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Is Bargaining With The Devil The Best Course Of Action?

For months, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has been actively working in Nebraska, focusing on a strategy to push more "humane farming practices" in the state. Last week, the organization announced that it would not be pursuing a ballot initiative in Nebraska, but instead has formed an alliance with the Nebraska Farmers Union to form an advisory body called the Nebraska Agriculture Council of the HSUS. What does this strategy mean for the state's agriculture? What kind of precedent will it establish for other states? Is bargaining with the devil the best course of action?

According to a recent press release, the council will work to "pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards, as well as facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them."

AgriMarketing reports that, "The announcement was made at a press conference by Jocelyn Nickerson, Nebraska HSUS state director; John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union; and Kevin Fulton, a Nebraska cattleman. Also present was Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer and director of rural affairs for HSUS. In November 2010, Fulton invited the CEO and President of HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, to a town hall meeting to discuss agriculture with Nebraska HSUS members and others in the community.

“As a cattle rancher and an active member of HSUS, I can tell you that we have much common ground when it comes to the concerns of farm animals,” says Fulton. “It’s a positive step to work together to address the future of agriculture and find solutions to animal welfare challenges.

“This alternative approach allows both our organizations to focus on working together in a positive manner to the benefit of both food growers and food consumers,” says Hansen, who leads the Nebraska Farmers Union. “We hope this is a long-term partnership that works to the advantage of Nebraska livestock producers and all Nebraskans.”

So how does HSUS square its magnanimous pledge to compromise with producers with its sponsorship of an Oct. 27-29 conference set for Arlington, VA, and entitled: "the first-ever National Conference to End Factory Farming: for Health, Environment, and Farm Animals?"

I’m all for taking charge of the animal welfare debate and working, as farmers and ranchers, to meet the demands of our consumers. However, HSUS has a main goal of abolishing animal agriculture completely in this country. The word “compromise” simply isn’t in its vocabulary. Do you think this collaboration is a good idea? Or, will this backfire on the state’s food producers and ultimately set an ugly precedent that will spread like wildfire from state to state? Offer your two cents in the comment section below.