Archive for the ‘farm’ Category

Aunt Velma’s Strong Hands and Warm Heart

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Last week I attended my great-aunt Velma’s funeral. Velma passed away at the age of 87 in my hometown in Southwest Iowa.

After graduating from high school, Velma taught in three one-room country schools, Eureka No. 1, Eureka No. 8 and Jackson No. 6 for six years. She later married a farmer and gave birth to six children.

As I sat through the service last Friday listening to Velma’s children and grandchildren speak, I caught onto something each of them mentioned. Velma was not “just a housewife” but a partner in the family farm. She worked side by side with her husband with all the outside chores and kept records of transactions.

Velma, just like many women in agriculture, was a hard worker on and off the farm. Raising children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, growing crops, caring for animals, keeping records, and tending to the garden were all in a day’s work. When time allowed, she would also squeeze in some of her personal interests such as reading, genealogy, local history and sending cards and letters to family and friends. More often than not, we don’t give credit to the women who represent family farms across the U.S.

If you are not familiar with an initiative called CommonGround, I encourage you to check it out the website. CommonGround is a collaborative effort created by the National Corn Growers Association and the United Soybean Board. It was developed to help develop strong grassroots campaigns that provide farm women with the tools and opportunities to speak directly with the public about farming.

Nebraska and Iowa both launched their CommonGround initiatives at Hy-Vee stores in the city, giving consumers an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the CommonGround spokeswomen. Through this direct, open communication, the shoppers learned the true story about agriculture without media filters while the new spokeswomen developed a better understanding of the concerns facing the 98.5 percent of the U.S. population no longer involved in agriculture.

I am certain that Velma’s passion for the land and putting healthy, bountiful food on the table will live on through many. Women like Velma are truly an asset to American agriculture.

Let’s Celebrate!

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

St. Patty’s Day is Thursday but I’m wearing green today. Why you ask? I’m celebrating National Ag Day!

This morning corn, wheat, soybean, and grain sorghum growers in Kansas gathered for the annual “Wake Up To Kansas” pancake feed. Growers made breakfast for the legislators in Topeka as a thank you for their continued support in agricultural issues.

I say that I’m celebrating today, but really I celebrate farmers and ranchers every day-each time I open my refrigerator, when I brush my teeth (toothpaste is made with corn), when I pull on my leather boots and all the times I fill up with ethanol on my way home from work.

If you were stopped on the street asked what you know and thought about farmers, what would you say? Here is what the folks in NYC had to say. I wasn’t surprised by the answers given. Your first thought was likely, “Silly city people. They don’t know anything about agriculture.”

I encourage you to remember that these answers don’t just come from the big cities. Many in rural communities are just as disconnected when it comes to farming and agriculture. Today, less than 2% of Americans farm. In 1910, 98% of America’s population were farmers.

The gap between the farm gate and the dinner plate keeps getting larger. With technology and social media, advocates for agriculture have the resources and the opportunity to close the gap. More than ever, people are concerned, interested, and curious about where their food comes from. Farmers and ranchers- let’s continue to show them wholesome, American, family farms- just like yours. Consumers- keep challenging us and asking questions. And don’t forget to thank a farmer for producing feed, fuel, food and fiber!

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Corn Commentary: Burritos Without Integrity

Chipotle’s newest campaign to make a buck once again serves up an attack on farmers with a phony newspaper filled with self-promotion and at least one glaring error. At the risk of repeating a negative, they significantly downplay the role of family farms in an attempt to perpetuate a make-believe distinction between “family farms” and so-called “factory farms.” Their non-sourced stat provides a much lower number than reality; according to the USDA, family farms of different sizes account for 98 percent of farms and 82 percent of production.

And it really is nice they offer a column called “Ask Chipotle” but they really should provide contact information so we can send in questions.

In the end, this newspaper proves useful – for providing a placemat to soak up all the drippings of their thousand-calorie burritos.

By Ken Colombini, NCGA Director of Communications
Originally posted on Corn Commentary.

 

Oprah’s Vegan Challenge

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Tuesday afternoon I sat down with my pen and paper to watch Oprah’s Food 201- The Vegan Challenge. For those of you who remember my article “Rejected by Oprah,” you know that I have been an Oprah fan for years, but it had been a while since I had watched her show.

The last time I wrote about Oprah I was fired up about guest, Michael Pollan spreading mis-truths about modern ag production. What made me even more angry was that my comments to Oprah about these assumptions where not only deleted but that I was banned from making any additional comments to her Facebook page.

During Oprah’s Food 201 show, she encouraged her staff to sign up for a week-long vegan challenge. 378 employees signed up for the challenge. Some fell off the bandwagon, some decided to continue to be vegan (or “veganish”) but for all, it was an eye-opener.

There’s a lot that I actually liked about this show. I enjoyed watching as Cargill opened up their plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado to investigative reporter, Lisa Ling and showed that they are committed to treating the animals with dignity and respect. The cattle are harvested carefully and Ling said she was impressed that everything ran like clockwork. Ling says she will continue to enjoy eating meat but that she has a new appreciation for the animals.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- many consumers are completely disconnected from the food chain. That’s why it’s important for farmers to continue to make the connection of how our food gets from the farm gate to the dinner plate. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other forms of social media have all proven to be valuable resources for farmers and ranchers to get their message out in this day of age.

I laughed to myself a few weeks ago when reading a friend’s blog who left Iowa for a few months to be Ag Education student teacher in Houston, Texas.

She writes: “My first week here I went with a couple students and Mr. Arkadie to some surrounding elementary students to host livestock petting zoos for students. One group of 2nd graders came out of the building and the principal told the teacher they were to visit the lamb first. The teacher nodded at the principal and said “the lamb? Ok, which one’s that?”….I wish I had this story to tell three months ago when people were asking why on earth I thought I needed to go to Houston to teach agriculture education.”

The disconnect, however, isn’t happening just in the cities. It’s also taking place in our rural communities.

Let’s take this vegan challenge a step further. I enjoyed Mike Haley’s blog post about the challenge in which he stated, “In essence to fulfill Oprah’s challenge I began to make a list of things I would have to sacrifice for the week.  I began with the logical answers of steak, chicken and milk.  Then I started thinking about the definition of a vegan, I would have to give up all animal products, so I broadened my list to include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, stearic acid, and broccoli. So I know what you are thinking, “why can’t a vegan eat broccoli?”  Well as I made out my list I noted stearic acid was a byproduct of animals, a byproduct that makes tires.  Tires are used by the farmer that grows the broccoli, by the truck driver that delivers it to the grocer, and would require that I walk to the store in…. I guess bare feet as even rubber shoes have animal products in them.   So in essence I could grow the broccoli in my garden using organic methods and fertilizing it with manure; oh wait that is an animal product as well.”

That, in its self, really puts the importance of animal agriculture into perspective don’t you think?

Also check out:
There Is No Such Thing As a Vegan
Oprah Goes from Godiva to Vegan

Farewell to 193

By Sue Schulte
KCGA/KGSPA Communications Director

If you haven’t heard, 193 is leaving the Pleasant Valley Ranch. If you follow Sharon Springs producer Mark Smith’s Pleasant Valley Ranch Facebook page, this will mean something to you. Mark has a camera, and he knows how to use it. He also has a heart. Mark has been posting pictures of 193, which is a nice looking heifer that was born on the ranch in February of 2010 and has been growing up on the ranch. Today, Mark posted a farewell picture of 193 with the following message:

“It is time to say goodbye to you and all my friends. I now weigh 731 lbs. and it is time to leave this place and move on to be finished to market weight somewhere else! Thanks for being a part of my life and watching me grow up. This is 193 and I’m saying goodbye to Pleasant Valley Ranch, take over Angelo!”

Angelo is #247. He was nicknamed Angelo because of the angel wing markings on his face. Angelo was born in a corn stalk field during the Thanksgiving 2010 and was chosen by some of Mark’s Facebook followers as the calf to follow this year.

Now, this isn’t necessarily an advertisement for Mark’s Facebook page, although it certainly is worthy. The Pleasant Valley Ranch Facebook page simply does a great job showing ranch life in west central Kansas and also Mark’s love for his cattle and his land. Another good Kansas ranch Facebook page is Debbie Blythe-Lyons’ Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch page.

Big money special interest groups like HSUS and PETA are spending millions to convince the public that farmers and ranchers abuse their animals and their land. Facebook pages like Mark’s and Debbie’s show the real story of farmers and ranchers, people with compassion and pride in their animals and the crops they raise.

With more and more people turning to social media for information, these kinds of pages are extremely valuable to help people, especially our city cousins, understand where their food comes from and what kind of people are producing that food.

Kudos to Mark, Debbie and all the farmers and ranchers who are using social media to share information about their operations.

Interested in Social Media? It’s not too late to join in a series of social media webinars being offered by the National Corn Growers Association. The first webinar of the National Corn Growers Association 2011 Social Media Training Program was held this week. The program is sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, and is the first of 12 free hour-long online learning sessions that will be held monthly through 2011.

Follow-up webinars are planned for February 17, March 17, April 28, May 19, June 16, July 21, August 18, September 15, October 20, November 17 and December 15. Times for these will be announced prior to the webinars.

Click here to register or get more information.

Giving Thanks this Holiday Season!

By: DeEtta Bohling, KCGA/KGSPA
Communications Specialist

This Christmas I have much to look forward to– celebrating the birth of Jesus with my family in Iowa, sledding down the backyard and eating sweet potatoes are among the many!

While being surrounded with family in a warm house with plentiful food, I will be thanking those that helped raise and transport that food from the farm gate to my dinner plate. Farmers, ranchers, food processors, truck drivers, grocery store workers and everyone in between. Ham, potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, and pie! My mouth is beginning to water at the thought of it all.

Join me this holiday season in thanking those who played a critical role in putting food on your table.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Daily Californian Article on Tyrone Hayes Raises Questions on Frogs, Fibs and Scientific Method

11-15-10–Berkeley anti-atrazine research Tyrone Hayes was featured in today’s issue of The Daily Californian, the independent newspaper of the University of California-Berkeley. The article outlines Hayes’ research that claims atrazine in extremely small amounts, sterilizes and feminizes male frogs. It also documents Hayes’ ongoing fights with Syngenta Crop Protection, the main manufacturer of atrazine. Atrazine is a herbicide used on corn, sorghum, sugar cane and other crops.

In the article, Hayes strongly refuted claims that he has not shared data on his atrazine research with the Environmental Protection Agency. The article quotes one researcher who says Hayes’ research hasn’t been replicated, and another researcher who says that is irrelevant.

Reproducibility
Yale University professor David Skelly, a researcher who participated in two EPA panels that reviewed the results of atrazine studies, told the newspaper that his is not aware of anyone who has been able to replicate Hayes’ results. The concept of being able to replicate the results of research is called “reproducibility”.

But that’s not relevant, according to Gail Prins, physiology professor at University of Illinois at Chicago. She told the Daily Californian that it is not important that others have not been able to replicate Hayes’ study results. She said she trusts his methods. However, reproducibility is widely recognized as one of the main principles of the scientific method (unless Gail Prins trusts you).

Missing Data?
Syngenta toxicologist Tim Pastoor told the newspaper that Hayes’ results will not be considered reliable until he gives his raw data to EPA to evaluate. Hayes hasn’t done that. Hayes’ responded by saying that allegation is “blatantly false” and told the newspaper that he had allowed EPA into his laboratory in 2002.

In a June 18, 2010 article written by Alex Avery of the Center for Global Food Issues, titled “EPA Exposes Hayes–Again!” documents Hayes’ failure to provide proper data to EPA (information excerpted  below).

2005: Anne E. Lindsay, then-deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, gave Hayes a hard review in testimony before the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2005.  Lindsay said EPA had never seen the results from any independent investigator published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, or the raw data from Hayes’ additional experiments. Hayes’ responded to Lindsay’s remarks in a paper recently put out by anti-pesticide activist organization, PANNA, refuting Lindsay’s 2005 testimony by pointing to a 2002 letter from EPA’s Tom Steeger praising him for sharing raw data.

2010: Illinois State Representative Dave Winters asked EPA recently if the agency had received “a complete, transparent set of raw data which could be interpreted and analyzed by the EPA and used in generating a full evaluation of his work.”  Donald Brady, Director of the Environmental Fate and Effects Division replied:  “I regret that the EPA science staff in the Office of Pesticide Programs’ EFED could not properly account for the sample sizes and study design reportedly used by the Berkeley researchers.  As a result, we were unable to complete any independent analysis to support the study’s conclusions.”

Bottom Line
Dr. Hayes’ research can’t be replicated. He won’t share his data, even with EPA. He is a self-described anti-atrazine activist, bringing his objectivity into question. It is hard to ignore these facts when considering his claims against atrazine. Let’s hope EPA still believes in the scientific process.

(By Sue Schulte, Director of Communications, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association)
For more information visit: http://www.ksgrains.com or http://agsense.org

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

 

Corn’s Benefits as Part of Livestock Diet

Original release- NCGA

In a world where the importance of a high-protein diet is widely recognized, consumers value the meat they eat and recognize the role it plays in keeping them healthy and strong. A lot of this has to do with what goes into the meat in the first place, and our food-sensitive culture often does not understand the role of grains in the livestock world.

“At National Corn Growers Association, many of our grower-leaders, myself included, have livestock feeding operations,” said NCGA President Darrin Ihnen. “I see the value every say of using corn as a natural, healthy and nutritious feed for our animals. Likewise, as someone involved in the industry, I see a lot of the myths that are out there about grain feed.”

In the first place, there is no clear division between “grass-fed” and “corn-fed.” Corn-fed beef actually spend most of their lives on a range or pasture, eating grass. At 9 to 12 months of age, they are moved to a feedlot for about four to six months, eating a balanced mixed meal of different grains hay, and forage. This allows them to grow more quickly.

“Grass-fed” cattle start the same way, but are finished with a diet of grass. Because it is hard to produce grass-fed beef in large quantities here in the United States, due to limited growing seasons, most grass-finished beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand where grass grows all year.

More details can be found on this fact sheet. What is essential to realize is that there is very little nutritional difference between the types of beef, and taste and tenderness tend to be better with grain-fed beef, as evidenced in a recent Time magazine taste test.

There is also an environmental benefit as well. The Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues issued a study in 2007 that found that beef produced with grains produces 40 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and saves two-thirds more land for nature compared to organic grass-fed beef. When people are concerned about acreage and land use, that’s a good thing.

Of the 2010 corn harvest, the U.S. Department estimated that 5.4 billion bushels of corn will be used as livestock feed, along with an additional 1.5 billion bushels of distillers grains, a high-protein ethanol coproduct. That’s about 46 percent of the corn supply.

The distillers grains amount is important, because it is part of the corn that goes into ethanol production. This amount unfortunately is easily ignored by those who think that corn for ethanol takes corn away from livestock, which it does not. In fact, it puts important protein and nutrients into the food supply.

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



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