The following is excerpted from a Meatingplace interview with Jon Hagler, director of Missouri's state Department of Agriculture.

Q: The Humane Society of the United States is working in Missouri to pass legislation outlawing puppy mills. Is that the type of activity in your state that you track?

A: We certainly keep an eye on all the efforts that impact the department. We regulate dogs in Missouri, and the Department of Agriculture has an animal control facilities unit. We regulate the retail sale of dogs, we inspect kennels and boarding kennels, and Humane Society shelters.
So, [the HSUS initiative] impacts the department just as it would if it were in any other area of livestock.

Q: A lot of folks in the livestock industry see this as HSUS's first step toward passing legislation that would direct how Missouri livestock producers raise their animals, a la Prop 2. Do you agree?

A: I think that's a concern that all of us in agriculture have. The stated goals of HSUS are to end livestock production and consumption, which is threatening the livelihood of farmers across the country. We certainly take that seriously.

Q: Have you or anyone in the department had contact with HSUS on this matter?

A: Not that I know of. There is a consortium of agricultural groups in Missouri that are working together to address HSUS in a head-on manner. American agriculture is at the forefront of stewardship.

Q: What do you expect will happen on this front, in your state, in 2010?

A: I don't know. It's difficult to say. I think the farm groups are coming together, coalescing around these issues, and I think they're very much aware of their impact on their livelihood. To some extent that's going to be necessary to effectively communicate with the public. We will continually reach out to the consumer, and let them know the value in their daily lives that comes from having a high-quality, low-cost food source that is made right here in America, right in the back yard. We continue that effort every day.

And you can't overstate that value. Every consumer has a stake in agriculture, and every consumer has a stake in becoming educated about the benefits that American agriculture plays in their lives. They want their food grown here, by people who share their values. And those same people and producers all across the country understand that relationship and know it well. They know that animal stewardship is a vital link in that process.

It is time for agriculture to come together and row in the same direction and stand up for the tremendous value they play in the lives of everyday Americans. Until we do that ourselves, and understand that the responsibility is our own, we'll continue to confront issues [on which consumers] are uninformed.

Read the full interview.