Experts Say Water Quality, Transparency And Consumer Engagement Top The List Of Issues Facing Animal Agriculture

Themes of improving transparency in livestock farming, engaging with consumers, and addressing water quality and nutrient management were prevalent at the 2012 Ohio Livestock Coalition (OLC) Annual Meeting and Industry Symposium, held today in Lewis Center, Ohio.   

"Animal agriculture is evolving – and recognizing the current and emerging issues facing farmers and stakeholders in food production is essential to the future of Ohio's livestock farming community," said David White, OLC executive director. "The meeting provides farm organization leaders and farmers from across Ohio with perspectives from state and national agriculture leaders on these issues and establishes a venue for these groups to have constructive dialogue and education."

The meeting opened with remarks by OLC President Dr. David Glauer and continued with presentations by two national speakers.

Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, reviewed current research on consumer attitudes about farming and shared opportunities for farmers to communicate with consumers. Mike Martin, director of communications of Cargill, presented on improving transparency for animal agriculture and his experiences from working with The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011.

"Today's farmers have to operate as though someone is watching everything they do, all the time," said Arnot. "The question is no longer, ‘will you be transparent?" but ‘how will you manage your reputation in an age of radical transparency?'"

"We need to be proactive even though there are risks involved," said Martin. "We need to open consumers' eyes and use transparency to ensure accurate stories are told and shared." Martin said that the Oprah Winfrey Show was a great opportunity to share Cargill's focus on food safety and quality and balance the statements of others who have been critical of the beef industry in the past.

In addition, three state agency leaders joined together to discuss nutrient management and water quality in Ohio – an issue that has been changing rapidly in the state and for which new rules are being proposed. Directors James Zehringer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources; David Daniels, Ohio Department of Agriculture; and Scott Nally, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, answered questions on water quality issues during a panel discussion.