WHEN: TODAY, FRIDAY, MAY 1ST AT 2PM ET
WHERE: CNBC'S "STREET SIGNS"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Larry Pope, CEO Smithfield, today on CNBC's "Street Signs" at 2PM ET.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
BURNETT: All right, Mr. Pope, thanks so much. How've we been?
POPE: Tough week. Thank you for-- allowing me to be on the show.
BURNETT: Well, it's-- it's good to have you. And I-- I want to-- just ask you, when did you first find out about what the CDC is now calling the H1N1 swine flu virus and it's potential link to a Smithfield farm. When did you find out?
POPE: We began to understand this issue very late at the end of last week. And we began to react on Sunday. And, in fact, we issued our first press release on Sunday evening. And then after that, at that point, there was no real association with Smithfield until Monday. And-- and we found out like the rest of the world about this young boy in-- in Vera Cruz. And-- and the concern that he being somewhat close to one our foreign operations and one of our joint ventures. And so that became the association with swine flu and the association with a pig farm close by, I think-- started this.
BURNETT: And-- and as-- some doctors I've spoken to say it's tough to believe it was just a coincidence. But, of course, nobody knows. Could you tell us where it stands right now? Have any of your pigs gotten sick? Particularly at that-- La Gloria, Mexico farm.
POPE: To my standpoint, there's been a lot of-- there's been a lot of increasing information out there. And I'm very pleased that the scientific community has finally become forward and time after time after time in the World-- World Health Organization to the CDC, even to the-- even to Mr. Obama here on-- on his-- news conference this week eluded to the fact that this is not swine flu. But, in fact, this is a-- this is an influenza. H1N1.
It is out of the-- what's commonly referred to as a swine class type of-- of influenza. But that's how the name-- that's how the name presents itself. But-- and so that-- that has taken on its own life in terms of people associating this with pigs. But there's been tie-in. No tie-in between this influenza and any pigs. As far as I know, there are no pigs-- in the world who have been-- who-- who this-- an influenza has been detected.
BURNETT: And-- and I just spoke to the U.S. Department of Agriculture a few moments ago. They-- they said that, as well. To their knowledge, no pigs have-- have been proven to-- to actually have the H1N1 swine flu. But-- the question is, I know you've gone through this before. Right? I mean, in Romania, I believe a few years ago there was a swine flu.
POPE: Yes, I did.
BURNETT: What would you do if-- if you were to fi-- I mean, how would you-- how would it happen that you find out a pig was infected? And what would you do from there?
POPE: Oh, routinely. We have-- we have very strict-- we have very strict bio security protocols in place on all of our farming operations. And we routinely as a course-- in normal course of operation, standard operating procedure. That we take tests of these-- of these flues and other swine diseases once a month. And then we run those through our labs to determine if we have a problem. And if something is detected through that process, we immediately react to that.
BURNETT: And that has-- has now shown up.
POPE: Zero. Zero. And, in fact, this farm, we-- we-- we did run the test on. And, in fact, we have voluntarily, this week, made the decision to increase the testing on this particular farm outside of Fererte (PH). And we have taken those samples and we have, working with the Mexican authority, to-- to provide those samples to them. Which we did this week. They are currently doing-- very detailed testing on that. To make sure that this-- this di-- disease is not detected.
BURNETT: And is there currently a test for this strain? I guess that's the big question, obviously. There's no-
POPE: Oh, yes. (UNINTEL).
BURNETT: So there is for the H1N1 swine?
POPE: You can-- you can go back through and-- and do the genetic testing. And you-- and that's what they're doing now.
BURNETT: That's what's in progress right now. The Mexican government is-- is what you're saying, is the ones who are in charge of when that gets released.
POPE: And we voluntarily-- we voluntarily made this decision. We are not being forced to do this by any governmental authority. In fact, the government-- the-- the Mexican government and the Mexican minister of health has-- has declared that this farm is not tied into this-- this type of influenza. (NOISE) And, in fact, they have not detected there. And so-- but we made the decision that we were going to do this on our own. And we turned those samples over to the Mexican authorities. And they're doing it in the Mexi-- in Mexico's lab as we speak. Unfortunately, it's a very detailed test. And so it's going to take two weeks before we'll get the full test results. But we expect to be fully involved.
BURNETT: So Larry, has this-- wee-- week been for you?
POPE: This has been a tough week. Thank you very much for allowing me to be on the show. And-- explain our side.
BURNETT: So-- so what is your side? Let's start with how you found out about what the CDC now calls the H1N1 swine flu virus. When did you find out about the flu and that there is the potential that it was linked to a Smithfield plant in Mexico?
POPE: Well, as you-- as you well know, this began the end of last week. And-- and over the weekend, we understood that it was something that may be tied back to a pig. And we issued our first-- press release on Sunday evening. And beginning in the early part of the week, a little boy in-- in southern Mexico was tied into-- supposedly, the beginning of this. And the fact that we have a farming operation in close-- close proximity, and the fact that this is called swine flu, the two of those together put us on a rope(?).
BURNETT: You have said that none of your pigs have gotten sick. Is that still the case at-- at that plant in-- or farm in Mexico, as well as anywhere in the Smithfield system. No pig has gotten sick from the flu?
POPE: That is correct. That is correct. We've said that again and again. I think it's not just Smithfield. I think that there's no documented evidence that I'm aware of anywhere in the world that any pigs have gotten sick. And beyond that, the employees that work on those farms, they are also not sick. And finally, employees that work in the meat processing plants, that process the hog, they have also not gotten sick. So we absolutely no evidence that ties in influenza back to our industry.
BURNETT: Now I've talked to doctors and-- it's tough for them to give an answer. They say it would be very unlikely for a pig to carry the H1N1 swine flu virus, giving it whether to a human or to another pig, without the first pig getting sick. So that we would see pigs sick if this really had started with pigs. Is-- is that your belief? I know you've probably spent a lot of time looking into this, as well. Could there be a carrier pig who doesn't get sick?
POPE: We don't think so. Now again, we-- you're-- you're talking to the experts. We're talking to the experts. We're in the process, as we speak, of assembling what we consider a blue ribbon panel to go down to Mexico starting next week. Internally, we're going to do a very detailed audit to make sure there's nothing there. But we're very sure of that.
We do monthly testing-- blood samples of these animals to insure that if there's any type of pathogen there, that we identify that. And we take-- that we take precautions and-- and administer whatever is needed at that point. We do that routinely as part of our normal operations.
BURNETT: And you're going to be doing that even more frequently at this particular farm now.
POPE: In fact-- in fact, beyond that. We made the decision this week to take samples, sta-- statistical samples that we completed. We have turned those over recently to the Mexican authorities. Whom, they are cooperating and we're cooperating with them. To have those-- what's called gener-- genetic sequencing. They're gonna sequence that and be sure that there's nothing there in those samples that-- that detect the--
BURNETT: The Mexican government is the one running the tests right now.
POPE: Yes. It's be-- they're being tested at a laboratory outside of Mexico City. Which is run and controlled by the Mexican government. And we've provided them with the samples.
BURNETT: So there is currently a test for this particular strain of flu? Because, obviously, with humans, there's no vaccine. 'Cause humans-- hadn't had it yet. But there is a test so you would know. It's-- it's not as if this is a new strain for pigs to be tested for.
POPE: No. You know. From genetic sequencing, you-- we will know. We will emphatically know if this is a-- if we have it in our farm or we do not. Now-- now, let me tell ya, there's no evidence of that.
POPE: Pigs-- pigs exhibit symptoms just like you and I do. When they have runny noses, they-- they sneeze. Their appetite declines. So we would notice that. I would noti-- notice that in a normal process. We have extraordinary, what we believe, bio security protocols on our farms.
BURNETT: I'm just gonna pull this up here. And I-- I don't know if I leaned into the shot. But I mean, this is a book that every single of one of your suppliers gets.
POPE: Yes. And that--
BURNETT: I mean, anyone that raises pigs for Smithfield. This, along with others.
POPE: Along with others.
BURNETT: And this is all-- all of the things you need to do.
POPE: And they have all very specific testing that we do through a pig's life to insure that any-- any type of-- disease that would present itself, we identify it quickly and responsibly.
BURNETT: So what have you done at this particular-- farm in Mexico? I mean, are you still letting pigs from that farm be slaughtered and go to market? Are you going to be slaughtering any of those pigs-- out of concern about the virus or no?
POPE: Well, this is-- this is a-- this is a fully functional farm. The Mexican authorities have completely released this farm. They see there's absolutely no issue going on there from the minister of health. The governor of Vera Cruz has been on this farm. We have invited the Mexican authorities into our operations. They have declared that there's no association between this virus and our farm. And-- and so-- so this is a functioning farm that--
BURNETT: So meat could still come out of the farm.
POPE: Oh, sure.
BURNETT: Because there's no reason why it wouldn't-- as far as you can see.
POPE: In fact, we sell those hogs in-- into-- into Mexico City. And that they are processed. And beyond that, even-- even if there was the
the-- influenza in the pig, it does not trans-- transfer through the meat.
So there is zero chance that you're going to get sick as a result of eating pork. That seems to be a misunderstanding. That people believe that they should stay away from eating pork. There's absolutely no reason that any American or anyone outside of America should-- should be concerned at all about eating pork.
BURNETT: And yet they are and the numbers show it. Double digit declines in terms of pork consumption in the United States. Around the world right now-- and this is the latest count. It changes hourly. Eighteen countries have either full or partial restrictions on buying American made pork. And this farm is in Mexico. But actually American-- American states are facing the band.
Some say this could last a long time. And they look at avian flu in China where it-- that was shown to have started. That it took nine months for Chinese demand for chicken products to come back. So this could be a long term-- problem. What do you think?
POPE: Well, I think pigs are getting a bad rap here. And-- and I think countries are-- throwing trade barriers where they're not justified. There's no scientific evidence, no-- no one, no epidemiologist in the world has said that there's any risk associated with eating pork. And the fact that countries such as Russia and China are putting up trade barriers that prevent products that go through such things as the state of California on the way to the port. The product may very well have been slaughtered and processed in a Midwest state. And we go through the state of California to get to-- to Long Beach, the port.
You can't go through the state of California. Well, that's crazy. That's just-- that's just craziness. But that's the way the world works. And-- and I think that there are-- it's a violation, we believe of the WTO. We certainly believe that that-- that the-- USTO representative are-- are working on every front to try to-- inform our other countries to relax these.
And I believe that the world is understanding. I do believe the world is beginning to understand, as I believe that Americans are beginning to understand. That this is a human to human disease. This is not an animal to human disease. And by consuming the product, you have no risk. And there is no risk in pork and it's safe.
BURNETT: Do you have a contingency plan if-- if you do end up finding-- that one of your pigs had the strain? Whether it infected that little boy at what everyone calls ground zero in La Gloria, Mexico. Obviously, that link is not established, 'cause we don't know if there was even a sick pig. But what if we find a sick pig? What's your contingency plan?
POPE: Well, we would identify-- we will identify it. We would li-- we're gonna work with the Mexican authorities in terms of what they believe would be the proper protocols from that point. If-- if that's determined. Then we would-- we would certainly quarantine that farm. And that's sounding like something very bad. But even in that case, you could simply treat those-- treat those animals or we would discard those animals. But-- but the fact of the matter is, even if we didn't, it doesn't go through the food supply. It doesn't go through the food chain. So there's still no risk to humans--
BURNETT: So you're confident that if a sick pig somehow went to the processing plant and ended up at Wal-Mart-
POPE: There's no risk.
BURNETT:--and someone bought bacon from that pig, they could not get sick. Even if that bacon came from an infected pig.
POPE: Absolutely positive of that. Abso-- and-- and that's not me speaking. That's the CDC speaking. That's the World Health Organization speaking. That's the Secretary of Agriculture speaking. That's the UN speaking. That's not me speaking. And it's a-- you know, it's a misnomer. This whole thing is a misno-- misnomer and a misunderstanding relative to the pork industry.
BURNETT: And how much control do you have? I mean, obviously, when you have a farm that you own and-- and your business model is such that you breed the pigs and raise the pigs and then process the pigs. You've got control all the way through the system. In Mexico and other places around the world, though, you operate through joint venture. Do you give up-- is it possible that maybe you gave up some of the rights or some of the control that might now be causing the problem?
POPE: Well, certainly, that is a joint venture. It is in Mexico. I don't want people to think that Mexico being different and the standards in Mexico being below those of the United States--
BURNETT: Are they-- are they below?
POPE: No, they are not. No, they are not. And this is-- this-- this farm I would put up against other farms in-- in the Smithfield system. These-- these are modern, efficiently run operations. We have people who are responsible for our international operations. And-- and the general manager down there works for the joint venture. Who I was even with last week. Independent of this. Independent of-- we're very close to our joint ventures. And we're a very active partner. Very active.
BURNETT: And so if a pig were found to be sick, I know you've experienced this before in Romania a couple of years ago-- you find one-- pig. In that case, it was the swine-- swine flu, also, right?
POPE: It's classical swine flu.
BURNETT: Classical swine flu. Pigs got sick and, well, basically just slaughtered--
BURNETT:--the whole-- all-- all the pigs.
POPE: Yeah. And that-- that's classical swine fever. And in that case, you-- we processed and slaughtered the pigs because of the high risk of the pigs giving the-- the disease to each other. Not to people, but to each other. And so that's the reason classical swine fever is treated differently. You process and slaughter the animals to-- because it's highly infectious among the animals. This is a completely different disease. That's not influenza. That's a fever. That's completely-- (UNINTEL).
BURNETT: So this is different.
BURNETT: H1N1 swine flu is a different potential disease than-- and-- and what about what happened in Egypt then? What do you think about that?
POPE: I can't--
BURNETT: 400,000 pigs are gonna be slaughtered and they've had no evidence of swine flu.
POPE: I can't believe it. In fact, the UN-- the UN has come out saying that that is-- they have made a poor decision there. And-- and it shows the reactions that-- I-- I'm gonna say politics drive when people don't listen to the science. And people don't follow the science. Listen to the people who know. Those are the people who we should trust. Making political decisions based upon words as opposed to facts I think can-- can get you in trouble. And I think Egypt's made a bad decision.
BURNETT: How much time have you spent over those-- on the phone over the passed week with the WHO, with the CDC trying to get them to change the name of the virus?
POPE: Oh. Well, this has been--
POPE: Clearly, this is something that we take a-- are very concerned about it. But the-- the misinformation-- I will tell you we have an influence there. I think they've done that themselves. I think they understand that-- it is mislabeled (UNINTEL). Now swine is part of a class of influenza. It's commonly referred to--
BURNETT: And that is what the CDC has said, as of when we're speaking now, H1N1 swine flu. They are keeping swine in it 'cause there's more swine in it than anything else.
POPE: That's correct.
BURNETT: That's what they say.
POPE: Although there's H1N1 within human beings. And it's also within birds. And, in fact, this one appears to be a combination of all three. And so this-- I-- I tell people, it surprises them on-- on our farms that we have very strict shower in, shower out procedures.
BURNETT: To visit the pigs, you have to shower.
POPE: Oh. You-- in fact, our-- our team that went down even this week, they have not been allowed on the farm yet. Because they haven't-- they haven't satisfied the quarantine period. So our own executives can't go on the farm until they've satisfied a quarantine. But I tell people when you visit our farms, I'm not concerned about you. I'm concerned about the pigs. I'm concerned about you contaminating the pigs. Not the pigs contaminating you.
BURNETT: And this is because pigs and humans, in terms of DN-- there-- there's a lot of similarities.
POPE: There are.
BURNETT: That's the bottom line. So that's why diseases can go back and forth.
POPE: People-- people can give it to them. They can give-- they can give some to people on-- on occasion. But this doesn't appear to be that case at all. It doesn't appear to be there at all. And again, it doesn't transmit through the meat.
POPE: I'll-- I'll say that again and again and again. But people should not be afraid to eat the product. But it is hurting sales. It is hurting the industry. It's hurting the small farmer in middle America who has seen the price of livestock fall significantly even this week. That-- that's resulted in increased losses which this industry's been suffering now for nearly 18 months. With historic losses for high priced grain--
BURNETT: It costs a lot to feed 'em because of the corn. And now you're getting hit by the--
POPE: And these farmers-- I mean, we're threatening-- we're threatening the family farmer. There is some-- there is some people out there saying that as many as 30 percent of the farming-- people in the farming business who raise pigs could be threatened as a result of this.
BURNETT: And to go out of business.
BURNETT: So let's just make it very clear for people. If you go to Wal-Mart and you buy bacon. And you take that bacon home and you eat it. And eventually you find out that that very bacon that you bought and ate at Wal-Mart came from a pig who had H1N1 swine flu, you are confident that even if that bacon was infected, the person who ate it would not get sick.
POPE: I am very confident of that. Very, confident of that.
BURNETT: And what about your company? What is this-- I mean, you're talking about how 30 percent of-- the farms that deal with pigs could be threatened. What about you? I mean, I was reading your annual report and you were talking about growth to the company. Obviously, export's a big part of that. So a lot of these export restrictions-- because of the-- the swine flu are hurting you. But you said specifically about China. China's an enormous market with exploding growth and potential. They-- they have demand for 50 million more hogs a year. The U.S. only eats, or uses 100 million hogs a year.
POPE: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). That's correct.
BURNETT: That is pretty incredible. What happens if this ends up being traced to China?
POPE: Well, I hope it doesn't. I mean-- China's-- China-- 53 percent of all the pork in the world is consumed in China. We've got a strong relationship with COFCO, who we-- became a five percent investor in Smithfield last summer. As a market, we think there's a lot of attractiveness-- us to them and them to us because we're the largest producer and they're the largest consumer.
We have a wonderful relationship. I hope it doesn't. I hope it doesn't. I think it-- it could be devastating. As we've seen so many of these things coming out of China. And I'm sure the Chinese government doesn't want those any more than we want it. And the Mexican government does not want this any more than we want this. I-- I'm not sure they'll ever find the source of it. I mean-- this is-- these-- these-- these-- these viruses have the ability to mutate pretty easily. And I'll be-- I wouldn't be surprised at all if they never find the source of it.
BURNETT: If there were to be anything discovered in China-- the reason I-- I ask is not just at how the significant the market is-- for-- for a producer like you. But-- but also because-- after the avian flu-- which did originate in China and chickens did get sick, the consumption in China of chicken dropped. And it dropped and stayed low for nine months.
Even though people said if you buy infected chicken and eat it, and it's cooked, you cannot get sick. They said it just like you did. Till they were blue in the face. And it didn't matter. People still didn't buy it for nine months. So it took a long time. Do you think you could be in for a position here where no matter what everybody says, pork demand is low and keeps dropping for a long time?
POPE: I hope not. I don't think so. And-- and particularly since I think a lot of people don't associate some of the packaged and processed items with what they think as fresh pork. Pork chops in the-- in the-- in the fresh meat case. They don't necessarily tie those together. But I hope that Americans are-- are more educated than that. And I think they are.
Americans understand I think more than people give them credit for. And I'm confident that-- if-- if shows like this, how I think the-- scientific community is coming out, how the world-- world health organizations are coming forward, I believe the word is trickling out that, folks, you need not worry. This is not the issue.
BURNETT: So what's this going to mean for your company? Obviously-- you fought a lot of debt. You were able to get changes to some of those covenants. There are some real questions on Wall Street, though, as to whether this could put you in a tougher position. And some even say bankruptcy is-- is possible. What-- what's your response?
POPE: I hope I prove them wrong. I-- I think that we're a strong company. And much stronger than-- than many of these farmers that are out there. And they certainly are at risk. Certainly this is not a positive for a company. And I-- and-- and we'll need to work through this. And-- and I-- I think we've got lots of finances. We did some refinancing last-- last summer, which strengthened us.
We sold our beef business last fall. Which generated $600 million in liquidity. The company has a very large liquidity base, over a billion dollars at this point. So-- certainly, we're all concerned. As we see the-- the credit situation out there and the financial situation. More bad news is not good. But I'm confident. Very confident.
In fact, grain prices are coming down. Our cost to production-- this year is largely driven by losses in our live(?) production business. Our live production business, in spite of this, is better. So our costs are coming down. And there's-- there's reduced supply of all proteins, which should help bolster pricing and-- we should be on the upturn. Not the downturn. Smithfield's on the upturn.
BURNETT: And-- and what do you say about-- an idea some have talked about which is-- obviously, you've talked about-- COFCO in China having a five percent stake. (UNINTEL) Grain in the U.S. has about ten percent. Some have said-- they're gonna team up and you could actually do a buyout of this company. It'd be a great buyout. Take it public again in a couple of years. Is that something-- at least a lot of bankers are coming in and showing you the numbers on?
POPE: No, I wouldn't begin to speculate on what we're talking about (LAUGHTER) years from now in terms of those kinds of things. But-- but-- I don't really see that in the future. I mean, anything's possible over time. We have curtailed our-- we had a big slew of acquisitions we were on for several years. We are now internalizing our operations and driving out. We've restructured-- announced restructuring just recently.
Had absolutely nothing to do with the recession. It's to take all these operations and improve our capacity utilization. So I think there's a bright-- very bright future forward us. And I don't really think there's gonna be a buyout in the near term.
BURNETT: Are you-- buying stock of the company now?
POPE: I'm prohibited at this point. I mean, being-- being in my position-- you've got all these windows of when you can buy and cannot buy. And-- whenever there's some sort of activity going on, as you probably well know, the rules are very strict. And-- at this point-- all our executives are partici-- are-- are not--
BURNETT: Are-- are--
BURNETT: Well, you've got material-- information, I'm sure, that you're--
POPE: Well, and-- and we're outside of the-- I mean, today is the last day of our fiscal year. Actually, it's Sunday. But this is the last business day today. And so we're all-- what we call the window is closed until-- sometime after earnings are released in-- in June.
BURNETT: So if you were to be doing anything, for example, an equity offering or something, you all would have to wait until those results came out.
POPE: Yes, that's correct.
BURNETT: And-- and a couple of other questions for you, just to make sure we have-- covered everything. A lot of people want to know-- you do operate around the world. What-- what exactly do you do in a community like Mexico? It's a joint venture. Are there things that you do in the community? Whether it's help fund schools or hospitals or anything like that. Or is it really just a pure business proposition?
POPE: Oh, my goodness. I think I'm extremely proud of-- of how we are from a corporate social responsibility standpoint. And, in fact, McDonald's just gave us their first award as the most-- for their corporate social responsibility. The fist time they've given that, they gave it to us.
We do something in all the communities that we do business. And in fact, in this community, we've helped these with-- with local-- healthcare centers that we've helped put in. Even in Mexico in this-- in this small community. We do it in Romania. We're very involved in school systems and in training programs. Perhaps that's the two things Smithfield's going to do. Is that we're going-- we're in the food business. So we're going to help those who are hungry.
We're a giant supporter of the food bank system around the country. Outside of that, we are going to help those who have a difficult time gettin' an education. Because people who work in our industry get up early in the morning. They work long hours. For what-- what some people would say are, you know, wages where they should not. We're gonna help those kids. And we are helping schools around the country. And even overseas in our foreign operations. To educate kids. And that's what we're gonna do.
BURNETT: And-- and just to make sure we understand exactly where we stand in terms of the testing. You are testing every pig in the Smithfield system, is what you said, right? Not just at that plant, but across the system for this strain.
POPE: We routinely test.
BURNETT: For this strain already. For the strain-- okay.
POPE: We-- no, here-- we-- we do a-- we do a more generalized test for a number of different-- swine related diseases. We do that in every farm every month. Another important part of that is we have the farm managers. And they're all trained, as you saw in the manuals that I showed you earlier, we've got very specific management protocol. They're looking for disease indications within the animals. That's what they do every day.
And so if they see the slightest indication that something's happening, we immediately react to that. So that's why we're very comfortable. The pigs are not displaying any of the symptoms. Just as you would, with your kids. You know when your kids-- you know when your kids look sick. So we've got thousands of pigs, somebody's going to look sick.
POPE: And we're not seeing it. So it's-- it's a normal part of business.
BURNETT: So-- so in terms of the Mexican plant right now-- you're doing extra testing. But you're also testing for this particular strain.
POPE: Yes. We're testing for this--
BURNETT: Which you are (UNINTEL) assessing for this strain. But only for this strain in that farm.
POPE: That's correct. Because we don't believe that the-- we see no symptoms of it. We volunteered to say let's-- let's make sure it's not there. We're sure it's not there. In fact, the Mexican authorities said you don't even need to do this. There's no need to do this. We're sure it's not here. But we're going to be doubly sure it's not there. We're want to be confident.
Since this is the center of attention, let's make sure that-- that we can give the facts. I mean, people want facts. And let's involve the Mexican authorities. They've been very cooperative. Let's work with the Mexican authorities and let's make sure we're (UNINTEL).
BURNETT: All right. Well, Larry Pope, thank you so much. Appreciate your taking the time.
POPE: Thank you for allowing me to be on here.
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