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Celebrating 30 years of bridging the gap between farm and fork

Story by Peyton Johnson, junior in public relations and Spanish at James Madison University.

Since its launch in 1987, the Animal Agriculture Alliance has been a central voice in the animal agriculture industry, bridging the communication gap between farm and fork. As the nation’s largest and oldest coalition speaking for the entire animal agriculture industry, the Alliance is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017.

In the last three decades, the animal agriculture industry has battled campaigns from anti-animal agriculture groups across the U.S., a misled public, and “undercover” activists. While many of these groups have changed courses over the years, the animal agriculture industry works to better inform the public every day.

History and Milestones


President & CEO Kay Johnson Smith represents the Animal Industry Foundation (later the Animal Agriculture Alliance) at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade show in 1999. Also pictured is Don Hecht, formerly with Elanco Animal Health (now retired) and chair of the AIF from 1998 to 2000.

As the animal rights movement in the U.S. began to focus on agriculture in the early 1980s, leaders in animal agriculture met regularly to discuss activist groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). These groups’ campaigns were targeting farming, ranching and the animal protein industry. In 1986, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) formed the Animal Industry Foundation (AIF) to have an organization solely dedicated to monitoring the activist groups’ efforts, informing the animal agriculture industry of the activists’ actions and coordinating a unified effort to correct misinformation. The AIF launched in 1987 and later became formally known as the Animal Agriculture Alliance in 2001.

“The board of directors decided the new name reflected the true nature of the organization’s purpose, bringing all stakeholders together to provide a unified voice on behalf of animal agriculture,” explained Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. She added that the name change came after a long-term strategic planning process.

Since its inception, the Alliance has represented a diverse array of entities in the animal agriculture industry, ranging from farmers and ranchers, to companies and associations, to scientists and dietitians. Because there are so many voices within one industry, the formation of the Alliance was crucial to unite stakeholders, creating one strong voice to represent all sectors of the animal agriculture industry.

In order to share information within the animal agriculture industry and to be a resource for the media and the public, the Alliance launched its first website in late 1995 – far ahead of most others in agriculture – establishing the organization as a leader in communication and outreach.


The Alliance’s “Adopt a Teacher” program helped put accurate information about animal agriculture in front of students across the country.

In early 1996, the Alliance produced its first public service announcement that aired on TV and radio stations across America. Then the Alliance sponsored a kids’ cooking TV show that showcased recipes featuring animal protein and provided farm tours. These shows aired in classrooms across the country as well. The Alliance targeted children to provide them with necessary resources to form strong, fact-based opinions about the animal agriculture industry at an early age.

This industry was and still is in great need of a united voice because trends in agriculture narratives are constantly evolving. Today, there is a large need for open conversation between consumers and producers surrounding food sources and the treatment of animals before they become food.

By facilitating engaging dialogue between consumers and producers, the Alliance has helped to shift the animal agriculture industry toward open, transparent conversations with farmers and ranchers understanding the need to engage with consumers. The Alliance emphasizes engaging with all stakeholders, instead of simply providing educational materials. All voices are heard and understand the processes chosen by the other. By focusing on the long-overlooked relationship between consumers and producers, the Alliance has established itself as a thought-leader and an educational resource inside and outside of the animal agriculture industry.

The Alliance continues to demonstrate leadership in the field by utilizing social media and by engaging agriculture and mainstream media. In 2014, the Alliance, along with the pork industry, invited 12 influential food bloggers – only one of whom had ever been on a farm – to tour a swine farm, meat lab and pork production facility.  From that tour, there were more than 20 million impressions or views of content produced by the bloggers about their visit.


The look of the Animal Agriculture Alliance from its inception in 1987 (left) to 2017 (right).

In 2015, the Alliance conducted a re-branding effort, marking a major organization milestone, according to Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president of communications.

“In order to create a look that is appealing to today’s consumer, the Alliance modernized its website and all educational materials to focus on our updated motto: Connect, engage and protect,” said Thompson-Weeman.


Alliance president and CEO Kay Johnson Smith (left) and vice president of communications (right) Hannah Thompson-Weeman talk with media at the 2016 National Association of Farm Broadcasters Trade Talk event.

Additionally, using its 30 years of resources, the organization writes regularly for some of the industry’s leading publications; is actively engaged on all major social media platforms; writes its own weekly blog which gets tens of thousands of hits – and has provided hundreds of presentations and media interviews nationally and internationally as a recognized expert on farm animal welfare issues.

The Alliance has several committees that work to connect and unify the animal agriculture industry as a whole. Through its Issues Management Committee, the Alliance informs stakeholders on industry-related trends, upcoming issues, current media narratives and strategies to combat misinformation from anti-animal agriculture groups. The Alliance’s Communications Steering Committee monitors current and upcoming media stories and creates resources on how to be proactive with science-based information. The Alliance speaks at many industry-related events and blogs on the topics regularly to share trends and strategies.


Alliance membership and marketing manager Allyson Jones-Brimmer represents the Alliance at the 2016 International Processing and Production Expo.

“While it was once a challenge to get companies in agriculture to understand the potential impact of the very driven activist groups such as PETA and HSUS, when the agriculture industry leaders began to feel long-term business impacts from these groups, they understood the importance of the Alliance – and they still do today,” said Johnson Smith.

Looking Back to Plan Forward

As the Alliance continues to implement current efforts throughout 2017, it also will launch new projects and initiatives to continue to strengthen the animal agriculture industry. While the Alliance has always had a strong online presence in today’s traditional social media (Facebook and Twitter), the organization will continue to expand its use of newer platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat.


Alliance communications coordinator Casey Whitaker appears on the Alliance’s Snapchat account.

“The Alliance has grown not only in numbers of members and staff but also in its understanding of strategies used by activists and its own tactics to ensure agriculture’s voice is a key part of the conversations,” said Johnson Smith. She added that, “the Alliance has become more adept at identifying threats, developing proactive responses and coordinating diverse interests to provide a strong, unified voice for agriculture.”

While the Alliance has grown immensely over the past 30 years and made its impacts felt throughout the industry, it also understands that there are always areas for growth.

The anti-animal agriculture groups are not going away, which gives the Alliance a raison d’être.  It is important for all stakeholders in the animal agriculture, feed, animal health, biotechnology, meat and food industries to work together because changes caused by activist groups impact stakeholders, up and down the food chain.

“We are all in this together, and the Alliance is here to connect, engage and protect all of animal agriculture,” concluded Johnson Smith.

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I’m thankful for my job in agriculture

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, even though my family’s celebrations haven’t exactly been traditional. Growing up, we would always spend our Thanksgiving volunteering at our local volunteer fire company’s supper, which was a major fundraiser for the year. My brother and I were usually tasked with dusting oysters for frying (seafood at Thanksgiving – it’s a Maryland thing), so from early in the morning into the evening you could find us covered in flour filling tray after tray with powdered oysters. Some years we missed out on eating before our favorite foods were gone – on one particularly dreary occasion my Thanksgiving dinner was a tuna sub from Sheetz.

2015-AFIA-27After moving six hours away from home for college and even further away for my first job – not to mention dating a veterinary student and later a veterinarian who was at the mercy of his clinic rotation and on-call schedule – I’ve had plenty of other non-traditional Thanksgiving dinners, from ‘Friendsgivings’ to my parents driving up to my then-boyfriend’s house in upstate New York with a fully cooked dinner in tow. While the traditional turkey dinner and festively decorated home haven’t always been part of my Thanksgiving holidays, the feeling of gratefulness is always there.

When I think of #WhyIThankAg, a million reasons come to mind. Of course, I am thankful for the work everyone involved in the agriculture industry does to produce safe, affordable food for our families. Because a slim minority of the population takes on the task of raising animals and growing crops, the rest of us are able to pursue different ambitions and goals. My goals happen to be within the field of agriculture, and a big reason #WhyIThankAg is the amazing opportunities I have enjoyed both personally and professionally as a part of this industry.

I began judging dairy cattle as part of the 4-H program when I was nine years old. When I was 16, dairy judging took me on a trip to Europe after my team won the national 4-H contest. A few years later, that involvement connected me to Ohio State’s dairy judging coach who then recruited me to come to college there, where I found immeasurably valuable professional contacts, lifelong friends, and even my husband. In high school, I was very involved with FFA. The agricultural communication Career Development Event ignited my passion for combining communications and agriculture and influenced my selection of a college major. I still work in the agricultural communication field today and don’t see myself ever leaving it.

I thank agriculture for the life I’m lucky to get to live. Without the support of industry mentors or sponsoring organizations, none of the experiences I and many other agricultural youth have enjoyed would have been possible. It hasn’t stopped since moving to the professional world, either. The agriculture industry is a wonderfully unique place, because we are all connected by our passion for helping farmers and ranchers. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone in an agricultural career who views it as “just a job” or “a way to get a paycheck.” Even colleagues who don’t come from a farm background are amazed and inspired by the producers they get to meet.

I’m thankful to work with such a diverse network of passionate, talented people – individuals that I never would have met if it weren’t for agriculture. A career in agriculture is the best one a person can have – that’s #WhyIThankAg!

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Wait. What did you just say?

Growing up on a farm I have always been very aware of where my food comes. I have been known to freak out my “non-farm” friends by bringing up subjects that were part of the normal conversation around my household.  I distinctly remember my freshman year in college when I asked my suite-mate if she wanted to ride with me to my parents’ house to drop off a semen tank. Her eye brows raised and her mouth dropped open hearing the word “semen” coming from my mouth, but to me, that was just another farm chore.  She asked me “Rossie, what in the world is a semen tank and why do you have one in your car?” I proceeded to inform her all about artificial insemination in cattle and how our bull’s semen was collected at a veterinarian’s office near our school. She was absolutely amazed and said that she had no idea that farmers used artificial breeding. I really blew her mind when I told her about flushing cow eggs (AKA in vitro fertilization)!

After that she came to me with any questions she had about agriculture. I loved that she felt comfortable asking me questions instead of believing what she heard in the news or from animal rights clubs on campus. A lot of other friends asked me questions so that they could understand both sides of the argument. I had the training to answer questions effectively mainly by being on the National Beef Ambassador Team and by having a first-hand farm background. After a while I realized that there was a lot of information that was readily available coming from the opposing side and they had the money to put it on television and on billboards. On the other hand, the information coming from the agriculture industry was only found if the consumer took the time to search for it online. The sad truth is, most consumers won’t take the time search for the other side of the story.

So, what can we do in the agriculture community to get our message across and make information about ag more easily accessible? For starters, we can answer questions that come to us through media outlets or from the neighbor that lives down the road. Believe it or not the average consumer trusts farmers. Now they might say that they only trust family farmers, but to me that’s just the perfect example of misinformed consumers, when we in ag know that nearly 90% of farms are family-owned operations. Most of the questions asked of me as a beef ambassador were about all of the beef choices (grassfed, natural, organic, etc.). I explained what each term meant and how the cattle were raised, to help them understand the difference.

There are many groups against animal agriculture that are trying to push legislation to make our lives as farmers and ranchers more difficult. These groups are also the ones that are filling consumers’ minds with questions about animal agriculture. And as I have mentioned many times before, plenty of our state and national legislators are three or four generations removed from the farm. The legislators and their staff have questions about farming and we need to be their point of contact, that’s why building strong relationships with your elected officials is so important. You want them to feel comfortable calling you with the hard questions so that you can tell them the honest answers.

So to all of you ag guys and gals out there, I challenge you to be honest, be transparent. Don’t avoid the consumer’s question. If a consumer asks why you castrate, or why you dehorn, tell them! Farmers are practical people and do things for a reason. Consumers just want permission to trust agriculture. They hear all of these terrible things about farming and ranching but when they ask questions and learn why we do what we do they are reassured in their protein selection. At the Alliance, we’re trying to correct misinformation about animal ag every day, but we need your help. Together, let’s give consumers permission to eat meat, milk and eggs.

For more information on animal agriculture visit the Alliance Website.

P.S.: Please scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the Animal Ag Alliance Blog!


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Helping the Hungry

Nothing is much more heartbreaking than seeing a child standing in a food line with other homeless people, waiting for a free hot meal.  Having served such a child personally, when her turn came to be given a plate of turkey tacos and a ribbon-tied bag of homemade trail mix, caused my heart to hurt, my throat to swell and took every ounce of control to fight back tears while sharing with her a warm smile.

It made me so appreciative of all that my family has, and even prouder of my own daughter, now a senior in high school, for giving me the reason – and opportunity – to be out there serving that child and other homeless and hungry people on the streets of Washington, D.C.  It made me so aware of how much we have and how much we have to give back.

I know many of the producers that support our work here at the Alliance give back to their local food banks, halfway houses and even animal shelters, not because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do. Just this past Easter weekend, America’s egg farmers donated nearly half a million eggs to food assistance organizations!

That moment also made me even more aware of why it’s important to keep food affordable and accessible.  It brought some reality to what I do, have done now for nearly 20 years with the Alliance.  It gave me more purpose in fighting for justice on behalf of farmers and ranchers and consumer choice.

So many of the groups and individuals we have to deal with at the Alliance push for policies that would drastically raise the cost of food in America, making it both less affordable and less accessible.  On the surface, some seem noble in their cause to improve animal care, but having that inside track to knowing their real agenda, most of the groups we battle are either seeking to eliminate animal protein and consumption all together or eliminate modern technologies that allow food to be more affordable.

We are blessed in this nation to have so many choices.  So many products produced in different ways and at varying price points.  And protein, a necessity of life, should not be only for those who can afford the $20/lb. steak.

Teens Opposing Poverty (TOP) is an initiative by which youth in churches purchase, prepare and serve hot meals to those who are homeless.  My 17-year old restarted the initiative in our church this fall after about a three-year hiatus as part of her high school senior project themed, “Being the Change I Want to See in the World.” Her project is all about service to others.  I joined her initially just to support her and to serve as the female adult chaperone (all youth events must have at least one adult male and female).  I had no idea how much I would gain from this experience, nor how meaningful it would be to interact with and see homeless people – really see them – for the first time.

The homeless live on the streets for many reasons.  Some have made bad choices in life.  Some have no family or support network.  Some are military veterans who have been unable to find work after returning home.  Some immigrated here hoping for a better life, but possibly with little education and unable to speak English.  Some like the little girl were born into that life.

Regardless of how they got there, they are all people, with stories.  People who need help.  People who need food and need others to care if they are to ever have hope of a better life.

So as animal rights groups, or groups like the Pew Commission, Center for a Livable Future and even Chipotle work to push their agenda, making protein less affordable and less accessible, my resolve is even stronger now than ever before to support farmers, ranchers, food producers and others who work tirelessly to produce protein in modern ways, using modern and safe technologies and processes.  I just think of that little girl and her need for a better life.  One hot meal of turkey tacos served with a smile just maybe can change a life.  Maybe the activists should give it a try.

-Kay Johnson Smith

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Is the word Sustainability becoming Unsustainable?

Sustainability; we’ve all heard that word tossed around quite frequently the past few years. But if I surveyed 100 people, no let’s make that 5 people; they wouldn’t give me the same definition of sustainability. Just look at these three different definitions of sustainability:

Webesters dictionary
Sustainability: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources; able to last or continue for a long time.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Sustainable: a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes our planet, people, the animals, and continuous progress.

As you can see, none of the definitions listed above are the same. They are similar in some aspects but they all have a slightly different take on the word sustainability. It is going to be tough to move in the direction of sustainable agriculture if there isn’t a definition that reads the same across the board.
Let’s get one thing straight, farmers and ranchers are sustainable. If they were not sustainable their farms and ranches wouldn’t date back multiple generations. The companies that are pushing sustainability criteria say that they want to help producers use water, land, and transportation resources efficiently. I don’t know one producer that isn’t already working towards all of those goals. They love producing food for the world; it gives them that warm fuzzy feeling. But running an operation is a business; it is how farmers and ranchers feed their families. Don’t you think that they are already trying to reduce costs and limit their use of resources? Farmers and ranchers can now raise more animals on less land, using fewer resources than ever before. There are constant innovations and new technologies used to raise animals more efficiently. Farmers and ranchers were sustainable before sustainability was cool!
So why am I on my soapbox about sustainability? Well, the new dietary guidelines are being discussed and sustainability has become part of the conversation in the working groups. Now I know you are all thinking, what does sustainability have to do with nutrition? That is my main question. There is not additional nutritional value in sustainable meat.
The dietary guidelines set the standards for several programs that help people in need. The school lunch program is an example that helps feed kids that wouldn’t have meals on their tables otherwise. Should a term nobody can seem to define be a limiting factor for our food supply? Isn’t the main goal to have safe, affordable food that also that tastes good? Let’s get our priorities straight people!
So I ask you, is the word sustainable becoming unsustainable? Websters defines sustainability as able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed. In my mind the term sustainability has been completely used up! Before there are any guidelines set about sustainable agriculture there needs to be a clear definition.

For more information on sustainability visit the Alliance Website.

P.S.: Please scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the Animal Ag Alliance Blog!


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Boots on the Hill

Heads turned on Capitol Hill this week to admire the cowboy hats and boots strolling through the halls of congress. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was raised on a cattle farm in North Carolina and this week I joined other cattle producers from across the nation for the 2014 National Cattleman’s Beef Association Legislative Conference. During the conference the attendees discussed issues facing the cattle industry and how their ranches could be affected. By visiting the offices the cattlemen were able to share their personal stories and become a point of contact for the congressional members and their staff. Hopefully congressional staff will put their new contacts to use when they have questions about farming and ranching.

I also got the pleasure of serving as the chaperone for four fantastic young ladies on the National Beef Ambassador Team. It is refreshing to see young people so enthusiastic about animal agriculture. The members of the team accompanied their state groups on Capitol Hill and were engaged in the discussions while providing a new perspective from the next generation of ranchers. They also took lots of fun pictures and videos of their time in Washington D.C. (this boot picture credit goes to the team!) and used their millennial flare to spark discussions on the hill

It always amazes me to hear about the wide array of issues facing agriculture on a daily basis. Cattlemen don’t just focus on animal health issues and beef markets, they also have to pay attention to issues with trade, transportation, environment, nutrition, small business ownership and many other issues that don’t necessarily come to mind when thinking about cattle. All of the animal protein groups have to monitor legislation, not just about their animals, but about issues affecting all of agriculture. Keeping up to date on legislative initiatives at the state and federal level should become part of running your business.

I know what some of you are thinking right now, I wish I owned cattle so that I could be a part of this amazing experience. Well, HAVE NO FEAR! Nearly every animal protein group has a national fly-in day here in D.C. I also got to visit with some of the pork producers last week when they visited Washington D.C. for their legislative conference. There are plenty of opportunities to visit Washington D.C. to talk to your members of congress. If you can’t make it to town for a legislative fly-in, call your member of congress, write them an email, or come on your own and talk to your national organizations about setting up meetings. Many legislators are even active on social media, so if you’re so inclined: send them a tweet or Facebook message! There are so many outlets available to reach out to your legislators and become engaged in the discussion. So what are you waiting for? Let’s see those heads turn when your boots make their way through the halls of congress!

And remember—the Alliance tracks state legislation and updates our interactive map every Thursday, so let us be your one-stop-shop to keep you up to speed on legislation in your state!


A sore horse makes for a sore subject on Capitol Hill

Horse soring has been a hot topic this week as both sides voiced their opinions in the House. Bill HR 1518 the Prevent all Soring Tactics (PAST) Act was introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee. The opposing bill, HR 4098 Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014, was introduced by Representative Marsha Blackburn, also from Tennessee. Horse soring is a process that has been used on show horses, typically Tennessee Walking Horses, for many years. This process is done so the horse has an exaggerated gait or walk for the judges during competitions in the show-ring. Soring can be done in several different ways to make the feet on the horse sensitive to exaggerate their gait. The different techniques include applying chemicals to the hooves or using weighted shoes, pads, boots or chains.

The groups pushing the PAST Act are against all soring methods. This side includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), but our main concern is that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also sits on this side of the isle. Certainly AVMA is lobbying for what they see is best for the horses health but we all know that when HSUS is involved there is always a hidden agenda.

tennessee walking horse 2

Opposing groups including the walking horse industry’s premier show, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, doesn’t want to see a long-time show tradition eliminated. These groups would like to see a stricter inspection process with more accurate testing methods. The current testing methods are done by inspectors at shows where pressure is applied to the hoof of the animal to see if the animal is sensitive to touch. Horsemen that oppose the legislation say that this way of testing is too variable as the horse may pick up his foot when pressure is applied without being sore.

Many of the large stable owners have spoken out on this issue admitting to using soring practices including chemicals back in the day as a way to get ahead. But they say that soring is very rarely done that way anymore. Most of the industry uses weighted shoes and gradual training (which would not be allowed under the PAST Act). One industry leader says those drastic soring procedures aren’t necessary, the key is a horse with natural talent and gradual training, using weighted shoes.

The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is a treasured tradition for many Tennessee residents and brings a lot of visitors and shows into the state so the industry is very weary of this bill supported by HSUS. They think that training can be done in the right way without the whole industry disappearing along with their passion and tradition. Senator Alexander did speak up about this point in his argument by saying: “In baseball, if a player illegally uses steroids, you punish the player – you don’t shut down America’s national pastime.”

“With Tennessee Walking Horse shows, when trainers, owners, or riders illegally sore a horse, we should find a more effective way to punish and stop them – not shut down one of Tennessee’s most treasured traditions,” continued the Senator.“The problem with the Humane Society’s bill is that it destroys a Tennessee tradition known around the world. Our goal is to find a way to preserve the Tennessee Walking Horse tradition and stop the cruelty to horses.”

Horse owners realize the importance of animal welfare but do not believe that padded or weighted shoes and chains harm the horses. This belief is based on a passion for horses and a desire to work with those animals day and day out. Horse owners would like scientific testing systems performed using techniques like blood tests and swabbing not pressure tests with variability.  Horse owners often consult with their veterinarians to ensure horse health but they are skeptical of a bill backed by HSUS—and they should be. As HSUS’ ultimate goal is to not use animals in any way—it is likely that their affinity for this legislation is a means to shut down another community that uses animals for showmanship and entertainment.

While this is a bit of a sore subject amongst industry leaders and Congressmen & women alike, we’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Especially as these discussions continue to “trot” through congress.

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National Ag Week: Stay involved and keep up the good work!

National Ag Week is coming to a close, but what a great week it was!! With educational events held across the United States to promote agriculture; Facebook and Twitter swarming with ag fun facts; and pictures of farmers and ranchers at the Capital talking with legislators about the importance of agriculture. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the ag community coming together. But ag day, or ag week isn’t enough—we need to keep up that enthusiasm and continue to educate the public about everything agriculture. We did a great job during ag week but we need to get people excited about agriculture every day.

Before I came to DC last year for an internship, I didn’t think about how legislation really affected farmers and ranchers. I was raised on a small cattle farm and I wasn’t really into discussing politics. But I quickly learned how important it is to have representation on Capitol Hill. Pretty much every commodity you can think of whether it is beef, pork, sugar or rice is represented in D.C. and is involved in key discussions to help their producers. Some of the issues discussed in meetings with Hill staffers really surprised me. For example, death tax was one crucial issue, and though we don’t like to think about that word, “death,” we have to, especially as farmers. Who will that farm go to when the farmer passes away? Hopefully the farm will stay in the family and continue to be passed down from generation to generation. But not if it isn’t financially sustainable to hand that farm down to ones children or grandchildren! Another example is transportation, specifically trucking. Why would animal agriculture be involved in discussions surrounding trucking? Well, we need to get our product to the market. It is so important to have representation in D.C., especially since most of the men and women making these decisions for you as producers have been removed from the farm for 3-4 generations. Legislators need to hear your stories so that they can have insight into the farm and farm life.

I challenge you to get involved on both the state and national levels. Get to know the issues that will affect your way of life and speak up so that your congressmen and senators know what you need to succeed. All it takes is a letter, email, or phone call to your representatives’ office to express your concern. You can even connect with them on Twitter and Facebook! You are one of their constituents; you have pull because you vote them in or out of office. There is agriculture in every state and it brings money and jobs which both have huge ranking in political decision-making. So tell your elected officials that you are a farmer or rancher in their district and that you help feed the rest of their constituency, and that you need them to stand up for agriculture.

Make sure you’re staying up to date my fellow farm folks! Know what is going on around you so you can help agriculture succeed. Follow the Alliance on social media and check out our interactive Legislative Map (updated every Thursday) to see if there’s any pending legislation in your state that will affect animal agriculture. Your elected officials are important because they are making the rules but you are important too, because you’re putting food in their bellies!

Here’s to #agday 24/7/365!!

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California, Here is Your Lawsuit Served Sunny-Side-Up!

You might remember the heated 2008 debate surrounding California Proposition 2. Even though this law was to set California standards, it could have a major implications for farmers and ranchers across the country. So what happened? The agriculture community spoke up and opposed Proposition 2 legislation. Unfortunately Proposition 2 passed, requiring specific cage sizes for laying hens to take effect in 2015. The requirements include “…sufficient room for each hen to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs.”   Another law passed in 2009 that extended these same requirements to any state that sells eggs in California. As you can imagine, this extension caused great turmoil, especially to the states that export eggs to California.

The controversy re-ignited last month when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against California. Koster claimed that California is violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution by forcing other states to comply with California’s cage size standards. Koster stated, “This case is not just about farming practices. At stake is whether elected officials in one state may regulate the practices of another state’s citizens, who cannot vote them out of office.” One-third of all eggs produced in Missouri are exported to California which would mean Missouri’s egg farmers would lose access to their largest market. Other states have joined in the lawsuit, including Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma. State leaders realize that the California laws affect their farmers and ranchers. Any state that wishes to sell eggs in California has to meet the cage size requirements. But changing cage sizes is not cheap and could put farmers in these states out of business.

But does the conversation only reach egg producers? For now it may seem that way, but those involved in the agriculture industry know that this could be a slippery slope involving many other types of livestock. One main concern for agriculture is that there is now legislation in place regulating how farmers run their operations.

Even though Nebraska is not a top ranking state in egg production, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman understands how important agriculture is to his state and is willing to stand up for farmers. “It’s not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers.” Heineman says, “We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska” “That includes their attempts at creating overreaching, arbitrary, unconstitutional policy.”

Is the Nebraska Governor correct? Does this legislation pose a significant threat to all animal agriculture?  If you think so, then encourage your state officials to look into this situation and take a stand on behalf of the farmers and ranchers in your community. Do you want your eggs sunny-side-up or non-existent?

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Don’t Send Your Selfie Donation to the Dark Side

The hot topic in animal agriculture legislation for the past few weeks has been farm protection or “ag gag” bills. But my past two blogs have been on those bills so I wanted to change it up a bit!  I am going to dive into a completely new something…or rather someone: Ellen Degeneres.

You might ask “What does Ellen have to do with animal agriculture?” Well, if you watched the Oscars on Sunday night, you probably saw Ellen’s star-studded “selfie” featuring Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Bradley CooperKevin SpaceyLupita Nyong’o, her brother and others. You might have also noted that this picture was taken with a Samsung phone that Ellen was sporting throughout the evening. This “selfie” was retweeted over 3 million times causing Twitter to temporarily break down—it was also the most re-tweeted tweet in the HISTORY of Twitter (surpassing a 2012 tweet from President Obama). But most crucially, the Tweet got so much attention that Samsung agreed to donate 3 million dollars to two charities of Ellen’s choice. Ellen’s choices, each receiving $1.5 million, were St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Humane Society of the United States. DING, DING, DING! See I told you I’d connect Ellen to animal agriculture!

Ellen Pic Stitch

Now personally, I want to like her, I really do! I think Ellen has a great sense of humor and I agree with a lot of her other “pet” (no pun intended) causes like St. Jude’s and natural disaster relief. But she has a big voice and she is constantly speaking out against animal agriculture and donating to organizations that are trying to end our industry and our livelihoods. According to his own blog, Wayne Pacelle has been a guest on the Ellen show half a dozen times and she has made many donations to HSUS throughout the years. She also played a large role during the 2008 campaign in California for Proposition 2; running advertisements and giving updates on her talk show. If you go to her charity page it features advertisement after advertisement for animal rights groups. She might be a great dancer but these donations don’t jive well with me—or with most farmers and ranchers. Personally, I think Ellen should consider donating to local pet shelters, not HSUS, so the money will be going to help pets who need homes. Think about what a difference even a fraction of that 1.5 million could make to dogs and cats in need in your state.

Now, following the Oscars, Samsung is involved in Ellen’s personal fight against animal agriculture by donating $1.5 million to HSUS. Today, the Animal Agriculture Alliance sent a letter to Samsung telling them about HSUS’ true agenda, and encouraging them to earmark their donation for local shelters. Samsung needs to know that only 20 percent of HSUS’s efforts involve pets and only 1 percent of its annual budget is donated to shelters. All of those sad TV commercials are leading people astray.

And I would like to send just a brief message to the celebrities of the star-studded “selfie”. Did you enjoy your cheese pizza at the Oscars? I find it a bit ironic that Ellen was handing out a product (cheese made by dairy cows aka animal agriculture) yet her charity will currently go to an organization fighting to demolish that same industry on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure I even heard Brad Pitt ask for Pepperoni!

HSUS has spoken out against the so-called “ag gag” legislation and there is talk about proposed HSUS tail docking legislation in both Wisconsin and Colorado. That “selfie” might be worth $1.5 million to HSUS but it will cause a much greater amount of grief for farmers and ranchers. HSUS uses donations like these every day for their legislative efforts and smear campaigns. So come on, Ellen—use that “selfie” to donate to local pet shelters and not the selfish HSUS. Your furry feline friends (and dogs too!) are counting on you!!