Animal Ag summit attendees learn to bridge the divide

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Nearly two hundred leaders representing animal agriculture came together in Arlington, VA this week to kick off the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s eleventh annual Stakeholders Summit. Twelve speakers discussed the event’s theme, “Real Farmers Real Food: Celebrating Tradition and Technology”.

One of the key topics addressed was the need to bridge the urban-rural divide to help the average consumer understand today’s agricultural practices. Chris Herr of PennAg Industries Association and Mike Platt of Indiana Pork each shared innovative new ways that their organizations are working to share the importance of agriculture with the public.

PennAg Industries Association’s groundbreaking 10,000 square foot exhibit, “Today’s Agriculture,” put real-life agricultural practices on display at the 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show. Visitors came face-to-face with modern farm practices, often for the first time, and had the opportunity to get their questions answered straight from the farmer.

“To me, the most moving part of this project was helping our producers feel empowered,” Herr said.

Mike Platt, the Executive Director of Indiana Pork, agreed with Herr about the importance of open communication and transparency with the public. As president of Fair Oaks Farms’ new “Pig Adventure” organizing board, Platt is committed to creating a new opportunity for people from all walks of life to have fun while learning about modern animal agriculture.

“There is no one solution to the problems facing us in terms of consumer education, but there are 100 “one percent” solutions out there,” he said.

When completed, the 2,600 sow operation will celebrate an important core message – that pork producers care. Platt said that his goal is to protect and maintain producer choice while promoting an honest dialogue with visitors to the farm who are eager to learn more about where their food comes from.

Speakers also emphasized the need to “open up the barn doors” to the media. Meatingplace’s Janie Gabbett and Helena Bottemiller of Food Safety News shared experiences and strategies to help agriculture build relationships with reporters through open, honest communication.

“Make sure that you can explain the science behind your practices,” Gabbett said.

Gabbett explained that food producers faced three challenges in the media today: word wars, image wars, and ratings wars. She encouraged attendees to actively tell their stories – and most importantly, to be proactive.

“The story will be told whether you let the media view your operation or not,” Bottemiller added, encouraging the audience to help reporters understand farm practices.

Event sponsors included U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, Farm Credit, Vance Publishing Corporation, Murphy-Brown, LLC.,Elanco, Provimi North America, Inc., Pfizer Animal Health, Merck Animal Health, Hy-Line, American Feed Industry Association, National Pork Producers Council, United Soybean Board, Alltech, Inc., Diamond V Mills, Inc.,  Aviagen Group, Potash Corp., Genus Americas,  American Veal Association, Bayer Animal Health, Cactus Feeders, Inc., National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Board , Brakke Consulting, Kemin Industries, United Egg Producers, Watt Agribusiness Media, AgriBeef Co., Tractor Supply, The Poultry Federation, Marcho Farms, and National Farm Broadcasting Association.



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