The worlds of science, politics and agricultural advocacy intersected at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2011 Stakeholders Summit, held May 5-6 in Arlington, Va. The 10th annual event brought together nearly 200 leaders across the food and farm sector to examine the theme: “United We Eat: Securing Animal Agriculture’s Future."

Jason Shoultz, of the nationally-televised program "America’s Heartland," welcomed attendees with a call to action to close the knowledge gap between farmers and urban consumers. During the one-and-a-half day conference, Summit speakers celebrated ways that agriculture groups are sharing their stories and tackled topics ranging from animal welfare to global warming to solving world hunger.

"When I look at farmers across the country, I see the passion they have for what they do," Shoultz said. "That passion is what we need."

Sen. Pat Roberts kicked off the meeting by reiterating the importance of agriculture to our national security. He declared that there is no time for infighting between conventional and niche farms, adding that production agriculture has a critical role to fill to feed a growing population.

The presentation by acclaimed agricultural air quality specialist Dr. Frank Mitloehner was a high point for many attendees. Mitloehner received worldwide attention after he used his extensive research at the University of California-Davis to challenge the United Nation’s claims that livestock are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions.

“Suggesting that consumers should cut out meat to save the planet is totally misleading," he said, explaining that the way that the UN calculated transportation versus agriculture emissions differed wildly. "Beef production is responsible for just one percent of U.S. emissions."

Later, political consultant and author Dr. Frank Luntz provided an interactive and thought-provoking discussion on effective communication strategies. He showed that there is a “right” and “wrong” way to communicate- and word choice definitely matters.

He challenged attendees to speak up about how food production has become not just more “sustainable”, but cleaner, safer, and healthier. He identified groups that attack food producers as not just “activists”, but extremists that could bring detrimental consequences to our society if successful.

“Agriculture quite literally creates miracles every single day,” Luntz said. “When you think of how little land is used to produce so many products, it is amazing.”

Speaking about the multi-generational heritage of farming, he added: “If this isn’t the American dream, I don’t know what is.”

Full coverage of the event, including podcasts and video of presentations, will be posted on the Alliance’s Web site. The Alliance also incorporated social media into the conference to help share information with those who were unable to attend. View an archive of Twitter updates from the Summit is available online.

Source: Animal Agriculture Alliance