Fighting for millenials (Editorial)

(May 6, 2014) It’s generally known as Generation Y and is populated by the millenials, those members of our population generally agreed to be between the ages of, say, 18 and 33 years.
They are at the core of our cultural shift to the left, and their influence is expected to penetrate even deeper into the national fiber in the future.
These young people, the successors of Generation X, are of major concern within the food and farming industries as they have spawned, largely because of the ever-widening gap between them and their agricultural heritage, cautions, often approaching fear, about food and a distrust, often approaching disdain, of the agricultural industry.
It is from within the millennial generation that such concepts as “Big Ag” have emerged and the portrait of GMO crops as virtually poisonous has been foisted upon the American consuming public.
Agriculture is fighting back on several fronts.
Among the most recent is a bold attack by the Animal Agriculture Alliance which has announced a May 8-9 conference entitled “Cracking the Millenial Code.”
At its 13th annual Stakeholders Summit in Crystal City, Va., the alliance has assembled a panel to tackle, it says, “the myths surrounding big agriculture.”
“For too long we’ve sat idle and let others — who don’t grow crops or raise animals — sling barbs and try and drive a wedge between farmers and consumers by using catch phrases like ‘factory farm’ or ‘big ag,’” said President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. “We’ve gathered panelists with unique perspectives, who can help us move past school-yard-type bullying — both inside and out of agriculture — and determine how we support each others’ production choices while positively advocating for all of ag.”
Panelists will include two dairy farmers: Emily Zweber of Zweber Farms in Elko, Minn., and Ray Prock of Ray-Lin Dairy in Denair, Calif.
Zweber and her husband are raising their three young children on their fifth generation organic dairy farm, while Prock is a second generation dairy farmer from Denair, Calif., where he and his family milk 550 cows.
Both Zweber and Prock are actively involved in sharing their families’ stories on social media; Zweber serves as the executive director of the AgChat Foundation, while Prock is a member of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and the Dairy Management Inc. Board of Directors.
Janice Person of Monsanto and Tamara Nelson of the Illinois Farmer Bureau will round out the panel.
Nelson will provide insights from the ILFB’s recent media tour of farms in the United Kingdom — and the U.K.’s perspective on farm size, best practices and sustainability.
Having grown up a city girl, Person became involved in agriculture through cotton and still carries a passion for it.
Person is now a member of Monsanto’s corporate engagement team working outreach, both within agriculture and broadly with society.
All four panelists will tackle tough questions about “big ag” versus “family farm” and how farm size impacts animal care and public perception, to counter the buzzwords and jargon planted in the American dialogue by the millenials, unquestionably the most influential demographic in the United States today.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance was founded in 1987.
It’s an alliance of agricultural industries and related animal drug industries, suppliers, packer-processors, veterinarians and retailers to advocate for producer interests and help the public appreciate modern science-based practices.
The alliance addresses matters of animal welfare, food safety and environmental conservation in animal agriculture although its principal mission is to speak out against the enactment of harmful  animal rights legislation.
As for the millenials, there are 81 million of them out there and they think that the newest communication technology, smart phones etc., are the norm.
And the Internet, i’s always been here, right?
The Animal Agriculture Alliance and all of those organizations and formal efforts — and there are many — attempting to be heard above the chatter of Generation Y, have a tough job ahead of them.