The birds were singing away, but it was oddly quiet as I walked down the streets of the Iowa State Fairgrounds last month. Empty buildings, “do not enter” signs and closed-up concession stands seemed rather appropriate as I thought about the impact of canceling World Pork Expo.
There’s no question that the pork industry will miss one of its most beloved and highly anticipated events of the year. It’s a time for new ideas to emerge, stories to be told, technology to be displayed and innovation to be shared. It’s where people reconnect with their friends, meet future employers and dream about their next steps. It’s so much more than a date on the calendar.
Still, for some people, this cancellation hits the pocketbook hard.
Greater Des Moines estimates $6.3 million in direct economic impact from the cancellation of World Pork Expo. Greg Edwards, president and CEO at Catch Des Moines, says they support the National Pork Producers Council’s decision and determination to protect the U.S. swine herd and American farmers, but it’s a bump in the road for Des Moines.
“We realize the impact the World Pork Expo has on Greater Des Moines,” Edwards says. “Our team is already working on plans to boost leisure traveler numbers for early June.”
For Eric Campbell, owner of Campbells Concessions in nearby Cummings, Iowa, World Pork Expo is a major event for their business, nearly 20% of their annual operation. During the expo, they have three building locations, including the Boss Hog pork stand outside the hog barn, the Pavilion, and a pineapple whip ice cream operation. They also cater 80% of the food tents.
“Our infrastructure at World Pork Expo is gigantic,” Campbell says. “We take over the entire 4-H Building to set up tables, ice carts, and whatever corporations want for their customers. We create a lot of unique, specialty foods just for this event, too.”
He said he was on the phone non-stop when the news broke about the cancellation. From contracts to food orders and from employees to fellow vendors, the change of plans resulted in many extra calls and hours worked.
“We get it, but the rug got pulled out underneath some hardworking people,” Campbell says. “This will be tough on many.”
In the beverage and food sector at the state fairgrounds alone, Campbell estimates hundreds of thousands of dollars lost.
“I can’t deny it will hurt our company this year, but we understand the crisis and believe protecting our U.S. pork industry is the most important thing,” Campbell said.
During the NPPC Pork Alliance Meeting in Des Moines in April, I was overwhelmed by the number of people I met during such a short trip who shared their disappointment of World Pork Expo’s cancellation. And it wasn’t just about the money.
“We love the World Pork Expo because the people are so nice,” one waitress shared with me.
As former NPPC president Barb Determan would say, “There’s a silver lining in this.” Isn’t it incredible how an event like this can be so many things to so many people? And what a great opportunity to be a good face for agriculture and the pork industry.
Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this event since the day I was hired at Farm Journal’s PORK. You see, the World Pork Expo and I share a little history. Most recently, it’s where I was first approached – while celebrating my 40th birthday – about this job opportunity. I was looking forward to meeting with you, our readers and advertisers, to learn more about the topics that weigh heavy on your mind and make you want to read more. In the meantime, email me at [email protected] any time with your ideas.
I applaud the U.S. pork industry for its vigilance in keeping African swine fever out of our country and support NPPC’s move to cancel the World Pork Expo. Sometimes the right calls aren't the easy ones.