DPI’s Porter understands to stress advocacy
HARRINGTON, Del. — When Bill Satterfield retired after 25 years as executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., he left huge boots to fill.
But DPI, through careful succession planning, brought on Holly Porter in 2017 as assistant executive director to prepare her for ascension to the top post on Jan. 1.
One of her first tasks is to lead implementation of the strategic plan approved by the board of directors last September.
Key elements of the plan include “solidifying our mission statement which talks about advocacy, education and member relations,” she says.
Concerning advocacy, Porter says, ”DPI has moved away from the promotion of chicken. For the longest time, we had a big push and we had all the recipe cards, we did ‘eat more chicken,’ we had signs out. The fact is that people are eating more chicken. It worked.”
Now, she says, “We need to advocate for the industry overall, but don’t necessarily need to do the marketing and promotion. We want to be a little more proactive where possible.”
DPI does not do foreign sales promotion, says Porter, “About 20 percent of the poultry industry is export, but it’s a much, much smaller percent on Delmarva because we are so close to large cities and populations.”
But, she adds, “We need to be aware of how different foreign policies and trade impact our current marketplace. We are definitely seeing some trickle effects of poultry basically heading into the downward cycle. It’s not even so much that we’ve lost the Chinese market, per se, it’s more the issue that we now have a lot of animals on the domestic market.”
Factors such as export restrictions and dairy cows diverted to the meat market are “making it harder on our domestic market because when the price of steak starts to come down, you have your choice between chicken and steak. People are going with steak,” she says.
On the environmental front, DPI is “always watching regulation of water quality and environmental impacts, especially with the Chesapeake Bay. We are working through the WIP 3’s and the milestones,” Porter says.
She adds DPI is concerned “if, by 2023, we are not able to accomplish these TMDL’s, what else is going to happen? It has been observed that levels of sediment and phosphorus and nitrogen are coming down in the bay. We have seen the bay is coming back.”
DPI also will focus on the industry’s labor needs.
“Are we training the next generation for the workforce needs that we are going to have? Are we doing enough to encourage folks who want to stay right here in Delmarva who may not want to go to college? Are we letting them know about the job opportunities in our industry?
“Our companies are great – once they get folks hired, a good portion of their promotions are from within – so you can start here and easily work your way up in a company. There aren’t a lot of companies or industries these days that still have that ability,” she says.
Concurrent with implementation of the strategic plan are plans for DPI to rebrand itself. Rebranding, Porter says, “Includes the whole big picture. Who do we want DPI to be in the minds of everybody else who are not members? We want to look at it from a holistic point of view, not just the lens of people who have been working in this industry forever.
“We want to identify our key stakeholders and make sure we are reaching them. Do they know who we are and what we do?
“It’s not just a logo or a color or a slogan. It is everything – our presence, how we are perceived amongst our membership, amongst our stakeholders beyond our membership, amongst legislators.
“We have been very good at what we do, raising chickens, processing chickens, marketing. But we haven’t done the best job of explaining what we do and why we do it. We haven’t had to.
“We have to be continually telling our story, sharing what it is we do, being transparent. Those are all key words that are in DPI’s mission, vision and key goals.”
Other regions have organizations similar to DPI but, says Porter, “We have a couple of things that are unique. We represent three states but one bird; we only represent the meat chicken industry.
“We represent all pieces of the industry. That includes the growers, the companies and the allied industries. Most of our sister associations are more specific for the companies or the allied members.
She says DPI has an important role at the national level. “We are the closest association to Washington, D.C.’s backyard and we also have some key legislators within our Delmarva footprint that are on key committees at the federal level.
“So whatever we can do to help, whether it’s sharing information with [other poultry organizations], trying to have them better understand whatever might be going on at the federal level, we want to be able to help with that too.”
“Delmarva has been a leader in agriculture for years and years and years. . . . I see DPI as a leader within the poultry industry.
“When associations in other parts of the country face issues DPI and Delmarva producers have dealt with for years, we can say ‘been there, done that for years. What do you need to know?’
“We have our Good Neighbor Policy we have shared that with so many organizations and said, ‘You really need to take a look at these things.’”
Porter exudes optimism about her new position.
“I am really excited,” she says. “It’s exciting to feel like I’m giving back and can be a big part of agriculture in a leadership role that I hope will have some great impacts and that DPI will continue to have some great impacts for our membership.
“We have a great board of directors, a great executive committee who are so supportive. I can’t say enough about the support I have received from the industry overall.
“It is certainly nerve-wracking to try to fill the shoes of a man who has had such a wonderful presence after 32 years, 25 as executive director. It’s a little daunting, yet at the same time, I’m excited.”
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