Friday, January 29, 2010

More Anti-Pollans Telling Their Story

Anti-Pollan eager to speak
Rancher provides view to people who are far from the land
Capital Press

Agriculture is engaged in a battle to fill a void.

The void is a lack of understanding about agriculture among many members of the public. Farming and ranching is so far removed from most people that they don't seem to know one end of a cow from the other.

Into that void walks folks like Michael Pollan, a best-selling author who has made a name for himself as an "expert" on farming and ranching. In his presentations, for which he is paid $20,000 to $45,000, he offers all sorts of ideas about how to "improve" agriculture and, consequently, the world.

He says he wants to get the public to think about food and where it comes from, which is a good thing. The problem is that, because the public knows so little about agriculture, they tend to take his opinions at face value.

He gave a presentation earlier this month at Washington State University. Last fall, he spoke at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. No doubt the audiences at those agricultural schools were able to assimilate Pollan's remarks along with what they already knew about agriculture and gain added perspective.

Other audiences that Pollan speaks to, like those at his appearance this week on the Oprah Winfrey Show, do not have an agricultural background. When he speaks, he is starting with a blank slate, or close to it. Whatever he says about growing genetically modified crops, using pesticides or anything else, the audience has no background to serve as a reality check.

Enter Bill Hoyt. He's the new president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. The Cottage Grove, Ore., rancher's goal is talking with as many people as he can about ranching and agriculture.

Call him the anti-Pollan.

He plans to speak to any and every civic group and club -- anyone who will let him talk about ranching and its successes and challenges. Read More

One of the things that we focus on in our presentations to producer groups is the importance of starting local in your efforts to promote and educate about agriculture. Many times people think that they need to get to the “big city folks” in order to have an impact. Nothing could be further from the truth. We take for granted that our friends and neighbors know about production agriculture but that’s probably not the case. Congratulations to Bill Hoyt for seeing this local need and filling that role. I know it’s not easy and it takes precious time from your day, but it’s important work. The things we do off the farm and ranch can and will have just as big of an impact on our ability to grow food as the things we do on the farm and ranch.

Cattlemen's Challenges Discussed

Cattlemen Confront Challenges
by Gary Truitt
Hoosier Ag Today

A group of Indiana Cattlemen have joined their colleagues in San Antonio, TX this week for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association convention. The cattle business is a much different business than it was just a year ago when the group met in Phoenix, AZ. Attacks on animal agriculture have intensified, and beef demand has declined due to poor economic conditions. Cattleman’s Beef Board President Lucinda Williams told the convention that the industry must confront these challenges head on, “We must be more proactive and more aggressive as we deal with changes taking place in our country.” She said changes taking place today will forever change the way cattle producers do business and could eliminate their ability to make a profit. Williams said cattlemen must reconnect with their customers, people who eat beef, “We must make our customers understand that our abundant supply of protein will not continue if we remain on the current path.” It is up to cattlemen, according to Williams, to educate consumers that those consumers are funding groups whose primary purpose is to abolish animal agriculture and decrease the availability of meat, which will ultimately drive up the cost of food.

CBA President Gary Voogt said another challenge facing producers is excessive and burdensome regulations from Washington, “There are politicians who do not know where food comes from, and some seem not to care where food comes from.” He called on the cattle industry to unite to confront these challenges. He said cattlemen have their work cut out for them this week. He urged support for the governance task force that will change the organization and provide a simpler and more unified structure, “We all have to live in one house.”

The event is the largest of its kind in the cattle industry, attracting nearly 6000 people this week. The meeting includes the annual meetings of NCBA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, American National CattleWomen, Cattle-Fax, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. The 2010 Cattle Industry Convention wraps up Saturday, January 30, when the annual meetings of the NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board are conducted. Link

There are certainly no lack of challenges that need discussing at this years Cattle Industry Convention. As I walked through the crowds, you heard discussions about everything from range management to international trade. The one topic that continues to be near the top of everyone’s list is about the attacks being launched on American agriculture. I had the pleasure of making a couple different presentations in San Antonio and that was my focus. I am very encouraged at the level of enthusiasm from the cattle producers who want to become better spokespeople for their industry. It’s hard to believe that we need to work so hard to defend the one occupation that sustains life on this planet, but that’s where we are.

Anti-PETA Facebook Group

City man starts anti-PETA Facebook group
The Western Star

Jordan Stringer cares about animals, but the public swatting of a politician with a pie to the face was the straw that broke the camel’s back in his growing frustration with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The latest stunt by a PETA supporter happened Monday when Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea was struck in the face by a tofu cream pie as she was about to give a speech in Burlington, Ont.

In claiming responsibility for the attack, PETA said it was part of a campaign against the seal fishery.

Later on the same day as the attack, Stringer started up a Facebook group called “I care about animals, but not the radical views and actions of PETA!” In two days, the group has attracted about 350 members.

“I guess it was just their attitude that you have to have this extreme, radical viewpoint or take that kind of action to show you care about animals,” Stringer said of why he started the Facebook group.

“I’m just getting sick and tired of the way some of these groups lump everybody together, like if you support the seal hunt, eat meat or if you eat KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). I just think it’s ridiculous because they are putting everybody into this category under false pretenses.”

Read More

Here’s an example of how common sense people are getting tired of hearing and seeing the antics and rhetoric being used by animal rights groups. This mainstream group of people that represent greater than 90% of the population is where our story needs to be told. They want to meet a real farmer or rancher and know that you are doing a good job. If we do that, we will be successful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MBA Training and Graduation

Today we will be presenting to the newest graduates of the Masters of Beef Advocacy program which is being held during the 2010 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, TX. More than 40 beef enthusiasts will be putting the finishing touches on their training to be better advocates for the beef industry and agriculture as a whole.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Busy Schedule

The last few days have been whirlwind of traveling and meeting new people while we shared our story and inspired others to do the same. With adverse weather all over the country, traveling by airplane became quite a challenge. Despite all of that, we did eventually make it to all our destinations and back home.

On Friday morning we had the opportunity to present to a group of swine veterinarians and other animal health experts from Pfizer Animal Health in Miami. Many times we tend to focus on family farmers and ranchers telling their story, but we need to make sure that everyone who is involved in agriculture, from our veterinarians to our equipment dealers, are also helping promote and educate about the industry they rely on.

From there we traveled to Vidalia, Louisiana to spend Saturday morning at the Louisiana Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference. More than 100 young agriculturalists were in attendance. The amount of talent and leadership potential at these young farmers and rancher meetings, never ceases to amaze me and Louisiana certainly has a lot of it. It was a great group to work with and we are looking forward to crossing paths with these young leaders in the future.

While we did make it home last night, we have to hit the road again today. Tomorrow we are presenting in San Antonio, TX at the Masters of Beef Advocacy graduation which is being held in conjunction with National Cattlemen's Beef Association. We had the privilege of speaking at the MBA graduation last summer in Denver and it was a blast. It's a lot of fun to meet beef cattle enthusiasts from across the country and see their enthusiasm for agriculture turned into positive education and promotion of the industry.

After taking in the Cattle Industry Convention, we will end up in Des Moines, IA at the end of the week to share our message at the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference. This meeting is always very well attended and it will be great getting to see some old friends and make new ones.

If you can make it to any of these events, please make a point to come introduce yourself to us. One of the best parts of getting to travel to these different areas of the country and share our story is meeting other people involved in agriculture.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kenner Comments on Food Inc

The Food Industry Helped Me Make 'Food, Inc.'
By Robert Kenner
Published: January 17, 2010

"Food, Inc." became a different film than the one I intended to make.

I thought it would be fascinating to look at how our food gets to the table -- from different points of view. On the one hand, we spend less on food today than at any other time in history. We can eat what we want, when we want it, regardless of seasons. On the other hand, this food has hidden costs that we’re all going to pay for down the line.

Industrial food production pollutes the water, robs nutrients from the soil, exploits the workers who grow and process the food, exploits the animals, and ultimately, it makes people sick. Seemed like fertile ground for a film.

As I started filming, I was not prepared for the stonewalling I’d get from the food industry. I wanted them to argue the benefits of the industrial system. I wanted to understand their point of view, but for the most part, the industry said no. In doing so, the film started to move in a different direction.

I became intrigued by why the industry would not speak to me about something as seemingly innocuous as food. What I discovered is that a handful of companies essentially control the food supply. They exert tremendous power over what we eat and how much – or how little -- we know about it.

I was stunned by the lack of transparency, the intimidation of critics, the influence over government. It felt like we were onto something bigger than food.

But would anyone care?

Apparently, yes. "Food, Inc." hit at just the right moment when people were interested and ready to listen. It benefitted from the groundbreaking work of authors Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, and from food activists who have worked for years to raise awareness. And the press took great interest in the film, which helped spread the word. Read More

When I was in Seattle last week, our group visited the Space Needle. While waiting to catch a ride on the elevator to the bottom, a conversation started with a young couple that lived in Seattle. They had seen the movie Food Inc. and when they found out we were all farmers and ranchers, they started asking questions. The biggest issue they were concerned with was why we were being forced to plant Monsanto seed. I’m sure we all gave them a funny look when they asked it. After asking why they thought that, they said that’s what they had learned from watching Food Inc. At the end of the conversation, they realized they’d been duped by this movie.

I think it’s almost comical to read Kenner’s version on how this movie started out so innocent. Do you really think a Hollywood movie, trying to disguise itself as a documentary, is going to do anything other than try to scare people? In order for these types of movies to stand a chance of making money they have to sensationalize and paint an unrealistic picture in the minds of the viewers.

Kenner might think we are fighting against him, but actually we are just fighting for the truth to be told about agriculture. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be something him or Michael Pollan are very worried about. If you want an great example of where the bottom line is the most important thing, don’t look at farmers and ranchers, just look at these two characters. Pollan won’t go speak unless he gets his $40,000-$50,000 fee. Just imagine what would happen if farmers didn’t plant a crop unless they were guaranteed daily salaries like this.

HSUS Uses Common PETA Tactic

HSUS Targets Two Restaurants
By Pork news source Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Humane Society of the United States announced it has purchased shares of Steak 'n Shake and Jack in the Box restaurants, according to The action is part of an HSUS effort to pressure the restaurants to stop purchasing eggs from caged hens, pork from crated sows, and poultry from producers that use certain slaughter methods.

HSUS uses its shareholder status to propose changes to publicly traded companies and has charged both companies with a "complete lack of meaningful movement on animal welfare." Restaurant chains such as Burger King, Wendy's, Quiznos, Denny's, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have already created policies more to the animal activist group's liking. Link

Does this really sound like something a non-profit organization would be doing?? In the same week they are begging for money to help pets in Haiti, they are buying up stock in national chain restaurants. At the same time, our local dog and cat shelters continue operating on shoe-string budgets. Just imagine if the Humane Society of the United States did what their name implies. Maybe then some of that $200 million dollar budget would end up helping animals.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

America's Agricultural Angst

America's Agricultural Angst
Joel Kotkin, 01.19.10, 12:01 AM ET

In this high-tech information age few look to the most basic industries as sources of national economic power. Yet no sector in America is better positioned for the future than agriculture--if we allow it to reach its potential.

Like manufacturers and homebuilders before them, farmers have found themselves in the crosshairs of urban aesthetes and green activists who hope to impose their own Utopian vision of agriculture. This vision includes shutting down large-scale scientifically run farms and replacing them with small organic homesteads and urban gardens.

Troublingly, the assault on mainstream farmers is moving into the policy arena. It extends to cut-offs on water, stricter rules on the use of pesticides, prohibitions on the caging of chickens and a growing movement to ban the use of genetic engineering in crops. And it could undermine a sector that has performed well over the past decade and has excellent long-term prospects.
Over the next 40 years the world will be adding some 3 billion people. These people will not only want to eat, they will want to improve their intake of proteins, grains, fresh vegetables and fruits. The U.S., with the most arable land and developed agricultural production, stands to gain from these growing markets. Last year the U.S.' export surplus in agriculture grew to nearly $35 billion, compared with roughly $5 billion in 2005.

Yet none of this seems to be slowing the mounting criticisms of "corporate agriculture." A typical article in Time, called "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food," assailed the "U.S. agricultural industry" for precipitating an ecological disaster. "With the exhaustion of the soil, the impact of global warming and the inevitably rising price of oil--which will affect everything from fertilizer to supermarket electricity bills--our industrial style of food production," the article predicts, "will end sooner or later."

The romantic model being promoted by Time and agri-intellectuals like Michael Pollan hearkens back to European and Tolstoyan notions of small family farms run by generations of happy peasants. But this really has little to do with the essential ethos of American agriculture.

Read More

It’s great to see common sense in the media these days. This columnist realizes that our goal should be to utilize technology, like we have for generations in agriculture, to improve our food supply and stop attacking family farmers and ranchers. The anti-agriculture crowd likes to pretend that they support families that farm but their actions show otherwise. Agriculture can supply the wealthy with their specialized food requests, but it’s unconscionable for them to force this upon everyone else.

Get Active To Protect America's Food

Agricultural experts: Get active to protect and produce America’s food
By: Gretchen Schlosser, West Central Tribune

WILLMAR, MN — “Don’t let what happened to us happen to you.” The words of a German farmer could well be a foretelling of the demise of American animal agriculture and of food safety and security in this country.

Those words were spoken more than 10 years ago but should be taken seriously , according to Chad Gregory, senior vice president of the United Egg Producers, who spoke Friday at the 2010 Strategic Animal Ag Conference in Willmar.

“Just look at Europe,” Gregory said. “They are literally getting to the point where they can’t feed themselves.”

Ten years ago, Europe exported more beef than anyone in the world. Germany’s egg industry was a shining star, with the latest technology.

Now due to restrictions brought about by activists, Gregory says, Europe is the largest importer of beef and 65 percent of the eggs German citizens eat are imported.

Gregory and the UEP stand at the forefront of the battle, between farmers using modern production practices to produce 95 percent of the country’s egg supply and animal rights activists like the Humane Society of the United States, who Gregory says just want to make money off animal welfare issues.

The HSUS is the force behind the California ban on keeping laying hens in cages and gestating sows in crates and behind efforts in many states to change or eliminate modern animal agriculture and U.S.-based food production, Gregory said.

Those efforts have enormous ramifications for all of agriculture and for consumers of food. “If you want your food produced in the U.S., you better get active,” Gregory said. Read More

Many times, our country is told by the Humane Society of the United States and others to look at what Europe is doing as an example of where we need to be with our food production policies. The problem is that they only talk about what they have changed, and not what the consequences of those decisions have been. While Europe is now living with those consequences, they have yet to be seen in states like California where voters have passed laws that restrict the ability of family farmers to produce food. The good news is that it’s not too late to stop this. If farmers and ranchers get active in sharing the accurate story of production agriculture, we can save this country from falling into the same trap Europe did.

Ag Schools Filled With More Than Farm Kids

Students fill ag schools to learn high-tech food production
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 3:08 AM
By Josh Jarman

Tessa Bowman, 23, of New Albany, said she found food science more interesting than some sciences that deal mainly in theory because it's "something you can see, feel and touch."
Some Ohio State University students have long believed that the campus west of the Olentangy River is not for them.

There's a perception that the area "is all cowboy hats and big belt buckles," environmental-science major Kurtis Meyer said. "But that's changing."

The 23-year-old senior from Worthington is among a growing number of students rethinking their view of agricultural schools as they learn about the emphasis on science and the promise of good jobs after graduation.

Enrollment in agricultural schools across the country increased almost 22 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, enrollment has risen more than 18 percent in the past five years.

Demand is so great that companies such as H.J. Heinz, Frito-Lay, Starbucks and even Jack Daniel's are hiring people with related degrees such as chemistry and then sending them through a one-year, online course that Culbertson runs at Ohio State. He said food-science graduates start out making about $50,000 a year for an undergrad degree and about $65,000 for a graduate degree. Read More

Even though we have the people like Michael Pollan who are pushing for agriculture to abandon the last 100 years of technological advancements, many of today’s students realize that the responsible thing to do is work towards solutions to feeding the world. The food industry needs people who will use the latest in technology and science to solve the old problem of hunger. That should be the goals of this country, not to recklessly advocate for food systems that reduce production.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Confusion Over CAFO's

This letter to the editor appeared in the Columbia Tribune, MO.

Independent family farms’ methods safe
Saturday, January 16, 2010

Editor, the Tribune: In light of Hank Waters’ confusion about chicken CAFOs and Cindy O’Laughlin’s confusion about family farmers, a lesson is in order.

Google “CAFO” or “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation,” and you’ll learn a CAFO, or “factory farm,” is an operation where livestock are mass-produced in confinement and are usually, and most important, owned by a corporation and not the farmer (i.e. Smithfield, Tyson). These absentee owners, headquartered in fancy offices miles away, call the shots yet seldom go near their factories while local dollars funnel out of Missouri.

Another confused term: “family farm.” These days it’s necessary to include the word “independent” when referring to family farms. Conversely, independent family farmers make daily decisions about their animals. Sadly, these independent farmers, despite their rich heritage, find it difficult to compete with factory farms on an unleveled playing field created by agribusiness corporations that have, through big money and political influence, duped the public and politicians into believing factory farms are the same as independent family farms, which they’re not. Corporate dollars and special interests at the federal level block independent family farmers’ access to an open and competitive marketplace and take away jobs from our once vibrant rural communities.

Independent family farmers must remain strongly independent. No livestock board, filled with a handful of pro-industry representatives, need dictate daily decisions on raising livestock as independent family farmers have done so for centuries.

Both conservatives and liberals support independent family farmers’ safe and sustainable methods over factory farms’ antiquated and unfair practices.

Julie Fisher


I have said many times that if you want to know more about agriculture and food production you should ask farmer, not a search engine. This letter to the editor that appeared recently in a newspaper in Missouri proves my point. This lady Googled the term “CAFO” and she determined that it means a farm with mass produced, confined animals and owned by a corporation. Unfortunately, Google failed her in her quest to define the term.

At no time does a CAFO designation reflect who owns the livestock on the facility. As much as the anti-agriculture crowd would like to make people believe that, it’s just not true. It’s also a fabrication to say absentee owners make all the decisions. How could they? It would be impossible for these “absentee owners” to make any daily decisions about the health of an animal or to make ration determinations. These allegations fly in the face of reality and logic.

A CAFO is solely determined on the number of livestock that will be present on a farm or ranch and fed in a specific area for a certain amount of time. For example, on our ranch during the winter we feed our cattle in a designated area so we can provide them adequate protection from the weather and a balanced ration that matches their nutritional needs. Even though we didn’t have enough livestock to require us to do anything, we felt the right thing to do was create a more comprehensive nutrient management plan and become permitted.

So it’s interesting that since our family ranch took those steps to become better stewards of our livestock and land, people like Julie Fisher want to paint us in a negative light. It highlights the lack of understanding about animal agriculture and motivates me to do a better job telling my story.

Learning From Agriculture

Agriculture, animal science classes gain a foothold in urban schools
By Jane Coaston
Sunday, Jan. 17 2010

ST. LOUIS — Kara Dalton is attempting to control chaos. It's Monday at the teacher's pre-veterinary science class at Gateway Institute of Technology high school, and that means baths for the dogs, cats, bunnies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and one elusive ferret named Riley.

Gateway Institute of Technology, 5101 McRee Avenue, is among a growing number of suburban and urban high schools nationwide offering agricultural and animal science classes. Such classes are also offered at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy in St. Louis and Edwardsville High School, among others in the region.

But the focus isn't predominantly on farming.

Instead, schools are increasingly using animal science as a springboard to teach math, biology and chemistry. Teachers use cats, dogs and guinea pigs as a hands-on way to teach animal physiology and development.

"I feel that specializing in one area, like ours does, will really allow an urban program to grow and be successful," Dalton said. "It doesn't have to be veterinary science. It could be horticulture, biotechnology or food science." Read More

It’s been exciting to see more schools embracing the lessons that agriculture can teach. Everything from responsibility and work ethic to chemistry and algebra can be learned. The perception of farmers being uneducated, unskilled labor is one of the biggest myths about rural America. It’s one of the most complex and challenging careers there is. By having students experience some of these challenges, they will learn lessons that they will carry for the rest of their lives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Resuming Horse Processing in Missouri

January 12, 2010
Viebrock backs bill for horse slaughterhouses
Bill aims to bypass ban on horse meat inspections.
Chad Livengood

A Greene County lawmaker wants to make the slaughtering of horses for human consumption legal in Missouri.

But state Rep. Jim Viebrock has a lot of hurdles to clear.

Viebrock, R-Republic, intends to file legislation this week aimed at bypassing a federal ban on meat inspectors working in horse slaughtering plants by getting processors to pay for the inspections.

In September 2006, Congress barred any federal funds from being spent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on inspecting the nation's three remaining horse slaughtering plants in Illinois and Texas -- effectively putting them out of business.

But Congress did not out-right ban the slaughter of horses and shipping the meat overseas to markets in Europe and Asia, where the meat is a delicacy.

Viebrock said the proposed legislation would create state-level USDA inspectors by allowing the Missouri Department of Agriculture to levy inspection fees on slaughterhouses. The state's Department of Agriculture would pass those fees onto USDA, requiring no federal funds, he said.

Read More

Many states are struggling to deal with the large influx of unwanted horses due to an extremely depressed horse market. This is largely blamed on the closing of domestic harvesting facilities. While they can still be shipped to Canada or Mexico, the cost of transporting them that far and virtually eliminated any salvage value. So for owners who can no longer care for their horses, their options are extremely limited. This is ends up costing state and local governments money when they have to assume the care. Several states are investigating how they help solve the problem and most of the answers continue to look at how domestic processing of horses can be resumed. Not only would that add value back into the horse market, but it would also reduce the suffering that these unwanted horses are now being forced to endure.

States Inviting CA Farmers to Move

Poachers Arrive at Egg Farms
Other States Hope to Lure California Poultry Producers Unhappy About a New Law
Wall Street Journal

A year after Californians approved stricter rules on the treatment of farm animals, Idaho and other states are trying to lure away the Golden State's poultry and egg farmers with promises of friendlier regulations and lower costs.

In Idaho, as lawmakers convened Monday, Republican state Sen. Tim Corder said he would introduce legislation designed to attract California chicken farmers who might consider relocating. In Nevada, Pershing County is aggressively recruiting poultry farmers in California, the nation's fifth-largest producer of eggs. Georgia's poultry industry also has reached out to some California farmers in a bid to woo them eastward, California egg-industry officials say.

The movement comes after California voters in November 2008 passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 2 designed to prevent "cruel confinement" of farm animals in cramped conditions, like small "battery cages" for egg-laying chickens, or "gestation crates" for pregnant pigs.

Read More

A healthy business environment is essential for family farms and ranches to survive. As much as we love the life we live and doing what we do, it a requirement that it is profitable too. A few states, like California, have passed regulations that have degraded the business climate for these families. It’s only natural that they would look for other places to move their business and also for other states to recruit them. So even though activist groups can sometimes convince voters to pass unnecessary regulations, it doesn’t mean these families will continue living there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pacelle's Growing Concern Over Farmers Who Tell Their Story

This letter was written by Wayne Pacelle, CEO and President of the Humane Society of the United States

Notice: Beware Farm Bureau Bait-and-Switch

Dear Friend,

As we turn into the new year, I write to alert you to an emerging issue I hope you'll take note of, and to ask for your heightened attention to the subject.

While dog and cat welfare of course remains a core issue for America's animal welfare movement, our cause has always been grounded on a broader concern for protecting all animals from cruelty. The humane movement is built around a concern for any mistreatment and abuse of any animal—whether domesticated or wild or by individuals or institutions. Increasingly, there has been a more careful assessment of how animals are treated in the agribusiness industry. HSUS has done a series of investigations that have exposed inhumane slaughter practices across the nation and the awful mistreatment of animals at stockyards and intermediate transport points. There have also been pointed criticisms focused on the lifelong confinement of certain farm animals—such as veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens—in cages and crates barely larger than their bodies. Whether you are a devoted carnivore or a committed vegetarian, these inhumane production and slaughter practices should be a concern to every humane advocate.

Two slaughter plants we have investigated have been shuttered, and there is a new national policy prohibiting the slaughter of downer cattle. And in recent elections, citizens in Arizona, California, and Florida have voted by overwhelming margins to phase out the use of certain intensive confinement practices that do not allow animals the opportunity to move in any meaningful way.

The trend toward improved treatment of farm animals is spreading, and that has agitated agribusiness interests, particularly the American Farm Bureau Federation and perhaps even your own state or local Farm Bureau. With a few exceptions in some states, where we worked with reasonable voices in the agriculture industry to negotiate standards for more humane treatment of farm animals—Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon—state farm bureaus are digging in and mounting counter-measures to thwart reform, especially in states where there are no laws at all to provide for farm animal welfare.

The newly crafted plan of some local, state, and federal Farm Bureau organizations is to try to divide the humane community, in order to undermine support for humane reforms in agriculture. As such, some state Farm Bureaus across the country are now making a concerted effort to forge relationships with local humane organizations, arguing that the care of pets is a laudable goal, but that the broader movement to promote new policies to protect farm animals is wrong and misguided. In some limited number of cases, the Farm Bureaus are even donating to sheltering organizations in order to buy goodwill. These agricultural organizations have never stood for policies to protect companion animals, and it is obvious that this is a strategic effort to block reform and not a sincere effort to associate themselves with our cause.

Although The HSUS welcomes sincere dialogue on farm animal welfare and has spoken with the American Farm Bureau Federation and state Farm Bureaus across the country, their newfound interest in animal protection groups should be treated with some skepticism based on their consistently hostile record on animal welfare issues. Typically, they are the biggest impediment to humane reforms at the state and national level:

Many leading agriculture groups have opposed the imposition of felony-level penalties for cruelty, and they have sought and gained exemptions in anti-cruelty statutes for livestock.

They have lobbied against prohibiting the worst abuses at large-scale puppy mills.

They actively oppose federal legislation to crack down on horse slaughter for human consumption. They believe long-distance transport and slaughter is an appropriate option for these animals, rather than urging individuals to provide lifetime care for their horses or see that humane euthanasia is performed for unwanted horses.

At the federal level, they support indiscriminate and inhumane predator control methods, such as trapping and poisoning which kill and injure non-target wildlife and companion animals.
They have opposed virtually all farm animal reform efforts, including efforts to include poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, to stop the abuse of downer cattle and pigs who are too sick or injured to walk, and to allow animals on large-scale operations the ability to stand up, lie down, and turn around.

Sadly, even on the clearest policy questions of right and wrong, such as upgrading penalties for animal fighting, Farm Bureau organizations have stood on the sidelines. We urge you not to be deceived by this newly hatched effort by the Farm Bureau to enlist you in opposing legitimate and mainstream animal welfare reforms for animals used in agribusiness. As humane organizations, we have an obligation to confront all forms of cruelty, including the mistreatment of animals raised for food. All public attitude surveys, and the ballot initiative votes in several urban and rural states, indicate that all Americans are concerned about the well-being of these animals, too.

We are pleased as an organization to commit resources to sheltering issues—from Animal Care Expo to Animal Sheltering magazine to The Shelter Pet Project and much more. We think your work on companion animal care programs is critical and it is highly valued. And we are confident you agree that other work in the field of animal protection is important and worthy of support as well. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely Yours,

Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

Link to this letter

It seems that Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society of the United States is getting more concerned with farmers and ranchers who are actively telling the accurate story of agriculture and food production. The reason he is concerned is because family farmers and ranchers are much more believable than an animal rights group who has called for abolishing animal agriculture and ending hunting. Even their over-flowing coffers can't compete with the truth. So keep up the good work everyone.

The Soybean Genome

Genome sequencing speeds ability to improve soybeans

Purdue University scientists led an effort to sequence the soybean genome, giving researchers a better understanding of the plant's genes and how to use them to improve its characteristics.
The genome was published in the Jan. 13 issue of the journal Nature.

This sequencing of the soy genome is the culmination of more than 15 years of collaborative research. The team used a whole-genome shotgun approach to sequence 85% of the 1.1 billion nucleotide base pairs that spell out the soybean's entire DNA code.

Purdue agronomy professor Scott Jackson said the U.S. departments of Energy and Agriculture study found that the soybean has about 46,000 genes, but many of those — 70-80% — are duplicates. This duplication may make it difficult to target the genes necessary to improve soybean characteristics such as seed size, oil content or yield.

Despite the difficulties the soybean genome presents, having a sequenced genome does speed up the work scientists are able to do to improve the plant's characteristics. Genome sequencing eliminates the need for meticulous searches for particular genes.

"It really is going to change the way we ask questions about soybeans in research," said Randy Shoemaker, a research geneticist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service at Iowa State University and the paper's co-author. "What used to take us literally years can take us weeks or months now. This is the entire genetic code in front of you."

Read More

As we continue to learn more about the plants and animals that we rely on for food, fiber and pharmaceuticals, the more opportunities we find to improve our lives and the planet we live on. The soybean is one of our most versatile crops and with this new understanding we will continue to grow the list of uses. Continuing to fund research in agriculture will be vital to the future success of feeding our world.

I Am Angus Rounds Up 100K Views

Angus YouTube Channel Views Hit 100,000
Growing online video channel advocates Angus and agriculture

The American Angus Association®’s channel achieved a significant milestone this week, charting 108,000-plus video views since the page was introduced 17 months ago. More than 75 percent of those views have taken place during the last six months.

“This is a significant milestone in terms of online viewership,” says Crystal Young, Association assistant director of public relations. “This many video views in such a relatively short period of time is something we’re really excited to see. Today, we are averaging about 500 views per day – and our viewership continues to grow each month.”

Currently, the video channel contains 120 videos – all of which were produced in-house by Association staff.Young attributes the site’s growing popularity to an eager audience, strategic placement and — most importantly — fresh, positive content about agriculture. Many of these videos can be viewed by visiting and clicking on the “videos” button on the site’s navigation bar. In addition, these videos or links may be posted by outside parties directly to their own web sites.

“Association members and our viewers are telling us the videos hit home in an environment dominated by anti-agriculture messages,” she says. “Whether you’re an Angus producer or a consumer, there’s something here for everyone.”

“Online media is the fastest, cheapest way to communicate a message in today’s fast-paced market,” says Young. “Our YouTube channel and increasing online presence allow us to better serve our members and their customers as well as advance a positive message about agriculture to the mainstream public.”

Here's a link to their latest YouTube video that highlights two ranching families in Oregon.

It’s great to see agriculture having an ever-increasing presence online. Congratulations to the members of the American Angus Association for achieving a great milestone with their videos. They have done a great job of focusing on the people and families that raise cattle in their videos. The link provided will take you to one video that shows how a ranching family has helped restore wildlife in their area through careful land management. That is what we need to continue doing. As I mentioned yesterday, one of the biggest issues we have to overcome is the fact that millions of people in this country don’t know a farmer or rancher. Introducing ourselves and breaking the myth that food somehow magically appears is the goal we need to keep striving for.

Freezing Florida

Florida crops suffer millions in damage from cold
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson estimated the price tag from the extended freeze in the hundreds of millions of dollars, though he cautioned the extent of the damage is still largely unknown.

"This is the longest duration of cold in 60 years,'' he said.

In a Wednesday briefing for lawmakers, Bronson said preliminary reports show at least 30 percent of the state's crops were destroyed when below freezing temperatures gripped the state for nearly two weeks.

"That doesn't mean we lost everything,'' he cautioned. "We are hoping they can salvage as much as they can.''

Now that temperatures have thawed, damage assessment teams are visiting farmers throughout the state to get a better picture of what was lost. But already it's clear that fish farmers took the biggest hit with most losing their entire stock. And pole bean prices shot from $10 a crate before the freeze to $45 a crate this week, Bronson said. For strawberries, citrus and squash, it's a waiting game to see what is left after the protective ice melts from the crops.

Read More

It’s a testament to our outstanding food supply system and the hard work of farmers that food is still readily available after all of the hardships agriculture has faced lately. Between water shortages in California, horrible planting and harvesting conditions in the heartland and now killer frosts in our southernmost regions, food should be scarcer than it is. But I can guarantee that you will not be seeing any empty grocery store shelves anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fighting To Raise Food

Ag Days speaker talks about fighting for the beef industry
By Louisa Barber
Sidney Herald
Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 3:00 PM MST

Negative headlines and spreading myths among unknowing consumers has had a dramatic negative effect on the overall beef industry.

But as farmers and ranchers learned Friday during the MonDak Ag Days, there’s an organization that is fighting back.

Jacque Matsen, director of issues and reputation management of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, told producers the beef industry, and really the ag industry overall, is unknown to consumers.

“Consumers are more disconnected from the farm than they’ve ever been before,” she said. Then, couple that with Hollywood films like “Fast Food Nation” that “endorse” myths the beef industry is “secretive” and “heartless” as well as false myths that say cattle contributes to global warming and, the message consumers receive is pretty powerful and damaging.

Matsen told producers the tactics anti-beef activists use to create a false image of the beef industry are very successful. In addition to having multi-millions of dollars to use at their disposal, one of the best tactics is quite basic: repetition.

“The more these things get repeated and the more accepted as fact they become, they’re very harmful to the industry regardless of how true or not true they are,” she said. Read More

It’s amazing to me that family farmers and ranchers have to work so hard off the farm fighting for their industry so they can work hard on the farm feeding this country. Unfortunately though, if these families want to pass their operation down to the next one, this is what we are going to have to do. I had the chance to visit with some great folks that live in Seattle while I was out there for the past week. The one common theme among all of the ones that I talked to was that they had never met a farmer before. Luckily, now they have but there’s more to go and that will require everyone putting forth an effort.

Antibiotic Story More Opinion Than Fact

US Ag alliance not happy with antibiotic review
12 Jan 2010

The Animal Agriculture Alliance in the US is offended by the unbalanced claims in the widespread Associated Press article entitled "Pressure Rises to Stop Antibiotics in Agriculture".
Released on Dec. 29, the story (437 initial pages in Google) was the third installment of a five-part series about antibiotic resistance in the United States. Unfortunately, AAA says, the authors did not offer a balanced analysis of the complex issue, instead relying on biased sources to portray America's food producers in a negative light. “Antibiotics are a judiciously-used tool employed by farmers and ranchers with veterinarian oversight to further their goal of raising healthy animals,” AAA says in a press release.

"America's farmers, ranchers and veterinarians are committed to ensuring the health of their animals and the safety of their products," said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance Executive Vice President. "Antibiotic use in agriculture is carefully monitored to provide a healthy, plentiful food supply for all."

Opinion blurs factsThe AP article dangerously blurs the line between opinion and fact. Although the authors quote an unsubstantiated estimate that 70% of the antibiotics used in the US are administered to livestock, they fail to acknowledge that nearly half of the total estimated amount is made up of ionophores and other compounds not used in human medicine that do not impact human resistance.

The article also inaccurately suggests that animal feed is constantly "laced" with antibiotics. In reality, each antibiotic is administered according to the specifications of a US Food and Drug Administration-approved label that clearly indicates the number of doses and duration of use.

Read More

In the recent tradition of mainstream media, The AP article about antibiotics was more concerned with sharing opinions than facts. The ability to keep our livestock healthy shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s comical to hear that feeding antibiotics to livestock just covers for poor management. A statement like that displays an incredible lack of understanding for how and why they are used. That’s like saying the parent of any child who’s been given antibiotics is a bad parent. The reason farmers and ranchers are concerned about keeping the ability to use antibiotics in livestock is because they care. Raising healthy animals is our top priority and the thought of losing an important tool like this due to hype and opinion is frustrating to say the least. ~Troy

Farmers Feed US

Missouri Launches 'Farmers Feed US' Campaign
Consumer contest offers free groceries for year and online connection with real farmers.
Compiled by staff - Missouri Ruralist
Published: Jan 11, 2010

On the heels of a successful campaign in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, Missouri's farmers are launching their own "free groceries" sweepstakes on Monday, Jan. 11, featuring five Missouri farmers from different commodity groups. The new campaign was announced Jan. 8 at the Missouri Governor's Conference on Agriculture in St. Louis.

Upon visiting, consumers will be able to register for a chance to win by meeting a Missouri farmer and learning how they produce safe, nutritious and affordable food. Consumers can register with each of the five featured farmers daily through April 11, the end of the 90-day program.

"Agriculture is the No. 1 economic driver in Missouri, bringing in $5.62 billion in farm receipts," says Don Nikodim, with the Missouri Pork Association, one of the organizations represented in the program. "And this is an opportunity for five farm families to share what we produce with Missouri consumers and to let them know we share their values -- taking care of our families, taking care of our animals and land and giving back to our communities."

The Web site features beef, corn, dairy, pork and soybean farmers from across the state, who will share information about their family farms. In addition to guiding visitors through their registration for free groceries, each farmer also offers a brief online tour of their farm. Featured farmers include:

Andrew McCrea, beef farmer, Maysville
Rob Korff, corn farmer, Norborne
Shannon Squibb, dairy farmer, Clever
Kenny Brinker, hog farmer, Auxvasse
Chris Filer, soybean farmer, Garden City

Over the course of the 90-day campaign, consumers throughout the state will also see and hear from these farmers as they are featured in advertising and in-store promotions. Consumers will even have the opportunity to interact with these and other Missouri farmers on their blogs and Facebook pages. Link

These are great ideas for anyone looking for ways to connect to consumers. Working with your local grocery stores or building your presence online are just two of many different ways to build that connection. No matter what you are doing, every little bit helps. In fact, all of us doing just a little every day will make a huge difference. I continue to challenge everyone to look for the everyday opportunities to tell your story. ~Troy

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Meeting Season

With the new year upon us, it brings meeting season. Today we are headed to Seattle to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual meeting. Because of that, the blog is going to be a little lite for the next week. Since I won't be as able to keep up this week, please send me an email if you see something you would like featured on my blog and I will do my best to get it up. Please email me at .

Later this month, the meetings continue when we attend the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio. It's always a great time getting to mingle with everyone that's involved in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. We will be presenting at the Masters of Beef Advocacy training/graduation and also co-presenting at the Cattlemen's College.

Last year was a fantastic year for us and this year is shaping up to be even better. If you are interested in having us share our message at one of your meetings, please contact us.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Ag School

Posted on Mon, Jan. 04, 2010
Agriculture focus helps rural Kansas school
The Wichita Eagle

WALTON — On a recent frosty morning, Carol Budde had her fifth-graders attempting to dig post holes through snow and ice on school grounds.

It was just another hands-on science and math exercise at the Walton Rural Life Center.
The students were learning about how the weather affects Earth's composition. At the same time, they were applying what they had learned about figuring area and perimeter as they laid out a pen for the pigs they are raising.

"This is the fun part," fifth-grader Haley Southern said.

And fun in learning translates into better understanding of the information and a hunger to learn more. That's how it's working out for Walton since it began using agriculture in 2007 as the basis for its curriculum.

"We pull everything into agriculture," Budde said.

And she does mean everything, and for all grades, kindergarten through fifth. From math and science to reading and art, the school presents all subjects to students while incorporating an assortment of animals, chickens, a garden, a greenhouse and agriculture-related projects as learning tools. Read More

Teaching agriculture in our classrooms is very important. Our society has forgotten what it takes to put food on the table because most of them are so many generations removed from it. Congratulations to everyone involved with the Walton Rural Life Center. I know that not every school could move to this type of curriculum, but they have created a model that hopefully more schools can at least take a portion of and integrate. The one thing that I really want to point out is that part of the success is due to the farming and ranching families located nearby that volunteered to adopt a classroom to make it even more successful. We can’t sit back waiting for someone else to do things like this for us.

Livestock, Animal Testing May Cure Diabetes

Pig research gives hope for diabetes cure
By Jeff Sturgeon

A Blacksburg medical company says it is a step closer to finding a potential cure for one form of diabetes, tapping pigs as a source of healthy, insulin-oozing cells that might someday be transplanted into ailing humans.

Revivicor Inc. and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently reported that by injecting sickened laboratory monkeys with live, pig pancreatic cells, they reversed the monkeys' Type I diabetes.

Tests on diabetic people could begin in two years and, if they are successful, it could usher in one of the first approved human medical treatments derived from living animal cells.

With a global epidemic of diabetes taking shape, medical researchers are looking for answers for people who can't make or effectively use insulin to convert food to energy. Read More

There is a continuous stream of new medical breakthroughs involving the use of livestock. Not only do livestock help feed the world, they are also making it healthier. As much as the anti-animal agriculture people would like you to believe we can manage without using animals, the simple truth is that they make our lives better.

Lawyer Challenges Pork Plant

January 1, 2010
Lawyer raises a stink about Ky. pork plant
By Martha Elson(Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

Jon Salomon knew the JBS pork plant in Butchertown was only a couple of blocks away when he and his wife moved in 2008 from New York to a $465,000 condominium in Louisville, Ky.

But while they expected occasional odors, he said, "I was shocked" by the foul and often persistent stench.

"I've been to small towns where you wouldn't find that kind of odor on the farm," said Salomon, a 34-year-old former Wall Street lawyer.

Deciding that such odors shouldn't be legal anywhere - not even in a place called Butchertown - he quickly mounted an aggressive legal challenge on behalf of the Butchertown Neighborhood Association, and soon became the face of a communitywide debate.

Last month, supporters of the plant took to the street outside Salomon's downtown law office and handed out leaflets with his photo, saying, "Why is this man trying to drive 1,300 good jobs out of Louisville?" Read More

We’ve all seen this before. Someone moves into a new area and wants everyone else to conform to their demands. While the article does mention the jobs involved directly at the facility, it fails to mention all of the family farms that depend on it to process their hogs. Certainly the plant needs to be following the regulations in place, but why would you agree to buy this house in the first place if you were so offended by the odors. After all, he says it’s a persistent odor, which would mean he smelled it when he bought the place. It’s interesting that people think they should be able to tell ag-related businesses what to do. After all, you don’t see people moving in next door to an airport and then suing for noise pollution.