June Dairy Month is almost here! For most of us, that means taking time to say “thank you” to our hardworking dairy farmers and an excuse to enjoy an extra serving of ice cream. Unfortunately, for a small but very loud percentage of the population, June Dairy Month is motivation to up the ante on efforts to spread myths and misinformation about agriculture. For the rest of us, that means in addition to making proactive plans to tell the true story of dairy, we need to spend some time preparing for potential detractors.
While farm security should always be top-of-mind, farmers need to be extra cautious whenever they may be in the spotlight, such as celebratory months or if your farm was just featured in a news story. The Animal Agriculture Alliance has a wealth of resources available on preparing for protests, preventing unwanted visitors, and more.
Here are a few of our top security tips:
- Make your property a tougher target. To help ensure security, have proper lighting, motion detectors, security cameras, and locks or key code access on gates and doors.
- Proactively connect with local law enforcement – let them know any concerns you have and ask for advice and protocol suggestions. If you encounter any suspicious activity, immediately report it to law enforcement and notify the Alliance, your cooperative, and your state’s dairy association.
- Thoroughly screen all job applicants, verify information, and check all references.
- Have a written protocol for handling visitors and make sure all family members and employees are aware of it. Ask for identification from any unexpected visitors, and visitors should be escorted at all times.
- Carefully evaluate all inquiries and information requests you receive. Gather as much information as possible about who is requesting the information and why, then reply in writing – if at all.
- Develop a crisis plan. Proactive planning and preparation can help a situation immensely if you become a target.
In addition to taking security measures on your farm, we recommend preparing for online attacks as well. If you have a blog or social media platform that allows comments, make sure you have a publishing policy for what types of comments are encouraged and what will be deleted (such as threats, harassment, and inappropriate language). If you start to receive unacceptable comments, don’t hesitate to delete, block, or ban, and then move on. Additionally, set a few trusted friends up on your page as backup moderators so you have some extra sets of eyes to help out if you do face a flood of negative comments.
Most importantly, do not let concerns about activism stop you from taking the opportunity to communicate about dairy and celebrate Dairy Month this June. They want farmers to feel intimidated and to stop speaking up so that they can have more space to communicate their views unchecked. Taking the steps suggested here should help you feel more prepared for any issues that may arise and assist in preventing any unwanted disruption of your efforts.
For additional information on security and engaging on hot issues, visit www.animalagalliance.org.
The author is communications director for Animal Agriculture Alliance.