Beef Board rebuts irradiation editorial

The September issue editorial ANCW fights for a beef safety voice (page 6) contained factual errors. And, the article's tone seemed bent on brewing a battle that doesn't exist. As to the proposal from the American National Cattle Women (ANCW) to manage a checkoff-funded program regarding irradiation technology, your article made some critical errors of fact. The proposal wasn't heard by a committee

The September issue editorial “ANCW fights for a beef safety voice” (page 6) contained factual errors. And, the article's tone seemed bent on brewing a battle that doesn't exist.

As to the proposal from the American National Cattle Women (ANCW) to manage a checkoff-funded program regarding irradiation technology, your article made some critical errors of fact.

The proposal wasn't heard by a committee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). Nor did NCBA — or any other committee — reject ANCW's proposal. No decision-making body has even reviewed the proposal yet; that happens when it goes before the Beef Promotion Operating Committee in September.

And at no point does NCBA have approval or denial authority over any checkoff programs proposed by other beef industry organizations qualified to submit authorization requests.

Rather, the Joint Retail Committee, which includes beef producers representing the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and the Federation of State Beef Councils, heard the proposal from ANCW in July. That committee, advisory only in nature, voted 6-5 to recommend to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee that the original proposal, focused on promotion of irradiation, not be funded through the retail component of the checkoff program's budget.

Producers on the Retail Committee did not believe the proposal fit with programs reviewed by that committee. As a result, ANCW representatives are submitting a revised proposal, focused on educating consumers about irradiation, to the Operating Committee for funding through the checkoff's Consumer Information budget component instead of the retail one.

While producers have demanded that the CBB not take policy positions on any issue, the board certainly has deemed it critical during recent years to provide information and education about irradiation to consumers, so they can make educated decisions about food safety in their own homes and with their families. This particular ANCW proposal is going through the same thorough review process that all checkoff proposals do — whereby producers themselves make recommendations and, eventually, vote as to what should be funded with checkoff dollars in fiscal 2004.

That vote on the ANCW proposal will happen when the Operating Committee meets in Denver to review that and some 50 other proposals from about 10 different beef industry organizations on Sept. 17-18.
Andy Tucker
Florida producer, CBB chairman and Monte Reese
CBB chief operating officer

A Bold Irradiation Stance

Thanks for the boldness of your September issue editorial on irradiation, (“ANCW fights for a beef safety voice,” page 6), which I read while in my veterinarian's office. For the life of me I can't understand why the beef industry hasn't embraced this wonderful technology.

As a health care professional, I have personally seen the effects of E. coli 0157:H7 infections in kids. It's devastating and heartbreaking.

From my view, irradiation is the most complete answer to the problems your industry has with E.coli in beef. And believe me, your industry has a problem. Nearly half of 1% of hamburger is infected with E.coli. When you consider the amount of ground beef sold in the U.S., that's a lot of beef.

Granted cooking as recommended by the USDA will destroy the organisms, but consider this: Less than 6% of consumers use a meat thermometer, and less than 6% are aware of the safe cooking temperature (160° F.) that will kill the bacteria. What's more, the use of more anti-microbials and antibiotics in cattle will only compound the very complex issues facing your industry and the medical profession.

Unfortunately, those at the greatest risk of foodborne pathogens are our most precious, the young and elderly. Why won't the beef industry step forward? Irradiation is the only step we have to kill E. coli 0157:H7 in raw ground beef.
Tim Hart
Atlanta, GA

ANCW Responds To Editorial

As executive director of the American National Cattle-Women (ANCW), I was disappointed by misinformation in the September issue editorial, “ANCW fights for a beef safety voice” (page 6). The piece included comments by ANCW member and special projects chair, Susan Hammons.

For the record, ANCW, like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), is an approved contractor of the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB). The two membership associations work together in promoting beef and educating consumers with beef checkoff dollars.

As an approved CBB contractor, ANCW isn't required to put an authorization request (AR) before the Joint Retail Committee, which is comprised of members from the Cattlemen's Beef Board and Federation of State Beef Councils. But doing so provides us with valuable information. As a result of the comments and concerns expressed from the Joint Retail Committee, ANCW's AR was rewritten emphasizing education, and submitted to the Beef Board for consideration by the Operating Committee.

It seems unreasonable to suggest that ANCW would be distraught should their AR not be approved. I'm confident the men and women who sit on the Beef Board and its Operating Committee, all appointed by USDA, evaluate each AR's merit based on the beef industry's long-range plan, and will determine the best use of checkoff dollars.

ANCW appreciates the opportunity to be part of the proposal process for beef checkoff dollars and strives to balance its own desires and passions with its beef industry partners.
Marcie Hervey
ANCW Executive Director

More Discussion On Ethanol

BEEF Senior Editor Clint Peck's August issue commentary (“Bursting The Ethanol Bubble,” page 30) regarding the renewable fuel standard relies on outdated data by David Pimental to refute the positive (net energy) effects of corn and are inaccurate, irresponsible and ill-informed.

Pimental, an entomologist, is the only scientist to conclude corn ethanol is a net energy loser. He's done so by perverting established scientific methods and torturing the data.

For example, Pimental's corn yields date from 1992. He assumes corn is irrigated. Only 16% of corn is irrigated and almost none of that is converted to ethanol. Pimental's research ignores life cycle analysis standards, yet respected publications such as yours continue to recycle this misinformation.

Most important, a USDA life cycle analysis of ethanol production — from the field to the car — found ethanol has a large and growing positive fossil energy balance. In fact, ethanol yields 34% more fossil energy than is used to grow and harvest corn and process it into ethanol.

In addition, your commentary fails to consider critical ethanol facts involving tax treatment for ethanol and co-products.

Gasoline is taxed by the federal government at 18.4¢/gal., but gasoline blended with ethanol is only taxed at 13.1¢/gal. It should stand corrected that the ethanol tax credit is credited to gasoline refiners and blenders, not the ethanol industry. The program is designed to encourage these entities to blend ethanol. Not a penny goes to any ethanol company.

Furthermore, the tax credit is actually a reduction in taxes paid. While reducing government revenues, it isn't at the “expense of taxpayers.” They're not paying the higher tax.

Removing the ethanol tax credit would have the effect of raising gas taxes by 5.3¢/gal. on more than 15% of gasoline sold in the U.S. And let's not forget that more than 50% of U.S. ethanol production is owned by farmers, not big agribusiness.

You should also know ethanol producers use the same corn plant to produce feed and fuel. While ethanol plants utilize one-third of the plant to process cornstarch into ethanol, the co-product distillers dried grains with solubles uses another third as a high-value feed for livestock.

It should be noted that there is no shortage of corn. Of the projected U.S. corn harvest of 10-billion bu., ethanol production will consume only about 1 billion. There's still plenty of room to grow the ethanol market without limiting corn availability.

Livestock is and will continue to be corn producers' biggest customer. BEEF has done its readers a disservice by using scare tactics and false, outdated data to smear a technology that's proven to be a viable way to help sustain U.S. energy security.
Fred Yoder
Plain City, OH
Past President
National Corn Growers Association

Good Ethanol Article

Good article on ethanol (“Bursting The Ethanol Bubble,” August, page 30). I've done extensive reading on net energy of ethanol. I'm of the opinion that the results of the math will always depend upon the input costs and process efficiencies assumed.

I'm not so sure the math runs against net energy of ethanol. But, the volume of the rhetoric doesn't substantiate the data either side is citing. Where are reliable, reasonable data on inputs and efficiencies in the generally available literature? If ethanol is a net energy user, how does Brazil survive on an ethanol-based vehicle fuel system?

I agree with your commentary on the subsidies to ethanol, but $30-200 billion/year for military intervention hardly makes oil an efficient energy source! I want ethanol to work economically. If the net energy really is negative, I want to know that, too. I'm prepared to wait for the next energy source (hydrogen), which I also question its extraction economy.
Terry Bobzien
Albion, MI

Discredited Source Used

Your recent commentary on ethanol, “Bursting the Ethanol Bubble,” was bemusing given its reliance on the views of discredited ethanol critic David Pimental. Surely your readers remember only last year when Pimental harangued against beef production and compared eating beef to driving an SUV in terms of energy use. Pimental is simply anti-corn — whether fed to cattle or converted into ethanol.

It's a safe bet the real concern isn't ethanol's net fossil energy balance, but what impact increased ethanol production will have on the corn price. While increasing the demand for corn from ethanol production benefits corn farmers, it's not bad news for beef producers. Increased ethanol production also will increase output of the co-product, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a high-protein feed option for beef producers.

If ethanol production doubles to 5 billion gal./year, as proposed under the renewable fuels standard (RFS) in the current energy bill, it will boost corn prices. However, a recent study by renowned ag economist John Urbanchuk found the impact on livestock producers would be less than a 1% change in feed costs. For beef producers, the increased supply and moderate price of DDGS would offset any impact of higher corn prices.

In September BEEF (“Strategic Positioning,” page 25), Ken Odde, head North Dakota State University animal and range sciences program, says more DDGS “means more cattle could be fed in non-traditional areas.” Thus, the opportunities for successful ranching might actually be expanded by increased ethanol production.

Enacting an RFS will produce change for ethanol, corn and beef producers. Yet, enacting an RFS will benefit rural America and American agriculture. That is something we should all support.
Bob Dinneen
President, Renewable Fuels Association
Washington, DC

Excellent Ethanol Commentary

“Bursting the Ethanol Bubble,” Clint Peck's August issue commentary, was excellent. I'm glad to see someone presenting factual information to the public about the ethanol industry. Publication of more articles of this type in popular press will help overcome the political-based support of this highly subsidized industry.
Andy Roberts
Miles City, MTC