Archive for the ‘agvocate’ Category

Kudos to Hy-Vee

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

The agricultural industry plays defense time and time again. Food is often a victim of misunderstandings, as most consumers are generations removed from the food source and the process. Food is an entry point to climate change, employment, health, immigration and the economy; making it a pretty easy target.

The most recent misunderstanding: “pink slime” or “lean, finely textured beef”. This controversy over processed food has been all the rage in the media recently.

“The more people are disconnected with their food supply and the sources of their food, the more questions they will have, and we understand that,” said Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance for South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. But, “We don’t produce ‘pink slime.’ We produce 100 percent quality lean beef. That’s it. That whole thing is a farce. There’s no substance to it.”

Hy-Vee, a Midwestern supermarket chain, ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States, and for good reason. Hy-Vee’s “helpful smile” is seen in the meat counter aisle this week as they listened to their customers and released this statement yesterday regarding lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).

“Hy-Vee takes great pride in listening to the voices of our customers and offering them outstanding values on the quality products they want to buy. Following our recent decision to stop purchasing ground beef containing Lean Finely Textured Beef, we heard from many customers who asked us to continue carrying this product. They’ve sent us a clear message: They want a choice when it comes to ground beef, and they want to support companies that provide thousands of jobs in our Midwest trade area. In response to this feedback, Hy-Vee has made a decision to offer both kinds of ground beef – both with and without Lean Finely Textured Beef. Both products will be identified so customers can determine for themselves which type of ground beef they want to buy. This transition is underway and will be implemented in our retail stores as quickly as possible. We thank our customers for sharing their views on this issue, and encourage them to continue telling us what we can do to improve their shopping experience at Hy-Vee.”

I believe Hy-Vee deserves to be commended for their service to consumers and not buckling under the media hype. Consumers and “agvocates”, thanks for making your voice heard and asking for what you wanted from the grocery-store chain.

There is no reason for lost jobs and hurt families over something that’s a non-issue. 236 families have temporarily lost at least one income at just the Garden City, KS plant alone. Hy-Vee took a risk and stepped out in support. Let’s show them we have their back. Let them know on Facebook or write Hy-Vee to show your appreciation.

Letters can be sent to:
Hy-Vee, Inc.
Attn: Rose Comer, VP
5820 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266-8223

You can also fill out a comment form here.

Hy-Vee continues to show that consumers come first. Please join me in thanking them.

For more information on LFTB:
Get the Facts on Lean Beef Trimmings

Meat-processing company gets chewed up in ‘pink slime’ uproar

NPR: Why ‘Pink Slime’ Isn’t That Different From Other Meat Products

Pink slime push-back: Someone smarter, or more emotional, than me has to figure this out

Kansas Joins CommonGround Program

Farmers Greet Guests with Delicious Food and Genuine Conversations at State Launch

The Kansas State University Lady Wildcats may have shot better hoops than the University of Kansas Lady Jayhawks Saturday night, but the real winners were the farm women who started a conversation about food at Allen Fieldhouse prior to the game.  Teresa Brandenburg, Kara James and LaVell Winsor hosted dinner to launch the Kansas arm of the CommonGround program—a national grassroots movement, designed to bridge the gap between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.

The event brought together members of the media, academics and government officials to discuss modern farming. During the dinner, guests were invited to partake in conversation about farming and food while enjoying delicious food and the company of the new Kansas CommonGround volunteer farmers.

The reason Kansas became a part of the CommonGround movement was clear during dinner as Alton, Kan. CommonGround volunteer, Teresa Brandenburg explained, “many consumers are confronted by a barrage of inaccurate information and rumors about food. All three of us (volunteers) want to share our stories and personal understanding of agriculture and food.” She also noted, “who is better to tell that story than someone like me, a mom, and a farmer?” Throughout the dinner, the volunteers shared anecdotes from their farm and used their agriculture knowledge and expertise to address guest’s concerns about our nation’s food supply.

Many questions were about the locavore movement and organic farming, but LaVell Winsor, a grain farmer from Grantville, Kan. said, “many of the topics we discussed centered around the facts on organics and implications of a shift toward eating locally produced foods.” She enjoyed being able to address misconceptions throughout the evening. “Some of the attendees pulled me into a discussion on the benefits of organics to ask for my thoughts.  I explained that, while farmers in our country do provide a variety of healthy, safe options, there is no evidence that organic production results in a more nutritious, healthier choice. Really, they could rest assured that they were providing their family with the wholesome nourishment they need whether they buy organic or conventionally produced foods. It was great being able to put a face and a name with agriculture so that people knew they can contact a real person about farming and food!”

To close out the evening, guest were encouraged to fill their reusable CommonGround grocery bags with facts about food production and recipes the volunteers shared from their own kitchens. Following the dinner, the entire group was invited to join in the festivities and watch the University of Kansas women’s basketball team take on their rivals from Manhattan.

“As a Kansas CommonGround volunteer, I hope our guests left with a better understanding of how food is grown and that, as farmers, we want to speak with the public about what we do,” said Karra James, CommonGround volunteer from Clay Center, Kan. “When farmers like myself say something about food I think our message comes from a more genuine place because we are connected directly to agriculture.”

The CommonGround program is moving forward in 15 states including Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dokata, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.

Want to join the CommonGround Conversation? Stay tuned for more CommonGround Kansas updates and what you can to help.

Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/FindOurCommonGround

Twitter: www.twitter.com/commongroundks

Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundKansas

Blog: http://commongroundkansas.wordpress.com/

About the volunteers:

Teresa Brandenburg from Alton, Kansas

Teresa was the 2006 American Honey Princess, crown and all.  But that hardly serves as her only contribution to agriculture. Starting out, Teresa grew up in a small town in Iowa where her dad drove a truck hauling farm commodities. Teresa started raising livestock with her family when she was 10.  Now, she and her husband, Luke, are the fourth generation on his family’s farm. Their son, Jacob, represents the fifth generation.  She is currently serving on the Kansas Soybean Association Board of Directors, and enjoys working with her husband to raise cattle, corn, milo, soybeans and wheat.

LaVell Winsor from Grantville, Kansas

LaVell has a unique perspective on agriculture, having worked as a farmer with responsibility for merchandising and managing grain sales while keeping financial records, and outside of the farm with other growers as a business consultant specializing in risk-management.  Coupled with her previous experience in succession and estate planning, LaVell understands the vast array of financial issues facing farmers and agriculture as a whole.

Karra James From Clay Center, Kansas

Karra works with her husband Derek on his parent’s farm to grow grain, raise cattle and, more importantly, their elementary school-aged son and daughter.  Having earned a degree in Food Science and worked in the food safety field, Kara understands the science behind many of the questions consumers have about their food. As she increases her involvement on the farm, she also broadens her perspective on the modern technologies and techniques they use every day.

Lori Deyoe From Ulysses, Kansas

Farming is Lori’s heritage from several generations back on both sides of her family, and her work has always reflected that. She is a farmer’s daughter, the wife of a cattleman and mom to two children. Even her education, a degree in agricultural economics with minors in animal science and women’s studies from Kansas State University, is rooted in agriculture. Before Lori and her husband started a family, she worked as the assistant grain manager at an elevator in town. And currently, Lori coordinates logistics for their small beef feed yard; handles the accounting; and writes on their blog about agriculture. No need to say it – this woman is all about farming.

About CommonGround™

CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. CommonGround was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in an effort to give farm women the opportunity to speak with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA.

Food Day- 365

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

A couple weeks ago I noticed something different about the bananas I picked up at the grocery store. They had a sticker on them advertising some sort of holiday, called “Food Day,” taking place on October 24. Naturally, being an advocate for agriculture, I was instantly curious.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has launched Food Day, a campaign to “change the way Americans eat and think about food.” CSPI says that Food Day is designed to “encourage people to support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.” Sounds like a slogan for agriculture to me! Farmers want to produce healthy food for their families, their communities and the rest of the world. We all want affordable food. Farmers and ranchers are practicing sustainability and humane animal welfare daily.

On the Food Day website, there are six key points outlined as goals. I’ve got beef with some of these points and would like to go through each of them to share some thoughts.

1) Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.

Of course! Farmers and ranchers want to provide the world with safe, healthy and affordable food. Remember that these folks feed their families the food they produce.

2) Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness.
Farmers were the first environmentalists. With today’s farming techniques, it’s possible to have great yields, while improving the soil and protecting the environment. By caring for the land and the environment, farmers can continue producing great crops that help provide quality, safe food. Often times, farm land is passed down through generations so growers want to ensure that their land is well cared for. I won’t get into subsidies but Caci, a farm wife from South Carolina, explains farm subsidies further on her blog.

3) Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.
Farmers and ranchers support efforts to alleviate hunger in our own country, as well as across the globe. You will find that these folks donate to food banks and a variety of charitable causes. Here’s just one example. Today, one farmer produces enough food in one year to feed 156 people. If we relied on the food production systems of 1950, as some are suggesting, approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. today would be without food. That’s everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry! Additionally, placing restrictions of the U.S. food system that limit the ability to produce the food we need will increase the cost of food and limit healthy, affordable food choices for all of us, including those who can least afford it. Today’s food system works to address hunger and food insecurity, and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.

4) Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms.
Wait, what exactly is a factory farm? As Chuck Jolley, a Kansas City freelance writer wrote for The Pork Network, “Those big, bad, evil factory farms? Most of them are run by your neighbor, his wife and kids. Maybe there are even a few grandchildren lending a hand. And they offer employment in areas where there aren’t a lot of other opportunities. They are the leading businesses in rural America, producing billions of dollars worth of goods at a scant few pennies on the dollar. They feed most Americans and a stunning portion of the rest of the world and, hopefully, your neighbor, his wife and kids can go to bed at night, satisfied with a job well-done and a lifestyle they love.”

As Dawn Caldwell, a Nebraska producer writes in her blog. “Regardless, if we have 10 or 10,000 animals, if we don’t treat them well, they won’t treat us well. It takes a special kind of person to own or work on a farm – there aren’t many of us left here in the U.S. We are a few proud folks doing our best to continually improve farming methods and products for a rapidly growing population.”

Today, 98 percent of all farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Actually, just two percent of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations. Size shouldn’t define a family farm or “factory farm”. If global food production is to more than double by 2050, there’s enough work to be done by both large and small farms.

Like you, farmers and ranchers expect every ounce of their food to be healthy, affordable, and most importantly, safe. That is why they go to great lengths to care for their animals. Not only is the right thing to do, but animals that are threatened or sick simply will not produce as well as healthy animals. With constant temperature monitoring and on-call veterinary care, America’s farmer and ranchers pride themselves on adhering to the strictest quality assurance and certification standards.

5) Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
The farmers I know are supportive of free enterprise. Parents are best equipped to make nutritional decisions for their families. The agricultural community wants to continue an open dialogue with consumers. If you have questions concerning the production of your food, ask a farmer. Here is a list of producers who would be happy to address your questions and concerns.

6) Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.
Agriculture is a vital part of our lives and our economy. U.S. agriculture and related industries account for one in 12 jobs nationwide. We want to provide fair wages and conditions for all workers.

Food Day conversations and activities will be taking place across the nation on October 24 but farmers and ranchers are speaking up about the food they produce every day. Now, more than ever, farmers are noticing the disconnect between agriculture and the consumer and are doing something about it. Join the conversations on Twitter regarding food production by following #FoodD, #FoodDay365 and #CGconvo. Below is a list of resources that may be helpful in answering your questions about food.

Resources:
Registered Dietitian’s Food Day Pledge Takes Aim at What’s Wrong With Most Advice

Shouldn’t Every Day be Food Day?, The Center For Food Integrity

Real Farmers, Real Food

Food Dialogues, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

CommonGround

Cause Matters, Connecting Gate to Plate

Connecting with Consumers

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

“Consumers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Makes sense right? A salesman may be very knowledgeable about the product he is selling but unless he has a sincere interest in me and my needs or wants, I’m simply not interested in doing business with that salesperson and possibly, that company.

With that said, farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be surprised by consumers wanting to know that they care about the health of their family- someone they may not personally know. A study done by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) showed that of early adopters, 86 percent had done an online search on food nutrition in the past six months. Seventy-nine percent had searched the safety of food, and over 40 percent searched topic including the use of technology in growing food, humane treatment of animals raised for food, and environmental sustainability in farming.

Who are these “early adopters” I speak of? Early adopters are the folks in society most capable of changing consumer attitudes. The rest of society tends to follow these early adapters, which is why CFI felt it was important to study this group and the role websites and social media play in forming their opinions on food. Knowing this information makes it possible for agricultural groups better engage these folks and determine how to better communicate with them.

Do you remember when the iPod first hit the market? Those that bought them when they first came out would be considered early adopters. By 2007, Apple sold over 100 million iPods.

So as farmers and ranchers, how can you connect with your consumers? Today it is easier than ever to communicate with people around the world. Forty-eight percent of early adopters indicated that they frequently visit Facebook and 30 percent they frequently use YouTube.

Just under half of early adopters (46%) believed that the information found on the Internet strongly helped to shape their opinions on the safety of food. Four out of 10 (41%) believed that information they found on the Internet strongly helped to shape their opinions about the nutrition of food. About one out of three (35%) believed this information strongly helped to shape their opinions about the humane treatment of animals raised for food and environmental sustainability in farming.

There’s no question that the internet and social media shape opinions. Even through social media, farmers can show that they care for the consumer. What are you doing to communicate with society about your farming practices and the food you produce? Be it a Facebook account, blog, or letter to the editor, listen to the concerns of consumers and be proactive.

View the research- 2011 Early Adopter Web Research: Targeting Early Adopters to Build Consumer Trust

Become an advocate for agriculture!

Chinese agriculture and America’s role

Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum communications specialist, DeEtta Bohling recently returned from Northeast China as a delegate on the U.S. Grains Council’s Corn Tour. Through Twitter, she met Meghan Blythe who also just returned from China as a part of Kansas State’s Animal Science program. DeEtta got Meghan’s take on the experience and the lessons she learned agriculture in China.

DB: Meghan, tell me a little about yourself. Agriculture has always been an important part of your life, I assume it will also play a role in your future career?

MB: I grew up on an Angus Cattle Ranch in White City, Kan. Wanting to stay involved in the agriculture industry, I came to Kansas State University to major in Agriculture Economics. With this degree I hope to be a source of objective facts for the agriculture industry and government in the future.

DB: I was introduced to you by your mom on Twitter (@DebbieLB) and was interested in your trip to China, as I recently returned from China as well. You went on behalf of the Animal Science department at K-State University, correct?

The study abroad group

MB: Yes, I embarked on this trip to China along with 15 other students and 2 professors through the Animal Science department at K-State. We spent 12 days abroad visiting Chinese farms and agriculture firms in addition to touring the country.

DB: How does animal agriculture differ in China compared to the United States?

MB: After visiting many Chinese farms, I realized that the American definition of a “farm” was vastly different than the Chinese definition. A farm by U.S. standards is organized, large-scale, and uses production methods based on sound science and efficiency, but the Chinese farms are small-scale, with methods rooted in history and tradition. This mindset took some adjustment. The first beef cattle farm we visited was described as large; however, this feedlot held a total of 1,000 head.

DB: The United States has very strict regulations when it comes to food production. What safety concerns does China have when it comes to food and what precautions do they take?

A man sleeping on the meat counter

MB: The largest shock I got was not from the food or the vast crowds or the pollution, it was the wholesale meat market. The market conditions can only be described in one way… unsanitary. The building that housed the meat market was room temperature, on the verge of being hot, and in the short 5 minutes that I was there I saw vendors sleeping on the meat counters and picking up meat that had fallen in the aisles. Seeing the meat market conditions made me appreciate the safe food supply established in America.

DB: Did you tour any crop fields or have an opportunity to speak to the farmers and ranchers?

MB: While our tour was mainly animal agriculture focuses, we did tour some vegetable patches and greenhouses and drove past many crop fields. In an agriculture museum in Xian (central China), I recognized an old, wooden plow on display. It was a plow designed to be pulled behind oxen like that which I had seen in history books depicting farming methods of the 1800’s. The plaque next to this plow stated that this tool was used in China only 50 years ago in the 1960’s!

DB: In speaking with a hog producer in NE China, he mentioned that hog prices were historically high and that high corn prices were affecting profits. He also said there were concerns for a new foot and mouth disease variants. Did you hear of this in the areas you visited?

MB: In the beef cattle feedlots we visited near Jinan (east central China) the concern of foot and mouth disease was mentioned, but we didn’t really encounter any other incidents.

Meghan (right) and a friend at a beef feedlot

DB: What do you think the future of agriculture looks like for China?

MB: My first exposure to Chinese agriculture was passing a Chinaman herding sheep alongside the freeway just outside Beijing. This encounter exemplifies the dilemma faced by China. As the cities swell with population growth, the traditional agriculture methods will not be able to meet the demand. This strain will present American agriculture with a huge opportunity as China will more than likely rely on the U.S. for food imports.

DB: In the United States we have folks such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States that promote veganism. Are their groups like this in China?

MB: When asking the manager of a Chinese feedlot about the reason for using a natural (no hormone, no implant) program, he responded that the Chinese people demanded it. He went on to explain that the Chinese people are becoming more concerned about animal welfare and handling practices. While this concern is being voiced, he made no mention of activist groups similar to PETA and HSUS. And from learning that many Chinese agriculture laborers are employed by the government in order to ensure that federal regulations are upheld, I would infer that activist groups are not tolerated in communist China.

DB: What would you like Kansas farmers and ranchers to know about Chinese agriculture?

MB: China is a force to be reckoned with in terms of economics and foreign policy. Their expanding middle class is following the model of the American middle class. They are buying more cars, eating more meat, and moving to the city. Like in America, the number of Chinese agriculture employees has decreased over the past 50 years. One difference remains completely overlooked, and that is that the Chinese agriculture production methods have not evolved (at least not enough) to sustain the growing population. The solution to this challenge will be revealed over time, but I predict it will present a huge opportunity for the American farmers and ranchers.  More than ever the world is going to look to Kansas farmers and ranchers for food.

DB: Animal agriculture is constantly being blamed by animal rights activists and environmentalist. What one thing would you recommend farmers do to improve this issue?

MB: China doesn’t have an issue with special interest groups because the communist government prohibits criticism. In America, activists have the freedom to voice their opinion, and so do you. As farmers and ranchers you have the ability, the right, and the freedom to tell your story to the public and voice your thoughts and views on government regulations. Sometimes it takes a challenge to reveal an opportunity. The challenge of animal rights activists and environmentalist groups has made the consuming public eager for your story. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Follow Meghan on Twitter: @MeghanBlythe 

Check out more of Meghan’s guest blog posts

Sigma Alpha Sorority Promotes Ag at KSU

Guest post by Beth Holz

Growing up on a diversified farm I witnessed my uncle, father and grandfather working early mornings, late nights, and every weekend. My grandfather never went into retirement, he spent everyday on the farm, up until the day he passed in his nineties. When physical labor was no longer plausible because of his age, he was in the office discussing markets, animal care, and business strategies. He devoted his whole life, with pride, to the farm-a lifetime of hard work to feed the world. This is quintessential of agriculturists across the nation.

As a gesture of thanks the Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority at Kansas State University wanted to educate and remind students of all farmers do. On Thursday March 31, sorority members hosted a “Give Thanks to Agriculture” display at the student union. The display included a grocery cart containing over 90 loaves of bread, depicting the amount of bread from one bushel of wheat.

Over 200 t-shirts showed the use of cotton, and a diagram of 156 people demonstrated how many people one farmer feeds. In addition, commodity groups,  including the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Association, donated gear and educational materials to hand out to students. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to write a message and sign flip charts thanking a farmer. The campaign went beyond the walls of the union. Sigma Alpha members, decked out in pink t-shirts with the slogan “Give Thanks to Agriculture” stamped across the front, handed out fliers with various agriculture facts and statistics across campus. The girls focused on the side of campus where agriculture classes are not held, in an attempt to reach those not as familiar with farming and ranching.

Not only did this campaign give Kansas State students the opportunity to show gratitude for their food, fuel, and clothing, it was valuable to the sisters of Sigma Alpha, myself included. The support that we received from different agriculture groups and businesses was astonishing. When I see how excited agriculturalists are about education and awareness, it makes me want to continue spreading the word. The more we support each other as advocates and offer our many resources, the more people we can reach with positive messages.

I felt honored this week to be apart of an event that shows thanks to farmers. Farming is a time consuming, back-breaking, high risk job that the world depends on for survival. If you ate, got dressed or used a vehicle today, don’t forget to thank a farmer and spread positive messages about agriculture.

———————————–
Beth Holz is a Junior at Kansas State University Majoring in Agriculture Communications. She is originally from Grand Junction, Iowa, where her family have fed cattle and raised corn for 4 generations. Beth was involved in the operations, as well as involved in the 4-H program on the state level.

She is involved in several agriculture clubs on campus, such as Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority, Kansas State Dairy Judging Team, and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow. She enjoys the agriculture industry, and has enjoyed her internships with AIB international and The Kansas Soybean Commission.

She plans to graduate in May 2012, and pursue a career in the grain industry, or at a full service communications firm.

From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Social media allows me to read and skim numerous headlines and articles relating to a variety of topics throughout the day. One article in particular, caught my attention yesterday- Teen saves pet chicken from slaughter at school.

Whitney Hillman, a student at Concordia, Kan., High School, was enrolled in an animal science and food production class. She was given a chicken to raise as a part of the class and on slaughter day she grabbed the chicken and headed to a getaway vehicle driven by her stepfather.

Hillman said “I got two days in-school suspension, but I don’t care”. “They made him my pet and then wanted me to kill him. I couldn’t do that.”

Hillman says she didn’t know that raising and slaughtering a chicken would be a part of the class until it was too late to drop the course. However, I’m curious what she expected from the animal science and food production class.

In a written statement, Concordia Principal Greg Errebo said, “We come from an agricultural part of the nation, and our students need to understand that food doesn’t magically appear on our plates at home or in a restaurant. Animals are used to feed us, and there is a process in the raising of those animals from birth to consumption.”

I agree with Errebo that it is extremely important for youth and adults alike to understand food production and where our food comes from, however its important wherever you live. After all, we eat.

Animal agriculture teaches young people pride, perseverance, work ethic and leadership. The way I see it, the teacher was trying to communicate the same lesson that 4-Hers and FFA youth learn the first time they enter the sale ring with the animal that they have fed, cared for and prepared to show. It’s hard for youth to say good bye to a friend, someone they have spent a great deal of time with. It’s also vital that they realize however, that their animal will go to feed a family who needs the nutrients the animal offers.

In order for us to survive, organisms must perish- be it a tomato, the grasshopper hit by a combine during harvest, or a chicken. Today, this lesson isn’t easy to learn, let alone to teach. Chicken didn’t just appear at KFC and that steak you had last night wasn’t a miracle. Farmers and ranchers care for their animals and produce a safe and nutritious food supply for us all.

If you haven’t checked out Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog , I encourage you to do so. Those of you who are in agriculture- continue to share your story. For ideas on how to do so, check out our “Agvocate” post.

Additional reading:
New Way to Help Chickens Cross to the Other Side

 

Immerse yourself in social media

Re-posted from Corn Commentary
Today, the web has revolutionized the way that people communicate by providing people direct access to millions of other users without any sort of media filter.  The population of web users using social networking sites to obtain information about the world is growing exponentially. Facebook now boasts a population larger than the United States with 461 million users. Facebook users are not all teenagers either; nearly two-thirds of users are beyond college age, and the fastest-growing user group is women over the age of 50.

Anti-ag activist groups are taking advantage of this opportunity.  According to Cause Matters Corp. research:

  • HSUS: Nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter & growing with celebrity connection – 50x increase since January 2009
  • PETA: 614,000 Facebook fans  (quadrupled in 9 months) and 69,000 Twitter followers
  • Greenpeace: 43,000 followers on Twitter & 488,000 FB fans (tripled in 9 months)
  • Farm Sanctuary: 24,000 Facebook fans (tripled in 9 months) & 6,400 Twitter followers

With food taking center stage in the media, farmers need to harness the power of their respected and trusted position in society by taking either message directly to the people.  At Butterscotch.com, adults can watch a series of simple, well orchestrated tutorials that help them set up a Facebook page “for grownups.”  By following the simple steps in the videos, anyone can learn how to use this free, convenient social media tool.

Then, learn from the people who know social media best.  Make “friends” with Facebook pros like the National Corn Growers Association, Darrin Ihnen, Michele Payn-Knoper and Chuck Zimmerman.  Watching the messages on their “walls” will help you understand how to best get your story out.

98.5 percent of the population is not longer engaged in agriculture.  Growers may producer their food, but it is time to fight back and educate them on the issues that affect farming.  Take an active role in under ten minutes a day and try out Facebook today.

Original post on Corn Commentary

Factory Farms Exposed

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Who doesn’t love choices? I believe it is important to have choices and that informed decisions are vital, especially when it comes to choosing your food.

We all have friends or family that chose to be a vegetarian or vegan. I am always curious to hear why they made that decision. The answer I dread— “because of factory farming”.

I often hear folks throw around the term “factory farming” without any knowledge of modern animal agriculture practices. Animal rights activists continue to spread an astonishing number of half-truths and errors when it comes to animal ag.

People who use the term “factory farming” seem to think family farms are a thing of the past. Perhaps they believe this because family farmers have a certain number of animals or purchased more land to become more profitable. Today 98 percent of all farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Actually, just two percent of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations.

Farmers and ranchers, just like you, expect every ounce of their food to be healthy, affordable and most importantly, safe. That is why they go to great lengths to care for their animals. Not only is it the right thing to do, but animals that are threatened or sick simply will not produce as well as healthy animals. It simply does not make economic sense to mistreat animals on a farm, just as it doesn’t make sense for a crop farmer to mistreat the land he farms. With constant temperature monitoring and on-call veterinary care, America’s farmers and ranchers pride themselves on adhering to the strictest quality assurance and certification standards. This way, you can be assured that your American raised product is the best and safest on the market.

Often times, factory farms are thought of to be where animals are confined and crowded. The truth is, animals are kept in barns to protect the health and welfare of the animal. Housing protects animals from predators, disease, and extreme climate. Housing also reduces the stress of breeding and birth, protects the young animals, and makes it easier for farmers to care for their animals. Today, housing is well ventilated, climate controlled, clean and scientifically designed to meet the needs of the animals.

Chickens are always a hot topic when it comes to farming practices. Broilers (young meat chickens) are not raised in cages. They are raised in large open structures known as grow houses. Again, housing is vital to provide comfortable and safe living conditions for the animal. The broiler chicken today is larger and sturdier than in years past, thanks to continuous advancements in the science of poultry nutrition and selective breeding. There is no genetic modification or genetic engineering in the broiler industry.

Can we ensure pig welfare using current production methods? Today, there are multiple facility options for hog producers and each has advantages and disadvantages. The term “confinement” is commonly used to describe indoor systems. However, all pigs raised for food in the U.S. are confined, including those that are confined by fences or semi- permanent housing systems. Modern indoor confinement systems provide a safe living environment for the hogs and also provide a cleaner and healthier environment for the animals since the floor and surface can be adequately cleaned.

Studies prove that pigs raised in outdoor systems and particularly, antibiotic free pigs, may harbor parasites (such as Trichinella and Toxoplasma) that are simply not found in pigs raised in indoor systems. Salmonella infection is also more common in pigs raised outdoors. Farmers and ranchers choose the housing system that they feel works best for their animal and their operation. Housing systems are so varied that pork producers may even adopt different systems for different stages of production.

How can we be sure that livestock are treated humanely in meat packing plants? Animal handling in meat plants has never been better. For more than four decades, the industry has been subject to the federal Humane Slaughter Act of 1958. Federal inspectors are present in meat plants at all times and are fully empowered to take action against a plant for Humane Slaughter Act violations. No other sector of animal agriculture is regulated and inspected for animal handling practices as thoroughly as meat packing plants.

In the last two decades, the industry initiated a number of voluntary initiatives that include enhanced animal handling training, implementation of voluntary guidelines and the use of self-audits to assess welfare and maintain continuous improvement.

So, if the farms you are calling “factory farms” are family owned and the animals are comfortable and being cared for, the only characteristic left to make it a factory farm in your book must be the size.

Marlys Miller said it best in an article on The Cattle Network:

“At what point is a farm too big to be a family farm? I would argue that size doesn’t matter.

The 20-cow dairy involving a husband, wife and three kids is a family farm. But so is the dairy owned by two adult brothers who milk 3,000 cows, which involves their families and 15 employees.

Size should not be part of the family farm equation and agriculture needs to support each other more broadly and speak more uniformly. There have always been big farms and ranches and small farms and ranches, one is not right and the other wrong. Both can survive and both can fail. As with any business, the key is to find a niche and fill it, just don’t drag others down in the effort. If global food production is to more than double by 2050, there’s enough work to be done by everyone.”

As Chuck Jolley, a Kansas City free lance writer says on The Pork Network,

“Those big, bad, evil factory farms? Most of them are run by your neighbor, his wife and kids. Maybe there are even a few grandchildren lending a hand. And they offer employment in areas where there aren’t a lot of other opportunities. They are the leading businesses in rural America, producing billions of dollars worth of goods at a scant few pennies on the dollar. They feed most Americans and a stunning portion of the rest of the world and, hopefully, your neighbor, his wife and kids can go to bed at night, satisfied with a job well-done and a lifestyle they love.”

We all make choices. Only you can make the best decision for yourself. Be informed and ask questions. Ask a local farmer for a tour of their farm or visit one on the web. There are more than 300,000,000 people living in the U.S. Only 2,000,000 farm so the rest of us can eat. Each and everyday farmers with operations of all sizes wake up and make a decision to provide you with safe, nutritious and affordable food, caring for their animals and giving back to their communities.


Recommended sites:

A look at the meaning of “factory farm”
Temple Grandin Addresses Animal Welfare
Choose to Choose
USDA Animal Welfare
Cattle Network: What Defines a Family Farm?
Farmers Feed US
HumaneWatch: Animal Agriculture
Life on a KS Cattle Ranch
The Truth About Modern Pork Production
Why I Choose to Eat Meat
Don’t be misled



Farmers and Ranchers Care for Animals in Order to Produce Safe and Abundant Food Supply

By: Kiley Stinson, Intern

I recently had the opportunity to take in some of the most fascinating and historical landmarks of our country when visiting our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.  It was truly a remarkable experience, and puts our American History in a whole different perspective once you’ve been. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to go.

After braving the heat for several hours, in an attempt to cool off we checked out the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Coincidentally, across the street sits the United States Department of Agriculture building. While trying to weave in-and-out of a cluster of people, I noticed the young woman walking in front of me stopped and picked up a pretty colorful magazine. To my surprise in bold lettering the heading read “Go Vegetarian, Go Vegan.” So who were the culprits with their logo clearly printed on the front cover? PETA. All it took was one flip of a page to see the lies and misinterpretation of information attacking animal agriculture. Animal rights activist groups such as PETA and also the HSUS quite frequently use facts and information out of context in order to frame farm animal production in a negative manner. These groups effectively get the attention of young hearts by using emotion through words, photos and videos that show animals being abused and neglected and often include so called “testimonies” by celebrities and professional athletes.

So what did the articles have to say this time? In highlighted text, phrases such as “many pigs go insane from extremely crowded conditions in factory farms, and compulsively chew on the bars of their pens.” A lot of folks might not realize this, but pigs chew on everything! Especially young pigs, I know this from raising pigs on my farm. It’s not uncommon to see a pig chewing on a panel, your shoes, a stick or even a marshmallow! This just goes to show that just because a picture shows a pig chewing on the panel of a pen, doesn’t mean that animal is in danger. You can’t believe everything you see. It’s common practice by farmers and livestock producers to keep their animals in a pen to protect them harmful predators. Whether that potential predator is a coyote, a cat, or actions taken as a preventative biosecurity measure to ensure that their farm stays clean and free of disease. It’s all done to provide a safe and healthy food supply for consumers. If animal rights activists are so appalled to the idea of young animals being kept in a pen, were they not one of the millions of kids whose parents used playpens when they were growing up? Play pens protect children from wandering off away from their parents, and provides a safe place to nap, play or snack.. Hmm… sounds similar to how farmers keep their animals safe and happy.

The challenge? Many will believe almost anything on television or in a magazine, even if the message isn’t even close to being accurate. Many families are no where near as self sufficient as their ancestors once were. Many men and women don’t know how that corn, lettuce or hamburger got to their table. This isn’t just an issue in urban cities either. It’s happening in your community. Families are several generations removed from their family farm.

How can you help? Talk. It doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer, livestock producer or the consumer. Tell your story, talk about how much you care, how far you go out of your way to see that what you are producing or eating is safe and wholesome. Write a letter to the editor. Let your neighbors and coworkers know about how good those sirloin steaks and corn on the cob was last night for supper. Talk to your child’s school board about the importance of ag education. Join a social network. Call a farmer or rancher and ask if you can have a tour. I almost guarantee they would be just as excited as you, if not more to talk to you about their livelihood, and the lifestyle that they are oh, so proud of!

Temple Grandin addresses animal welfare
Factory Farms EXPOSED

Don’t be misled

Assault on Agriculture
Become an Advocate for Agriculture
The Animal Rights Agenda
What is the Humane Society of the United States?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.