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Source: Humane Society of the United States news release

To advance more humane practices on farms and ranches and to promote food producers who share that goal, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) joined the Nebraska Farmers Union in Lincoln to announce the formation of an advisory body, the Nebraska Agriculture Council of The Humane Society of the United States.

The council will work jointly with the Nebraska Farmers Union, the second oldest agricultural organization in the state, to pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards, as well as facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them.

The parties agree that this pathway is preferable to a ballot initiative.

The agriculture council will also act as a sounding board on agriculture policy for Jocelyn Nickerson, Nebraska state director of The HSUS.

The announcement was made at a press conference by Nickerson; John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union; and Kevin Fulton, a Nebraska cattleman. Also present was Joe Maxwell, director of rural affairs for The HSUS and himself a pig farmer from Northeast Missouri.

In November 2010, Fulton invited the CEO and President of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, to a town hall meeting to discuss agriculture with Nebraska HSUS members and others in the community.

"As a cattle rancher and an active member of the Humane Society of the United States, I can tell you that we have much common ground when it comes to the concerns of farm animals," said Fulton. "It's a positive step to work together to address the future of agriculture and find solutions to animal welfare challenges," said Fulton, who will chair the new council.

"This alternative approach allows both our organizations to focus on working together in a positive manner to the benefit of both food growers and food consumers," said Hansen, who leads the Nebraska Farmers Union. "We hope this is a long term partnership that works to the advantage of Nebraska livestock producers and all Nebraskans."

In a written statement, Pacelle applauded the development. "I want to personally thank John Hansen for engaging in dialogue about the future of agriculture in the state," Pacelle said.

"I believe together we can promote more humane and sustainable agriculture by highlighting best practices and connecting consumers with products coming from farms that do not rely on extreme confinement practices."

Pacelle once again stated that collaboration, not confrontation "is productive, less costly and has the potential to produce longer term positive effects for animals and consumers." He repeated that, "The HSUS does not have plans to file an initiative petition in Nebraska."

The HSUS has more than 51,000 supporters in Nebraska. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rural Poll of 2011, 69 percent of those polled in rural Nebraska agree that good animal welfare for farm animals means more than just adequate food, water and shelter, but also adequate exercise, space and social activities.

Additionally, a statewide public opinion survey conducted by Lake Research Partners revealed that Nebraska voters support the humane treatment of farm animals, and they want all interested parties with a stake in the animal welfare debate to come together to discuss the issues.

The organizing members of the Agriculture Council of The Humane Society of the United States include Kevin Fulton; Jim Knopik, livestock producer with North Star Neighbors; Martin Kleinschmit, a Nebraska organic farmer, cow calf producer and NEFU board member; and Doug Dittman, a Nebraska dairy producer from Branched Oak Farm.

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