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Being prepared for what may come is a good place to start.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

February 22, 2021

5 Min Read
NPPA president, Shana Beattie
WORK CONTINUED: While COVID-19 shut down critical businesses that support the pork industry, one thing that didn’t stop was that caregivers, such as NPPA President Shana Beattie, never wavered on priority No. 1. “We were still on the farm every day, caring for our livestock, and that was never interrupted,” Beattie says. Courtesy of Beattie Family Farms

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part series of interviews with Shana Beattie, Beattie Family Farms, Sumner, Neb., who is the new NPPA president.

Many in the U.S. swine industry want a reboot after the experiences of 2020, and Shana Beattie is leading that charge in Nebraska.

Beattie, of Sumner, recently was elected president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA). “Our hope is to be able to get back on the road and just really do what the association does, and that is to promote the product, get out and represent the producers nationally and on the state level,” she says. “We don’t know what we’re up against, but we have to be ready for what’s to come and we have to push toward getting things back to normal — at least the new normal of what it may be.”

Stressing checkoff value

Seeing the value in the Pork Checkoff — a USDA commodity program — is something that Beattie takes seriously. “We really want to focus on our stakeholders as the invested members of the Pork Checkoff,” she says. “As a producer and a longtime stakeholder, I recognize the value that the checkoff brings to our farmers. I have a passion for pork production, and the Beattie family has for generations been a part of this industry.”

Beattie Family Farms is a fifth-generation diversified operation of corn, soybeans and alfalfa. The family owns and operates a wean-to finish swine operation, and they are partners on a 10,000-head sow farm, as well as a commercial cow-calf operation.

Related:Nebraska Pork Producers Association chooses leader

Shana and her husband, Bart, have four children — Mekenzie, Mattison, Bart Jr. and Preston — who are all getting involved in the operation and make up the sixth generation of Beatties on the farm.

COVID-19 and the checkoff

Much has been said of how COVID-19 affected pork trade and markets, both domestically and internationally, but Beattie says checkoff dollars were still at work through the state and national pork organizations.

“We were able to stay home and continue to work because while we know that COVID interrupted many of the things around the nation as far as how we do business, we were still on the farm every day, caring for our livestock, and that was never interrupted," she says. "While taking care of our livestock, to produce high-quality pork, the association was working on our behalf on key issues that COVID affected."

As president of NPPA, Beattie welcomes the opportunity to share the value of the checkoff with producers. “I hope to have the opportunity to share with people that this investment has value all the time, whether we’re going through a pandemic, market interruptions or we are experiencing comfortable numbers and profits,” she says.

“We are farmers and producers at heart and our place is on the farm. We rely on our association’s staff, leaders and national organizations to be present at the table and have a voice in Lincoln at the statehouse and in Washington, D.C. Our organization also promotes our product in a variety of ways here in Nebraska, throughout the country and around the world.”

Exploring research

Always looking for ways to get the most for the producers’ checkoff dollars, Beattie says a movement is underway to revamp the application process at the state level for research projects to be funded. “We want to make sure that those dollars are used in a way that is valuable to our producers in the state of Nebraska,” she says.

Some areas that Beattie personally would like to see researched include new product promotion on the fresh pork retail side. “At the national level, our association is always looking to develop new products that will appeal to consumers, chefs and dieticians,” she explains.

“Certainly, COVID has changed how we market our fresh pork sales with limited in-person restaurant dining and more consumers eating at home, not to mention the disruptions in the hospitality and tourism sector,” she says. “This gives pork producers a real opportunity to look at how we are promoting our product and to get every pound of pork in the mouths of our customers. So rather than an obstacle of not having certain markets at the level we have had in the past, perhaps this is a chance to explore new products that fit consumer needs in 2021.”

Disease threat

COVID-19 brought its own share of industry disruptions with plant shutdowns and slowdowns, but Beattie says producers and the industry cannot lose sight of the debilitation that a break of a foreign animal disease such as African swine fever would have.

“It’s very disturbing and it’s very scary, so we really need to have a plan,” she notes. At the very basic level, Beattie says those plans need to start with a stringent biosecurity plan on every farm. “We don’t want to be scared; however, we have to be prepared as producers. We need to get foreign animal preparedness information out to our farmers and make them understand how important it is to be ready, should an event such as ASF occur.”

High on Beattie’s presidential to-do list is to make sure that producers are fully aware and understand the gravity of the situation. She points to industry roundtables and mock on-farm exercises as ways Nebraska has been preparing for a foreign animal disease outbreak.

“We will continue to prepare,” she says, “because we learn something new every day … and that is what it’s all about. Our preparations will make us better producers.”

Learn more about NPPA and Beattie at

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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