making sure that their child has a good future and a good job. So we talked to One lady that her son plays in Pong as a third grader, two hours every single day to become a pro at ping pong. And that's, I think is just so interesting because that is such a different philosophy from what we as Americans have been raised as in the way of most people anyway, raised their children.
Phil Lempert:
10:15
One of the things that I noticed when I was there, and I don't know whether it still goes on, but practically every, every corner has like a little park and the, uh, the citizens would go into that park and exercise, um, do you know, very slow motion exercises and stuff, uh, every day as part of their life.
Maddie Hokanson:
10:37
Yeah, that was another thing we got to see a lot of, it typically ended up being, um, probably any women from 40 to 60. What's kind of the average age that we saw and they'd be on street corners in parks. Um, I'm bridges sometimes blocking traffic. Um, so yeah, a couple of interesting things like that, but the other, the thing that I really loved was that the amount of roses that were everywhere, and that was something I wasn't expecting, but it was actually really beautiful.
Phil Lempert:
11:05
Yeah, I didn't, I didn't see that either. So, um, Dr when we look at careers in pork, you know, Maddie is a perfect example, a seventh generation, uh, pork producer graduates. It goes to China, learns more about agriculture. Tell us a little bit more about what kind of careers there are for women as it relates to pork.
Dr. Wagstrom:
11:31
The career pathway is wide open. We need people who can work in our Byron's who are responsible, who are caring, who are detail oriented and we see women succeeding tremendously in the barns. But then we also see women in management in our farm systems and most of our farm systems that would have an care or animal welfare specialists. Many of those positions are held by women. Um, a lot of that concerns training of people on proper animal care as well as the detail orientation of being able to do appraisals and audits of if those animal care protocols are being followed in veterinary medicine. We have a vast majority of women in our veterinary school classes. Probably around 80 to 90% of women coming in or of students coming into veterinary school are women. And we see women very successfully going into veterinary practice, whether it's as a employee of a production company or whether it's in a private practice that deals with multiple farmers.
Dr. Wagstrom:
12:43
And so to me, the, the sky's limit on women in, in the park industry. And it's so gratifying to see. I mean, I look at Maddie and I were kind of different. Um, and so the spectrum as far as where we are in our career paths and age, when I started out in the pork industry, we always kinda joked, we said there would never be allied in the women's bathroom. Um, because we just didn't have enough women at meetings. And it's so fun to see that, you know, I don't mind standing in line when I see all of these, just tremendous young women who have joined our industry.
Phil Lempert:
13:17
So Maddie, I get why you went back to the farm, seventh generation. It's in your blood. Talk to me a bit about other people, other friends and students, uh, that were in the program with you. What are they doing? Uh, now that they've graduated?
Maddie Hokanson:
13:35
Yeah, that's a great question. So I graduated with a degree in agricultural communications and leadership. So I guess nothing related to accounting as I can say, but that's what I'm doing home on the farm. Um, well I think people I graduated with that degree are doing a vast variety of things anywhere from doing journalism and writing or working in social media and communication, whether that's for a specific company or working for a public relations firm. Um, but then there are others that have chosen to go and be part of a farm. I've got one friend who is going to be graduating this next December and she's working on developing her own freelance business that allows her to work individually for small farms and help develop their social media, their, um, blog plans and writing just their communication style because that's something that when you go to school too works in production agriculture.
Maddie Hokanson:
14:29
Um, that's not necessarily your focus on how do we go and talk about what we do. So then bringing those people in that have had that specialization or really have that passion for sharing that story. Um, I think that's a really wonderful thing to go on. Blend the two together. So for instance, with my family's farm, my brother is home on the farm and manages one of our style units and then I'm on the other side of it and doing our accounting as well as some of our social media and our communication stuff. So we work well together because we are so different.
Phil Lempert:
14:57
So I want to go back to what Liz was talking about as far as the borne culture. So Maddie, do you ever go into the barn?
Maddie Hokanson:
15:05
Um, at this point in my life, I'm not going in as often as I used to, growing up in about there greatest when I started and, and breeds thous Arrow, uh, go through all the processes that you need to do. He takes healthy and did that all through high school. But once I got into college, then that amount backed off. And then like I said, it Kinda turned into more the communications side and the, the behind the scenes of what makes a farm run.
Phil Lempert:
15:30
So Liz, um, you know, for, for the novices out there, um, I think that most people believe that the role of a veterinarian and you've done a great job of explaining the breadth of what veterinarians do, but veterinaries for the most part, you know, are get the phone call that, oh, you know, my, my sao is sick, you know, come, come visit. Uh, talk a little bit about that. Uh, is it, is it just when a sao becomes ill that you're called in and you know, you're setting up everything to prevent them from getting sick from the day to day. What is the veterinarian do on a hog farm?
Dr. Wagstrom:
16:11
That's a great question because when I looked at going into veterinary medicine, you know, almost 40 years ago, that's exactly what it was. You had the pig big pickup truck and the radio people would call you and you got diverted to this call or did that call and it couldn't be further from the truth from the day to day picture. Now, um, veterinarians become part of a management team and they are involved in helping design systems that will keep animals healthy rather than to just treat sick pigs. And so it could be anything from saying we ought to wean our pigs at this many at this age too. We need to wash our trucks more and we ought to put big air dryers in the trucks so that when they dry off, they won't spread any disease to subsequent animals that might come into that same truck. So the breadth of veterinarian medicine has changed so tremendously.
Dr. Wagstrom:
17:10
It's involves management, it involves epidemiology, involves process flows. It's just very much a holistic look at what you can do throughout the life of an animal to keep them healthy. And we spent a lot of time on things that may not mean looking at animals, but it might be looking at records, it might be looking at, um, inspecting a truck wash, you know, just to make sure that they're washing trucks well enough. So it's a very diverse accusation. And I think that's why it's so interesting to the veterinarians to choose to go into slide medicine.
Phil Lempert:
17:48
So the way describing it, you're like, and veterinarians are like, you know, the chief technology and science officer of a farm.
Dr. Wagstrom:
17:58
Absolutely. And that person, the veterinarian will work closely with the nutritionist because you know, you'll have that nutritionist giving input on the healthy diets. They will work with the engineers who are looking at temperature and air flows and, and systems to make sure that the, um, temperature and humidity and that the environment inside the barn is comfortable for the animal. So you'll have several people working on technology, but the veterinarians focuses that, how that technology relates to the health of the pig.
Phil Lempert:
18:29
So Maddie, describe for me if you would, your family, your family's relationship with your veterinarian.
Maddie Hokanson:
18:37
Right. That's [inaudible] something that we speak very openly about and really positively. Okay. Since we opened up our first barn in 1997, our first sexual sal unit, we've worked really closely with our veterinarians. They're in, um, at, sometimes it's once a week, sometimes it's once a month, but it's constant contact, whether that's a phone call.
Phil Lempert:
18:59
Okay.
Maddie Hokanson:
18:59
Once a day, sometimes twice a day when things are going on. We make sure that we're having very open and honest communication about what we're doing because they are the experts, in fact, and we need to go and make sure that when something's going wrong that we're reaching out to them and before things are going wrong as well or reaching out to make sure that we're continuing to do things right. So we have very open communication with our veterinarians and we've, we really pride ourselves and enjoy that relationship that we have with them and realized just how poor, how important and vital of a role they serve in the success of our farm.
Phil Lempert:
19:33
So you've just graduated, you're starting, I understand. Um, your grandmother's is decided to retire, so you're filling in her shoes. What do you want to be doing on the farm in five years, 10 years, 15 years from now?
Maddie Hokanson:
19:47
Well, that's, that's the perfect question that nobody has the right answer to. Right. Um, I'd say that I tend to 15 years, I want to do whatever it is that allows our farm to continue to thrive. We've been going for 135 years. And that's because people in the family and people in our community step up and they do whatever needs to be done. So if that means continuing to do the financial records and the accounting, then that's what I'll be doing. But if that means that we need to go and transition and add in more of a [inaudible] no, we're having some of the opportunities to do tours in our barn. So if that means sharing that message with the public, because consumer perception is another huge okay challenge that we deal with in the pork industry, then that's what I'll make sure that I'm doing. But I want to make sure that no matter what it is I do with my career, that's our family's farm and the fork industry and the agriculture industry are at the forefront of my decision making because at the end of the day, that's what feed their world. That's also
Dr. Wagstrom:
20:47
how my family makes the living and makes the life.
Dr. Wagstrom:
20:49
And Dr Wagstrom, what do you want to be doing five 10 15 years from now in your career? Well, I hope I'm around in 15 years, but I really want to keep advocating on behalf of the pork industry in the veterinary profession. I want to keep being energized by young people like Maddie who every time I get a group of them together, I'm just like first one, glad I didn't have to compete with people like that to get into vet school. And I did because you're just tremendously energetic, talented a to cs stick and dedicated people. And so I just want to be able to advocate on behalf of them, the ability for them to keep producing safe, wholesome food and um, having a license.
Maddie Hokanson:
21:32
Yes. And I connected with that with talking about young people in agriculture. It is, that's an interesting topic and it's such an interesting demographic that's going on today because so many people that didn't grow up on a farm, but we're involved in four h or FFA, seeing them all at school and seeing them having just as much or more passion about the pork industry than those that grew up on it, where I think it just comes naturally and you sometimes take for granted. But those that didn't grow up on it, just how much they are thankful to be a part of it. And how progressive a thinking of an organization and an industry it is. I think that really is what makes the pork industry so wonderful. And that's the reason that I'm so blessed to be a part of it.
Dr. Wagstrom:
22:17
And I want to thank both of you for joining us today on farm food facts. Well thank you
Phil Lempert:
22:30
And now for the news, you need to know this number. The USDA released its annual technology transfer report on tech innovation in the agriculture sector. The technology transfer report highlights innovations from scientists and researchers or solving problems for farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers, and creating opportunities for American businesses to thrive. Your report revealed 320 new inventions from USTA laboratories. Discoveries include a repellent made from coconut oil toward off blood-sucking insects that cost the cattle industry more than two point $4 billion each year. Technology that keeps almond crops from being lost to heavy rains and a treatment for peanut allergies. Other innovation highlights include a system full and moving nitrate from contaminated water and recycling it for reuse as fertilizer. A test strip for major foodborne pathogens that reduces testing time from 24 to 72 hours to about 30 minutes and a vaccine against strep that may markedly improve the health and welfare of Pigs while reducing the use of antibiotics.
Phil Lempert:
23:39
And along with tech innovation, farming practices continue to evolve as well. Radical system that puts digs in the shade. A farm in Portugal is demonstrating how silvopasture farming combining livestock with productive trees could offer some real solutions to our ongoing climate challenges. Alfredo Kunle is an agriculture scientist combining herds of animals with productive trees and shrubs on vast expanses of land. He tells us animals are the key. They are important for the whole ecosystem as well as part of the food chain. They must be balanced with the tree system. Pigs provide digestion and they're good for the soil. They disturb the ground and fertilize the land. The natural fertility cycles work better with them. The pig is not a meat machine, but a friend of nature studies from Africa, Brazil, Europe, Srilanka, and other places all show conclusively that interspersing trees, animals, and crops can not only boost food production, but also help build up the soil, increased biodiversity, and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit through dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at u s farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at us Fra. Until next time.
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