Pork is always great for breakfast, but it's also great lunch, dinner, and snacks. We salute pork producers as we celebrate October as National Pork Month. Today's pork is leaner and healthier than ever before. Several cuts of pork are among the leanest meats in the USDA database including pork tenderloin, which contains only 2.98 grams of fat per three-ounce serving, versus a three-ounce serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast that has 3.03 grams of fat.

Pork is the most popular meat worldwide and accounts for 42 percent of all red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and veal) consumed in the United States.

Since the early days of settlers in Texas, farmers and ranchers have been producing pork to provide excellent protein nutrition for their families and to sell at market. Certainly many of the settlers arriving in Texas from the United States brought their pigs with them. Pork production has been a part of our Texas heritage for over 200 years and continues to be an important part of livestock production in our state today. According to the Texas Pork Producers Association, in 2008, Texas marketed over 1.3 million pigs for a gross market value of over $172 million dollars. Texas is ranked 15th in pork production in the U.S. and ranked first in the number of 4-H & FFA youth producers. The economic impact of pork production to the state in 2008 was over $860 million dollars. This week, Nueces County 4-H and FFA members will be validating their swine projects for the 2010 Nueces County Junior Livestock Show.

With last weeks announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that pigs in Minnesota tested positive for the 2009 novel H1N1 virus, it is important to note that pork is safe to eat and handle and that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses cannot be transmitted through food, including pork. Pigs, like people, sometimes get sick or contract influenza viruses and recover. Indeed, pigs in several other countries previously have contracted the novel H1N1 flu.

Pork producers should tighten their existing biosecurity protocols to protect their pigs from the virus, including restricting public access to barns. To prevent the introduction of the H1N1 Influenza A virus into local swine operations, producers should follow good biosecurity practices. The following practices should be considered;

- Workers should shower before entering swine facilities and clothes worn on the farm should not be worn off the farm.

- Workers with flu symptoms should stay home and be encouraged to see a doctor immediately.

- Do not allow anyone except workers and essential service people to enter your farm.

- Keep all international visitors away from your farm.

- Be sure animal facilities are well ventilated so inside air is recirculated as little as possible.

- Vaccinate swine against the influenza virus.

If you have swine that show signs of flu or respiratory illness, especially if the onset of symptoms seems unusual, contact your veterinarian. For more information about the H1N1 flu, visit www.factsaboutpork.com or www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu. Pork producers who want more information about dealing with the H1N1 flu should visit www.pork.org.

Farmer Day scheduled Dec. 2 as part of Texas Plant Protection Conference

Farmers throughout Texas will hear the latest practices and technological innovations at the 21st Texas Plant Protection Conference scheduled Dec. 2-3 at the Brazos Center in Bryan. Dec. 2 is Farmer Day. All farmers that have pre-mailed registration forms will receive complimentary registration. Forms are available at http://tppa.tamu.edu.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the scheduled keynote speaker the morning of Dec. 2. The annual conference showcases the latest in agricultural technology and practices, plus provides insight and analysis to critical issues affecting the industry.

"We've assembled some prominent speakers who are experts in virtually every sector of agriculture," said Brad Minton, president of the Texas Plant Protection Association. "Farmers throughout the state will want to attend this conference since it serves as a good planning aid heading into the 2010 crop season and gives producers a first-hand look at the some of the new cutting-edge technologies we may be seeing in the future."

Other speakers and topics include: Dr. Mark Welch, Texas AgriLife Extension Service grains economist, who will give market outlooks on both grain and wheat; Mac Young, AgriLife Extension agent-Corpus Christi, who will lead a presentation on the economics of field storage of corn in plastic bags; Ray Smith of Biological Research Services Inc., who will discuss using Aflaguard in managing aflatoxins in corn.

Other topics on Dec. 2 include weed management tools for corn and sorghum in Texas, new cotton trait technologies, and other scheduled presentations and discussions.

For registration information and a complete schedule with speakers and topics, visit http://tppa.tamu.edu.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at 767-5217.