To help better support a livestock industry facing constant and unfair criticism – often from environmental groups aiming to put an end to livestock production – the Illinois Farm Bureau partnered with several state livestock organizations to create a data-driven campaign showcasing the positive impacts of the state’s livestock sector.
“Certain groups in our state took every opportunity to fight proposals to build new livestock facilities and tried to pit neighbor against neighbor through lawsuits. They tried to scare people away from entering the livestock industry and encouraged those already involved to leave,” explained Lauren Lurkins, director of environmental policy for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
To combat this, Illinois Farm Bureau joined forces with the Illinois Beef Association, the Illinois Milk Producers’ Association and the Illinois Pork Producers Association to delve into the sector’s impact on the environment, sustainability and other factors important to all Illinoisans.
Key to this effort was gathering as much data as possible from the numerous agencies that oversee the various elements and stages of livestock farming including the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Department of Public Health, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. EPA.
Based on this and other research, the groups produced a report (hard copy and digital version) and launched a campaign called the “Truth About Livestock,” based on the four most important truths they surfaced:
- Truth #1: Environmental Issues are Uncommon on Illinois Livestock Farms
- Truth #2: Illinois Livestock Farms are Environmentally Sustainable
- Truth #3: Livestock Farms are Economic Engines for Illinois
- Truth #4: Livestock Farms Create Opportunities to Bring the Next Generation Back to Illinois’ Rural Communities
IFB first rolled out the report and campaign internally.
“We started with our membership. We made sure we engaged our leadership at our state board level, as well as the county level,” Lurkins explained, emphasizing that county leaders had great success energizing some of their “less active” members with the campaign, which they also used to promote what Illinois Farm Bureau does for its members.
The campaign “brought a lot of energy and visibility. It also helped a tremendous amount for us to be seen collaborating with state livestock groups to advocate as a whole for livestock farmers in the state,” she said.
After a thorough presentation of the campaign details at their annual summer gathering of county Farm Bureau presidents and then addressing any remaining questions from county Farm Bureau leaders and staff via conference call, Illinois Farm Bureau formally kicked off the campaign with a press event on Ag Day at the state fair in August 2018.
Following the media event, which garnered a decent amount of attention from ag and mainstream outlets, the political side of the campaign swung into full gear. Working off of their already established relationships with state and national lawmakers, as well as candidates, Illinois Farm Bureau opened the campaign to policymakers.
“We also made sure the county Farm Bureaus had a toolkit that included all the marketing and promotional materials they may need to share with their county governments,” Lurkins said.
The final aspect of the campaign was social media, which included paid and unpaid Facebook posts, with a big push right after the August Ag Day media event. IFB kept the campaign momentum going through the end of 2018 by revealing one truth at a time. From August to December 2018, almost half a million people had seen Illinois Farm Bureau’s paid Facebook posts at least four times, while the non-paid posts reached almost 34,000 people.
The Truth About Livestock landing page, part of the Illinois Farm Bureau website, allows visitors to explore other aspects of the organization and provides ways for IFB members to get more involved.
The Truth About Livestock garnered Illinois Farm Bureau a 2019 New Horizon Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The award, which honors state Farm Bureaus with the most innovative new programs, is presented annually at the AFBF Annual Convention.