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I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul Formalizes Non-Profit Status

It’s official. What started as a grassroots effort by a group of young people to support American family farmers and ranchers has become an official non-profit organization. I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul elected its first board of directors on Sept. 29 in San Luis Obispo, CA. The new board ratified its operational by-laws.

The newly elected board includes, president Megan Brownell of Nipomo, CA; vice-president Luke DeGroot of Fresno, CA; secretary Mindy Burris of Denair, CA; treasurer Brean Bettencourt of Turlock, CA; and Cody Penfold of Kingsburg, CA.

The organization originated out of the frustration by young people who have a passion for agriculture but realized few of their peers really know how their food is grown in America. Additionally, they were angry at the way agriculture is often wrongly portrayed in the mass media and political campaigns.

To read more, link here.

Food Production Growth Not Keeping Pace

If the world’s farmers are to grow enough food to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050, they’d better get a move on.

A study released at the World Food Prize’s Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, IA says the growth rate of agricultural productivity is lagging behind that needed to feed an additional 3 billion people.

The Global Harvest Initiative’s 2010 GAP Report, developed with the Farm Foundation and USDA’s Economic Research Service, was designed to gauge the pace of global agricultural productivity growth against future needs for food.

Doubling agricultural output to meet global demand by 2050 will require and annual average growth of at least 1.75% in total factor productivity, according to Neil Conklin, president of the Farm Foundation and author of the report.

Maintaining U.S.-Mexico Livestock Trade

Edward Avalos, USDA under-secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, recently announced new efforts to protect the livestock trade between the U.S. and Mexico after visiting livestock inspection facilities.

USDA will be opening a temporary cattle inspection facility in Eagle Pass, TX, the third temporary facility opened since the suspensions earlier this year, Avalos announced after touring a temporary inspection facility in Laredo with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX).

"The cattle trade provides an important source of revenue for American producers and buyers and we are committed to maintaining the important trade relationship between the U.S. and Mexico," says Avalos. "The new inspection location is part our ongoing effort to aggressively pursue opportunities to keep trade lines open in spite of the recent security challenges."

To read the entire article, link here.

Ethanol Subsidies – The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Friday’s USDA report put the upward trending corn market into full gear, with bulls moving their projections from $6 to some even predicting that new price records could be set with $7.50 prices this fall. USDA lowered its yield estimate by 4.1% to 155.8 bu./acre.

What had been setting up to be a great fall for cow-calf producers is increasingly looking suspect, as rising inputs and demand concerns (driven by the slow economy) conspire to lower calf prices. Many people are beginning to question whether yields can go any lower, with what was believed to be nearly ideal growing conditions, until harvest began with disappointing results across a wide spectrum.

The declining value of our dollar is also helping out U.S. corn on the world export market, and people are beginning to contemplate the reality of the marketplace with domestic supplies now projected to be the lowest in 15 years.

It is hard keeping perspective in this market – a crop at 12.66 billion bu. is still in record-high territory, but the reality is we have to have new records every year as long as ethanol is subsidized. The bottom line is that despite the downsizing of our industry, the longest cattle cycle in our history may be extended yet again, as it struggles to discover just how much smaller our industry has to be to deal with higher corn prices and increased price risk moving forward.

It’s a tough conundrum for beef producers. The actual fundamentals may have never looked better, but the prospects for one of our industry’s most significant inputs and for the overall economy have seldom looked as bleak.

Never have the fortunes of grain production and livestock production been more divergent. The price spread we should be talking about is the value of an acre of farm ground vs. a calf, because it does more to explain the fate and future of our industry as anything.

In 2000, the average price for farm ground in Iowa was $1,857/acre; in 2009, the average price rose to $4,371/acre. Meanwhile, USDA’s national average price for calves in 2000 and 2009 was $96.80/cwt. and $93.30/cwt., respectively. It used to be that it took two bred cows to buy an acre of corn ground; today one better figure closer to four cows to buy an acre of corn ground.

Critics of ethanol subsidies like to point out the cost of the program to consumers, but the brunt of the impact has been felt by the cattle industry.
-- Troy Marshall

The Conspiracy Theorists Run Amuck

Many people are asking just when profits and political activism became bad things. Simplistically, I would argue it happened the day it was someone else’s profits, or someone who held a view contrary to our own.

Realistically, I have to believe it says something about the eroding of our society and a new kind of intolerance. It’s intolerance not based on race or religion as much as just based on one’s world view.

Following the letter (see it at sent last week by 115 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to USDA calling for a thorough economic analysis of the proposed GIPSA rule, I started to receive emails implying that all one had to do was follow the money and that these politicians were essentially purchased by the omnipresent Satan. That Satan, of course, is corporate agriculture and multi-national packers.

The emails followed up with a detailed listing of the amount of campaign contributions each of the signatories had received from agricultural interests. Not surprisingly, the leadership of the House Ag Committee received more than $1 million, while others received about 20% of that or less. Other emails I received also detailed donations made by political action committees (PAC) of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), noting that many of the beneficiaries signed the letter.

The initial impact when one sees dollar amounts of this size is relatively effective. Of course, when one starts to look at the numbers, the only lesson becomes just how little money agriculture spends on supporting its candidates. Not surprisingly, the members from big ag districts tend to receive more dollars from agriculture than members from non-ag districts. Details like comparing contributions made by other industries and activist groups, which make agricultural contributions look insignificant, just clutters up the case for conspiracy theorists. How dare a representative vote on an industry issue according to the desires of his/her constituency!

Then, of course, there’s the issue of PAC donations, the most common donation was $1,000. Do you realize how much influence $1,000 buys you with a congressman? It doesn’t hurt, but trust me, it takes far more dollars than that to buy votes; just ask the unions, environmental groups or the auto, insurance and energy industries. Either ag doesn’t have much pull, or we’re just able to get a whole lot more bang for our buck.

These numbers also lump grain production and livestock production into the same category. Certainly, they have common interests in some areas, but donations from the grain side dwarf donations on the livestock side. And, in recent years, these two ag sectors are far more likely to be on totally opposite sides of the issues (ethanol subsidies is one that comes to mind).

Truth is, the great conspiracy simply doesn’t exist, and the numbers presented to make the case actually invalidate the claim instead of supporting it. If either side is right in believing that GIPSA would cost or make the industry multi-millions, even billions of dollars, it begs the question why do we spend so little?

Why wouldn’t NCBA and NPPC support candidates friendly to agriculture? And, why wouldn’t these elected officials lead the charge on agricultural issues?

Personally, I think the numbers indicate just how little we spend as an industry to support candidates. In reality, it’s amazing that we have the minimal influence we do. After all, specific unions and environmental groups spend far more than our entire industry.
Supporting candidates isn’t a bad thing any more than corporate profits are. One makes democracies work; the other keeps the economy growing. Personally, I’m far more comfortable with a candidate who received $1,000 from NCBA’s PAC than I am with one who received $10,000 from the Humane Society of the U.S., Consumer Union or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

These groups’ numbers truly show a conspiracy but one that validates the lack of influence by corporate ag, and ag in general. It certainly doesn’t show manipulation by the evils of corporate agriculture. Less concern about mythical conspiracies and more active involvement should be the lesson we take away from these numbers. Admittedly, the numbers kind of work if one ignores their context.

The Politics Of Personal Destruction

We are adopting political campaign tactics now in this industry, and I would argue it’s not a positive step. One of the sad developments in the GIPSA debate has been the constant parade of personal attacks. This week, R-CALF called out Western Kentucky University’s Nevil Speer, an animal science professor and Ph.D. who has an MBA and brings a worthwhile perspective to many economic issues.

One of Speer’s articles was passed out in a packet of information at a Nebraska Cattlemen meeting. The R-CALF alert, which characterized the information as packer propaganda, actually went into some detail trying to make the case that Speer is a part of a packer conspiracy that has the goal of destroying independent cattlemen.

I know Speer and he is not a lackey for the packing industry. What’s more, these types of attacks are outside the realm of common decency and are simply unethical. He may not agree with you, he could even be wrong, but his opinions are based on sound data and his motivations and commitment to this industry should not be questioned.

When someone resorts to attacking the messenger, they must have trouble with the message. Attempting to demonize men of good character to achieve a political aim may be accepted practice in elections, and it may even be effective, but making these types of unfounded allegations is simply wrong. And, if they actually believe them, it becomes downright scary.

Speer loves the industry and has always been committed to the next generation of producers; it’s not a coincidence that he became a college professor. He may not share R-CALF’s views on how to better the industry, but he deserves far more respect than what he got in this latest attack.

Why Tolerate Bacteria? Let’s Get On With Irradiation

We’re into the second wave of anguish about the 1,600 people made ill by salmonella-contaminated eggs, which caused the recall of a billion fresh eggs.

“We’re not in favor of government takeovers, but in the case of the egg producers who poisoned as many as 1,600 people with salmonella, we’ll advocate that,” said the Frederick (MD) News-Post on Oct 1st.

“No one died, but the symptoms for some continue today –diarrhea, sickness, fever, not to mention the weeks of medical care needed by some victims, and the impact on other more conscientious egg producers in terms of lost sales… This is an area where more government regulation is needed, and the free market cannot be relied on to govern itself,” concludes the News-Post

The food-scare industry is rubbing its hands in glee. The public has been scared witless about its food safety again, the farmers are hanging their heads in shame – and the media response is to demand more expensive government regulation that won’t kill the bacteria. Thus, the food scare industry can go right on flogging the food industry while people keep on getting sick.

And pretending this is all the fault of “industrial agriculture.”

I’ve got news, folks. Salmonella bacteria are pretty much everywhere, and always have been. Salmonella sickens more than a million people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and kills about 400. The bacterium is found in ground beef, on lettuce, on spinach, even in peanut butter and unpasteurized orange juice. Salmonella can be inside the live chicken and even inside the eggs!

The even-more-dangerous E. coli: O157 is carried by cattle, and USDA says it’s never tested for the bacterium in any cattle herd without finding it.

Remember that awful spinach O157 outbreak a couple of years ago with three deaths? There were cattle nearby. There were wild pigs running around through both the cattle pasture and the spinach field.

It’s also true that the spinach field was in transition to organic production. That means the farmer couldn’t use chemical fertilizers on it. Did he use composted cow manure? Are we sure that every bit of that composted cow manure got hot enough – 130-150° for 30 days – to kill the 0157?

University of California-Davis researchers say they’ve found occasional 0157 infections in wild pigs, coyotes, mice, crows and cowbirds. How does more government regulation keep the food safe from all this natural risk?

There is a solution, one that the newspapers and food-scare artists hate – electronic pasteurization. Hitting the fresh food with an electron beam is cheap, quick, and kills virtually all of the food-borne bacteria on your food. It even kills the bacteria that promote rotting, so your fresh produce will taste even fresher.

The FDA-approved electronic pasteurization for eggs 10 years ago. The treatment has also been approved for poultry, fresh produce, and hamburger. But the food stores are frightened that news of electron beams will set off consumer boycotts – fear encouraged and managed by the food scare activists.

Think about the News-Post’s litany of suffering for 1,600 egg consumers – and multiply it by 875 – to get the annual national illness impact of salmonella. Add 400 deaths. That doesn’t even include the deaths and agony from 0157. We in the U.S. have the safest food system the world has ever known. Don’t let food-scare pushers tell you otherwise. It would take only this already-approved step to eliminate the bacteria that causes a million of us each year to suffer the misery of what we commonly call “food poisoning.” and what, occasionally, causes death.

Isn’t it time for consumer organizations to support electronic pasteurization? What can you do to protect your family? Start with talking to your grocery store manager about your support for electronic pasteurization.

Dennis T. Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute is co-author with S. Fred Singer of “Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years.” Contact him at [email protected].
-- Dennis T. Avery

iRanch Calculator Takes The Guesswork Out of Ranch Work

mcclement-two.jpg When Annie Clement contacted me about a potential blog spot on her new Apple iTunes application for iPhones, iRanch Calculator, my interest was immediately piqued. McClement is a researcher, cattle producer and all-around cowgirl who has the can-do attitude of many women in this business and the brains to get the job done right. Her company, Ranch Concepts, launched her new application, iRanch, on Oct. 7, and after visiting with Clement, I'm excited to share with you all that this exciting tool has to offer beef producers.

ranch-calculator.jpg With the iRanch application, cattle producers can individually purchase a series of interactive ranch calculators, including stocking rate, fed hay predictions, embryo calf breakevens, calf crop breakevens, annual cow cost, and cow and horse supplementation. These calculators allow producers to manipulate input values unique to the ranch for custom output values.

breakeven.png “Now, the ability to simulate management decisions, ranch condition assessment, and proven ranch concepts from an economical standpoint are available at your fingertips. It’s our goal to increase the knowledge base of our customers, inspire a systems-thinking mindset, and boost confidence in everyday ranching decisions," says Clement.

Clement knows first-hand how much data collection and information is involved in a cattle operation today. Growing up on a family-owned commercial cow-calf outfit near View, TX, she was exposed to the many calculations ranchers need to do in order to make wise business decisions for the cattle.

“I’ve been aware of cost structure and the benefits of tracking and cutting costs from a young age. My Ph.D. is in animal science, and during my collegiate experiences, I took a lot of interest in using research and putting together tools for profit forecasting for cattle operations. All of these tools were in a computer program, and I thought it would be great to convert these calculators to an application producers can do right from their phones," explains Clement.

For more information on this application, link to Ranch Concepts. To purchase the calculators, link here. Will you be using iRanch to help you make more informed decisions on your operation? What electronic device you find most useful on the cattle operation?

State Wolf Management Act 2010 Bills Introduced

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch recently introduced legislation to remove the gray wolf from being listed as a threatened or endangered species in the states of Idaho and Montana. The act is titled the State Wolf Management Act of 2010.

Crapo and Risch argue that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has already communicated to wildlife officials in Idaho and Montana that they have complied with recovery efforts for wolf populations, and those efforts should result in wolf management being turned over to state control as federal agencies planned.

A federal judge in Montana ruled against those plans by saying wolves in Wyoming were also covered under the same rules. The Risch-Crapo legislation separates the Idaho and Montana wolves, plus some in adjoining Washington, Oregon and Utah, from the Wyoming wolves when it comes to protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

To read the entire article, link here.

Follow BQA Guidelines When Culling Cows

October and November are typical months for calf weaning, pregnancy checking of cows, and cow culling. On very rare occasions violative residues of pharmaceutical products have been found in carcass tissues of cull beef cows. Violations of drug residue regulations can result in expensive fines (or even worse, jail time) for the rancher and a “black-eye” for the entire beef industry.

It is vital that cow calf producers have a close working relationship with a large animal veterinarian in their area. If a cow has an infection or disease that must be treated, her owner should closely follow the veterinarian's directions, and also read the label of the product used. Most of these medications will require that the producer keep the treated animal for the label-directed withdrawal time. The Beef Quality Assurance Manual usually contain the following discussion of medication withdrawal times.

To read the entire article, link here.