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Surviving as a dairy

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity and President of CMA--work with companies and associations across the food system to develop and implement sustainable solutions in issue management, public relations, startegic facilitation and marketing communications. He spelled out concerns for the agricultural community at the recent I-29 Corrider Dairy Conference.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -Hailing from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota an estimated 160 dairy producers and supporting industries were seeking genuine ways to stay sustainable in a less-than-farm-friendly environment.

These producers were gathered at the fourth annual Jan. 29 I-29 Dairy Conference.

Charlie Arnott, CEO for the Center for Food Integrity, a national non-profit organization dedicated to building consumer trust and confidence in the contemporary U.S. food system, set the tone for the conference with an informative presentation on “Protecting our Freedom to Operate.”

Arnott said ag producers need to earn and maintain public trust in order to maintain what he called social license.

“Social license gives farmers the privilege of operating with minimal formalized restrictions,” said Arnott. “In the last decade we have lost our social license. It has been replaced with social control.

The I29 Dairy Conference had an information packed day. Richard Naczi, CEO of American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, spoke on Dairy Sustainablity. He gave an update on the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy work. This center was created wtih dairy checkoff dollars to bring milk producers, processors and manufactures to work together on issues facing the industry.

“Our manure social license is already gone. The next tipping point might be animal well-being.”

Arnott reminded the audience that producing food for the vast majority of the population is a noble pursuit. Until the late 20th century, food was produced using the agrarian model, which had millions of producers, thousands of buyers, distributors, regional brands and a very limited non-government organization, or NGO. At that time, Arnott said a NGO or activist group could not apply pressure to the local or regional brand.

The agrarian model eventually crumbled and has been replaced with an industrial model. On the plus side it has brought improved food safety, increased product variety, improved consistency and a reliable, affordable source of nutritious food for America.

However, in doing so, fewer people are connected to the food system with a reduced understanding and appreciation of how food is produced. At the same time, consumer trust has diminished. This lack of trust and understanding creates opportunities for activists and organizations, warned Arnott.

“We (producers) have done a good job of embracing technology,” said Arnott. “Now our job is to dramatically improve our ability and commitment to build trust with our customers and consumers.”

The three primary elements that drive trust in the food system are confidence, competence and influential others. “Consumers need to know that our global values are the same as theirs,” Arnott added.

He described such global values as compassion, responsibility, respect, fairness and truth.

He said one may already share those values, but farmers are no longer given the benefit of the doubt.

The triangle for success must be well balanced for a sustainable system. The baseline is to be ethically grounded in global values.

One side of the triangle includes being economically viable. If farms are not profitable, there will be no farmers, no food.

The remaining side is described as being scientifically verified. Science is necessary, but it must be economically viable and ethically grounded.

“We have to give consumers reasons to believe that contemporary methods for raising livestock is consistent with their values,” concluded Arnott.

The dairy conference is coordinated by Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, South Dakota State University and SW Minnesota Dairy Profit Group.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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Surviving as a dairy

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity and President of CMA--work with companies and associations across the food system to develop and implement sustainable solutions in issue management, public relations, startegic facilitation and marketing communications. He spelled out concerns for the agricultural community at the recent I-29 Corrider Dairy Conference.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -Hailing from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota an estimated 160 dairy producers and supporting industries were seeking genuine ways to stay sustainable in a less-than-farm-friendly environment.

These producers were gathered at the fourth annual Jan. 29 I-29 Dairy Conference.

Charlie Arnott, CEO for the Center for Food Integrity, a national non-profit organization dedicated to building consumer trust and confidence in the contemporary U.S. food system, set the tone for the conference with an informative presentation on “Protecting our Freedom to Operate.”

Arnott said ag producers need to earn and maintain public trust in order to maintain what he called social license.

“Social license gives farmers the privilege of operating with minimal formalized restrictions,” said Arnott. “In the last decade we have lost our social license. It has been replaced with social control.

The I29 Dairy Conference had an information packed day. Richard Naczi, CEO of American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, spoke on Dairy Sustainablity. He gave an update on the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy work. This center was created wtih dairy checkoff dollars to bring milk producers, processors and manufactures to work together on issues facing the industry.

“Our manure social license is already gone. The next tipping point might be animal well-being.”

Arnott reminded the audience that producing food for the vast majority of the population is a noble pursuit. Until the late 20th century, food was produced using the agrarian model, which had millions of producers, thousands of buyers, distributors, regional brands and a very limited non-government organization, or NGO. At that time, Arnott said a NGO or activist group could not apply pressure to the local or regional brand.

The agrarian model eventually crumbled and has been replaced with an industrial model. On the plus side it has brought improved food safety, increased product variety, improved consistency and a reliable, affordable source of nutritious food for America.

However, in doing so, fewer people are connected to the food system with a reduced understanding and appreciation of how food is produced. At the same time, consumer trust has diminished. This lack of trust and understanding creates opportunities for activists and organizations, warned Arnott.

“We (producers) have done a good job of embracing technology,” said Arnott. “Now our job is to dramatically improve our ability and commitment to build trust with our customers and consumers.”

The three primary elements that drive trust in the food system are confidence, competence and influential others. “Consumers need to know that our global values are the same as theirs,” Arnott added.

He described such global values as compassion, responsibility, respect, fairness and truth.

He said one may already share those values, but farmers are no longer given the benefit of the doubt.

The triangle for success must be well balanced for a sustainable system. The baseline is to be ethically grounded in global values.

One side of the triangle includes being economically viable. If farms are not profitable, there will be no farmers, no food.

The remaining side is described as being scientifically verified. Science is necessary, but it must be economically viable and ethically grounded.

“We have to give consumers reasons to believe that contemporary methods for raising livestock is consistent with their values,” concluded Arnott.

The dairy conference is coordinated by Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, South Dakota State University and SW Minnesota Dairy Profit Group.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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