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Faces of Farming

For the first time in 40 years, the Missouri Pork Association has a new executive director. Scott Hays, a fifth-generation swine producer from Monroe City, Mo., is stepping into the role with the retirement of Don Nikodim, who has led the organization since October 1983. MPA represents the state’s pork producers in promotion, research, education and public policy.

ScottHaysMoPorkScott Hays, a swine producer from Monroe City, Mo., officially begins his new role as executive director of the Missouri Pork Association on April 1.Hays is no stranger to leadership and service to the pork industry at a local, state and national level. He just completed a term as president of the National Pork Producers Council and previously served as Missouri Pork Association president as well. He was raised on a diversified farming operation that included row crops, pigs and cattle. After high school, he spent two years in the U.S. Army and then returned to the farm, where he focused full time on pork production.

He and his wife, Riss, have six children and 12 grandchildren. About a year ago, two of their daughters and one son began managing the family’s diversified swine operation, allowing. Hays to take on the demanding duties of MPA executive director.
He spoke to Today’s Farmer just before starting his new position:

What made you want to be MPA’s executive director?
I come from a long line of family members who have been involved in government, associations and co-ops—such as MFA—and I’ve always seen value in that. I feel like it’s part of my job as a farmer. I’m passionate about the pork industry. I enjoy working with other producers, and I like to dabble in politics, just not enough to be a politician. When this opportunity came about, it checked a lot of boxes. For the first time in 35 years, I was in a position where I could look at doing something different. My kids are doing a great job at home. It’s time for me to get out of the way. If I could have handpicked a job I would like to do—if it wasn’t raising pigs—it would be advocating for the industry.

What value does the association bring to its members?
There’s value in producers collectively doing research and promoting their product. There’s the work of the association in advocacy and trade, which is huge. Did you know we now export pork to over 100 countries around the world? And for me, one of the biggest benefits is the peer group within an association, to be connected with other producers in the industry. To that end, one of my goals is to bring in members and leaders from each segment of our industry, work to understand their needs, make sure they know they are valued by this association and find out how we can bring them more value in return.

What are some issues and opportunities your members face?
Freedom to operate—that’s a big one. It’s important not only for producers but also for consumers. If producers have a choice, then consumers have a choice. Both of those are good things. Producers know what’s best for their farm, their land and their animals. Activists, even the well-intentioned ones, don’t understand. We’re also coming out of the worst economic time since I’ve been raising pigs, even worse than ’98. We’ve had some nice rallies recently, but there’s not a lot of equity in the industry, so keeping the herd healthy is important. A healthier herd helps with labor, sustainability and animal welfare. That’s a big focus for our state and national associations.

Admittedly, Don Nikodim leaves some big shoes to fill. How will you continue that legacy while making your own mark?
I have to say “thank you” to Don. He’s dedicated his entire life to agriculture and been such a great mentor for many of us in the industry. It’s a luxury to step into a program that’s so well run, and I want to build on that. We’ve got a great staff, and we’re excited about working together. I bring national and global experience to the table, but I’m also bringing a personal aspect to this job. I love Missouri’s pork industry, and I want to see it prosper. Like everything, we’re continuing to evolve. Sometimes it’s painful, but change always brings opportunity. I believe Missouri Pork can help identify those opportunities and bring them to our members. That’s my goal.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

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