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Animal rights activists masquerading as consumers

Consumer demand is powerful. It can be the champion of a company’s success or the culprit of their failure. What I find even more interesting is how consumer demand is defined. Does a group of people with no intention of ever buying a restaurant’s product qualify as their consumer? With the avalanche of recent restaurant and retail pledges caving to pressure from animal rights organizations, it seems so.

At the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s recent Stakeholders Summit, speakers offered insights about consumer demand – suggesting consumers aren’t the ones demanding restaurants and grocery stores to change their supply chain policies at all. Dr. Dan Thomson of Kansas State University stated, “activists today are masquerading as the consumers.”

I have yet to hear a person order their chicken sandwich only with meat from “slower-growing” chickens, so Thomson’s statement didn’t surprise me. Although I understand why restaurants adopt certain sourcing policies in the face of mounting activist pressure, it would be refreshing to see a company stand up against the “self-appointed food police” as Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate calls them. Thankfully, there is still at least one brand with a backbone – Domino’s Pizza.

Tim McIntyre of Domino’s Pizza

Tim McIntyre from Domino’s shared how the pizza company hears from animal rights “extremists” all the time, but they value the hard work of farmers and ranchers and will never make a policy announcement threatening farmers’ livelihoods [cue standing ovation].

Animal rights organizations hide behind the guise of being concerned about animal care and well-being, but in reality they are campaigning for animal rights. No matter how well animals are cared for, if it benefits humans in any way it is unacceptable in their eyes. The pressure campaigns are about one thing – driving up the cost of production and in the end, consumer costs to put farmers and ranchers who raise meat, milk and eggs out of business.

I urge the consumers who don’t want to be bullied by animal rights organizations to take a page out of Domino’s playbook and stand up and take action. A simple thank you to our favorite restaurant or the manager at your grocery store can go a long way.


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4 Things I’ve Learned Interning with the Alliance

With only two weeks left until the Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit, my time here is quickly coming to an end. Managing work responsibilities, homework and studying, and extracurricular activities, this semester has been one of my hardest yet – but definitely the most rewarding. I feel like now is a good time to share the four greatest opportunities and learning experiences I’ve had because of this internship.

emily

#1: Time Management

This is absolutely the biggest thing I’ve learned these last couple months. A full college course-load is hard enough, but when you add in this internship and stepping into a presidential role for a club, it’s safe to say I kept busy. With daily deadlines and to-do lists a mile long, I learned hard and fast the importance of working quickly, efficiently, and not wasting any “down time”.

#2: “Ag-vocate” wherever and whenever

In a coffee shop, at the store, in class, on social media; there are always opportunities to advocate for the animal agriculture industry. Those involved in the industry are eager to share their stories, and consumers are seeking more insight about the agricultural world. The Alliance has shown me the importance of forming relationships with everyone – consumers, food retail associations, producers – to help bridge the gap between farm and fork.

#3: Take advantage of every opportunity

You always hear “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. This internship has provided me with many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I’ve had the chance to attend receptions, events on Capitol Hill, and even a barnyard social with other animal ag interns in the area! Stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging in these events has left me with memories that will last a lifetime.emily 4

And #4: Animal rights activists are crazy

Period.

I am so thankful for everything the organization has taught me and the wonderful people that I have met in my short time here. My last month will be bitter-sweet as I am sad to be moving on from the Alliance, but looking forward to finishing this experience with a bang at the 2017 Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City!


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How the Animal Ag Alliance got its start…Part II

Steve Kopperud, the first president of the Animal Industry Foundation, tells the story of the first days of the now Animal Ag Alliance. See Part I of his story by clicking here

The Animal Industry Foundation (AIF) was founded in 1987. I was the sole staffer, and I was a part-timer. The directors were those same eight groups who originally formed the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, namely the national groups representing the various species producing meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, as well as general farm groups. The American Feed Industry Association generously donated my time as administrator of AIF, as well as providing office space for the organization, in exchange for a bit of adult supervision. All producer groups accepted the AIF invitation to sit on the board. The old Pfizer Animal Health and the old Continental Grain Company lent executive expertise. If memory serves, the first year’s budget was about $65,000, compared with HSUS’s $100 million and PETA’s $20 million or so back then.

Our initial successful project was the first ever “Myths & Facts” booklet. This publication took the allegations of the animal rights groups and put them in an honest and correct context, explaining modern housing, animal care and so on. So popular was this booklet, companies and groups bought them to distribute to local school districts. I’ll never forget walking into a rental car office at the Denver airport and seeing “Myths & Facts” on the waiting area coffee table.

We also designed a full-page information/fundraising ad featuring an Iowa large animal vet – Dr. Rexanne Struve. Rexanne farmed with her husband, practiced vet medicine and at that time, was raising two sons.  In the ad, she talked about her experiences with farmers and ranchers and her frustration with the misinformation told by animal activists.  We broke the mold one more time – we didn’t run that ad in an agriculture magazine; we bought space in regional editions of Better Homes & Gardens and Newsweek. From the one-time appearance in Better Homes & Gardens, we received over 1,000 requests for more information.

Not too long after, a mutual friend and colleague introduced me to Kay Johnson Smith. After a single interview, I hired Kay to be the day-to-day administrative brains of the organization. We went through a lot in those days, hustling donations, trying to get projects done and out the door, hustling donations, making speeches around the country, hustling donations, creating partnerships with other like-minded organizations, hustling donations, and fending off groups trying to exploit AIF’s success. We worked to reinvent AIF in the mid-1990s to reflect changes in the industry. That spirit continues as the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

In 2000, I departed AFIA and the Animal Ag Alliance to start a government affairs/strategic communications company with a friend. I’ve remained AFIA’s federal lobbyist since, leaving Kay well in charge of the Alliance. I’ve never forgotten or ignored the Alliance and its good works. No one is as impressed as I that the Alliance is turning 30 this year!

Read Part I of Steve’s reflections here.


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How the Animal Ag Alliance got its start…Part I

Steve Kopperud, the first president of the Animal Industry Foundation, shares how the organization got its start and his experience with the animal rights movement. 

I’m occasionally asked from where the notion came 30 years ago to create the Animal Industry Foundation, now the Animal Agriculture Alliance.  Herein, I’ll commit the origins of the Alliance to the official “record” of its 30th anniversary recognition – as best I can recollect – but first, you have to indulge me – and this brief history lesson – as I expound on how legislative action spawns public education and outreach.

I first heard the term “animal welfare” applied to farm animals in 1980, from Dr. Howard Frederick, then the staff nutritionist for the “old” American Feed Manufacturers Association, now the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA).  I was Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the American Broadcasting Company’s publishing division, which fed D.C. coverage to a host of ABC magazines, and Washington editor for Feedstuffs, the flagship of its Ag publishing books.

Dr. Frederick had returned from an animal nutrition conference in the United Kingdom (UK). He told me of the growing frustration among UK aggies over the increasing activist noise alleging routine mistreatment of farm animals. He also talked about the emerging animal rights movement.

My cynical reaction to Dr. Frederick’s report was, I think, pretty typical for the time: “How ‘European’ to worry about ‘happy’ pigs and chickens.  That stuff will never catch on here.”  U.S. animal right activists focused on animals used in biomedical research and ending the fur industry. I filed the issue in the back of mind, in that spot reserved for story ideas to be pursued later, if at all.

Steve at his desk in the AIF/Alliance office

Shortly thereafter came the first U.S. public noise on animal rights from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  HSUS in the early 1980’s pushed for House legislation to “study” on-farm livestock production practices, the goal being to change those practices and federally regulate how farm animals were raised.  The focus was on veal calves.

As a reporter, I took Dr. Frederick’s European experience combined with the HSUS agenda, and interviewed Dr. Michael W. Fox, the vice president of HSUS one afternoon in his office.  The focus of the article would be “could the European situation happen here?”  The article concluded the European “situation” was already happening in the U.S.  The interview ran in Feedstuffs, and my phone didn’t stop ringing for a week. The vast majority of calls were from aggies outraged I would give Dr. Fox a forum to criticize without basis U.S. animal agriculture, and by default, farmers and ranchers.

In 1982, about 18 months after the Fox interview, I was hired by AFMA/AFIA to be its federal lobbyist. I worked with Dr. Frederick identifying evolving issues which could affect the commercial animal feed industry’s customers.  In looking to Europe to see what, if any, issues were on the cusp of export to the U.S., “animal welfare” topped the list.

At first, I was a voice in the wilderness convincing livestock and poultry organizations of the threat of animal rights activism.  Farmers and ranchers could not fathom anyone believing the activist message of senseless cruelty in pursuit of profit. I sat down with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), these groups having independently identified many of the same issues as AFMA/AFIA, as well as the HSUS “farm animal production practices” legislation.

Still, convincing some groups to take the issue as seriously as tax, food safety or trade legislation was tough. Consumers, based on contacts with ag groups, didn’t ask about on-farm production practices, housing, medications, feeds or animal transportation and processing.  However, given the noise being made by HSUS, the newly launched People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Animal Rights International (ARI) – including national newspaper ads, publicity stunts involving nude activists and the ensuing media attention – it wouldn’t be long before consumer head scratching evolved into consumer demands for change, for regulation and so forth.

AFMA, AFBF and NCBA founded the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition (FAWC) in 1984, an ad hoc coalition of agriculture groups focused on ensuring any regulation or legislation affecting on-farm animal production and handling was science-based, actually enhanced animal welfare and gave the economic welfare of the farmer/farm family equal consideration. In addition to HSUS, PETA and ARI, groups like Farm Animal Reform Movement (now the Farm Animal Rights Movement), Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Farming Association, the Animal Welfare Institute, ASPCA, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and others joined the ranks of animal rights dogmatists.

In the beginning, FAWC’s membership was eight organizations representing general farm, feed, cattle, swine, chickens, turkeys, dairy and eggs.  At its peak in 1986, more than 40 groups attended meetings, including representatives of other animal industries, i.e. biomedical research, rodeo, fur farmers, zoos, fairs and exhibitions and circuses, along with university academics, bureaucrats and others who were involved with animal behavior.

With agriculture united, FAWC ensured federal farm animal rights legislation never saw the light of day, lending aid and comfort to state legislative battles when it could.

Steve exhibiting handing out information about the Animal Industry Foundation at a trade show

In 1985, FAWC partnered with the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) to beat back language in the 1985 Farm Bill to amend the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). While FAWC had no dog in the biomedical fight, it lent political support, but stayed focused on protecting the “farm animal exemption” in the AWA definition of “animal” for the purposes of USDA regulation. That definition specifically exempts animals raised for food, as well as research to enhance the use of animals for food, and while they’ve tried numerous times, animal rights groups have not been successful in pulling farm animals into the AWA.

NABR and FAWC have allied for over 30 years on major legislative and public relations initiatives to protect legitimate animal use in farming and biomedical research, i.e. food and medicine as “quality of life” issues. During the run-up in animal rights violence in the late 1980s-1990s, the two groups coordinated an animal user coalition which successfully saw enacted in 1991, the Animal Facility Protection Act (AFPA), a law which for the first time amended the federal criminal code to make violence against animal facilities a felony. In 2006, due to the expansion of animal rights violence to include ecoterrorism and other criminal activity – “domestic terrorism,” by FBI definition – that new section of the federal criminal code was amended by the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), providing federal protections not only to the physical facility housing protected animals, but to the organizations and individuals who represent the legitimate use of livestock and poultry.

While all of the above was going on I was living in airplanes, flying around the country and overseas making up to 50 speeches a year to various state and regional groups, as well as to national conventions, warning about the threat animal rights to farming and ranching, but also how best to talk with the public, how to counter the absurd allegations about on-farm animal handling, how to get ahead of the issue, and how to open up to consumers about where their food comes from, i.e. “good food from good people.”

It occurred to me during a late night flight home from who knows where that one person could not continue do what I was doing. That agriculture needed to coalesce behind an effort to engage the public about the reality of on-farm meat, poultry, dairy and egg production was obvious. Certainly the brains and expertise were abundant within the various farm and animal producer groups. Think of the iconic advertising over the years: “Got Milk?,” “Where’s the beef?!,” “Pork. The Other White Meat,” “The Incredible Edible Egg,” I figured the folks who brought American consumers these gems could easily message routine humane handling by farmers and ranchers who care about their animals.

However, it was also clear producer groups were not going to shift either resources or personnel away from protecting the business of raising animals and selling product to, as I kept saying in speeches, “selling the producer.” At this point in managing the animal rights issue, most groups did not have a dedicated staff person whose job it was to monitor and coordinate the industry’s response to the movement’s attacks. Associations were most comfortable reacting publicly as part of a collective to avoid being singled out by activists or the media.

Kay Johnson Smith at a trade show in 1991

After much research, brain picking and lawyer sessions, it became clear a stand-alone organization was needed; An entity that would have as its sole function the education of the consumer as to the realities and benefits of modern farming and ranching, and how professional farming and ranching contribute to everyone’s quality of life.

This new organization would focus exclusively on public education, doing absolutely no lobbying or product promotion. Most importantly, the majority of the new group’s board of directors would be representatives of the farm and ranch segments the new group was designed to help, i.e. national animal producer groups.  A board member had to be organization staff, but staff who had the authority or the permission to make decisions for their association.

The rationale behind the “no-company-director” rule was to protect company brand names. Company stockholder meetings were being targeted for shareholder resolutions brought by animal rights groups, making companies less confrontational and less aggressive in their approach to the issue than farmers and ranchers. We also wanted to spare the associations the pressure – real or perceived – of having a big member company argue against a proposal/position in a board meeting. As supporters, companies could sit on project committees and the like, and they could attend board meetings; they would not have a vote.

That day 30 years ago in 1987 when the Animal Industry Foundation was born was the start of something great for animal agriculture.

Stay tuned for part II of Steve’s reflections!


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HSUS bullies animal ag and hurts low-income families

Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate, shares her story of standing up for agriculture while the Humane Society of the United States pushed for a ballot in Massachusetts that would hurt low-income families at the grocery store. 

Less than a year ago, I attended the 2016 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, my first real introduction to agriculture beyond labels on products in the grocery store. I had recently learned about a ballot initiative filed in my state that, despite efforts to legally challenge its certification, would become Question 3 on the Massachusetts 2016 ballot.

As I considered engaging in this food policy debate, I reflected on my own family’s experience with hunger, homelessness and poverty which drives me in my work for social justice. I recalled the times I would dig through my sofa for change just to purchase a dozen eggs to feed my children some protein for dinner. In deference to the real victims of Q3, I would later agree to become campaign manager for Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice.

In my work, I have always sought to break down the stereotypes we all know too well – that poor people are lazy and uninspired; that if we would just go to work, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Rather than focus on solutions to poverty, policies began to look more like punishments, as broad brushes of accusations of fraud, waste and abuse taint us all when one bad apple makes a new headline.

While attending last year’s summit, I quickly learned that those of you providing the gift of nutrition have your own unique, yet similar challenges. I noted to Brian Klippenstien of Protect the Harvest at the time that low income families and farmers have their respective stories to share, stories that left untold by us, would be told for us by others with self-serving interests.

My years in policy work have also shown me that when we start to solve for a problem that does not exist, there will be unintended consequences. More often than not, the poor will suffer the worst. Q3 is the very definition of social injustice, those elite with money and satisfied choices imposing burdens on those with neither.

On its surface, Q3 would appeal to the good-hearted voters in Massachusetts who want to prevent cruelty to animals. In reality, Q3 was a cruel indifference to those of us who struggle to feed our families in a state ranked 47th in housing affordability and where our food costs are already 26 percent higher than the national average. Like most everyone, I don’t want to be cruel to animals, but I refuse to be cruel to people.

The Humane Society of the United States and their supporters would ultimately spend $2.7 million on the passage of Q3, while ensuring that the good and truth of agriculture would be a story left untold in my state. HSUS would continue to ignore not only the economic impacts for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, but also the animal welfare trade-offs for the very livestock they claim to protect.

The politics is strange. Imagine if President Trump were to propose doubling the cost of the most affordable and accessible source of protein available to low income families. Outrage would ensue as advocates for the poor and the media would express their disdain for such a heartless and reckless act. Yet, when merchants of veganism do it, compassion for our fellow humans can simply be set aside, it seems.

Thankfully, Mr. Forrest Lucas and the National Pork Producers Council would provide enough funds for me to give voice to the voiceless in this debate. Sadly, we would ultimately be outspent 10:1 as funds directly from HSUS and their supporters in places like California, New York and DC poured into their campaign. Citizens for Farm Animal Protection rained down TV ads that portrayed animals in awful conditions, duping MA voters into thinking these conditions existed across farms in our state and were acceptable, normal agriculture practices across the country.

Walking into this debate, I had no idea how extraordinary our food producers and science partners are at providing healthy, affordable and sustainable nutrition. I am among the grateful who appreciate why your work is so critical and meaningful. I know why, going forward, the coalitions that I am accustomed to working in must be working in partnership with you all who feed us.

HSUS cleverly played on the emotions of voters in a progressive state where we, in general, know very little to nothing about agriculture. HSUS has bullied our local farmers into submission with direct threats to their livelihoods. HSUS lied about the cost, as they did in CA, selling their ‘penny-an-egg’ story to unsuspecting voters. HSUS claimed that consumers were driving their cause, not mentioning the consumers they were referring were retail executives who know about a good marketing plan, not your average shopper on a budget. HSUS called me as a pawn for big agriculture.

HSUS would soon learn that my supporters hadn’t just come to MA to randomly pick some low-income woman to be the face of this campaign. HSUS wasn’t certain how to handle me. This low income grandma, working 2 jobs to survive, with a solid record of 15 years in anti-poverty work, was on a crash course in agriculture. I found myself being the voice for not only those victimized by Q3, but also in defense of agriculture.

I created a unique challenge. HSUS couldn’t protest in front of my home: my neighbors would have had a field day with them. HSUS couldn’t threaten a boycott of my business: I don’t own one. HSUS couldn’t bully me out of this debate: though they tried. Their supporters suggested that I be locked in a cage. Some commented that my children should not exist if I ever struggled to feed them.

Despite our efforts, Q3 would pass overwhelmingly in MA, with a 2022 implementation date. As predicted, HSUS has moved along to another small, coastal state that, like my own, ranks among the very lowest in agriculture receipts in the country. HSUS is taking to state legislatures and ballots what they have been losing at the check-out counter where 90 percent of us purchase conventional eggs.

As I consider my next steps in this debate, I am reminded that HSUS did not happen overnight. Campaigns take time. Now, I know there has been an on-going food policy debate where those most impacted – and harmed – have been absent. I am here to take my seat at the table. HSUS is now pressing further, trying to bully big agriculture into producing slower growing broilers driving up the consumer price of chicken meat. That negotiation does not include the voice of those most adversely impacted. Any meaningful debate on these issues requires the presence of one of its major stakeholder groups –low income consumers.

In MA, nearly 800,000 residents rely on the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). Nationwide, that number is 45.5 million. We know that these numbers only scratch the surface at what food insecurity in the United States really looks like.

We must be more united and assertive in protecting and distributing our abundance. We must have the victims of this debate join with those who produce. The voice of low-income consumers can no longer be excluded from the negotiating tables. It is critical we unite urban and rural partnerships to promote food security and protect our dinner plates from the self-appointed food police.


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Cast your vote for two farmers to win our blog and photo contests!

The top entries for our Instagram and blog contests have been selected and now it’s up to you to decide which ones will be the winners and receive a free registration to our 2017 Stakeholders Summit! Cast your vote by Friday, March 10th and the lucky winners will be announced on Monday, March 13th!

Blog Post Entries 

The farmers with the top blog posts are…

  1. Nicole Small, Kansas Farm Mom: “Action Please”
  2. Wanda Patsche, Minnesota pig farmer: “Action, Please – Minnesota “Farm-to-table style” 
  3. Melinda B., Cattle rancher: “Action, Please!”

Please vote for your favorite Action, Please story and the winner will receive a free registration and hotel stay to attend the Summit to Connect to Protect Animal Ag! The two runner-ups will be invited to come at a discounted rate.

 

Instagram Photo Entries 

We received so many great entries that we couldn’t limit ourselves to picking just three photos, so we picked our top five!

Laura Daniels, Wisconsin dairy farmer

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Karra James, Kansas beef rancher and row crop farmer

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Michelle MillerThe Farm Babe, sheep and cattle farmer

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Krista Stauffer, The Farmer’s Wifee, dairy farmer

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Lauren Arbogast, Paint The Town Ag, Virginia chicken farmer

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Please vote for your favorite farm photo and the winner will receive a free registration and hotel stay to attend the 2017 Summit and the two runner-ups will be invited to come at a discounted rate!

 


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We can all root for Team Agriculture

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Young Farmers and Ranchers FUSION conference with the American Farm Bureau Federation. I competed in the Maryland State Collegiate Discussion Meet and had won a trip to the FUSION conference emily-1to compete in the national competition! Food labels and tax policy reform were just two of the topics I discussed with students from across the nation. In addition to learning to work cooperatively in a solution-based discussion, there were also a wide variety of sessions, speakers, and fellow Young Farmers and Ranchers who I learned a few things from.

4:1          

“4:1”

This is the ratio of how many positive agriculture posts, articles, stories, etc. that it takes to counteract ONE negative story. In my session on advocacy through video and film, it was stressed that we, as farmers and ranchers and agriculture advocates, need to share our stories as much as possible to reach the public. You can throw out statistics all day and go back and forth with someone on who’s right and who’s wrong, but they cannot argue with your story. They cannot tell you that your life experiences are not real. WE are the ones who know the truths about our industry, WE are the ones living this lifestyle, WE are the ones passionate about what we do and if WE do not do it, nobody else is going to.

Engagement

“Engagement is what’s going to allow agriculture to survive in the future.” –Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President

Not only emily-2is it important to share our stories, it is also important to take it one step further and engage with the public. Consumers do not always trust farming but they DO trust farmers. Use this to your advantage. Answer questions people have and pose new ones that make them think. Any time that you can have a positive interaction and get through to someone, you are creating another potential advocate!

Support

“You don’t have to be on the football team to still cheer for them. You don’t have to be involved with agriculture to still support it.”

During a networking luncheon at FUSION, I spoke with some collegiate members about getting those outside of agriculture involved.  It was mentioned that some people are really into football, some basketball and some baseball, but whatever sport it is, everyone still cheers regardless of being on the team or not. The agriculture industry needs this type of support too, now more than ever. There are fewer and fewer farmers every year feeding a growing population and it affects EVERYONE. We depend on agriculture for our food, our clothes, our shelter, etc. We may not all play on “Team Agriculture” but it has a huge role in our lives and we need to get behind it to ensure a successful future for it!

Overall, the FUSION conference was a great experience filled with many opportunities for learning and growth. It is truly amazing seeing so many Young Farmers and Ranchers so passionate and interested in sustaining and building the future for agriculture! I cannot wait for the conference next year in Reno!emily

 

 


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Did you take action for animal agriculture? Share it with us!

Last year’s Stakeholders Summit focused on taking action to secure a bright future for animal agriculture. Well, it’s that time of year again and we want to know what you did to take action! Did you talk to people in your community, start a club or teach a lesson at a local school, join social media to start advocating, invite neighbors to your farm or something else to help secure a bright future for our industry? If you did, we want to feature you at the 2017 Summit! Share a photo with a few sentences explaining the picture or video testimonial and we will share your Action, Please story with our Summit attendees this May! The deadline to submit stories is April 7, 2017!

Please share your photos and videos on Instagram or Twitter and tag the Alliance! You can also send your photos and videos to Casey at cwhitaker@animalagalliance.org!


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My Agriculture Story

The number of people directly involved in the agriculture industry today is dwindling at an alarming rate. The majority of those left were raised on farms and always knew it was an industry they wanted to be involved with for the rest of their lives. This was not the case for me. I grew up in the suburbs in a neighborhood in Southern Maryland where I played with other children instead of pigs and chickens. But as I sit and write this from the Animal Agriculture Alliance office in Arlington, Va., I too know that this is an industry I want to be involved with for the rest of my life.

The Early Days

When I was younger, my mom used to joke that if I could choose between a day at an cattle-chuteamusement park and a day at the barn, I would choose the barn every time. I was not fortunate enough to grow up on a farm but my cousins were – and boy, did I envy them! Typical visits with them usually included me begging to go to the barn to see all of their animals. I always got my way.

A few months before I started high school, I received an offer that completely changed my life. My older cousins had aged out of 4-H and there was only one sibling left to prepare and show all of the animals over the summer and at our local county fairs. I had been recruited to help out and I was hooked! Just about every weekend I was at their house working in the barnpalpating dreading the thought of my mother coming to take me home at the end of the day. Over the next couple years I became more and more involved due to my willingness to try just about anything related to agriculture – including learning what it meant to palpate a heifer (pictured left).  In addition to showing beef cattle and goats, I participated on the Livestock Judging and Skillathon teams through 4-H.

 

My Start in Ag-vocationccfb

2014 was a big year for me! I was graduating high school, earned a spot on the Maryland state Skillathon team and was selected as a delegate for National 4-H Congress! It was also the year I was chosen to be Miss Charles County Farm Bureau. I spent the next year learning more and more about agriculture within my county as well as the state. I attended county Farm Bureau meetings where I learned about legislation regarding the agriculture industry, mingled with and gave speeches to our county commissioners and officers, and competed in the Miss Maryland Agriculture contest.

The contest is held at our state fair every year in August and is a competition between the Farm Bureau ambassadors from each county. There are multiple rounds throughout the contest – interviews, first impressions, round table discussions, and finally a speech and fishbowl question and answer given to all of the spectators in the Cow Palace. It was through my time as a Farm Bureau ambassador that I learned about the importance of advocating for this industry that I love so much!

I’m Not in Southern Maryland Anymorestate-fair

After my time in 4-H, I realized I wanted to do something related to the cattle industry. I enrolled at my state school, the University of Maryland, where I am currently a junior studying animal science and agribusiness economics. Attending such a diverse school with a very small agriculture department, my eyes were really opened to the disconnect between farmers and consumers, especially those with no direct ties to agriculture. This is where I realized I wanted to focus on consumer education and help to bridge the communication gap! My passion for production animal agriculture and my interest in consumer education on how your food gets from farm to table is what led me to apply for the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s communications internship program.

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The Alliance sticker on the back of my truck.

A little over two weeks ago when I started at the Alliance, I entered the “real world” chapter of my story. I now have my first “real” job and I am more motivated than ever to continue working towards my career goals. I’m so excited for my semester interning with the Alliance and I cannot wait to see what opportunities are in store for the future!


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Farmers and ranchers can enter to win a FREE registration to the 2017 Stakeholders Summit!

The Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit is one of the must-go-to events of the year! Set for May 3-4, 2017, the Summit will take place in Kansas City, Mo.

With the theme of “Connect to Protect Animal Ag: #ActionPlease2017,” the conference will build on the 2016 Summit’s focus of taking action to secure a bright future for animal agriculture. Speakers will give the audience actionable solutions to take home and implement on their farm or in their business.

Sound exciting? Are you a farmer or rancher who advocates for animal agriculture? Well here’s your chance to enter to win a FREE registration to the event!

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Blog Contest:

Write a blog post telling your “Action, Please” story! This can be something you’ve done to help bridge the communication gap between farm and fork in your community and engage with consumers about animal agriculture.

What you need to do:

  • Write a 500-750 word blog post
  • Publish your blog post somewhere public before March 1
  • Promote your blog on Twitter and use the hashtag #AAA17 and tag @animalag

The Alliance will respond to your tweet to acknowledge it being entered into the contest. On March 2, 2017 we will announce the top three blog posts. Then, the top three will be up for public voting. The farmer that receives the most votes by the stated deadline will win a free registration to our Summit! The farmers in second and third place will receive a discounted registration to attend.

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Instagram Photo Contest:

If photography is more your style, here’s what you can do to win a free registration:

  • Share your favorite farm photo on Instagram before March 1
  • Use the hashtag #AAA17
  • Tag @animalagalliance

The Alliance will comment on your photo to acknowledge it being entered into the contest. On March 2, 2017 we will announce the top three photos. Then, the top three will be up for public voting. The farmer that receives the most likes by the stated deadline will win a free registration to our Summit! The farmers in second and third place will receive a discounted registration to attend. We’ll also choose some of our favorite photos to use for Alliance social media graphics in the future!

If you know a farmer or rancher who should be at our Stakeholders Summit, tell them about this opportunity!