Trust but Verify – Livestock Audit Services Approach to Hiring and Training
2019 brought unprecedented oversight for the dairy industry. On June 4, 2019, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) held a press conference in Chicago and released undercover video which was filmed as part of the “largest undercover dairy investigation in history.” The video was captured over several months by an individual briefly employed by at least two dairies in Fair Oaks, IN, part of the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure, an agritourism venture. Despite having an unofficial vetting process as part of their hiring program (intended to prevent just such activity) the system was not robust enough.
As the official third-party verifier for the FARM Animal Care Program, FSNS C&A has often been asked what assurance we can provide to the dairy industry that our auditors and verifiers do not pose a similar threat. Understanding that our role in verifying implementation of the FARM Program requires our presence on dairies across the U.S., this is a topic we have always taken very seriously. National Milk Producer’s Federation (and many of our dairy customers) IS involved in screening potential verifiers, who have to submit a resumé documenting a prerequisite amount of education and dairy production experience and achieve a passing score on the FARM Verifier Certification Test administered by NMPF. Additionally, FSNS C&A requires all candidates to successfully complete a comprehensive and rather intensive personality profile, as well as undergo a thorough background check and drug screen. Following the Fair Oaks case, we have added an additional level of screening to include affiliations with known animal activist groups. Initially, we had a direct connection with each person hired, or knew someone who did. As we continue to grow in response to industry needs, we will rely even more heavily on known industry partners for references. But it doesn’t end there: when a qualified applicant has met these prerequisites and is hired, he/she undergoes a robust internal training and shadowing process as well. FSNS C&A field staff conduct numerous shadow verifications or audits before they meet our internal standards for qualifying to work independently. This process ensures our team consistently performs to the standards of excellence we (and producers) expect. Most importantly, this demonstrates how highly we value the trust of our industry partners.
FSNS C&A experienced nearly significant growth in the number of dairy verifications and audits performed in 2019 compared to 2018, and our team continues to grow to meet this rapid growth trajectory. We realize people are an investment we are not willing to compromise. As we look ahead to 2020, we expect even more growth, and believe our approach to building highly qualified teams will ensure we have a key role in supporting the ongoing needs of the dairy industry.