IOWA is the latest state to sprout a state agriculture council sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), joining Nebraska, Ohio and Colorado.
"We support farmers and ranchers who give proper care to their animals and promote environmentally sustainable agriculture," HSUS explained on its website. "We're forming a system of state agriculture councils consisting of dedicated farmers who share our principles."
According to the organization, council members provide "advice and guidance" to HSUS while "assisting other traditional family farmers who want to make the switch to more humane practices."
Members of the Iowa council include Chris Peterson, immediate past president of the Iowa Farmers Union, and Gary Klicker, a third-generation farmer who says he suffers from environmentally induced asthma that he attributes to the more than 20,000 hogs raised in traditional production facilities within four miles of his home.
"As an Iowa farmer, I believe family farmers and ranchers have much common ground with the HSUS when it comes to animal husbandry treatment," Peterson said. "It's a positive step to work together to address the future of animal agriculture and find solutions to animal welfare challenges."
Nebraska was the first state in which HSUS started an agriculture council, and the organization said it works jointly with the Nebraska Farmers Union to "pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards."
Ohio and Colorado were subsequent targets, and it should come as no surprise that each of the four states hosting HSUS councils either have been targets of HSUS-sponsored ballot measures or have state legislatures that have considered measures dealing with animal housing regulations at some point in recent memory.
HSUS has redoubled its efforts in recent months to push the pork industry to abandon gestation stalls as standard industry practice. Earlier this month, the organization announced that it had influenced major food retailers Cracker Barrel and Papa John's to formulate plans for eliminating stalls from their supply chains.
Papa John's, a pizza outlet with more than 4,000 locations, said it supports the move away from stalls, with a goal of "significant movement to alternative housing" by 2022.
At a recent shareholder meeting, Cracker Barrel investors voted to support the company's latest animal welfare policies, including a move away from stall housing. The chain has more than 600 stores in 40 states.