MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF AMERICAN GRASS FED ASSOCIATION
Grazing America 2006 in Colorado Springs was a great success.It truly was an Education and Celebration of Real Farm Food as it facilitated the building of a bridge from the farm to the consumer. While relaying important information to the producer,the event opened dialogue and forged relationships between producers and end users. The tours,the Grassfed Tasting, the seminars,the banquet with Eric Schlosser, the face-to-face meeting with Marty O Connor (USDA) and the General Session meeting was simply the best grassfed event put forth to date. I want to express my appreciation to all those who worked so hard to make it happen; the speakers, the sponsors, the attendees, the conference committee and our Executive Director, Carrie Balkcom.
With Grazing America 2006 behind us we now look forward to the upcoming year and our goals as an organization. First,we have had the immediate goal of addressing our comments as individuals and a group to the USDA concerning the published for comment grassfed claim. As stated elsewhere, we endorse the 99% grassfed claim but AGA feels that addressing the confinement issue is absolutely necessary in order to preserve the integrity of the grassfed message to the consumer. Acceptance of anything less, in the hope that the USDA will later come back and publish a claim for open-range, is putting the term grassfed in jeopardy. Cattle that have received a 99% forage diet in confinement (similar to cattle fed a grain-based ration in feedyards) cannot be considered grassfed. We also have issues with the loose definition of forage which includes corn silage and immature grains.
Immediately after the conference we issued press releases, coordinated with other organizations, did numerous media interviews and encouraged our membership and any interested party to offer comments to the USDA. The comment period closed August 10.We are very hopeful that this campaign to link the confinement and forage issue to the grassfed standard has been successful. We will look forward to working with the USDA in revising the standard if given the opportunity to do so.
We do have other short and long range goals in the path ahead such as the following:
• Amend and strengthen AGA standards and implement our affidavit system. Since our own AGA standards have had over a year of discussion and comment time we have amendments which were posed at the annual meeting and can be seen elsewhere in this publication or on the forum. The AGA affidavit would allow producers to certify that they adhere to the AGA standards and in so doing allow use of the AGA consumer logo. Implementation of this system is still a work in progress.
• Develop an umbrella PVP (Process Verified Program) system if needed. It is possible under the USDA to have an organization develop and implement an umbrella PVP for its members.
• Develop use of the AGA consumer logo in a more aggressive marketing campaign, promoting what it means in the eye of the consumer. When a consumer sees the AGA logo on a package we want it to mean the following: Sustainable agriculture, pasture raised – not confinement, 100% grassfed, no antibiotics, no synthetic hormones, humane animal care and born, raised, and finished on AMERICAN family farms.
• Facilitate networking with producers, researchers, consumer groups and the USDA. One tool for this communication is the Forum found at http://forums.americangrassfedbeef.com. It is here you will find the latest discussion and information, post production questions and let other producers weigh in on solutions and advice, the latest research, comments and discussion of regulatory issues, drought management and articles in the media.
• Increase member benefits. Not only with group insurance rates which we already have but also work on shipping discounts and insulated box discounts as a group rate.
• Promote consumer education. The AGA serves as a contact point for media, other like-minded groups, and represents the grassfed message by presentations at conferences, health and food events nationwide.
Speaking for myself and the entire Board of Directors of the American Grassfed Association we look forward with excitement concerning the prospects of this newly emerging grassfed industry. We invite you to join us in making it thrive.
Patricia Whisnant, DVM
American Grassfed Association