This is the second part of a two-part story. Read Part One: From Pigs to Politics.
Meet the Challenge
In modern agriculture, industry leaders often encounter risk, Austin says. At this point in history, the industry faces the largest number of consumers removed from agriculture.
“Agriculturalists are in a constant struggle with public perception, lawmakers and more. However, aside from finding solutions to problems with public image, the swine industry is currently faced with the daunting task of maintaining biosecurity and herd health to avoid future catastrophe,” she says.
She can’t deny that she’s concerned how foreign animal disease and other emerging health risks could harm the swine industry’s future.
“How we handle these health issues will not only impact the future of the industry but total meat consumption as well,” she says. “I think everyone can play a part in addressing the challenge of marketing meat products and addressing questions from consumers. We can’t be afraid to speak up and speak out about what we do to raise a healthy, affordable source of protein for the population.”
Chris Mullinix, Austin’s livestock judging coach at Kansas State University, says agriculture needs more voices like hers.
“Adrian represents the next generation of young people with a passion for the industry,” Mullinix says. “As the average consumer continues to grow further away from the farming and ranching community, agriculture needs advocates who can speak to the general public and relay our message of sustainable meat animal production and the high-quality, affordable product we generate.”
Although she originally pursued a degree in agricultural communications because she wanted to help bridge the knowledge gap between consumer and producer, she says she’s considering a shift of plans.
“I want to use my skills and background to advocate for U.S. pig farmers,” she says. “Politics have become one of my main interests. Everyone wants to label themselves a Democrat or Republican, rather than just an American. This has caused upheaval in the U.S. government, unfortunately resulting in negative outcomes for farmers, ranchers and those that are just trying to get by.”
With the recent government shutdown in Washington, D.C., she witnessed firsthand how action or inaction on Capitol Hill can impact real life people and the livelihood of those in rural America.
“I want to fight for our farmers’ rights to produce healthy, affordable protein for consumers worldwide, in the manner that makes the most sense for each producer based on their mix of skills, geography and animal needs,” she says.
Knauth says she believes the pork industry—and agriculture in general—needs more strong female leaders like Austin.
“Adrian has been proving her whole life that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and she can compete against anyone regardless of gender,” Knauth says. “I think she can use this to make an impact on her career and also on any young women that look up to her.”
Austin’s ideal career would be lobbying for the pork industry on Capitol Hill to make sure producers have freedom to operate and have access to key markets. Regardless of what the future holds, this 20-year-old leader believes there’s a seat for everyone at the table.
“We need as many people as possible that are passionate about pork production and the future of the agricultural industry as a whole,” Austin says. “If you love pigs and want to see the industry be successful in the future, then of course there is a place for you!”