I was warmly received by the American Agri-Women over the weekend when I spoke at their mid-year meeting in Denver, CO on Saturday. In my presentation, I showed the ladies how to make a habit of connecting with consumers through social media outlets, and I told some first-hand experiences of my life on a cattle ranch, my job as a blogger and speaker and the ups and downs of sharing my story online. We laughed, we cried, and overall, it was a fun event connecting with other women in agriculture (photo courtesy of BarnMedia.net). Joining me on the panel of speakers was Jacque Matsen, the executive director of issues management at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). While I provided the solutions for sharing our story and educating the public, Matsen set the stage by introducing the women to the adversaries who are working every day to put us all out of business.
The group readily agreed with Matsen that it seems like farmers and ranchers are constantly under attack. As beef myths continue to stack up, it can seem overwhelming for producers, especially when special interest groups have millions of dollars dedicated to spreading these myths and abolishing animal agriculture in this country. Matsen quoted Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) CEO Wayne Pacelle saying, "We have the potential to be one of the most powerful forces in politics," and that thought is pretty darn scary.
When listing some of the key players in this movement, she also identified their tactics, which include everything from leveraging religious beliefs, to manipulating consumers through their emotions, to consumer boycotts, publicity stunts and, of course, partnering with Hollywood stars. Despite the successes of our opposition, Matsen said it all boils down to one thing, consumer trust. You can listen to a clip of her comments on that issue below.
As I boarded the plane this weekend to head back to South Dakota, I realized something important. While it's critical for agriculture to recognize our opposition and understand the motives behind groups like HSUS, it's even more pressing for us to take the high road and present our industry in a positive light. I find myself getting caught up in the drama that HSUS creates through their political actions across the country, and I have decided that instead of focusing on their efforts, I'm going to be proactive in my own. This week, I challenge each and every one of you to share one positive thing about your farm or ranch with someone else. Instead of worrying about the "what ifs" that could occur if HSUS accomplishes its goals, focus on the fact that we have a wonderful story to tell, one that we can all be proud of. We have nothing to hide in this industry, and we are proud of the work we do to provide a safe, wholesome product to feed the world.
So, take the high road, BEEF Daily readers, and put agriculture in a positive light once again. As Matsen said, consumer trust is our biggest issue, and if we each take the time to meet someone new and spread the good word, we will be successful in achieving our goals and reminding our customers of who we are and where we come from.
BEEF Daily Quick Fact: Just 5% of people say they have been on a farm or ranch in the last two years. Only 20% say they know the beef industry very well. Yet, 74% are incredibly interested in learning more about agriculture and where their food comes from. (Source: Jacque Matsen from a recent consumer survey conducted by NCBA)