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Kopperud: It’s producers’ fault

By Staff | Feb 4, 2015

STEVE KOPPERUD, executive vice president of the Washington-based Policy Directions Inc., addresses 50 producers on Jan. 28 during the 2015 Iowa PorkCongress.

DES MOINES – Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Policy Directions Inc., based in Washington, D.C., took a direct approach with 50 farmers on Jan. 29 at the Iowa Pork Congress.

“I blame you as individual producers,” Kopperud said, for continued assaults by animal activists on livestock agriculture.

Kopperud was speaking on anticipated future policy directions that will affect livestock producers.

He said livestock managers in general are their own worst public relations enemies because they don’t mobilize as a group and confront the inaccuracies of animal activists, nor do they publicly expose sloppy animal managers , denouncing inhumane treatment.

By remaining silent, Kopperud said, “the activists and consumers think you guys are too stupid to know how to do it right.”

Main issues

Kopperud said organic ag industries have joined the anti-everything side.

“They don’t like GMO-anything,” he said, “or on-farm surgical procedures, farrowing crates, or animals raised for anything but food.”

He said farmers are getting better at social media, but, “those are spokespersons, not producers.

“The ultimate spokesmen and communicators are in this room.

“The consumer wants to hear from you. It’s either that or get out of business.”

He said consumers are less interested in what goes on day-to-day on the farm.

“What they demand and deserve are assurances from individual producers (that) they are correct and professional and their methods are good for the animals and the consumer.”

He said farmers are losing the battle for this message.

“You have to realize that the Humane Society of the United States has $137 million, and we are they’re main target,” Kopperud said.

Downsizing meat

Kopperud said 5 percent of affluent consumers are driving the trends for food labels that read all-natural, organic, free-range and grass-fed.

“They can afford to shop at Whole Foods,” he said. But their demands for cage-free eggs, or free-range pigs is changing how producers do business, making food more expensive for poorer consumers.

“We need to take back the messaging,” he said, “and confront the inaccuracies.

“Otherwise, start negotiating a surrender with dignity.”

He said the traditional food pyramid has cut meat from the picture.

“Meat is now being regulated as a complement to the meal,” Kopperud said, “at 3 ounces per serving.”

Steps to take

“I don’t worry as much about (activists’) craziness,” Kopperud said, “but I worry about producers who won’t get involved with the craziness.”

Talking about the science of farming is a waste of time for the average consumer, he said.

Instead, farmers must:

1). “Put a human face to farming.”

2). If there is a bad actor out there, expose it.

3). Get into reporters’ faces. Stand up to the slanders and libels that mislead consumers.

4). Tell consumers, “Your costs are X, because we do Y. There are 16 varieties of A, because we do B,” Kopperud said.

Without a concerted effort to tell and confirm the truth of farming to consumers, and regaining consumers’ trust, food processors will continue to kow-tow to activists to protect their billion-dollar investments in branded products Kopperud said.

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