With activists continually leveling criticism against animal agriculture that is misleading and inaccurate, it’s no wonder many consumers are confused about how animals are raised on U.S. farms. That’s why it is so important for pork producers to tell the real story themselves, even if it is to a community gathering or the local PTA group. The National Pork Board’s Operation Main Street program provides that opportunity.

“You don’t have to be a professional speaker to get involved with OMS,” says Ernie Barnes, NPB’s director of industry services. “You just have to be willing to share the pork industry’s story with others.” Operation Main Street, helps pork producers and industry supporters speak up for the pork industry as well as agriculture. 

Those who participate in Operation Main Street receive training on how to deliver a positive industry message to the media and the public and gain public speaking experience. Participants also receive industry updates on emerging issues and have the opportunity to connect with other producers and industry leaders. “You will walk away ready for public presentations,” says Barnes.

OMS 1.0 training will be offered to 20 people prior to the 2011 World Pork Expo, beginning on Tuesday, June 7 at 10 a.m. and running through Wednesday, June 8 at noon. This may be the last OMS training for 2011, says Barnes, who adds that World Pork Expo admission tickets will be provided to all OMS attendees. In addition, a stipend of $250 to assist with travel and lodging will be provided.

If you are interested in participating, call 800-456-7675, or contact Barnes at ebarnes@pork.org.

The National Pork Board launched Operation Main Street in 2004 to help people across the country upgrade the pork industry’s image starting at the local level. Through March of 2011, 854 people have completed OMS training and have given more than 4,300 presentations to civic groups and other audiences.

“I enjoy OMS, and it’s rewarding to feel like you’ve made a difference,” says Carrie Pollard, an OMS speaker who farms with her husband near Rockford, Ill., and works as a technical services manager for Bethany Animal Hospital in DeKalb, Ill.

Pollard’s OMS experiences led to an opportunity to author a column titled “Closing the Gap Between Consumers, Pig Farmers” for the local Sauk Valley newspaper. The column gave Pollard the platform to explain the benefits of modern pork production, producers’ judicious use of antibiotics and pork’s role in a healthy diet.

Generating positive media coverage for pork production and agriculture is a key benefit of OMS, according to Barnes, who says that OMS presentations have received coverage in 6,131 media outlets since January of 2008 and have reached an audience of more than 20 million people.

Recently, training for the program has been expanded to OMS 2.0, which is designed to take the pork industry’s message to high-level decision makers, including government officials, economic development groups, agricultural commissions, colleges of veterinary medicine and dietetic associations. OMS 2.0 also develops the skills and confidence required of speakers in more challenging situations. Barnes says that 77 OMS 1.0 speakers have already completed OMS 2.0 training.

OMS offers a powerful way to correct misconceptions about agriculture and reach out to consumers and opinion leaders, Pollard adds. “We as livestock producers and pork industry leaders should be proud of what we do, and I would encourage others to get involved in OMS.”

Read more on Operation Main Street.