NIAA’s Animal Agriculture Leaders Take a Bite of Sacramento

The inaugural class participating in the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s (NIAA) Advanced Training for Animal Agriculture Leaders finished their third in-person leadership training session in Sacramento, California.

In January, NIAA announced the inaugural cohort of the newly-developed Advanced Training for Animal Agriculture Leaders. This leadership training course is sponsored by the United Soybean Board and was created by NIAA to empower animal agriculture professionals to strengthen previous leadership development experiences and collaborate with peers across the industry.

During the working session in Sacramento, leaders learned from:

  • Ben West, PhD, Director of Strategic Partnerships from the University of Tennessee as he provided practical training in Communicating the Science of Animal Agriculture through the Lens of Human Psychology
  • Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture, to discuss historic and emerging trends in agriculture policy and regulation
  • Better Meat Co. to explore the intersection between alternative proteins and animal agriculture
  • Frank Mitloehner, PhD and Joe ProudmanCLEAR Center, UC Davis provided a detailed overview of the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) Center’s work in the areas of research and communication to address sustainability
  • Other leaders in California agriculture were invited to network with the cohort, including Daren Williams – senior director, global communications, Almond Board of California; Michael Boccadora – executive director, Dairy CARES; Louie Brown – attorney, Law, Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP; and Lloyd Kunimoto – CEO, Amfora.

The closing session focused on small group work that will be used for the capstone project at the close of the cohort’s 16-month program.

“The pairing of communications training with an exploration of topics such as sustainability, alternative proteins, and regulatory oversight provided a unique chance to build professional skills while also expanding our knowledge base and network within animal agriculture. I appreciate the opportunities that this program provides to learn from industry leaders who share with us their enthusiasm for their area of work and the future of animal agriculture,” said Dr. Hayley Springer, Extension Veterinarian, Penn State University and inaugural cohort member.

The inaugural cohort represents a range of agricultural sectors to advance animal agriculture’s role in today’s food system. Participants are Rebecca Barnett, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; Tera Barnhardt, Animal Welfare Consulting & Research, LLC; Pierce Bennett, Livestock Marketing Association; Kaitlyn Briggs, Dairy Management, Inc.; Ryan Goodman, Beef Runner; Todd Hanten, Hanten’s Dairy, Inc.; Katherine Harrison, Harrison Farms; Michelle Hiscocks, Iowa State University Department of Animal Science; Madison Hopcia, Upstate Niagara Cooperative; Josh Luth, SCS Global Services; Karaline Mayer, Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health; Eric Moore, Norbrook, Inc.; Hayley Springer, Pennsylvania State University; and Reginald Strickland, Strickland Farming Group.

To learn more about the program, its sponsors, and how to participate in the next cohort, visit