ISA District 5 Director Morey Hill

ISA District 5 Director Morey Hill says the Animal Agriculture Alliance plays an important role in public relations and informing consumers by helping to “set the record straight and let the public know what we do for our animals.” (Photo credit: Iowa Soybean Association)

Safeguarding the future of animal agriculture

May 27, 2021 | Joseph Hopper

“Circling the wagons” became an American idiom due to the historical need for protection when facing the unknown. In the ever-changing world of agriculture, one non-profit works to circle the wagons for animal agriculture’s future by bridging the communication gap between farm and food communities.

First founded in 1987, the Animal Agriculture Alliance is a 501(c)(3) comprised of members from across the broad spectrum of agriculture. The Alliance has five full-time staff members and is led by an executive board comprised from all sectors of the animal agriculture community.

“We connect key food industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues,” Emily Solis, AAA communications specialist, said. “We constantly monitor coverage, identify trends or potential threats, and develop strategies to address the issue.”

The alliance’s annual Stakeholders’ Summit brings together animal agriculture community leaders to discuss solutions to hot-button issues.

The Iowa Soybean Association supports the work of the Animal Agriculture Alliance through investment and involvement. ISA Senior Director of Information and Education Aaron Putze is a board member of the organization.

ISA District 5 Director Morey Hill says the Animal Agriculture Alliance plays an important role in public relations and informing consumers.

“My biggest takeaway is from knowing how important livestock and agriculture is to the economy of Iowa, it’s how the Animal Ag Alliance is the voice of reason to counteract some of the extremists who want to point a bad finger at animal agriculture,” said Hill, who raises sheep and laying hens near Madrid. “They help set the record straight and let the public know what we do for our animals.”

Solis said the AAA aims to be the go-to resource for issues affecting animal agriculture by engaging food chain influencers like media outlets, bloggers, dietitians, government officials, restaurant and food service brands and associations.

“We help people understand how the animal agriculture community shares the same values as today’s consumer with its never-ending commitment to animal care, sustainability, responsible antibiotic use, food safety and nutrition while debunking myths portrayed by activist groups,” Solis said. “We also share the positive stories of animal agriculture on our social media channels.”

The Animal Ag Alliance also serves as a crisis management, security and activism resource. The non-profit maintains more than 170 group profiles detailing activist group agendas, alerts on books and movies attacking animal agriculture and summary reports on activist videos and campaigns.

“We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation,” Solis said.

Farmers and others can get alerts for time sensitive information through the Alliance’s Farm Security & Hiring Hub. The staff gets the inside scoop on animal rights activist group tactics and strategies by attending animal rights conferences and developing reports on organizations that spread misinformation.

“Lastly, but not least, we arm our members with resources to set the record straight,” Solis said.

Current issues top of mind for the Animal Agriculture Alliance include animal welfare, antibiotic use, environmental sustainability and nutrition. The Alliance does not lobby, but does watch legislation which may impact animal agriculture at state and federal levels.

Several opportunities for farmers and agriculture professionals to get involved with the Animal Agriculture Alliance includes becoming a member, joining their Animal Ag Allies program or the College Aggies Online scholarship competition. More information is available here.

“We’re always looking for emerging voices in the dialogue around modern animal agriculture to provide development opportunities and connect them with one another as well as industry experts,” Solis said.

The Animal Ag Allies program includes networking opportunities, training, and continuous development of issue expertise and communication skills. The next class enrollment deadline is Aug. 6. The College Aggies Online scholarship program connects college students from across the country who are passionate about sharing positive, factual information about animal agriculture. Participants receive nine interactive and educational weeks of content to help them become confident and effective communicators for agriculture with guidance from industry and farmer mentors. The 2021 competition kicks off on Sept. 13.