Friday, September 12, 2003

Unfair deal to citizens

Unbelievably, no matter which state I travel through there seems to be a controversy over ethanol. Yes I said the United States renewable resource Ethanol. Last week it was Marshall, MO. This article was in the Marshall Democrat News, but here is an excerpt.

"I'm not opposed to the ethanol plant, I'm just opposed to the (tax abatement) deal," he said. "It's not the tax part, it's the fairness part to the citizens of the county. You're expecting everyone else to pay property taxes. It takes away even the obligation for sales tax.

Here is my letter to the editor printed Wednesday…

I wonder why? Why is the next generation leaving the farm? Why, in Saline County, is the average age of the populations under 18 and over 65 years of age 1% lower and 3% higher, respectively, than the entire state of Missouri? It may have to do with hypocrites that talk about saving the family farm in one breath and try to stab us in the back in the next.

I can’t believe what I heard while in Marshall for short time on Friday. There is a controversy over tax abatement on the farmers investing in Mid-Missouri Energy. This is not some New York Wall Street Company moving into Saline County to avoid paying taxes. All of the investors in Mid-Missouri Energy are farmers who are working and taking a risk in an attempt to add value to their farm products.

The last time I checked the property tax deposits for the county’s checking account, “farmland and farmers” were pretty well represented. I read the concern about “fairness to the citizens of the county.” How fair is it that Saline County has an average annual salary that is $3000 less than the state average? How can that be corrected? Not by setting back and waiting it to rain dollar bills. You must seek opportunities for increased income as these farmers are attempting to do.

Perhaps someone could explain to me which of these is a bad deal for Saline County or any rural community:

Ethanol is a value-added product of corn, which aids local and state economies and boosts profitability for producers.

Ethanol is a biodegradable alternative additive that provides consumers with a high-octane fuel at a competitive price.

One less barrel of imported oil is needed for every 28.3 gallons of ethanol used, which helps the U.S. balance of trade.

Ethanol reduces our demand for imported gasoline by 100,000 barrels each day.

Ethanol lowers harmful carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by 30 percent.

Oh yes I understand that you are not against ethanol but you just don’t want it in your backyard. You just want things the way they used to be in the good old days right? Well, today is your lucky day, because the Amish communities in Missouri will gladly accept new members.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

And the whistle blew

This year, the plains portion of our country has had more than it’s fair share of fires. The entire state of Montana tried to burn all summer. I know of one volunteer fire department (White River, SD a community of 600) that received seven fire calls in one night a couple weeks ago. In honor of all firemen on this anniversary of 9-11-01, I wanted to emphasize the importance of volunteer firemen in rural America. I have some interesting facts about firemen in the United States from the National Volunteer Fire Council:

1,078,300 total firemen; 73% are volunteer

The number of volunteer firemen is declining by 10% annually

2 million fires are reported each year

Volunteer firemen save communities $36.8 billion annually

Each year fire kills more Americans than all other natural disasters combined

I was prompted to tribute these volunteer firemen today because this was sent to me last night, thanks Doug.

The most passionate fireman I know is Susan Littlefield from Columbus, NE. She is a farm broadcaster for Farm and Ranch Market Network. Check out her website.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

New age marketing

David Cantor, long time Animal Rights advocate, has again showed his hand. I attended the Animal Rights 2003 conference in Washington DC in June. The movement has moved into colleges and universities across the country recruiting members. Locations of secondary education are a haven for young people, typically ladies, who are “searching for a cause”. That is why David Cantor has chosen to target Land Grant Universities in search of members for his new animal rights group. Here is what he had to say this week in a letter to Iowa State University, read entire letter here.

"I would love for students to understand our campaign and get involved to
the extent that they can," he said.

"Teaching people to make animal products is infinitely worse than any other
major could possibly be," Cantor said.

"If animal agriculture remained the way it was in 1862, it would not be a
target of animal rights activists. Period."

His history is a bad as his logic. The number of bison in the 1800’s exceeded the number of bovine today. The Indians were more than just a little dependent on animal products for their survival. People lived in sod houses with no electricity, no phone, no cars and kept snakes in the ceiling to control insects. Life expectancy was about 42, considering that millions of Americans that died from Malaria, Tuberculosis, Measles or Typhoid. The population was 31 million and it took 60% of the population to feed the people, lest we not forget that 3.5 million of the 31 million were slaves. So it is probably not a stretch then to consider Cantor a racist.

Here is an Abraham Lincoln quote from 1862 which also endorses this theory?

Speaking of farmers, Lincoln said, “It also follows that that interest is most worthy of all to be cherished and cultivated -- that if there be inevitable conflict between that interest and any other, that other should yield."

A quick history lesson from the University of Illinois:

Although pioneer farms were much more diversified than today's corn and soybean farms, corn was grown on considerable portion of cropland acres because it gave high and reliable yields and the mature crop could stand in the field all winter without spoilage or much loss to wildlife. However, corn's low price per bushel did not justify transporting it very far and consequently much of it was used to feed livestock on or near the farm where it had been grown. Thus, by 1860, the Midwest was becoming the nation's livestock and feed grain producer, complementing the agricultural and industrial specializations occurring in other regions.

It seems that despite our advances in technology, many things remain unchanged.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Scientist or activist?

Dr. Elizabeth S. Williams, researcher at the University of Wyoming, has been a full time researcher of Chronic Wasting Disease. How does a “scientist” promote the need to attain research dollars without exaggerating the problem? I am pretty sure this scientist doesn’t know the answer to that one. printed this article yesterday morning, and as of right now, I know of 15 newspapers that have used it to scare the public about BSE and/or CWD. Read this….

Here we compare the incidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) that is attributable to horizontal or maternal transmission. We find that horizontal transmission is remarkably efficient, producing a high incidence of disease (89%) in a cohort of deer in which maternal transmission was improbable. Our results indicate that horizontal transmission is likely to be important in sustaining CWD epidemics.

Although prion diseases have emerged worldwide as a threat to human and animal health, they are incompletely understood.

Now remember that we have had 132 deaths worldwide due to vCJD as a result of BSE. We have had ZERO humans affected by CWD and less than 500 confirmed cases in the cervid population in the history of the United States. Furthermore, with a cervid population of over 30 million, this “scientist” made “significant” findings by testing less than 20 head of deer. I am no statistician but I know a couple and they agree that the numbers are a little lacking.

I found this from 1998 and thought you would find an interesting correlation:

Wyoming has yet to issue health recommendations for deer and elk hunters, but "the risk is so small, I wouldn't worry about it at all," says Tom Thorne of Wyoming Game and Fish, who adds that he regularly hunts and eats deer from southeastern Wyoming.

The spread of the disease among captive animals may represent a more immediate threat.

"This is probably going to cause quite a bit of problem in the game-farm industry," says Wyoming's Tom Thorne.

What you need to know is that Tom Thorne is married to Elizabeth Williams, humm…? Also, notice their implication that BSE is looming even though this study is only about CWD and there have been no confirmed cases of BSE in the US. But shouldn’t consumers always be on the lookout for it?

Monday, September 08, 2003

Keep my kid safe

On Friday I briefly mentioned the assurance of food safety with the irradiation process and got bombarded with comments, all in support of the process. With school once again back in full swing and our kids eating lunch at school, it is no wonder the anxiety arsonists are back at work trying to scare the nation’s mothers. Ron Eustice, Minnesota Beef Council, tells me there is irradiated ground beef in over 9,000 stores. I believe consumers are speaking with their food dollar. Then I found this article from Consumer Reports in August:

Supporters of irradiation as a tool for preventing foodborne disease are dismayed by a generally negative evaluation of irradiated meat in the August issue of Consumer Reports.

"There's no real reason to [buy irradiated meat] if you cook meat thoroughly," the article says. "Irradiation actually destroys fewer bacteria than does careful cooking." In addition, Consumer Reports taste testers found a "slight but distinct off taste and smell" in irradiated beef and chicken servings they sampled.

It makes me wonder if they have figured out that seat belts don’t help you at all if you never have an automobile crash. Furthermore, who would buy it if it didn’t taste good? And of course the Public Citizens try get in on all the fun, in this article from Wyoming they are trying to bash the neighborhood “demon” Hatfield Quality Meats based in Pennsylvania.

Public Citizen argues that irradiation could cause cancer, that the materials could be used to make a radioactive "dirty bomb," and that concerns about food contamination should be addressed by making slaughterhouses more sanitary.

I have my own personal experience with Public Citizens click here to read my assessment. But most importantly notice the context, we don’t have any proof but the sky may be falling…..

Phil Clemens of Hatfield Quality Meats is one of the premier individuals in this industry. Sounds like a good time to reread his company values. Read the entire thing with a click here, but this is what you must now.

Let me put this into practical terms. Let me tell you what we do at our family corporation. First we have clearly identified our values. They are:
1. Honor God in all we do.
2. Earn a reputation of high ethics and integrity
3. Make sound business investments
4. Take a long-term view
5. Share success with employees, community and shareholders
6. Be good stewards
7. Seek to set commercial standards
Of course maybe it’s just the “In God we trust” concept that they can’t handle.

The Animal Rights movement

With so many trying to understand the whole movement, it looks to me like the American Veterinary Medical Association has found one professor who does. Read entire article.

Dr. B. Taylor Bennett's presentation on the animal rights movement July 21 at the
AVMA Annual Convention in Denver could not have been timelier. He believes that the protest and media campaign directed at the AVMA in July during the Denver convention are just the beginning.

"The AVMA is now going to come under attack, and they're going to have to deal with it," he said. Bennett began his presentation with a review of the AVMA position statements distinguishing animal welfare from animal rights and the recently adopted statement opposing the trend in several cities and municipalities to refer to pet owners as pet guardians.
Frogs only give you frog legs

Recently I attended the Waterkeeper Alliance’s “Fear a Minute” conference. The Waterkeeper’s whole premise for existence is to improve the waterways of the country. But the theme of this annual rally seemed to be presenting any topic that might instill fear in the minds of consumers. Animal rights issues had plenty of time on the program, including three presenters from the UK. Now there is a prototype we should adopt when it comes to animal laws! You need to know that Patty Lovera, from the Public Citizen group, presented information about a deadly concept - making meat safer.

It reminded me of the whole bumper sticker approach to creating consumer anxiety. She identified the things that are happening in the food business and then made little statements poking fun of science in action. The one that sent my head spinning was her perception that “the implementation of HAACP is an industry excuse to limit inspectors.” So why is it that we have fewer and bigger packers? Concentration has increased sharply in recent years. The four largest packers handled 82% of the cattle harvest in 1994 compared to 72% in 1990 and only 36% in 1980. It seems that the cost of food safety compliance is forcing many smaller packers out of business. Food-borne illnesses are predominately a handling issue yet some seem to believe you can mandate consumers to wash their cutting boards or even their hands!

According to Ms. Lovera, “manure from cattle has e-coli.” She made it sound like some rare plague that you can only catch if you eat beef instead of an organism that is present in every human body. But there is the hidden anti-meat agenda slipping a little subliminal message in there.

In her criticism of the USDA, Lovera stated that “they have created so much of this irradiated beef that now we let them sell to it the school lunch program”. Her statement implied that since nobody else wants irradiated beef, we will dump it on the school children. Never once was irradiation considered an important means of ensuring food safety. If the procedure kills 99% of all bacteria, wouldn’t it be a good idea to provide the safest food to our children that technology will allow?

Lovera suggested that “the farm to fork” concept is one of the most dangerous strategies this industry has come up with. I find this statement fascinating because while she is busy poking holes at the concept, she is probably shopping at a farmers market. I guess it is fair to say that she may want to know the guy who raised her tomato but when it comes to meat, ignorance is her choice.

Her closing jab was that “irradiating beef is similar to painting a house when the foundation is crumbling.” I’m not sure what part of the beef industry is on such shaky ground because consumption is clearly on the rise. The U.S. is not only consuming more beef annually but more total meat protein than ever before.

While many in the meat industry ignore people like this wishing them away, I recognize all the people like her are a problem only if they are not held accountable. Whether it is the truth or not, when we hear something enough times, we begin to believe it. As consumers continue to be bombarded by messages like these, they will lose trust in the safety of their food supply and those who produce it.

Consequently, I challenge everyone in this industry to confront the Patty Loveras of the world as you hear them manufacturing and propagating these tales. If you don’t believe that their lies uncontested will become “truth” just remember that, contrary to what you heard when you were a kid, you don’t get warts from a frog!