Pro Farmer's 2013 Ag Person of the Year: Larry Pope
by Pro Farmer Editors
We know this won’t be a popular choice with everyone, but there’s no denying our 2013 ag person of the year was at the center of one of the top stories this past year. As CEO of Smithfield Foods, Larry Pope was instrumental in orchestrating the sale of the largest pork producer and processor in the U.S. to Chinese firm Shuanghui International, China’s largest meat processor. The purchase, which was first announced in late May, took until September to be completed as it faced regulatory hurdles and backlash from some in the industry. By completing this sale, Pope united two of the world’s largest meat firms, directly tying U.S. pork production to China.
While the sale of Smithfield to Shuanghui is controversial, it has potential impacts across the ag sector. This purchase is evidence China can’t feed its people on its own and is willing to "farm out" some of its pork production. But China is also farming out some corn and soybean production. Each pound of U.S. pork that is exported from the Southeast to China brings a bit of U.S. corn and soybean meal.
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Honorable mentions for ag persons of the year
Congress didn’t get a new farm bill completed in 2013, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort by some key behind-the-scenes individuals. University economists Gary Schnitkey (Illinois), Joe Outlaw (Texas A&M) and Carl Zulauf (Ohio St.) did research and multiple studies on the economic impacts that were used to help craft some of the proposals in the farm bill drafts.
In Washington, Ag Committee staffers Joe Schultz in the Senate, along with Bart Fischer and Matt Schertz in the House also did countless hours of analysis on the farm bill. But perhaps their greatest effort was the back-and-forth work needed so that we will finally have new farm legislation in 2014.