Paul Pressley just began the first of two years that he’ll serve as Animal Agriculture Alliance Chairman. At the conclusion of the alliance’s Stakeholder’s Summit, Pressley told Brownfield Ag News that he’s challenged every year by the speakers at the summit to become better at what he does “how we tell our story, how we communicate what we’re doing in animal ag, how we care for the animals, how we’re concerned about the stewardship that we’re given.”
The Alliance’s Stakeholder’s Summit ended Thursday with a string of personal stories from people who have been affected in one way or another by activists. As the conference concluded, Alliance CEO Kay Johnson Smith told Brownfield that through the summit, the alliance tried to convey ways to deal with the consequences of activists.
“We wanted to provide tools, not to hide things from the public, but tools to help the farmers understand how to better connect with the consumer, how transparency is important and they can share their story and not feel afraid,” Johnson Smith told Brownfield Ag News as the 12th annual summit ended. “Because if they’re not sharing their story, the only thing the consumer sees are those awful videos that come out that are very misrepresentative of the industry.”
Johnson Smith says that among farmers’ biggest challenges are people and organizations that want to put an end to animal agriculture.
Interest in food and information technology have changed what’s important to people in making food choices. Dallas Hockman, with the National Pork Producers Council says that a quarter century ago, the organization launched Pork: the Other White Meat to reframe pork’s nutritious lean value.
“We face that same challenge today, except how it is that we’re producing the product,” Hockman told Brownfield Ag News after he made a presentation at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholder’s Summit. “We’ve changed dramatically as it relates to how our product is produced, how it’s raised; that doesn’t mean that it’s not safe, it’s not taken care of and all those attributes that we know we’re doing, it’s just there’s so much other noise that’s out there in the social media that we have to become part of.”
What that means, said Hockman, is that pork producers need to more aggressive in getting their story told to influencers, such as those involved with food policy and regulation, as well as those at the retail and food service level.
Joe Miller, the general counsel for egg producer Rose Acre Farms, says statutes in several states left questions that resulted in virtually halting the construction of new chicken houses because producers don’t know what to build. Those statutes stipulated cage sizes, but they differed from state to state. Miller told Brownfield Ag News that the proposed measure fixes that.
“States can’t pass state laws that say you have to have a certain cage size, such as California, Oregon, the state of Washington, Michigan and Ohio, [which] have all passed statutes saying that if you use cages, they have to be a certain size,” said Miller Wednesday, at the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) Stakeholders Summit in Arlington, Va. “It’s just that all their sizes are different.”
More importantly, said Miller, the bill, a controversial compromise between the UEP and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), allows what Miller said the animal activist group has opposed for years – cages.
“This legislation says that there is a standard size for cages that HSUS has accepted, ‘yes, it’s ok to have chickens in cages,’” he said.
Miller was part of the program during the AAA Stakeholder’s Summit.
The 12th Annual Animal Agriculture Stakeholder’s Summit examines how to deal with activism that threatens the raising of livestock. Their theme is Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food and Consumer Confidence.
The two-day summit, beginning Wednesday, includes sessions about maintaining transparency when engaging media concerning controversial animal agriculture issues. Addressing the summit is USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Alfred Almanza, who will speak about the agency’s procedures for handling undercover activist videos.
A panel discussion at the summit Thursday centers on fighting activists in the courtroom. Another looks at the consequences of forging partnerships with environmental and animal rights groups.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance is a coalition of people and organizations in the livestock and meat production business who try to create understanding of animal agriculture’s role in supplying food.
AUDIO: Emily Meridith (4 min. MP3)
The economic effect of Foot and Mouth Disease isn’t just a threat to the ag economy, it can hit closer to home.
Using a real county, with real economic data, Dr. Sebastian Heath, a Branch Chief for Program Development at FEMA, simulated how FMD on 60 farms would impact just one county in rural America. “The local impact on the economy – not related to agriculture – would reduce that economy’s tax base by $6.4 million a week on the Gross County Product,” he says.
In addition – over the course of a year Dr. Heath says that county would have lost over 4,000 jobs because of the economic effects of FMD.
Consumers are the ultimate drivers of the food supply system.
Annette Jones is the Chair of the NIAA Board of Directors and the state veterinarian for California. She says one of the goals of the meeting this year was to find a way to merge values with technology. “We’re really hoping to have a positive note about how we can use technology and help the consumers understand new technology, how we use it and how everyone can benefit,” she says.
Last summer there were 138 human cases of H3N2. Dr. Bret Marsh, Indiana State Veterinarian says most of those cases were associated with people being around livestock exhibits.
Because of the correlation between the two – Indiana has put together recommendations for the 2013 livestock exhibition season. “The first thing you should do is monitor the animal once they’re on the fairgrounds; the second recommendation is to consider vaccination; the third thing is to shorten the length of stay on the fairgrounds (no more than 72 hours); and the final recommendation is identification (we’ve suggested the 840 electronic identification),” he says.
The Indiana recommendations laid the framework for a set of practical guidelines to be used nationwide.
Those recommendations can be found on the US Animal Health Association’s website.
There is no simple answer when it comes to the issue of antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
It’s suggested that if we simply take animals off of antibiotics it will solve the issue of resistant strains of bacteria in animal agriculture. During his presentation during the NIAA conference yesterday, Dr. Sid Thakur, assistant professor at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine says new research suggests otherwise.
The United States hasn’t seen a case of FMD, or Foot and Mouth Disease since the late 1920’s. Dr. Gay Miller professor of epidemiology and preventative medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine says that’s because the preventative measures that are currently in place have protected us so far. “It isn’t a question of if it will ever occur in this country – it is a question of when,” she says. “We hope that ‘when’ is always out there in the future, but we are doing things to deal with the eventuality that would have an outbreak.”
Miller tells Brownfield being prepared is extremely important. Why? Because she says while FMD does cause tremendous illness in animals – it can also be an economic trade disease. “Once a country is recognized as being FMD positive their ability to export products is markedly hampered,” she says. “All of our trading partners would go away.”
Creating challenges for animal agriculture across all levels.