Masters of Beef Advocacy grads engage in conversations with EASE
More than 40 graduates of the beef checkoff-funded Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program took their training to a new level during the 2012 National Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show at the Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville, TN, last week. The “Conversations with EASE” training – which stands for “Engage” in the conversation, “Acknowledge” concerns, and “Share” information to “Earn” trust – is being offered by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) to provide farmers and ranchers with tips for engaging consumers in the conversation about food production.
“Agriculture will benefit from having more farmer and rancher spokespeople prepared to have a conversation about how we raise beef,” said Kim Brackett, a beef producer from Castleford, ID, who participated in the training. “EASE conversation training is a great fit with already successful advocacy programs like the Masters of Beef Advocacy.”
Brackett is one of more than 2,800 graduates of the MBA program, which was launched in 2009 to encourage beef farmers and ranchers to share the real beef story with consumers. USFRA is an agriculture-wide effort formed in late 2010 to lead a broader conversation on the future of food.
The Conversations with EASE training is based on research that shows consumers welcome the opportunity to talk to “real” farmers and ranchers and turn the conversation from one that is often strained to one that is constructive, where all viewpoints are welcome. According to a USFRA survey, 72 percent of consumers say they know very little or nothing about farming and ranching. Yet, 76 percent say how food is raised influences their choices.
The Conversations with EASE training is one component of the new Farmer and Rancher Mobilization (FARM) effort to engage consumers in conversations with farmers and ranchers. Key components of FARM include:
• Conversations with EASE training: In addition to the training at the MBA commencement, members of the USFRA team are presenting the EASE conversation training at key agriculture meetings across the country. USFRA plans to reach 5,000 farmers and ranchers in 2012.
• Conversation leaders: A collection of approximately 100 farmers and ranchers, nominated by USFRA affiliates, will be trained to help provide additional farmer and rancher voices in key areas such as media interviews, panel discussions, industry meetings and online conversations and forums.
• Grow What You Know (in development and scheduled to be launched early Spring): When farmers and ranchers see items in the news or online that show an unfair, inaccurate or unbalanced picture of agriculture, they will be able to post it on the “Grow What You Know” section of FoodDialogues.com. Farmers and ranchers will be encouraged to correct misinformation with real-life examples and perspectives to provide more balance to the topic.
• USFRA Social Media Tools: Farmers and ranchers can sign up for alerts on http://www.fooddialogues.com, join discussions on the USFRA Facebook page, follow USFRA on Twitter and lend their voices to ongoing conversations happening online.
“Getting a diverse group of farmers and ranchers involved in telling their stories and leading conversations about agriculture is what USFRA is all about,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The FARM. Team is another way we are bringing farmers and ranchers of all sizes and all types from different parts of the country together to interact with each other and with the public on food issues that really matter.”
Beef funding commitments for 2012 include $250,000 in national checkoff dollars, $50,000 from the Federation as well as $50,000 from NCBA’s policy division. All checkoff-funded project work must first be approved by CBB and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
– Beef Checkoff Program
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