World Pork Expo is ready for three-day schedule

DES MOINES -- Pork chops, bacon and President Bush -- visitors can find all three at the World Pork Expo on Friday.

Sometime in between chewing on pork tenderloins and watching producers show off their leanest, biggest pigs, onlookers will get a glimpse of Bush.

Bush isn't a hog farmer, but the expo is an opportunity for him to touch base with farmers and businessmen in Iowa, a state that he lost in the 2000 presidential election to opponent, former Vice President Al Gore.

The three-day trade and farm education show that begins Thursday is sponsored by the National Pork Producers' Council is expected to draw more than 50,000 onlookers from more than 55 countries and all 50 states.

NPPC President Dave Roper said Bush will talk about the one-year anniversary of the signing of last year's massive tax cut. Roper also hopes Bush will mention the benefits of the $190 billion farm bill that he recently signed.


Bush is the first president to appear at the expo, but presidential candidates, such as Bob and Elizabeth Dole, also have visited, said Ernie Barnes, manager for the National Pork Board which has several displays on at the trade-show and conference.

Bush also visited as a presidential candidate.

The expo's roots date back to the 1960s, when it was known as the American Pork Congress, a trade show. The council expanded and renamed the conference in the mid-1980s after the farm crisis, holding it in Indianapolis and Minneapolis and other midwestern cities.

But the show was losing spectators.

"That's what we had gotten into the habit of with the American Pork Congress-- a major trade show without any of the educational activities," Barnes said.

Despite rotating the event at other midwestern cities, the NPPC continues to choose Des Moines, Iowa, as the primary spot for the event, partly because the council has had such success in attracting people to the location and because the state leads the nation in pork production.

The show has undergone several changes to attract a broader audience, but one of the biggest changes officials have had to make is tightening biosecurity.

Fears that foot-and-mouth disease could be spread at the show led the council to cancel it last year after Europe dealt with an outbreak. The virus only affects cloven-hooved animals, not humans, but easily spreads and can be carried on shoes and clothing or in meat products.


It can devastate not only livestock herds, but farm economies.

Barnes said officials are trying to keep the barns free of disease.

"Anyone that walks into the swine barn ... they either walk through a foot bath or a disinfectant that kills the bacteria. They'll also have hand-washing stations," he said. "We will not let people go into the barn eating food, at least around the animals."

The expo also expanded its educational effort. It now offers seminars for farmers to learn about new technology and improvements for raising hogs, said Barb Determan, a producer from Early, Iowa, who helps the National Pork.

Children can test their knowledge about pork and hog production on a computer game at the expo or watch newborn piglets, she said.

But vegetarians beware. This show is for meat lovers, with booth after booth of steaming marinated pork loin, barbecued pork ribs and racks of pork.

Determan said a crowd favorite is the "Big Grill," billed as the biggest grill in the world, where hungry visitors can nibble on free samples of grilled pork or bite into a juicy barbecued chop.

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