Boycott Congress and the White House

no-congressI really resent Congress and President Obama for the absolute stupidity they have been exhibiting during this holiday season. Some of us would like to be relaxing with friends and family, enjoying holiday football and taking a last holiday break before having to get back to more regular work schedules again. We wish you all in Washington DC had decided to actually work together and do something that is really important – making some fiscal sense – so that you also could be home relaxing instead of in Washington acting out this tragic comedy.

If Congress and the White House were businesses or products, we could just boycott them to get them to stop acting like complete idiots. It’s like the Three Stooges – the House, the Senate and the President making complete fools of themselves and our nation.

I should be interested in finding out what these people are doing, what is happening with the “farm bill” and the death tax, whether renewable energy tax incentives will be extended, etc., but I am frankly just so disgusted with this train wreck and embarrassed to be an American that I have to be content with boycotting coverage of it on New Year’s Day.

Happy New Year to all and prayers for our nation under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God, on her feast day today. Lord have mercy on us.

OMG GMO!

One of the positive outcomes of the 2012 election was that Californians actually voted against Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). However, those opposed to GMOs continue to attack the technology that increases safe, affordable and abundant food by stepping up their scare tactics.

GMOinside, for example, is urging people to “Celebrate a Non-GMO Thanksgiving!” Check this out:

Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating around the dinner table with family and friends. But, is there an unwanted guest at your table? You may not realize that many common Thanksgiving foods contain genetically engineered ingredients!

The website proceeds to provide a chart to help people “identify the GMOs in popular holiday foods” and urging them to “keep a look out for foods from companies that opposed Prop 37, such as Campbell’s, Coke, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi, Hershey, Unilever.” Oddly enough, turkey is not mentioned on the list, despite the fact that the majority of commercial turkey production uses corn for feed – and most feed corn is genetically-modified.

What really bugs me about the non-GMO movement is that the people who are most against modifying crops to prevent disease or tolerate drought are very much in favor of attempts to genetically-modify humans to prevent or eliminate diseases or increase life spans. What’s wrong with that picture?

One of the main reasons that Thanksgiving is celebrated during this time of the year is to give thanks for the blessings of the harvest. Instead of demonizing GMOs, we should be giving thanks for the scientific breakthroughs that continue to allow us to produce more bountiful harvests every year.

Grocers Join Opposition Against Farmers

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview retired farmer Merle Anderson for my Between the Lines blog (Three Pieces of Advice From the Father of Ethanol). For those who truly know, love and respect Merle, he is none other than the “Father of Ethanol”. Thirty four years ago, Merle got a group of farmers together in Minnesota (he was a farmer in Climax, MN) to see how they could find a home for their surplus crops and their answer: ethanol. For the next 30 years or so, corn happened to be the only crop for ethanol that took off, but if Merle is right, other crops will have their day in the sun too.

Yet despite the successes of the of corn ethanol industry, there is something that is really bugging him and that is the lack of support from the food industry whom he feels should be supporters of a product that helps the food industry, not hurts, them.

Below is a letter to the editor from Merle that we have received permission to reprint. After you read it, you will definitely be looking at groceries in your cart a bit differently – even though you grew the food.

When I walk through the big doors of the Modern Grocery Store it seems like I’m walking through the pearly gates of Food Heaven.

Then I stop and ask myself if farmers produce most of the basic food items in these places, why does the Grocery Industry Lobby join in a lawsuit against farmers and renewable fuels?

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has lobbied against farmers by blaming ethanol for the high cost of food. Not true! The cost of food is up because of three plus dollars a gallon for fuel prices. Cost of processing, wrapping, boxing, and transportation is where your increased costs are.

The GMA has recently joined with Big Oil and others opposing groups in a lawsuit against the EPA because E15 was partially approved in our cars and pickups.

So as I wander through Food Heaven it causes me to ask these questions: Continue reading

R-CALF President Says Livestock Pub Editors Should be Fired

R-CALF USA is not very happy with the way “mainstream” livestock media editorialized about the DOJ/USDA workshop in Colorado last week that was primarily about the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule. In fact, if it were up to the president of the organization, he would “Fire Them All.” I guess hangin’s too good for ‘em!

The “Op-Ed by R-CALF USA President Max Thornsberry, DVM, MBA” directly targets the editors of BEEF magazine, Drovers and Beef Today for what he calls “disparaging and immensely disrespectful” editorials they wrote about the proposed rule and the workshop, prior to it being held last Friday. He charges the editors with attempting “to discourage attendance or to draw attention away from the joint hearing on competition in animal agriculture.”

Dr. Thornsberry is very harsh toward the media in general, saying the beef industry publications just “want to appeal to the big, to those that represent the powerful.” He uses the word “disrespect” repeatedly, yet he clearly has no respect for the very competitive nature of the media business. “I think to be an editor of one of these magazines it should be a requirement to have to feed two pens of fat cattle a year and to independently market them,” he writes. “How can they speak with such contempt to those of us who make a living in the beef production sector, without any real knowledge of how the business operates within the United States today? It would be like me being the editor of Cosmopolitan.”

Maybe you should try that before you criticize, Dr. T. You have no idea what it is like to compete in the media world, which has its own version of packers in an industry that is progressively consolidating on all sides. And when it comes to ag media, you’d probably be surprised at how many of the reporters and editors have marketed their own cattle, either now or in a past life. They probably know more about the industry from more angles than the average cattle producer because that is their job.

Incidentally, I thought the editorials were way more fair than some of the GIPSA stories that we did here on Agwired. Sure, we did an interview with R-CALF to let them explain their position regarding the GIPSA rule, we did have live coverage of the R-CALF rally the night before the hearing, and we did live webcast the entire event so that anyone who wanted to listen could hear all viewpoints. You can thank the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for all of that because they sponsored our coverage and contracted us to do a series of interviews with producers who are concerned about the proposed rule. Thanks to NCBA we were actually able to bring the workshop live with comments from both sides of the issue to over 800 people who could not attend, and audio from some of the panels is now available for listen or download. Thousands of other people have seen our photos, listened to our interviews and interacted with us on this issue. We would not have been able to do without NCBA’s support. Like the rest of the ag media, this website isn’t a hobby farm – we need to make money in order to stay in business.

Sorry, you can’t fire us, or hang us either – you can’t even sue us for not being fair. But, maybe a little respect would be in order.

Can the Local Food Movement Feed the World?

I think that one, living in California, and two, living on a ranch, is causing me to obsess about food. Or maybe it is because publishers keep sending me books about food to review (come back next week for one of those very reviews). Regardless of the reason, I was in Whole Foods last week and the last few times I was there, I noticed that they are labeling all of their fruit and produce by country, and sometimes, city of origin (also known as food labeling a separate topic for discussion). The idea is to support local farmers first, and then to support American farmers second.

There are several driving factors for this change at Whole Foods one of which is that many people believe that as much as possible, they should eat local food. While the definition of local food varies, basically it is food that was produced within 250 miles of where you live. Second, people believe our food supply is not safe and knowing the country of origin of spinach will give them some sort of piece of mind, i.e. American food is safer.

Oftentimes, these same people are promoting that the local food movement will feed the world (and save Africa, yet another discussion you can read about here) but there are some serious problems with this way of thinking. Many people in our country do not live in areas that can even begin to produce food within 250 miles….Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada are just three states that could never produce enough food to feed their populations because they don’t have enough water and they would have to put land into production.

People are criticizing agriculture for the amount of land they use when in reality, farmers are producing MORE each year using LESS land. Hey enviros – are you prepared to put millions of acres of land back into production to ensure your local food supply?

People are also criticizing agriculture for the amount of irrigation needed to grow your food. Do you realize that the local food you eat is irrigated? No food grows without water. That being said, there are companies dedicated to creating hybrids that require less water but still have high yields. There I go again, it’s that less is more thing ag’s got going on.

Don’t get me wrong, I say this all the time and will continue to say it, I’m all for local food production and the support of small, family owned farms – I live on one. But we can not feed the world with local food production. However, production farmers can and will feed the world in a sustainable manner all while producing more from less. Now that’s something we need to get behind.

Why Is Everyone Hating on Meat?

Many of us still have the sting of “Michigan’s Meat Out Day” on our mind. Among the purported reasons for reducing (or eliminating) meat from your diet are to save the Earth from global warming, (cows fart you know), reduce chronic disease, save you money at the grocery story, cure and prevent cancer and prevent childhood obesity. While I will acknowledge all of the issues mentioned above are issues in their own right, I must say that not eating meat will not solely cure any of the above problems.

People have been eating meat since biblical times so I’m not quite sure why everyone is “hating” on meat these days. The latest campaign I’ve come across encouraging people to go “veggie” is from The Cancer Project. They currently have a series of PSAs encouraging people to eat more veggies to help prevent cancer. The ads focus on preventing cancer in general as well as one specific to the prevention of prostate cancer and one on how to “keep our children cancer free.”

In one ad the “Veggie Hunter,” a scientist, searches the jungles around the globe in an attempt to discover remedies to save us from cancer. Ultimately he finds the “cure” in the veggie isle of his local grocery store. In another ad, “Protective Gear” mothers search for ways to keep their children safe from harm only to discover the easiest solution consists of feeding her children a healthy vegetarian diet for the prevention of obesity and cancer.

While vegetarianism may be right for some, it is not right for all. I do agree that it is very important to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains every day. But I also think (backed up by thousands of research studies) that eating meat is also a healthy way to prevent cancer, obesity and other diseases.

Buy Triscuits, Grow Your Own Garden

I was in the grocery store last night and just happened to find myself in the cracker isle when a box caught my eye. It was the new branding for Triscuits. What struck me was that NabiscoWorld is now promoting “home gardening” on the box. When you look at the back of the box there are instructions on how to plant your own garden as well as some seed. On this package it was dill but there are four different packages with four different seeds.

What initially upset me was not so much that NabiscoWorld is promoting growing your own garden. What upset me is that there are so many companies and organizations engaging in campaigns against production farming. Ironically, at the same time, there are companies and organizations trying to end organic farming as well, such as the Grocery Manufacturing Association, because organic farming is cutting into their profits.

What alarms me with these organized smear campaigns is that not only does all type of farming have its place – your own garden, organic gardening or production farming–but that you’re being giving a pack of lies on all sides to get you to quit eating a carrot that wasn’t (or was) organically grown. If you eat organic, you’ll die because the food supply isn’t safe; if you eat a carrot commercially produced, you’ll die because of the pesticides used in the growing process.

I believe in choice. Each person should have the choice to eat food that is grown in a way that corresponds to his or her own belief system. However, what I don’t believe in, is how people are vilifying production farmers for the safe food they produce to feed us here in America and around the world. And maybe most amazing is that each year they do this on less land with less inputs.

The real issue that consumers should be concerned about is how America is going to take the lead to feed more than 9 billion people between 2040-2050. If you end production farming as we know it, then you remove the only viable way to feed to world in the future. So let’s quit bickering and rally to support ALL American farmers.