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Food Before Fuel Campaign Kicks Off

The Food Before Fuel Campaign was announced this week with the goal of urging Congress to revisit the nation’s renewable fuels policy. The campaign’s principles are to encourage policymakers to “revisit and restructure policies that have increased our reliance on food as an energy source, and to carefully address how to develop alternative fuels that do not pit our energy needs against affordable food and environmental sustainability.”

A major leader in this effort is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which says, “It is past time to acknowledge the reality of this problem and begin a serious, bipartisan effort to fix it. Our current policy is driving higher food prices around the globe and here at home, and while it’s not the only factor at play, it is one we can do something about.”

The membership includes American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, Earth Policy Institute, Environmental Working Group, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Retail Federation, and Snack Food Association.

FSA County Committee Nominations

USDA announced farmer and rancher candidate nominations for local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees begins June 15 and continues through Aug. 1. To be eligible to serve, a person must participate or cooperate in an FSA-administered program, be eligible to vote in a county committee election, and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate. Nomination forms for the 2008 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 1. Ballots will be mailed to producers beginning Nov. 3 and must be returned by Dec. 1.

Expect To Pay $1/Gal. More For Gas In 2008 Vs. 2007

Regular-grade gasoline is expected to average $3.78/gal. in 2008, or 97¢ above the 2007 average price, reports the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its “Short-Term Energy Outlook.” The U.S. average regular gasoline price, currently over $4/gal., is projected to peak at $4.15 in August. Meanwhile, retail diesel-fuel prices are projected to average $4.32/gal. in both 2008 and 2009, an increase of $1.44 over the 2007 average.

In addition, world oil consumption is projected to grow by 1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2008. U.S. consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum is expected to decline by about 290,000 bbl/d in 2008 because of higher petroleum product prices and slower economic growth. Adjusting for increased ethanol use, U.S. petroleum consumption is projected to fall by 440,000 bbl/d in 2008.

Meanwhile, for the week ending June 9, the U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline increased to another record high for the 11th straight week and surpassed $4/gal. for the first time. The price rose 6.3¢ to $4.039, or 96.3¢ higher than last year at this time. The national average price of diesel dropped 1.5¢ for the second week in a row to settle at $4.692/gal., $1.90 more than a year ago.

For gasoline, the West Coast recorded the highest average price, soaring 15.9¢ to $4.325/gal., while California was up 19.1¢ to $4.433. The Gulf Coast remained the lowest at $3.909, despite a 6.3¢ jump for the week.

For diesel, the week’s lowest regional price occurred in the Midwest, at $4.615, while the West Coast was the highest at $4.874. At $4.992/gal., California slipped below $5 price for the first time since May 19.

Decision Reached In Hage Case

The long and winding saga of the fight between Nevada ranchers Wayne and Jean Hage and the U.S. Forest Service appears to be over. This week, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released a decision in the case that, while it didn’t award the estates of the two ranchers everything they asked for, did grant them compensation for part of the “takings” they accused the Forest Service of doing.

In 1991, the Hages sued the Forest Service over actions surrounding the cancellation of their grazing permits. In this week’s decision, the fifth court action in the case, the court found that the Forest Service’s impoundment and sale of cattle was not a taking and denied their claim for compensation. However, the court found the Forest Service did engage in takings regarding certain water rights and improvements, and awarded the estates of Wayne and Jean Hage a total of $4.2 million, plus interest and attorney’s fees and costs.

Alberta Paying Its Livestock Producers $300 Million

Alberta livestock producers are being offered $150 million in bailout money by the province, with another $150 million promised if cattlemen will comply with the age and country-of-origin verification needed to certify Alberta livestock production as disease-free.

The National Meat Association (NMA) reports that Alberta livestock producers have been hard hit by high feed and fuel costs, lower prices and the soaring Canadian dollar. Alberta has the largest beef herd in the country.

The pork industry has been hit so hard that the federal government plans to indemnify pork producers to destroy 150,000 sows. Alberta also announced June 6th that it is spending $56 million this year to create a livestock and meat agency that will implement a new long-term plan, according to the Canadian Press.

Add Your Input On DNA Technology

The Beef Improvement Federation’s (BIF) Commission on DNA Markers has established a blog to gather input on DNA technology and beef cattle improvement. Info gathered via the blog will influence BIF policy deliberations and help guide strategy for production educational programming.

Bloggers can share their current perspective on DNA technology, the future of the technology and current challenges. Learn more and add your comments at The blog will operate for at least one month leading up to the BIF Convention in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 30-July 3, 2008.

2001 NCBA President Lynn Cornwell Passes

Glasgow, MT rancher and 2001 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Lynn Cornwell died June 5 of an aortic aneurysm. He was 56. He is survived by his wife Debby, and their four children – sons Cody and Kirk, and daughters Michelle and Jamie. Cornwell also had eight grandsons. Read his obituary in the Great Falls Tribune at:

Grandma Had Good Advice For Political Strategists

One of my grandmother’s favorite admonishments to me and my brother was that “criticizing another’s garden doesn’t keep weeds out of your own.” My favorite singer George Strait put it another way – “Every time you throw dirt on her, you lose a little ground.”

The message that you can’t build yourself up by tearing someone else down is something few political pundits and operatives take to heart. Now that the top candidates for U.S. president are set, the general election’s opening shots make it obvious they don’t intend to follow grandma’s advice.

Barack Obama hopes to tie John McCain to the unpopular sitting president, painting McCain as more of the same. With all the polls indicating voters want significant change in direction, if Obama can successfully link McCain to George W. Bush, it should be clear sailing for Democrats. Ironically, however, McCain earned his stripes as a maverick who opposed not only this president but the Republican Party on a lot of key issues.

Meanwhile, McCain’s strategy seems to be one of acknowledging that both candidates will bring about significant change, but that Obama’s change is in the wrong direction. The McCain strategy is to simply convince voters that Obama is more liberal than either Hubert Humphrey or Michael Dukakis ever dreamed of being.

While I think the candidate who most succeeds in selling his message will win, a recent Wall Stree Journal poll shows that both candidates enjoy shockingly large advantages among the various voter demographics when divided up by age, ethnicity, sex, wage, region of the country, etc. The bottom line is that the electorate is already highly polarized; thus, it will be some fairly small groups of voter blocs in a few states that will likely determine the presidential election.

While Hillary Clinton struggled during the Democratic primary season to shift the focus from Obama, the McCain campaign will likely strive to retain that focus on Obama. With McCain’s opinions, policies and the like seeming largely irrelevant thus far among the electorate, this election is shaping up to be a referendum on Obama. If enough people feel comfortable with him, he’ll be the next president. If the majority become wary of an Obama presidency, then he’ll lose.

From an ag standpoint, my greatest hope at this time is for a government that is bogged down with partisan squabbling, thus leaving us with a do-nothing government. On that premise alone, I’m leaning Republican just because the Democrats are poised to add to their majorities in both the Senate and House. A divided government seems like the best alternative for ag to me.

The Seedstock Industry Has Lost A Little Confidence

Few would describe the U.S. beef industry as overly optimistic these days. After all, the prodigious and deep change wracking the beef economy has most folks concerned and anxious, and the uncertainty is especially acute in the seedstock segment. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Profitability has declined while prices have flirted with all-time historic highs. Because the seedstock industry tends to be even more input-intensive – taking their offspring to a year or more of age to market them, with the requirements of additional labor, more advertising, etc., – this sector’s costs have escalated even more dramatically than those of the cow-calf sector. Plus, unlike the cow-calf sector, the seedstock sector has expanded in recent years, and there are concerns that supply may outstrip demand.
  • A seedstock producer’s success is closely tied to anticipating industry changes – and cow-calf sector needs – several years in advance. The uncertainty of what it means to have $6 corn, the promise of marker-assisted selection, etc., has made it increasingly important – and difficult – for seedstock producers to anticipate the industry’s direction.
  • A general malaise has settled over the seedstock segment that is part uncertainty, part economic pressures, but also a downgrading of optimism in general. The focus on carcass traits seems to be waning, but people are uncertain what the next big trend is. Feed efficiency (both maternal and terminal) is the logical next great thing, but measuring it has proven problematic at best and expensive at worst. Genetic markers may be the next great frontier but that technology is still a ways off.
  • Then there are things disrupting the great status quo that was built around breed loyalties. Breed associations see the wisdom of working together in areas such as genetic evaluation but are and will always be fiercely competing for market share. The composite movement has shaken the foundation of breed loyalties, as well.
  • Then there are the little things, such as significant genetic defects that have been propagated in at least three major breeds at this time. These have created problems as breeders extricate themselves from past mating decisions.
  • This is the season for dispersal announcements, which happen every year at this time. It’s not so much the number of dispersals – roughly 1/7th of all seedstock producers disperse each year – but rather the type of operations that have announced their dispersals this time around. They are operations considered to be dominant players in their respective breeds – outfits like Camp Cooley (though Camp Cooley is not going out of business), or the Deiter Bros. operation in South Dakota.
Perhaps what’s so surprising is that seedstock producers are a cocky optimistic group by nature, which makes a loss of confidence even more striking.

Happy Father’s Day!

We were all sitting around last week talking about our dads and how, growing up, we all loved and respected our dads but never wanted to cross the line with them. None of us feared our dads; rather we all shared the feeling that if someone was going to be disappointed in us, we wanted it to be our moms, who were likely quicker to forgive and less intimidating.

Most of us are young dads now ourselves. Without exception, we failed to understand just how much our fathers loved us, that is until we became fathers ourselves.

It got us to thinking whether our kids consider crossing the line with us as a major error in judgment, or do they know that nothing means more to us than how they turn out? Do they know we generally consider them great people, and just want them to avoid the mistakes we made and achieve greatness?

These are humbling questions to ponder because there’s really no way of keeping score to know if you’re doing things right or wrong when it comes to fathering. A friend put it best: “I just hope I can be half the father my dad was to me.”

My dad was a great teacher, not so much in the words he shared, but the way he lived. I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember a lot of the conservations we had growing up, but I know he was a beacon of honesty to me, an example of hard work, someone who lived by his principles, and who loved my mom with the purest of intentions.

He was an example of how a man should live. He knew what his responsibilities were and he lived them. I never thought about it then but realize now the example he set all those times where we came in late at night, and us kids went off to bed while he went about doing the chores, unloading the trailer, and taking care of the horses.

I’ve had a lot of heroes, coaches and mentors, but my dad’s example was the aspiration, and he is the standard, I have strived to live up to. On this Father’s Day, I hope you’ll take the time to tell your dad thanks, and dedicate yourself to living up to his example. Thanks, dad, and happy Father’s Day!