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Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholders Summit 2019

“A Seat at the Table,” was the theme at the 2019 Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholders Summit, held in Kansas City, Missouri in May. Maryland & Virginia Sustainability and External Relations staff had the opportunity to meet with and hear from key stakeholders from all segments of animal agriculture and the food supply chain.

Sessions focused on understanding and responding to consumers' wants in the market-place.

“One of the most impactful sessions was a Consumer Focus Group that articulated what we are seeing and hearing from Maryland & Virginia customers,” it was noted. “Consumers want to know the whole story behind how their food is produced and they are asking for greater access and transparency down the supply chain.”

The conference also held panel discussions on animal activism and how we can work together as an industry to stand together against these threats. Maryland & Virginia has had first-hand experience with animal activists who are working to undermine our farms and the agriculture industry. These groups are well funded and organized, and they are relentless in their tactics and propaganda. We need to maintain vigilance in hiring, training, and practices so we can protect our-selves and our farms.

The food purchasing panel revealed a disturbing trend that fewer families drink milk, whether due to lactose intolerance or an interest in having more plant products in their diets. There is a consumer disconnect where many don’t trust science yet incongruously, they are concerned about their carbon footprint. The conference also brought to light the realities of alternative proteins. They are improving in taste, diversification and manipulation of nutritional information. We need to look at how we counter this challenge and keep facts in play.

As a cooperative, we have developed relationships throughout the supply chain, from our member owners, processors, customers and end consumers. This allows us to bridge the gap be-tween consumers and farmers and connect the parties that make up our industry. Connecting customers with our members offers the best way to showcase our commitment to quality milk, animal care and environmental practices.

“The conference demonstrated that Mary-land & Virginia is experiencing the same challenges as every other organization in the ag industry,” one attendee added. “We must keep improving as we rise to the challenges in the marketplace. As a cooperative, we will continue to engage with customers, and tell our story.”