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Farm Progress America, July 16, 2019

Max Armstrong looks at the promises made to raise hens in cage-free production. Food service providers have made promises to transition to cage-free eggs. The retail industry is pushing that way and Max looks at the promises made by buyers to source eggs from cage-free producers. And Max found interesting news about how consumers buy noting that 85% of eggs bought remain cage free.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: adamkaz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

PETA buys Facebook shares

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Facebook is a great tool to communicate with friends, connect with peers, share news and information and debate critical issues with others.

However, Facebook has also been called out for filtering information, only showing news and headlines that confirm our own personal political or ideological biases.

Over the years, there have been accusations that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has censored political content, but the 33-year old billionaire insists that Facebook’s goal is to “be a platform for all ideas.”

Perhaps it’s paranoia, or maybe there’s some truth to it. Either way, outside parties are working hard to ensure their messaging stays top of mind with Facebook consumers.

For example, there’s PETA. In June, the animal rights organization called out Facebook for censoring its content.

In a press release, PETA says, “Over the past few months, Facebook has been increasingly censoring PETA's content featuring violence against animals on its Facebook and Instagram platforms. PETA's objective is to stop animal suffering, and we rely on social media to reach people with information that they might never otherwise see.”

Taking matters into their own hands, the animal rights activist group decided if they wanted their content seen, they would just have to buy their way into Facebook and influence the social media platform as a shareholder.

This week, PETA announced it had purchased shares in Facebook. The activist group follows the trademark tactics of HSUS, another activist group that regularly purchases shares to have influence on retailers, pharmaceutical companies, restaurants, grocery stores and more.

In a press release, PETA shares, “Today, PETA purchased shares in Facebook, enabling the group to submit a shareholder resolution, attend the company’s annual meetings, and ask questions of executives there. The move comes after the social media platform upped its use of warning screens on PETA videos showing real-life incidents of routine cruelty to animals, significantly limiting the group’s ability to expose animal suffering to a wide audience.

“People deserve to see what animals endure in laboratories, on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, when they’re skinned or plucked alive for clothing, and when they’re beaten so that they’ll perform tricks,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA urges Facebook to follow Twitter’s lead by allowing users to decide for themselves whether they want to opt in or out of warning covers.”

“Sharing eyewitness video footage directly with the public through social media has played a vital role in many of PETA’s victories in behalf of animals—including leading major companies to end appallingly cruel experiments on animals, forcing many circuses that use animals to shut down or stop using wild animals, and persuading hundreds of retailers to ban fur.

“PETA’s motto reads, ‘Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.’ The group opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.”

That’s some scary stuff right there, and I’ll be mindful of that as I use Facebook in the future. What content is being censored and what type of material will now be front and center that users will see now that PETA has weaseled its way into the company as a shareholder?

As a society, we need more critical thinkers and less of the “follow the sheep” mentality; yet, this is very difficult to achieve when only certain material is put in front of people. Whether it’s journalists, social media platforms or politicians — we as a society should demand transparency, honesty and full disclosure of information on all topics.

And as agricultural producers, we need to continue to fill our Facebook newsfeeds with positive food production content. After all, if Mark Zuckerberg is truly filtering what people see, we better at least keep him busy!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.


MORNING Midwest Digest, July 15, 2019

Highway crashes near construction zones can be horrific. There was another one near Indianapolis yesterday.

More National Guard members are shipping out for a deployment to the Middle East.

The grain market rally continued for most of the overnight session. 

Weather will continue to be a focus for crop production.

Bob Gibson, a former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, is being hospitalized for cancer.

Farm Progress America, July 15, 2019

Max Armstrong shares the story of his visit to O’Hare Airport where they work to keep African Swine Fever out of the country. Max explains how entry of the disease could be devastating to the industry and he shares statistics on the potential impact of a foreign animal disease coming into the country.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: JupiterImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

New research aims to improve cattle fertility

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The breeding season is well underway and come fall, we’ll have the veterinarian come out to our ranch and pregnancy check the herd.

Without question, a quick ultrasound is the cheapest investment possible to ensure we are feeding and wintering cows that are pregnant and within our calving window.

It’s also the best place to start building your cull list. Opens and lates are the first to go, followed by older culls, poor doers, bad milkers and ornery dispositions.

Yet, each year at pregnancy checking time, there’s always a favorite cow or a top performer that shocks you as the veterinarian calls out, “Open!”

There’s nothing quite like the sting of losing a good one that can really dampen spirits on an otherwise good day.

And the second you hear the vet’s diagnosis, you start racking your brain to figure out the reason why she didn’t breed back.

Was it my mineral program? Was it the bull? Did she abort her calf during the grazing season? Did I ever see her come around? Was it my AI protocol? Did she milk too hard? Is her body condition score worse than normal?

Without a doubt, fertility is one of the most important traits to track in any cow-calf operation. You can have the best bull genetics. You can have the fanciest looking heifers. You can have the most lush grass or give access to the most expensive mineral out there.

But if your heifers don’t cycle, if your cows don’t breed back and if you’re calving season stretches out farther than you would like, fertility might be the first thing to look at.

At Auburn University, researchers are examining reproductive inefficiencies and ways to improve fertility in beef cattle.

“Our research at the moment is about understanding the complexities and assorted mechanisms of pregnancy,” said Fernando Biase, Auburn University assistant professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Sciences and leader of the project.

According to a press release, “For the first time, investigators performed integrative analyses of pairs composed by the embryo and the endometrium of the same pregnancy, initiated by artificial insemination in cattle. The discovery of this natural molecular variability existing in natural pregnancies opens a new window of opportunity to better understand the plasticity inherent to healthy pregnancies.”

A four-year, $400,000 USDA grant has allowed researchers to advance their study of animal reproduction systems by applying research on the cellular, molecular, genomic and whole animal aspects of reproduction.

“As an embryo arrives in the uterus, the establishment of pregnancy is highly dependent on molecular signals exchanged between the embryo and the uterus,” said Biase. “In this latest published report, we identify thousands of genes actively involved in that embryo-uterus bonding.

“There are studies that have looked at the endometrium alone and other reports that have studied the conceptus tissue alone. But no one has ever integrated these two. We were able to study them in an integrative manner when we started working with them in pairs.”

According to the report, “Nearly all of the 9,500-plus genes functioning in the embryo have regulatory interactions with approximately 65% of the more than 8,500 genes functioning in the endometrium.

“Most importantly, a couple of hundred of those genes—223 in the embryo and 212 in the endometrium— produce molecular messages, named messenger RNA, that produce distinguishable profiles unique to each pregnancy.

“While the initial research involves dissecting the pregnancy process to better understand how it works, the next phase will include disrupting the system using artificial reproductive technologies.”

To read more about the study, click here.

I am keenly interested in following this research because I think once we as producers understand the intricate balances and interactions of each unique pregnancy a cow has, we can better equip ourselves with the tools we need for her to maintain a pregnancy and remain productive in our herd for years to come.

“We’ll be able to understand when these pregnancies fail, and what is occurring outside that window of normality,” said Biase. “Then, we’ll hopefully find ways to fix those things. Understanding the relationship between the embryo and uterus also opens new opportunities for researchers to investigate how this embryo-maternal bond is affected by artificial reproductive technologies.”

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

This Week in Agribusiness, July 13, 2019

Part 1

Note: The video automatically plays through all show parts once you start.

Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson kick off the show chatting with Greg Soulje as they ponder where this year stands in ag weather history. Delaney Howell reports from Iowa talking with Dr Chad Hart at ISU who has high hopes for the 2019 crop. Rich Nelson of Allendale joins Max and Orion to talk about the latest USDA report and what’s coming in future reports.

Part 2

Rich Nelson of Allendale rejoins Max and Orion to talk about the trade with China and all the other trade challenges facing the markets right now. Chad Colby in the Colby Ag Tech segment visits Dacatur, Ill to find out what’s going on at this year’s Farm Progress Show with show manager Matt Jungmann.  Jennifer Fahy of Farm Aid gives Max the update on this year’s show, set for Sept 21 in Troy, Wisconsin.

Part 3

Max and Orion hear from Jamie Johansen reporting from the Ozarks where the terrible feral hog problem continues as state and federal officials discuss how they are fighting it. Chad Colby returns to review the latest technology in electronics from Kinze.

Part 4

Max and Orion introduce an interview from Patrick Haggerty with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on her new bill that would help establish broadband for rural areas. Roger Ward at WLDS radio in Jacksonville, Ill is on for the farm broadcaster segment. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje joins Max and Orion to look at the forecast for the week ahead.

Part 5

Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje returns to take a look at the long-range weather picture.

Part 6

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max introduces a 1957 Cockshutt Golden Arrow, a very, very rare tractor, owned by Craig Berry in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Orion Samuelson profiles Shelby FFA in Shelby, Ohio, which serves its community in a variety of ways. Member Owen Wallace tells us why he joined the club. In Samuelson Sez, Orion suggests ways you can support your local county fair.

Part 7

Max and Orion get a report from Lynn Ketelsen on a meeting between women food bloggers and farmers in the Twin Cities.

MORNING Midwest Digest, July 12, 2019

Max is at the Farm Days show in Illinois.

Flooding across the Midwest has taken a toll on levies. 

Indiana has been collecting too much in taxes, or not spending enough.

Near Perdue University, Duke Energy will build a solar power plant.

An SUV was pulled over for having an inflatable pool on top of it, with children riding in the pool.

A police dog in Illinois jumped into water after a suspect.

Farm Progress America, July 12, 2019

Max Armstrong continues his look at plant-based meat substitutes with information from a restaurant industry expert. A broad trend – a switch to a more vegetable-based diet – may not support these plant-based meat substitutes. One interesting term that these new-tech foods are avoiding? Vegan. Instead, there’s a focus on ‘plant-based.’

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Mindy Ward

7 ag stories you might have missed this week - July 12, 2019

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Missed some ag news this week? Here are seven stories to catch you up.

1. JPMorgan Chase & Co invested in the agriculture sector in the late 2000s, growing its farm-loan portfolio by 76% between 2008 and 2015. Now, after years of falling farm income, JPMorgan and other banks are heading for the exits with agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks falling 17.5% from December 2015 to March 2019. – Reuters

2. Exports remain one area of optimism for ethanol producers, but that optimism is based on China’s plans to convert to E10 by the end of 2020, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. – Western Farmer Stockman

3. The Local 3403 of the American Federation of Government Employees surveyed National Institute of Food and Agriculture employees and found 71% of staffers say they won’t relocate to Kansas City. The staff has shrunk from 315 in January to 224. – Government Executive

4. The American Jersey Cattle Association awarded the Master Breeder Award to Wilfred, Walter and Roger Owens of Owens Farms Inc., in Frederic, Wis. The herd consists of 721 cows with a December 2018 rolling herd average of 18,970 pounds of milk, 947 pounds of fat and 732 pounds of protein. – Wisconsin Agriculturalist

5. USDA’s NASS has suspended data collection for its annual Honey Bee Colonies report, citing the cost of data collection. The annual survey started in 2015. It gathers data on the number of honeybees per state by quarter. Outside groups have been critical of the Trump administration’s move, saying it’s another way to undermine federal research. – CNN Politics

6. The hay inventory in Ohio has dipped to the fourth-lowest level in the 70 years of reporting inventory. Excessive rainfall is also challenging hay growers. – Ohio Farmer

7. Pea prices are moving higher, driven by rising demand from pet-food makers and the alternative meat movement. Growers in the U.S. and Canada are responding by planting more acres. – Farm Futures

And your bonus.

How did POET biofuels get its start? Lowell Broin bought an inoperable plant in Scotland, S.D., in 1987. His son, Jeff, oversaw the renovation. Within seven years, the plant had reached 10 million gallons a year production. Now, POET is a leading biofuels producer with $8 billion in annual revenue – CNN Business