Featured Farmer: Steve Rommereim
Stepping up to volunteer for county, state and even national agriculture organizations is a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of agriculture industry and build friendships and leadership skills. Getting involved also ensures that your perspective is included in decisions that could impact your farm or the entire industry. Steve Rommereim, pork producer from Alcester, South Dakota, shared his thoughts as he wraps up six years of service as a board member on the National Pork Board, including serving a term as board president.
“If you want to make a change, you can’t do it at the coffee shop, you have to do it in the board room,” he said. “The time commitment I’ve invested over the years has paid me back four or five times over in the experiences, networks and friendships I’ve made. It has been an amazing opportunity.”
The National Pork Board is responsible for the education, promotion and research activities that the Pork Checkoff carries out on behalf of America’s pork producers. It is led by a diverse group of 15 board members from all across America.
Steve began volunteering with local and county pork producers’ associations in 1985 and served in a number leadership roles over the years, including 10 years on the board of South Dakota Pork Producers and serving as chair of Ag United for South Dakota. He noted that these experiences prepared him well for working at the national level.
“South Dakota is fairly unique in that we have a wide variety in our pork industry with small producers, large producers, colonies, and contract producers, as well as processors,” he said. “As a representative of South Dakota, I could bring the perspective of many areas of the industry and help to make sure that all segments were represented by checkoff dollars.”
His most memorable experiences have been the opportunities to meet with leaders of companies and countries where U.S. pork products are sold. He has traveled to Mexico, China, Japan and Portugal, all important export markets for U.S. products.
“It has been fascinating to get a global view of how the world works, and to get an idea of the volume it takes to feed the world,” he said.
The National Pork Board also undertook a strategic planning process while Steve was on the board, reviewing and revamping a number of processes to be able to be proactive and flexible in a changing industry.
“With as quickly as things change in today’s world, we don’t have a year or more to conduct research on issues that might impact farmers. We need to be more nimble to address challenges, and we’ve seen that most recently with COVID-19,” he said.
Steve has taken a new role both on his farm and professional life. He and his wife, Charlotte, are transitioning the family farm to his daughter Leah and her husband, Josh. Steve and Charlotte have moved to a smaller home and acreage while Leah and Josh remodel the farmhouse and prepare to be the sixth and seventh generation to live in it with their son, Jameson. Their daughter Lara and her husband, Matt, farm northeast of Luverne, Minn. They have two children: Milo, 3, and Ellie, 6 months. He continues to help with farm work and managing pigs at his finishing facilities.
In May, Steve also began working three days a week as the Director of Membership Outreach and Engagement for South Dakota Pork Producers Council. His role is to work with members to understand their needs and communicate the benefits and resources available from both state and national organizations.
“I started in this role in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as pork producers were managing through a very difficult time,” he said. “When processing plants were closed or slowed down, it took a lot of clear thinking and management techniques to slow down the growth of the pigs in barns and look for nontraditional markets for pigs. It has not been easy, and we are still behind in getting pigs to market, but we’ve learned a lot of good lessons to prepare for the future.”