Archive for the ‘HSUS’ Category

Random thoughts from Corn Congress and Washington DC

I was in Washington DC last week for the National Corn Growers Corn Congress. I extended my stay to do some sightseeing with my grown son, so I ended up spending 6 days in DC, which is way too long. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I returned home, just happy to be here, somewhere normal! It’s not my first trip to DC, but I did accumulate a lot of random observations.

  • I spent most of my time with farmers from Kansas and many other states. Words that describe my farmer friends include the following: kind, intelligent, polite, funny, sophisticated, outspoken, focused, professional, friendly, well-rounded, honest, informed. Our farmers sat through long committee meetings, two delegate sessions and visited every member of our Congressional Delegation. All the while, they were also using their smart phones and tablets to keep track of the markets, check email, and kept in contact with their families at home who were running the farm in their absence.
    Roberts Visit 7-2014

    With Senator Roberts


    With Congresswoman Jenkins

  • There were many farewell speeches at Corn Congress this year with NCGA Exec Rick Tolman retiring, as well as Nebraska Corn’s Don Hutchens, Monsanto’s Marsha Stanton and John Deere’s Don Borgman. Our own Jere White was honored at the March Corn Congress session for his retirement. New leaders will rise to take their places, but those are some big shoes to fill.
  • Speaking of leaders, I was so impressed with the members of the DuPont New Leaders Program offered through NCGA. Farm couples are encouraged to go through the program together. This cultivated two new leaders from Kansas: Tom and Sandy Tibbits of Minneapolis. The program’s final session was held around the Corn Congress event. We were happy to have them along on our Hill Visits and Tom was able to help Kansas Corn by serving as a delegate. Tom is already on the KCGA board and we have plans to use make use of Sandy’s skills as well as an advocate for agriculture.
  • Speaking of Hill Visits, many of the Congressional offices have offered Russell Stover candies to their visitors for years. With the new Mars candy factory in Topeka, many of our offices have candy bowls with Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars as well! And Cheezits. Did you know all Cheezits are made in Kansas?
  • I serve on the Corn Farmers Coalition steering committee, an image program that aims to educate and inform Washington DC decision makers about corn farmers. This year’s campaign has just begun and I sawourfull page ad in The Hill newspaper, as well as ads online and intheMetro trains. This year’s ads have an innovation and technology theme because the focus groups we used when planning this year’s campaign were fascinated by the use of technology on our farms. I remember one focus group participant saying, “It’s kind of neat to think that those farmers are using the same iPad as me.” It is not always easy to overcome the stereotypes about farmers that many people have. On one hand, they are surprised to learn that 98 percent of all corn farms are family farms–many folks think that our farms are owned by big corporations. On the other hand, they think farmers look and work on the farms just like they did 50 years ago. When we talk to these people about GPS guidance and mapping, precision agriculture, they get really excited.


    This Metro passenger was extremely interested in our CFC ad!

  • There is some corn planted in front of USDA. And the US Botanic Gardens is featuring a wheat display called Amber Waves of Grain.
  • I saw a lot of advertising in DC. I saw an excellent ad in a Metro train placed by Humane Watch. It explained that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, only gives 1 percent of its funding to local humane shelters and encourages people to donate to local humane society shelters instead.
  • On the Metro, we sat next to a woman holding a takeout bag from Chipotle. Over the years, I’ve discouraged my kids from eating at Chipotle for various reasons (primarily because it’s danged expensive!), but also because of how the corporate burrito company bashes farmers who grow the food. Sitting next to my son, who is a devout capitalist, I pointed to the bag in the woman’s lap and told him to read it. This quote is from Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought” Author Series.
  • Saunders

    If no one must work, who will make the burritos?

    I’m all for love and peace, but just sitting around feeling love for one another might get a little boring after a while.  More importantly, Chipotle, if no one works, where will all that free food come from? Who will make the burritos? I’m for free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and I enjoyed reading the bag that held a nine dollar burrito. But I do have the right to disagree. My capitalist son, who in the past has been disturbed by Chipotle’s anti-farmer statements but still ate the corporate burritos, was even more disturbed by that quote.

  • borlaug

    Norman Borlaug is the new guy in Statuary Hall at the Capitol.

  • We saw the new statue of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, during our tour of the Capitol. That an Iowa plant breeder is honored in this way Statuary Hall in the Capitol is significant. His work which created a high-yielding, disease resistant wheat is credited for saving a billion lives. Borlaug was a strong supporter of the promise of biotechnology and urged people to stand up to the anti-science crowd.
  • corn capital

    A corn capital at the Capitol. (Architect of the Capitol)

  • I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of Greek columns in DC? It made me remember the Architecture Appreciation class I took at K-State where we learned about Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Speaking of art and architecture, if you are a corn grower, look around in DC–there are many depictions of corn in the Capitol and many other places. In fact, the photo here shows a corn capital in the Capitol. A capital is the top of a column. According to the Architect of the Capitol: Carved by Giuseppe Franzoni from Aquia Creek sandstone, these columns were installed in the Hall of Columns of the U.S. Capitol in 1809. The fluting of a conventional shaft was recalled by bundled corn stalks. On the capital, husks were folded back to reveal the cob and kernels of corn.
  • I was struck by the friendliness of the people in DC on this trip. I think this was influenced by the unusually cool weather. One cab driver told us that the cooler weather was a disaster for cabbies because everyone wanted to walk instead of taking a cab. He joked that he would have to charge us double. Judging by his meandering route to our destination, I don’t think he was kidding.

Animal Athletes

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

This week Las Vegas has probably seen more cowboy boots, coyboy hats and sparkly belt buckles than usual! The National Finals Rodeo will wrap up on Saturday after ten days of competition and entertainment. I’ve been to more rodeos, roping and bull riding events in the past year than ever in my life thanks to my boyfriend, who may be slightly obsessed.

Last April, I attended my first ever Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event. Not only was I blown away by the entire production (the riders, bulls, clowns, announcers, bullfighters, lights and music) but I was also thoroughly impressed with how the emphasized the safety of the athletes- both the riders and bulls.

PBR: Breneman/

Like a well-conditioned athlete, an animal can only perform if it is healthy. Any cowboy will tell you he takes home a paycheck only when the animal is in top form. Stock contractors and ranchers, who raise livestock for a living, have a moral and financial interest in keeping their animals healthy.

Stock contractors take great pride in their bucking bulls and take care of them to ensure that they are in top-notch shape to perform. It is no secret that the PBR treats the bulls with as much respect as the humans that ride them. As with any sport, athletes sometimes get hurt. This could be anything from a pulled muscle to a career or life-ending injury.

PBR reports that “one bull will suffer a minor injury such as a muscle pull or scratch every eight events or 786 outs. Bulls that are determined to have an injury are not allowed to compete again until fully recovered, which is generally one to four weeks. One bull will suffer a career-ending injury every 100 events or 9,833 outs. A bucking bull has a .004% chance of sustaining a life-threatening injury at a PBR event.”

Compare these injury statistics to football. An estimated 40,000 concussions are suffered every year among high school football players, alone. From 1991-2006 the average direct fatalities due to participation in organized football (professional, college, high school and sandlot) was 4.3 per year. (Source)

It’s obvious that the stock contractors and the PBR pay very attention to animal welfare. The bucking bulls are treated like training athletes when it comes to diet, exercise and medical treatment. The same story goes for rodeos across the nation.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) turns to the experts when it comes to the treatment and care of rodeo livestock. The experts are the on-site rodeo veterinarians who are required by PRCA rules to attend each rodeo performance.

It is great to know that the livestock in the pasture and the arena are being cared for by farmers, ranchers, cowboys and veterinarians. Furthermore, I feel fortunate to live in the United States, where I can be assured that because animals are well cared for, the food on my table is the best and safest on the market.

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, 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?