Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, is celebrating 20 years with the organization. Johnson Smith joined the organization, then known as the Animal Industry Foundation (AIF), on July 11, 1994, as its executive director.

Steve Kopperud, then senior vice president of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and also president of AIF, quickly realized that the challenges of trying to get information to the public and media needed a full-time person. Johnson Smith “fit the bill perfectly.”

“As the foundation grew and went through its ‘evolution’ to become the alliance, Kay helped me guide that transition, and today, 20 years later, Kay is the firm hand, with the knowledge, experience and innovative skills to keep the Alliance as effective and relevant as it can be,” said Kopperud, now executive vice president, Policy Directions Inc.

Transitioning from executive director, to executive vice president, to most recently in November 2011, president and CEO, Johnson Smith has seen many changes come about within the animal agriculture industry and has guided the alliance through periods of great expansion and success. Most notably, Johnson Smith has helped to develop a library of resources and background information on extreme animal rights and other detractor groups.


“Under Kay’s leadership, the alliance has grown into the go-to organization connecting the animal ag industry and various stakeholders in support of science-based animal production practices,” said Animal Agriculture Alliance Chairman of the Board Paul Pressley. “The industry welcomes consumers’ increased interest in how food is produced and Kay has been passionate and instrumental in helping share the true story of animal agriculture.”

“I congratulate Kay not only on her tenure, but on her ability to keep her head on straight after 20 years of battling those who don’t understand, don’t want to understand and would undermine the ongoing success of farm and ranch families and the industries which serve them,” added Kopperud.

A native Virginian, Johnson Smith has utilized her southern charm to wrangle, what is — at times — a disparate industry with varied motives and priorities. Under Johnson Smith’s leadership, the alliance has become a respected and recognized coalition, able to quickly and competently bring the entire industry together to address pressing issues and collaborate for the greater good.

“Kay has been a solid partner with AFIA and other organizations in getting out the message of modern agriculture. She’s grown considerably in that job and is a respected global expert on animal rights and animal welfare. AFIA is very grateful for her contributions and efforts,” said Joel G. Newman, AFIA president and CEO.

“No other organization has the ability to quickly bring together the various species groups, a key factor allowing the alliance to proactively educate the public and dispel many of the myths and misunderstandings which have been spread by opponents to the industry,” explained Pressley. “Speaking on behalf of the board of directors, we applaud Kay’s service to the industry and look forward to the alliance’s continued success.”