Of all the agricultural industries in North Carolina, the pork industry is among the most highly regulated. Our producers must meet or exceed worker health and safety requirements, as well as comply with environmental regulations, at local, state, and federal levels.
State officials annually inspect every hog farm in the state. N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) is the lead stewardship agency for the preservation and protection of North Carolina’s exceptional natural resources. Among other responsibilities, DEQ is charged with enforcing strict standards and regulations for the state’s agricultural animal operations.
And there are many other agencies, programs, and efforts.
To help pork producers understand and comply with regulations, producer-funded organizations, universities, and government agencies sponsor educational seminars and workshops. Producers also depend upon a number of producer-funded programs like the Pork Quality Assurance Plus® (PQA+) and Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®) programs.
Pork Quality Assurance®, a producer education and certification program, was developed by pork producers in 1989, and in 2007 the program was enhanced and became known as Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus®). PQA Plus is a producer-driven program they can use to ensure U.S. pork products are of the highest quality and safe, and animals raised for food are cared for in a way ensuring their well-being.
Due to pork producers’ commitment to continuous improvement, PQA Plus is regularly revised, most recently in 2019, to increase its effectiveness, incorporate new research information, and ensure the program’s validity. Maintaining its food safety tradition ensures U.S. pork products continue to be recognized domestically and internationally as the highest quality and safest available, PQA Plus also provides information to ensure producers can measure, track, and continuously improve animal well-being.
TQA® is a program that helps swine transporters, producers, and handlers understand how to handle, move, and transport pigs and the potential impacts of those actions on pig well-being and/or pork quality. Anyone who handles or transports pigs, or sets protocols for handling pigs, is a potential influencer of animal well-being and pork quality.
In May 2018, the National Pork Board fully implemented Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) as the quality assurance program for swine exhibitors. The Youth PQA Good Production Practices are within the YQCA content, only identified in a different way. For additional information on YQCA visit, http://yqca.org/.
Exhibitors with current Youth PQA certificates will be accepted at shows until June 2021 when all current certifications will expire.
Some states have pursued state-specific youth quality assurance education and have created state-specific programs that meet the minimum standards of Pork Checkoff approved youth certification programs.