Posted: Jun 29, 2012 2:38 PM by AP
Updated: Jun 29, 2012 2:42 PM
NEW ORLEANS - Hunter Osborn, an aspiring zookeeper from St. Martin Parish, demonstrated a remarkably mature understanding of media spin on her way to winning the Louisiana Farm Bureau Talk Meet today.
The 18-year-old Osborn, who will pursue a biology degree at Louisiana State University this fall, was one of 12 young people tackling the question, "How can we convince the public that the animal agriculture industry balances production efficiencies with the public's expectations of animal care?"
"Information is key," Osborn said. "But, when was the last time ‘happy and good' made the news? How do we communicate that, in recent years, agricultural animal care has become some of the best in the world? That humane care and efficiency can coexist?"
Osborn's arguments that a lack of information and insight into today's farming practices create opportunities for misinformation by special interests groups opposed to agriculture, was echoed by many of the other contestants.
"As producers and farm families, it's our duty to protect our most beautiful creatures and keep them healthy," said Mikayla Gerald, 18, of East Baton Rouge Parish and first runner-up in Talk Meet. "There are some bad eggs out there, but that's always why there are laws and regulations to keep animals healthy and safe throughout the production cycle."
Leah Broussard, of Vermilion Parish, agreed.
"American agriculture promotes and optimizes animal care," she said. "Scientifically-optimized animal housing appropriate for specific livestock, stringent regulations around humane production and processing, and Best Management Practices all contribute to agricultural animal production that meets our needs for efficiency, production and humanity."
Broussard, 18, was named second runner-up in the Talk Meet.
Osborn outlined the many opportunities social media now presents to educate consumers about the animal industry and farming in general.
"Special-interest groups that disapprove of current ag production methods use tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs to put forth their opinions," she said. "But when they put out misinformation, other blog sites like advocatesforag.com offer balance.
"We need to engage younger people in this conversation," she continued. "Their education brings adults into the conversation. Information is the key."
Osborn, as winner of the Talk Meet, presented by the Louisiana Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee, received $250 toward her education. Gerald, as first runner-up, received $150s, and Broussard received $100 toward her education.