There's a $2.6-million national study in the works that will look at the future of large-scale livestock production. The Pew Charitable Trusts is funding the project that will involve a 19-member panel called the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

The commission will conduct private board meetings Monday through Wednesday of this week in Des Moines, Iowa, reports the Des Moines Register. It is expected to undertake a detailed, fact-based examination of key factors of large-scale livestock production.

John Carlin, former Kansas governor and executive-in-residence at Kansas State University, is chairing the commission. Some of the other commission members include:

• Dan Glickman, former USDA secretary and current chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.
• Alan Goldberg, professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
• Daryl Hannah, actress and biofuels and environmentally sustainable lifestyle activist.
• John Hatch, emeritus professor in health behavior and education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and  senior program development officer at the Center for Health and Healing of the General Baptist State Convention, Raleigh, N.C.
• Thomas Hayes, president of Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.
• Dan Jackson, a rancher and member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; former president, Western Montana Stockgrowers Association

The commission is expected to discuss such topics as the potential of avian influenza spreading to the United States, and the prospect of a pandemic affecting people. They also will examine economic and health issues. There will be at least six public hearings before the panel will make any recommendations, which is expected within two years.

A spokesperson for the commission says there is "no agenda entering its meetings, and the livestock industry should not be concerned at this point."

However, James Merchant, dean of the University of Iowa's College of Public Health and a commission member, says commissions such as this one are intended to inform policy matters and can become partisan. He adds, "the livestock industry can be prosperous while still protecting human health and the environment."

A national publicity campaign is set to start in September.

Des Moines Register