February 07, 2008 | By Diana Klemme and Jeff Atkinson
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Partnering to Enhance the Food Chain

The Animal Agriculture Alliance will host its seventh industry-wide Stakeholders Summit.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance will host its seventh industry-wide Stakeholders Summit April 8 – 9, 2008 at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA. One of the key messages for the day-and-a-half conference, “Animal Welfare: Building Bridges Across the Food Chain,” will advance is the idea that industry-led voluntary approaches are far superior to government-imposed approaches to animal welfare.

Former Congressman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, Charles Stenholm, will deliver the conference’s keynote speech, titled “Legislation’s Unintended Consequences.” Stenholm will provide specific examples of well-intended legislation that either failed to deliver their anticipated results or resulted in negative consequences from his 26-year career in the House of Representatives.

Frank DiPasquale, senior vice president and executive director at the National Grocers Association, will discuss animal welfare’s impact on food retail. Several of the NGA’s members are dedicating a portion of their meat cases to meat raised according to specific animal welfare standards that some in the public feel are higher than conventionally raised. DiPasquale will discuss the reasons for these retailers offering these products and discuss possibilities of future expansion of the category.

Following DiPasquale, Archie Schaffer, senior vice president of external relations for Tyson Foods, has been invited to present how his company banded together with other pork production companies to establish a dialog with retailers. This includes animal welfare, and its importance to all food chain stakeholders and how to come to agreement on major principles about animal welfare. Because pork companies initiated the series of meetings, perhaps the most important outcome is that their actions communicated pork companies’ concern about issues that their food chain partner’s may face.

“Everyone involved in the food chain, from agribusiness, suppliers and customers in the retail arena — in the USA and internationally — need to examine the solutions to critical issues that this conference addresses,” explains Kay Johnson-Smith, executive vice president for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Our previous Summits have shown the benefit of cross-industry communication and this year we fully intend to expand that initiative, including speakers from agriculture, retail, veterinary medicine, transportation and other food chain participants.

“A major focus of this year’s Summit will be the effectiveness of industry-led animal welfare initiatives as compared to the unintended impacts that can come from government-driven legislation,” adds Johnson-Smith. “We doubt that there is anyone better in the nation to address this topic than former Congressman Stenholm.”

The breakout sessions of this year’s Summit will focus on the three key missions of the Alliance, connecting, educating and protecting the food chain. Kevin Murphy, president of Food Chain Communications and a well-known communications professional, will lead a session on building relationships across the food chain. Will Hueston, DVM, at University of Minnesota, another nationally-known communications expert, has been invited to lead a session focusing on diffusing inflammatory rhetoric. Ron Plain, PhD, from the University of Missouri, will lead the third breakout session which will examine how to effectively position food production as the crucial national security asset that it is.

Other prominent speakers from across the food chain — including leading legislators, top regulators, international trade experts, anti-terrorism experts, and other top professionals in their fields — will relate the most important information in these areas today (see Program).

“We are excited about the breadth of experience and depth of knowledge that the speakers at this year’s Summit bring to our audience,” says Cliff Becker, Vice President and Publishing Director at Food Systems 360 and current chair of the Alliance. “Expanding the new—more participatory — format that our attendees raved about last year, will further allow Summit participants to enhance the customer-supplier networks that are becoming ever-more critical to all food chain participants.”

The program was finalized only after extensive input from food and agriculture stakeholders and will allow participants to develop strategies and relationships that will be of immediate value. Though surveys from previous Stakeholder Summits typically received near 100% satisfaction from participants, we consider it our obligation to continually improve the take-away benefits we offer.

The Summit is targeted at decision-makers in management, production, policy and communication of companies and organizations involved in the food chain — including restaurants, grocery stores, farms, ranches, feedlots, processors of meat, milk and eggs and all others who are part of the global food chain. “Our goal is to provide attendees with the insight and information to successfully meet future challenges,” says Johnson-Smith.

For registration by March 10, 2008, the cost for attendance is $325 per person for Alliance members. After March 10, the cost is $375. For nonmembers, the registration fee is $375 prior to March 10, 2008, and then $425. Again in 2008, the Alliance will offer a special rate of $275 per person or $325 after March 10 for those in government or academia. Registration includes one reception, continental breakfast each day, lunch on Tuesday and a copy of the Summit Proceedings.

Hotel accommodations can be made with the Sheraton Crystal City for the special rate of $229 single/double. Hotel reservations must be made directly with the hotel by March 10, 2008 under the Animal Ag Alliance Summit block to receive this special rate. Call 1-888-627-8209.

Complete Summit registration and hotel information is available and can be made securely via the Alliance website at www.animalagalliance.org.

All registrations must be submitted in advance of the conference. For additional information regarding the Summit, contact the Animal Agriculture Alliance at (703) 562-5160 or by e-mail at summit@animalagalliance.org.

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