IFEEDER’s board of trustees approved a $15,000 grant for AFIA to represent the U.S. feed industry and provide the data the UN-FAO needs. The grant will fund the expenses for Mitloehner and Dr. Gary Hartnell of Monsanto to participate in stakeholder meetings, help formulate the new model and review it before final publication, planned for 2014.
The results will provide sector-specific recommendations based on their assessment of GHG emissions along every aspect of the livestock supply chain. The information will ultimately be used to optimize processes associated with the production of feed ingredients to reduce GHG emissions.
Besides working with government and international agencies on research questions like carbon footprint assessment, Mitloehner notes that the public is interested yet utterly uninformed about agriculture, an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Who tells the public where beef, poultry or swine come from and how they are raised?” asks Mitloehner. “Mainly anti-agriculture groups who put their spin on their material. It’s up to the agriculture industry to provide truthful information, especially to children, because the schools have a severe scarcity of informative material on ag and food.”
Taking the message to school
People are likely to believe that livestock production is harmful to the environment if it’s the first message they’re exposed to as children. So to provide a counter message to the mainstream, IFEEDER recently entered a partnership with the Animal Agriculture Alliance to provide 400 elementary through high school teachers with information and materials about the value of modern farming.
Patrick Whidden of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and chair of IFEEDER’s Education Committee explains, “We’re funding the Adopt-a-Teacher program that will give AFIA members the chance to send kits to their local schools. The concept behind the program is to give teachers interested in instructing their students about agriculture, the truthful information and materials they need.”
IFEEDER will distribute 400 kits through August 2013. Animal Ag Alliance’s executive vice president, Kay Johnson Smith, is looking forward to sending out a record number of kits with the help of the new partnership.
“The program was initially launched in 1997, and was re-launched about two years ago,” says Johnson Smith. “We had 40 teachers adopted in 2010, and we’re at 30 for 2011 so far. Our numbers are still small, so we’re excited about the IFEEDER grant because we feel this agreement to reach out to 400 teachers will give the program the traction it needs to become an effective program on behalf of agriculture.”
Each kit contains a teacher resource guide, which provides a list of numerous free materials available online or that can be requested from the information provider. Other materials in the kit are tailored either to elementary, middle or high school children.
“The elementary school kit has a different level of material and includes reading books, coloring books and worksheets teachers can photocopy for students to take home,” says Johnson Smith. “The middle school and high school packets have more discussion-oriented pieces, videos, charts and maps that could be utilized in the classroom.”
The kits include information from all farm animal species — beef, pork, dairy and the various poultry industries — as well as materials with general farm facts from the American Farm Bureau Federation, such as how many people farmers can feed today and information about technology. Finally, each kit includes a link to a survey where teachers respond to questions about how the kit was used, how valuable the information was and where it could be improved.
AFIA will notify its members when the opportunity is available to begin “adopting” teachers. Interested members will receive an “adoption form” to list the teacher who will receive a personalized letter indicating they have been “adopted” along with their kit.
Recognizing the importance of early childhood education, IFEEDER partnered with farming website Connecting Farm to Fork to produce a feed industry resource for children of any age.
Connecting Farm to Fork had already been distributing The ABCs of Farming Coloring Book, and developed a special edition featuring feed industry-related lessons for the letters “F,” “Q” and “S.”