Tackle the tough issues

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It’s time for producers to proactively talk about the things consumers want to know about, even if  – or especially – if it’s a sensitive topic.

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture. I was asked to speak about communications. I told the audience all about the Alliance’s mission to proactively engage with new audiences, and correct misinformation spread by animal rights activists like Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), whom I talked about in my blog post earlier this week.

I told the audience that when I get a media call, the reporter always wants to talk to a producer. But when I reach out to our rolodex of producer members, I hear crickets. I challenged the audience to stand up for agriculture: In 2014, we need to not just talk about the happy, feel-good topics, but actually dig deep and start talking about the challenges that come with raising animals for food.

We need to talk about things like gestation stalls, animal viruses and antibiotics. Our challenges and struggles provide compelling stories--and I for one would much rather address questions proactively than when we’re put on the defensive by groups like HSUS and an undercover video or scandal.

Clearly, there’s an interest in food production and I have no doubt that reporters, radio broadcasters, and yes, even comedians like Jon Stewart (also mentioned in my last post), are going to provide us with ample opportunities to share agriculture’s story this year. So let’s dig a little deeper, and stand up.

Because if Jon Stewart and I agree on two things, it’s (1) that he’s always fair – he picks on everyone equally, and (2) that everything’s better with bacon.

Sizzle, sizzle.

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South Dakota  |  February, 10, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Emily, you are absolutely giving the right advice! Producers need to "...dig deep and start talking about the challenges that come with raising animals for food." Some of these challenges are not as easy for producers to talk about. Your list touched on several topics, but neglected a few hotter subjects, odor, pathogens, animal well-being and the environment. Unfortunately, producers still do not have the tools they need to meet these challanges. New and effective tools have become available in recent years. NRCS-CIG funded a 3 year study of odor and pathogen elimination and Green House Gas reduction using better and less costly manure management methods that add profits to the producer's bottom line. Please email or call me if you wish to discuss further 605 337-3737.

Adelaide, SA  |  February, 10, 2014 at 03:57 PM

A majority of humans do not *need* to eat animals to survive. It is a *want*. The United Nations has already advised raising animals as food is unsustainable. You need to look outside of your 'food agriculture' bubble. We can live on a plant diet easily and this has been proven by millions of people.

USA  |  February, 10, 2014 at 05:38 PM

Plant based diets are on the rise. People are becoming aware of the abuse that happens to animals, as well as the dangers of meat. Your days of profiting from cruelty are numbered.

Randy Janssen    
San Antonio  |  February, 11, 2014 at 06:14 AM

The HSUS is not your local animal shelter. The HSUA has been hijacked by radical animal rights activist. It is an over 150 million dollar corporation that spends almost every dime it gets on obscene salaries and filing lawsuits. It raises money by showing ads of cute dogs and cats, but it spends less then 1 cent on the dollar to feed and shelter cats and dogs. More and more members of congress are questioning the tax free status of the HSUS because of its political activities. The HSUS IS AGAINST RODEO AND WESTERN TRADITIONS. IT IS FOR A VEGETERIAN LIFE STYLE AND AGAIST EATING MEAT. The HSUS has been accused of paying employes to abuse animals and videoing the abuse as proof that meat production should be stopped. The HSUS wants to change our eating habits and standard of living by outlawing factory farming methods which are even used on family farms. The HSUS is bad for America so don't applaud its lackeys. If you want to support something think about giving to the child fund, St. Jude, the Wounded Warriors, or you local food bank. If you want to help animals, give money to you local animal shelter. Giving money to the HSUS is giving money to a large bureaucracy that waste it on salaries and litigation. It claims to do good but if you really look at what it does, it only piggybacks on the work of local organizations.

Terry Ward    
Pa.  |  February, 11, 2014 at 06:42 AM

If it weren’t for the bad actors in agriculture, there would be no need for the Humane Society.. So maybe it’s time to stop calling pigs in steel traps and sardine-can chickens and miles of semi-immobile cows ‘farming’. 
This is not farming.
 This never was farming.
 It's assembly-line food animal production/processing. 

Farming is an honorable endeavor. 
There is nothing honorable in animals traveling through automated assembly lines like Toyotas and toasters, so why not just man up and stop pretending it is anything other then mechanized food production? 
You seem to think your customers are all stupid. Stupider still is to assume all your detractors are vegans.

Seattle  |  February, 11, 2014 at 11:07 AM

It would be a better use of time if you provided correct information concerning HSUS instead of trying to make them look bad with incorrect info that is easily verifiable. HSUS salaries are quite low compared to other non-profits and they are against animal cruelty. Their employees don't pose as the abusers that are recorded at factory farms (I don't think their arms are long enough to video tape themselves in these videos). Why don't corporate farms address horrendous cruelty and change it? It does not need to continue! With the ways of people are changing, it behoves you to change too. You are fighting a losing battle.

Satish Karandikar    
NJ  |  February, 14, 2014 at 01:09 PM

God bless the HSUS!

USA  |  February, 14, 2014 at 07:36 PM

It is not just the killing. It is the denial of every need and want. It is not the worst evil we do. It is the worst evil we do to them. Factory farming is obscene, cruel beyond imagination. Vegan is an ethical choice.We must become vegetarian if we are to survive as a species, (per Einstein). watch an undercover video and witness the horror. It is immoral to pay for such suffering and to be ignorant of what you pay others to do.

Colorado  |  February, 14, 2014 at 07:43 PM

Let's "dig a little deeper" indeed. We wouldn't have quite the amount of challenges in raising animals for food if we wouldn't rely so much on animals for our food. Factory farming leads to disease from hormones and chemicals, as well as toxic pollution. Inhumane treatment of animals for our greedy gluttony makes us a weaker, base, more desensitized people, not to mention cultivates opposition from animal activists. If we could practice sustainable farming with humane practices--which means less product, and therefore less meat, and a more plant-based diet--not only would farming be more successful, but our country would be healthier. It would be actually be progressive of our country to adopt such a "radical" method of farming. Emily, I think you'll find you're a dying breed.

Nebraska  |  February, 14, 2014 at 07:47 PM

Oh, geez, Randy, get your facts straight.

Seattle  |  February, 14, 2014 at 08:39 PM

If you "dig deep" you will find those who demonize the HSUS have a financial stake in perpetuating the inhumane practices of Big-Ag. The others who criticize HSUS are simply the uninformed who are drinking the kool-aid of propaganda spewed by those interests. There is a tremendous growing awareness of educated consumers who recognize the connection between human health & animal welfare. To dismiss this contingency as a group of rabid Vegan animal activists will be the economic downfall of the industry if ignored. The time for change has come, and we will continue to work towards bringing about those changes.

February, 15, 2014 at 06:03 PM

Your the only one drinking kool-aid

California  |  February, 15, 2014 at 09:19 PM

Hogs today are much healthier,less little piglets being stomped on, eaten (yes, eaten) by their fellow hogs by scientific, well thought out modern farming methods. Yummy, BACON! Many of these commenters have never walked on a farm, much less worked around hogs.

new jersey  |  February, 15, 2014 at 09:29 PM

Our farmers are the experts. We need to do our research. I believe gestational crates are humane. Less loss of piglets AND sows. I believe in ALL farming-- and how it should be done should NOT be dictated by people who have never stepped foot in a barn.

Gail Forrest    
Virginia  |  February, 15, 2014 at 10:26 PM

Only 5% of Americans are vegetarians, down from 6% in previous years so your minority is shrinking. That means that a clear majority of 95% of citizens of the United States are Carnivores. Since when do we the citizens of the USA allow a very small minority of the populace to dictate to the majority what they must do? why should a tiny minority ever be allowed to decide what laws are good for the majority. Most of the vegans have no idea what it entails to operate a farm producing Agricultural products today be it animal or vegetable.. This country's constitution grants each citizen the unalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. These will mean different things to different people, to me as a member of the 95% majority of our citizens that eat meat, meat makes me happy, bacon makes me happier and I am entitled to the pursuit of my happiness. While those that don't want to eat meat are entitled to the pursuit of their own vegetable happiness. I suggest you worry about the quality and quantity of your source of vegetables and leave the majority to make the laws we want that pertain to the meat industry. Namaste

SD  |  February, 22, 2014 at 10:11 PM

The vegan activists ignore facts about food animal production. They seem to exhibit a cult or religion-like mindset about eating meat and raising animals for food which denies the facts. More than 98% of farms/farmers in the USA are FAMILY farms, with ownership, management, and LABOR provided by family members, whether there are other people employed on the farm, or not. Many cattle raised for beef live on pastures, as on our family ranch in SD. We require about 25 acres for one cow to live for one year, with her calf for part of that year. One acre is about the size of a football field, so that cow and calf are certainly not crowded. After about one year living on our pastures comprised of native grasses and forbs, the calf, nearly adult size, may be moved to a feedlot where it has more than ample room to move about, interact with its herdmates, and eat a combination of hay or silage and some grains for a few months before being processed into high quality beef. Animals which are not treated right do not make a profit. A profit is absolutely necessary for a farmer to remain in business and provide a modest living for a family AND the animals in his care. You want to eat a vegetarian diet? Go right ahead. But, you have no right to dictate the diets of other people.


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