U.S. soybean farmers have a big stake in this country's livestock and poultry operations, which consume 94 percent of the soybean meal used in the United States. Any attack that threatens the animal agriculture industry also threatens soybean farmers.

The need for a unified front against such criticism from animal rights and environmental groups is one of the main reasons the United Soybean Board is partnering with the National Pork Board to sponsor Operation Main Street.

Operation Main Street is grassroots communications program that involves intensive speaker training, as well as educational materials and seminars on the current state of pork production. OMS then schedules participants to speak to civic groups in the speaker's local area.

So far, OMS has held eight training classes, and trained 120 producers. This has led to 106 speaker presentations, which has spread the word on pork production to 3,672 local influencers.

After the speech, 63.2 percent of the audience reports a positive attitude toward the industry — the combination of the 23.9 percent who came into the meeting with a positive attitude plus the 39.3 percent who report a change to a positive opinion about the industry.

“After participating in Operation Main Street, I saw how it clearly helps spread the word on the benefits of animal agriculture,” says Vicki Coughlin, USB director and soybean farmer from Watertown, Wis.

Starting in January 2006, NPB plans to conduct 20 OMS training sessions throughout the United States and has offered USB the opportunity to have five participants per training session, through the end of 2006. The AAI team has allocated funding to sponsor OMS and join forces with NPB in educating farmers in creating a unified response.

NPB will handle all of the travel logistics including meeting response forms, training dates and notebooks. This program includes participation in the current training schedule with no customization of the current agenda and no scheduling after the session. However, one section will focus on USB updates and USB will have an area within the Question & Answer section in the program. It will be the responsibility of USB to partner with Qualified State Soybean Boards to issue invitations.

“U.S. livestock uses 94 percent of the U.S. soybean meal used in this country, so it is important that soybean farmers protect that market,” says Mark Pietz, USB director and soybean farmer from Lakefield, Minn. “Operation Main Street gives soybean farmers a chance to proactively defend and promote animal agriculture.”

The partnership with OMS builds on the communications partnership NPB and USB developed to spread the AAI communications campaign. That partnership was developed in summer 2005.