Summit Showcased Ag’s Need to Build Relationships and How Words Have Consequences

Speakers Challenged Attendees to Communicate Better, Find the “Middle Ground,” and Empower Ag’s Youth


May 6, 2013- “The era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in agriculture is over,’” remarked Dallas Hockman, to attendees at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 12th annual Stakeholders Summit. Hockman, Vice President of Industry Relations for the National Pork Producers Council adamantly told Summit attendees that we [the industry] can no longer afford to stay quiet; we must communicate.

More crucially, however, Hockman emphasized that we don’t just need to “communicate” but instead, form relationships with consumers and recognize their concerns.

“This is about transparency, and transparency means that it’s our job to go and inform our customers, it’s not our customer’s job to come and ask us about something,” said Hockman. “We all know what we’re against, but the challenge is: what are you for? It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

Numerous speakers throughout the day put the responsibility on the industry to communicate to consumers, instead of the other way around.

Earlier in the day, David Wescott, Director of Digital Strategy for APCO Worldwide, told attendees that they must identify their true stakeholders, ask those stakeholders what they want, and then give it to them.

Both Hockman and Wescott discussed the importance of relationship building with consumers.But while communication, engagement and finding the “middle ground” consumers were themes highlighted in the morning’s presentations, the day ended with heated discussions on topics ranging from Hallmark/Westland to engaging the media.

“The consumer has a right to know anything he wants to know about where he’s spending his wholly earned, almighty dollar. That’s a reality,” said Andy Vance, Editor of Feedstuffs and one of the afternoon’s speakers. “Consumers increasingly want to know more about their food and they increasingly are more and more skeptical about companies and industries that don’t give them what they want to know.”

Vance emphasized that the industry needs to think about the five or ten things that it has issues with and analyze those issues objectively. Vance described the presentations of the day as somewhat of a rollercoaster, each offering a different viewpoint, or highlighting a different challenge facing the industry.

The Summit’s first day certainly ended on a high note, however, with a presentation by famed Peterson Brothers parody creator, Greg Peterson, presenting his videos for the audience. Peterson is the creator, along with his two brothers, of the popular videos “I’m Farming and I Grow it,” and “Farmer Style.”

In addition to Peterson, a Kansas State University Senior, there were also several other college agricultural students in the audience, namely the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 4th annual College Aggies Scholarship winners: Tiffany Swanson (North Dakota State University), Zachary Frazier (Purdue University) and Karoline Rose (Montana State University). These students were presented with their awards at the Summit’s luncheon on May 1st.

The Summit closed with a half-day “workshop” focused on crisis communications, employee hiring strategies and the intersection of the environmental and animal rights movements and how those partnerships affect agriculture. To view presentations from May 1st, please visit the Alliance website. Presentations from May 2nd are available to Alliance members and registered attendees only.

The 12th annual Stakeholders Summit, themed “Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food and Consumer Confidence,” was held May 1-2, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. It included about 200 leaders from across the food chain. Event sponsors included Alltech Ag Network, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, Murphy-Brown LLC, Farm Credit, Provimi North America, Merck Animal Health, Zoetis, Hy-Line, American Feed Industry Association, Bayer Animal Health, United Soybean Board, Alltech, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Diamond V, Aviagen, Genus/PIC/ABS, United Egg Producers, WATTPublishing Co., Cactus Feeders, BrakkeConsulting, Kemin, AgriBeef Co., Seaboard Foods, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, Protect the Harvest, Elanco Animal Health and the Potash Corp.

About the Alliance:
The Animal Agriculture Alliance is an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We connect key food industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues. We engage food chain influencers and promote consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation. Find the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

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