Alliance aims to focus efforts on improving public opinion
A new group aims to unite all facets of the U.S. agriculture industry in an effort to change the negative public opinions of modern ag practices.
“The whole premise is that there are so many attacks against modern agriculture, and each little industry segment – beef, pork, chickens, eggs, grains, etc. – has been trying to defend their modern practices, but don’t have enough money to do an effective job,” says Cody dairy producer and chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils Scott George of the new U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
“The goal was to get agriculture together and pool our money to restore trust in the consumers’ mind about modern agriculture,” says George, adding the target groups include animal industries, corn growers, wheat growers, rice growers and fruit and vegetable groups.
Additional funding will be sought from companies that make their living based on U.S. agriculture being successful, like equipment manufacturers. “They’re more than ready to step up and help agriculture continue to flourish,” he adds.
To date, 23 farmer- and rancher-led agricultural organizations have joined the Alliance.
George says the group aims to avoid political advocacy in any way.
“The purpose is to restore trust in the industries, and we agreed there are some things we won’t talk about – biodiesel, ethanol and other divisive issues. We’re about trying to see what we can agree on, and how we can justify genetically modified products like corn, soybeans or sugarbeets, and help people understand that feedyards are humane and doing a good job and that agriculture helps reduce greenhouse gases,” says George. “That’s what we’re working toward, and for. I’m really excited about what they’re doing.”
Since the first meeting in August 2010 the Alliance has elected a board of directors and a chairman, Bob Stallman, who is also president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Farm Bureau is a multi-species and multi-crops organization, so this fits right in with their area of work,” says George.
The Alliance has also hired an agency, Drake and Company, to provide association management services, and they will help formulate a campaign as the group moves ahead in 2011. George says a meeting planned for February will more specifically outline the direction the group will take.
George says his role is to represent the Federation of State Beef Councils to the Alliance.
“Some national program funds have been approved by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to go into this Alliance, and the state beef councils will also contribute some,” he explains. “The beef industry, through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association policy division, is bringing money in through membership dollars. We’re seeing that across all the industries – the contribution of both membership and checkoff dollars – with the pork, dairy and egg people as well.”
“Our goal is not to go out and ‘get’ the ones already out there, but to look at what each group has been doing and what’s been successful and if we can work along with it or take a different direction,” says George. “A lot of these different groups have gone to the same ag interests to solicit funds, and they’re getting hammered. They’d like to get around a group that includes everyone together.”
“I’m really excited about this,” he adds. “It’s high time agriculture stands together and says we’re doing things the right way. The next step is to put the program together.”