Mike Telford Recognized for Charting New Courses for Iowa Pig Farmers

Mike Telford’s 20 years at Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) were filled with stories of overcoming adversities through preparation and working to bring about the best opportunities for pig farmers and pork production.

At the 2023 Pork Forum, Telford was recognized with the Paulson-Whitmore Award by National Pork Board (NPB) and the National Pork Producer’s Council (NPPC). The award recognizes the achievements and contributions of state pork association leaders to their states and the pork industry as a whole.

Preparing for the Future

Telford’s tenure with IPPA began in 1978 when he was only 24 years old. During his nearly twenty years as state executive director, Telford led the organization through challenging years in agriculture and major changes in the pork industry.

Under his leadership, Iowa led the nation in establishing a mandatory Pork Checkoff. For this and other accomplishments, Telford is quick to deflect any of the credit for the accomplishments of IPPA to his producers.

“Our organization was blessed with a lot of good producers and great leaders,” Telford said. Telford shares the credit of the state checkoff, attributing the success of the legislation to the work of a dedicated group of producers who did the research and united the industry across the state to see the value the Checkoff would bring to them, their operations and the state of Iowa.

Anticipating challenges and preparing to tackle them is a trend that runs through Telford’s career, according to those close to him.

“He has an innate ability to look into the future,” said Niel Dierks, past NPPC president. Dierks added that Telford personifies Wayne Gretzky’s quote about skating where the puck is going, not where it has been.

Leaving a Legacy

Telford’s legacy includes the impact many members of the team he assembled at IPPA had in leadership positions with other state pork associations, on the national level and within other agricultural representation groups.

“He made the industry better, made Iowa better, made the association better,” former colleague Al Tank shared.

The Paulson-Whitmore Award is named after Don Paulson (Minnesota) and Rex Whitmore (Wisconsin), the only former state executives to be inducted into the Pork Hall of Fame.

The award honors state executives who, like Paulson and Whitmore, have shown their passion for and dedication to the pork industry by going above and beyond the duties of their position. The award winner is selected by past presidents of NPB and NPPC.