The battle is on, and has been on for some time. It's a battle of livestock producers vs. urbanites, especially those who have been led to believe animals are pets with human-like qualities. And it might as well be the War of the Worlds, or in this case, Mars colliding with Venus. That's the assessment from Wes Jamison, an animal welfare expert from Florida.
He believes livestock producers need to step up and tell their story. It's time for them not to be ashamed that they raise animals for meat production. What they need to do is tell their story proudly, including how they do a conscientious job of producing livestock professionally. Jamison will bring that message to the first-ever Indiana Livestock Symposium, slated for Feb 15 and 16 at the Marriott East Hotel in Indianapolis. Sponsoring groups include the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, the Indiana Professional Dairy Farmers, the Indiana Forage Council, and Milk Promotion Services of Indiana.
Meanwhile the Indiana State Department of Agriculture is moving forward with a pilot program aimed at helping livestock producers demonstrate to the public that they are responsible producers. It's the Certified Livestock Producer program. This new idea is scheduled to enter the pilot phase yet this month, with volunteer producers agreeing to cooperate with ISDA to test the concept.
Inside sources say that while the idea has its backers, not everyone thinks raising awareness of livestock industries is a good idea. Yet that flies in the face of what Jamison reports. He believes part of the problems farmers and livestock producers face today is that they have allowed animal rights activists to set the agenda, and take a convincing message to the public without putting up a fight. Doing nothing and trying to fly under the radar may no longer be a sound strategy, he infers.
The Certified Livestock Producer Program concept has been shepherded by a 19-member board working with ISDA. The concept is to recognize producers who publicly demonstrate their commitment the environment, animal well-being, food safety, emergency planning and biosecurity.
One of those who has provided input is Levi Huffman of Huffman & Hawbaker Farms, located near Delphi. "As a farmer, I'm looking forward to testing this program on my farm to see how it highlights what I do and helps me gain new ideas to improve my operation," he says. Huffman and his family operate a family-oriented swine operation.
ISDA decided to test the program after holding three listening sessions in November, located in various regions of Indiana. The program has been tweaked based upon those comments.