Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kids or pigs - you decide

On November 7, 2006 the voting public of the State of Arizona will have the opportunity to walk out of the polling booth and send a loud signal to the rest of America. We know history and we don’t want to relive it. Proposition 204 is on the ballot. If this law were enacted, it would give animals in the state their own rights. Animals need to be properly cared for but they should not be given legal rights.

The proponents of 204 have spent millions of dollar trying to blur the line between humans and animals. After carefully studying the Animal Rights agenda for years, I have determined that their mission is more about dehumanizing people than it is about elevating the status of animals.

You may find it interesting to know that the first government to take this approach existed about 70 years ago. It was called the National Socialist Party or NAZI for short.
It is well documented that Adolph Hitler’s regime in Germany enacted the most comprehensive set of laws protecting animals. The "Animal Protection Law in 1933" clearly attempted to blur the line between humans and animals.

There were laws instated to protect horses and pets and laws involving laboratory research animals. There was even a regulation regarding the boiling process for lobsters. Laws restricting gun ownership and hunting were quick to follow.

The Nazis also had a fondness for protecting the wilderness. Their version of the “Endangered Species” laws was intended to preserve various species of animals. Ironically, they went to great lengths of protect animals, but they justified the killing of six million Jewish human beings.

As a 6th generation United States farmer, I can tell you that today’s food animals have far better living conditions than at any time in the history of the world. I can share stories about my childhood jobs including sitting with sows that were giving birth to ensure that the piglets were not smashed or eaten by their mothers. In those days, before we began to use acceptable, modern livestock facilities, those that are at issue on the Arizona ballot, it was not uncommon to lose six piglets if the sow happened to roll over just the wrong way. Sows, by nature, are not kind individuals and placing them in individual stalls is the best means of protecting the weaker individuals from the bullies. If you haven’t seen a sow whose uterus has prolapsed because other animals piled on top of her in times of extreme weather conditions, you might struggle to understand the benefits of individual housing units and climate controlled buildings. I have seen it and if you can open your mind enough to imagine it, you will see why producers want what is best for their animals.
Farmers have implemented management procedures based on what is best for their food animals because if their animals suffer, their reproductive performance fails and so does the farm. But what Arizona voters must ask themselves, as they cast their vote, is “What will come to me next?” I was taught in school that the purpose of the government is to protect its citizens. A pig or any other food animal does not rank on the scale of citizenship unless of course you follow the logic of Animal Rights groups who have indicated “the life of an ant and that of my child should granted equal consideration”.

I feel fortunate that in today’s world of readily available information the Arizona voters will have the opportunity to educate themselves and not blindly walk into the voting booth. Educated voters will vote NO on Proposition 204. History speaks for itself. In the United States of America, we value the life of our kids above that of any food animal. Let’s keep it that way!

Trent Loos is a 6th generation United States farmer and producer, host of the "Loos Tales" radio show, public speaker and founder of Faces of Agriculture, which puts the human element back into food production. Find out more at www.FacesOfAg.com, or e-mail trent@loostales.com.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ATTENTION FFA MEMBERS!!!!!

Carrie Underwood may not be America’s Idol afterall…….

Did you know?

-She is the main fundraiser for HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) a group with the mission to ABOLISH ANIMAL AGRICULTURE!

-She was booed off a stage in Nebraska for her militant attempts to CONVERT HER AUDIENCE TO VEGETARIANISM!

-Ironically, Carrie, America’s Sexiest Vegetarian of the Year, appears on Got Milk? and pepperoni pizza roll ads.

-Carrie appeared on PBS Kids and spoke about her vegetarianism on air to influence children!

-Hypocritically, Carrie claims to be a country girl from Oklahoma. It is ok that she is a vegetarian, it is NOT ok that she preaches it to the world and influences our generation!


FFA members,

IF YOU CARE ABOUT AGRICULTURE, your livelihood and passion, make your statement and WALK OUT of the Mega Concert after Jason Aldean and Keith Anderson to show Carrie her actions are unacceptable to this agricultural organization!
Printed in Feedstuffs Oct 21, 2006

FFA students leading the charge

It is truly amazing that we live in what is considered to be the information age but some of us still struggle to get access to enough credible information to make an informed decision. The 79th National FFA Convention is taking place this week in Indianapolis. Carrie Underwood is scheduled to perform on Wednesday night at what is being called the “Mega Concert.” The concert is sponsored by RFD TV and the National FFA Convention. Someone needs to explain to me why the National FFA organization would allow anyone to perform who has openly promoted an end to animal agriculture.

Yes, this 2005 American Idol star is very open about her agenda to end animal agriculture. In fact, she has been quoted as saying, “Eating meat weirds me out” and she said she would much rather to sing to cows than eat them. In a live discussion posted on the website of the Washington Post in January 2006, Underwood admitted that she regularly works with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and frequently donates clothes to be auctioned off to assist with fund raising. In February 2006, she was involved in a stamp promotion for the financial benefit of the HSUS. The HSUS logo is prominently displayed on the home page of her website.

I would hope that by now it is not news to anybody that HSUS has a direct mission to abolish animal agriculture and end hunting in this country. As recently as last week Miyun Park, Vice President of Farm Animal Welfare, openly stated their mission: “to get rid of the industry”. The Center for Consumer Freedom reports HSUS’s true mission is to spend millions on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers; eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research labs; phase out pet breeding, zoos, and circus animal acts; and demonize hunters as crazed lunatics. Does anyone that helps with fund raising for an organization that is openly against food animal production qualify to perform to our nation’s premiere agricultural organization?

A friend of mine was working in the hospitality area for a summer music concert here in Nebraska called the Comstock Windmill festival. This party in the pasture has truly become a “Who’s Who” of country music. Carrie Underwood was scheduled to perform at this year’s event. One hour before her arrival she phoned to ensure that she would not be subjected to any of the sights or sounds of the bull riding event that was taking place. The chef for the entertainer’s hospitality tent was told that Ms. Underwood demanded a vegetarian buffet. He felt compelled to offer chicken breast in addition to the vegetarian entrees. My friend witnessed Underwood picking up the cover to the chicken breast and going into a tirade that would rival that of a terrible-two-year-old. If that wasn’t enough, she took the stage in fit of rage and suggested to the crowd, standing in the middle of a cow pasture, that everyone should convert to vegetarian diet.

Let’s just say that in a state like Nebraska, where cows outnumber people four to one, her suggestion was not very well received. Our mothers may have taught us that booing is not polite but there comes a point in time when stupidity should be greeted with the appropriate response. My friend said that she had voted for Underwood on American Idol and she wished she had the opportunity to do it all over again because she lost all respect for this entertainer. On a positive note, Trick Pony was the next act to perform and their “eat more beef” message was received with applause that would have put to shame any home crowd after a Super Bowl win.

We all live in the United States of America where we have the right to choose. I am not trying to stymie anybody’s right to choose to be a vegetarian. I am simply saying that the National FFA should have researched the situation a little more thoroughly before hiring her to perform. In fact, I have now been told that some of the executives were a little suspicious of her strange demands such as the 10 black towels that had to be imported from France for her performance. Further investigation into this matter reveals that the powers that be in the National FFA organization are threatening chapters that oppose supporting Underwood in concert. They fear that the organization will not be able to stand the $100,000 fee they are contracted to pay her if tickets aren’t sold to fill seats at the concert.

Aside from all of the emotion that we in animal agriculture interject into a scenario like this, Underwood needs be versed on the benefits of animal protein in the diet. Research studies continue to confirm that meat from animals is necessary for cognitive development in children. It is my goal that before entertainers, with no expertise in the area of nutrition, give dietary advise to our nation’s youth, we tell them to live their own lives and leave our children’s nutrition to the experts.

I have faith that the nations youth involved in agriculture will not take this lying down. In fact a campaign against Underwood’s concert started at South Dakota State University. Without bankrupting the national organization, the students will encourage FFA members to attend the first two portions of the concert and walk out when Underwood is introduced. Sure Underwood has a right to assist animal rights groups that want to abolish animal agriculture but those students who walk out on her concert will be sending her a message about their rights as well. They have a right to say, “L” is for “Leave Country Carrie!” What better way to express their support for an industry that they truly believe in!

Monday, August 07, 2006


I attended the 39th Annual Western Illinois Threshers this past weekend. The photo is taken of horsepower making it possible to unload this load of ear corn and elevate up to storage facility. Link here for more information 39th annual Western Ill. Threshers show set Aug. 4, 5, 6, near ...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Leave Country Carrie

The 2006 National High School Rodeo Finals just concluded in Springfield, IL and I was fortunate enough to attend for a day and a half. From across the entire country came 1566 young Rural Americans to compete in all the typical rodeo events plus cutting. Anyone who says our nation’s kids are misguided or nothing but trouble makers should take the time to attend one of these events. I heard frequently while I was there, “these kids don’t get into trouble.” They truly are the shining examples of everything good about raising kids in Rural America.

With that said, there are people who have made it their life’s mission to end the sport of rodeo. Steve Hindi, an Illinois native, is one of those individuals. I have followed his work for quite some time and was not surprised to see him and his daughter sitting in the front row filming every single animal that entered the ring for 13 rodeo performances. When I spotted him I made my way over and sat by him for over an hour. He didn’t want to visit. He did not want to be distracted from witnessing every single animal that might generate an image that he could use to portray rodeo in a negative light. He was cordial, though, as he did offer to have lunch with me the next day. He simply didn’t want me to interefere with his work on that day.

Yes, to him it is work. Some have said that he needs more to do but you need to understand that he makes his living from 3 seconds of video footage, placed out of context, that will generate negative publicity forever. The sadly ironic thing is I that could sit at any soccer game with a camera and capture equally excrutiating photos of kids in pain from a soccer game but it wouldn’t cause near as much of an uproar. Many in attendance seemed to be worried about what he might do to disrupt the rodeo, but that is not his mission. He doesn’t want to temporarily disrupt the rodeo. He honestly believes that his work will permanently end all rodeos, which is a much loftier goal.

He would much rather take any negative images he might capture and utilize the internet and his website to slowly generate public discontent for rodeo. Secondly, he will take a few pictures and convey to the sponsors of rodeo that they are supporting animal cruelty. Some sponsorers will understand his mission, understand that photos can be taken out of context in order to incorrectly generate negative immpressions but others will cave in to his methods of persuasion. That is cause for all of us to get much more vigilant in explaining even the proper care of animals in an event such as rodeo.

Hindi also claims credit for getting Carrie Underwood to cancel her performance at the 2006 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. Carrie Underwood does not represent the country lifestyle she wants us to buy into and why we continue to support her and her music is beyond me. Underwood is a self-proclaimed vegetarian and stopped consuming beef when she was 13. Recently she was featured on a segment of PBS Kids. When asked how a girl who grew up on a farm became a vegetarian, she responded:

I quit eating beef when I was about thirteen. I kind of phased everything out, so it took a few years actually. I do it because I really love animals and it just makes me sad. Like, I don’t like to watch commercials where they have meat. It weirds me out. But it’s not something I like to preach to anyone.

That last statement could not be farther from the truth. In every interview and every online biograghy of Carrie Underwood, she shares the fact that she is a long-time vegetarian. During the American Idol competition, she wore a t-shirt sporting an oversized “V” for vegetarian. Now you can buy her t-shirts online for $20. She told Readers Digest that as a young girl she decided she would rather sing to cows than eat them. In 2005, PETA named her the “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian.” She obviously thought that was great honor.

Eating meat weirds her out! She cancels performances at a rodeo because of cruelty to animals but she accepts this PETA award even though PETA employees are charged with over 50 felonies for improperly killing dogs and cats that were given to them to find homes for. In fact from 1998 through 2005, PETA killed over 14, 400 companion animals that were donated to them. That is in excess of 5 animals per day and Carrie Underwood thinks rodeo is cruel?

The bottom line is pretty straightforward. We do proudly live in America where both Carrie Underwood and I have the right to choose our own lifestyle. I don’t wear or sell shirts that say, “M is for meat eating,” which to me proves that she is, indeed, is preaching to us about how we should lead our lives. It is high time those of us who make our living producing the high quality essentials of life that she is campaigning against stand up and tell Carrie Underwood that she does not represent the country lifestyle. I suggest we begin by protesting her music and her live performances and change the radio station any time her songs come on the air. By saying nothing for far too long we are endorsing her preaching and I, for one, will stand for it no longer. In fact I have already ordered my t-shirts and will start selling them they say “L” is for Leave Country Carrie.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Felknor,

My name is Paxton Ramsey. I am a fourth generation rancher in south east Texas, a close neighbor to many in your organization, and I am very concerned about your Senator Landrieu having Louisiana ranchers and ranchers as a whole as ANY kind of priority.

32 years ago, my grandfather passed away. It cost my Grandmother $1,000,000 to pay the death tax. In the past 5 years, My family has spent over $395,000 to just prepare our finances for an even larger ($2.75 million) hit when my 91 year old Grandmother passes away. You know as well as I do that ranchers do not have that kind of disposable income. In Washington D.C., ranchers are being compared to the Bill Gates of the world. How uneducated can one be. Our ranch barely supports the three households it takes to run it. I will have to sell a large portion of My Great Grandfather’s land of 102 years, out from under my children and my sister’s children in order to pay this tax. People like Senator Landrieu do not seem to realize that most land, sold under these conditions, is developed for purposes other than agriculture. There is no more real estate being made and we are going to continue to lose ground, suitable for raising the SAFEST and BEST QUALITY beef in the world.

I was in Washington D.C., on the Young Cattlemen’s Conference, through the NCBA, when the Death tax was voted on last week. I sat on the floor and PERSONALLY watched your Senator pace back and forth, counting votes, waiting until the end to cast her own, based on the votes of other Senators. It made me sick to think that people such as this have any kind of control of my children’s future. My feelings are this. You either know what you believe in or you don’t! Your Senator barely won her election and then took an oath to FIGHT for the people of your state. Your Senator has obviously sold her soul to politics and it is effecting us all. The people of south east Texas and Louisiana have suffered enough through last year’s Hurricane season. A death under today’s laws would be a double shot to the heart for many. Please help us to not only preserve our heritage but also to keep the land , necessary to continue to raise beef for a global market in this demand driven industry.

I am sorry to dump this on you this morning but I feel we owe it to our children to make this fight. I hope all else is going well for you and if there is ever anything your neighbors can do to help you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me or anyone through Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. I appreciate your time on this matter and I look forward to meeting you soon.
Sincerely,
Paxton Ramsey

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coalition for Animal Health
March 28, 2006

Senator John Nutting
Representative John Piotti
Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
2 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0002

Dear Senator Nutting and Representative Piotti:

The undersigned organizations represent the animal producers, veterinarians, feed and animal health companies working together to ensure antibiotics are available and safely used to keep food animals healthy and produce a safe food supply.

We have read with great interest the report submitted to you on the issue of antibiotic use to keep animals healthy, and would like to offer our perspective and suggestions.

We wholeheartedly agree with the two major principles outlined in the report. Every day we seek to practice good antimicrobial stewardship by selecting the right antibiotic for the specific condition and using it in a way that maximizes animal health and minimizes potential adverse consequences. It addition, the principle of control and prevention is at the heart of the practice of veterinary medicine: We work to first keep animals healthy, but in the event of a disease outbreak we are forced to use drugs for treating the outbreak. We consider this a sound animal welfare practice. Our responsibility to keep animals healthy is an important factor in providing consumers with the safest food supply possible.

Some of the recommendations in the report seem to overlook the various science-based layers of protection currently in place to ensure the safe development, rigid regulation and responsible use and monitoring of antibiotic use in animals. These are safeguards accepted by the food chain, but are perhaps little understood by the general public. We would appreciate your careful review of these safeguards and would be pleased to provide you additional details or more information sources about these safeguards:

1. The Food and Drug Administration reviews and approves all antibiotics before they can be used. Antibiotics administered to animals are approved for four distinct purposes: Disease treatment, disease control, disease prevention and growth promotion or health maintenance. Disease treatment, control and prevention are widely considered to be “therapeutic” uses by such organizations as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Thus, the term “non-therapeutic” that is often associated with prevention in your report carries no legitimacy with animal health authorities worldwide.

In order to protect both animal and human health, the statutory standard of “safe and effective” is the same for animal antibiotics as for human antibiotics, and the requirements for submitting data to demonstrate safety and efficacy are the same for both. However, there are at least three ways in which the process for animal antibiotics is more stringent than that for human antibiotics:
• Sponsors of antibiotics used in animals must also submit data demonstrating the meat from animals that have been administered antibiotics is safe for human consumption.
• FDA weighs the benefits of a human antibiotic against its risks; there is no consideration of benefits in the review of antibiotics administered to animals. This means that the risk to humans for products under review must be exceptionally low because FDA does not consider any benefits to animals to counterbalance risks.
• FDA issued Guidance for Industry #152 in late 2003 requiring sponsors to use a qualitative risk assessment process to evaluate the potential for adverse human health effects from antimicrobial resistance for all proposed antibiotic products. This process is heavily weighed towards protecting human health first. Importantly, FDA is in the process of re-examining all existing, approved antibiotics used in animals using this same risk assessment process. In fact, Congress has, as suggested in the report, provided funding that is being used specifically for these risk assessments.

2. Monitoring and surveillance programs ensure that the safeguards that are part of the review process are working to protect public health. We are supportive of these programs and collectively we have lobbied the U.S. Congress to provide funding for them.
• USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) tests meat in processing plants to ensure there are no violative antibiotic residues.
• The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) is a computer-based decision support system designed to provide livestock producers, extension specialists, and veterinarians with practical information on how to avoid drug residue problems.
• The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), coordinated by FDA, monitors the incidence of antibiotic resistant food borne pathogens in animals, human and retail meat samples. This information provides an early-warning system about the potential emergence of antibiotic resistant pathogens.

3. The animal health industry pioneered the application of quantitative risk assessment to measure the risk to humans of antibiotics administered to animals. This methodology is essential to making sound public policy decisions and gives decision-makers more precise information about risks. Quantitative risk assessments done by sponsors have been published in peer-reviewed journals, and FDA has completed such an assessment on an antibiotic used in animals. To date, all of these have shown very low levels of risk. Notably, the FDA risk assessment, in which the agency concluded the potential risk of a person even carrying an antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a result of use on the farm was in the range of seven chances in a billion to 14 in 100 million over one year was done on a product that would likely be affected by the purchasing preference recommended in the report.

4. AVMA, species-specific veterinary groups, feed and producer groups have all worked with public agencies including FDA to produce guidelines for safe and judicious use of antibiotics. These guidelines are used as the basis for producer education programs and represent an important effort on the part of the animal agriculture community to ensure that antibiotics are used properly. Many producers have used these guidelines to create standard operating procedures for antibiotic use on the farm.

As you can see, there is much in the report with which we agree and we have worked to institute programs reflecting this intent. However, we do not support implementation of a purchasing preference for several reasons. First, it will be an undue burden on Maine agencies and will unnecessarily stigmatize producers who rely on these FDA-approved safe and effective tools to maintain the health of their herds and flocks. It could be used to deny critical treatment options to animals, threatening animal health and welfare and food safety. Finally, without establishment of an auditing and enforcement system to verify compliance it would be meaningless. Nor do we support federal or state legislative efforts to limit antibiotic use because we believe in the efficacy of the science-based review process at FDA, and we do not believe it is good policy to undermine confidence in that process.

Again, we would be happy to provide more detailed information on any of the issues mentioned above. Should you desire more information, please contact Ron Phillips at the Animal Health Institute, 202-662-4130 or rphillips@ahi.org.

Sincerely,

American Association of Bovine Practitioners
American Association of Swine Veterinarians
American Feed Industry Association
American Sheep Industry Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Animal Health Institute
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
National Chicken Council
National Pork Producers Council
National Turkey Federation

Friday, June 02, 2006

Printed in Feedstuffs Magazine

Here's food for thought (commentary)


By TRENT LOOS

I FEAR that those of us who have been proclaiming that we need science to rule when it comes to efficiently converting natural resources to human consumable products may have a day of reckoning down the road.

In my last column (Feedstuffs, May 29), I explained that with science paving the way for the future, even cloned mules prove that yesterday's knowledge combined with tomorrow's science will improve life today.

I want to ask you the sincerest question I have ever posed: Exactly how far do we embrace science when it comes to food production? Is it acceptable to the point that a pork chop will be produced in a lab with a Petri dish instead of in a modern livestock barn?

With the recent announcement that scientists can engineer pigs so that their meat contains more omega-3 fatty acids, those of us in animal production are praising the benefits of biotechnology. However, shouldn't the obvious question be, "How long will you actually need the pigs to make the bacon?"

Nearly a year ago, Jason Matheny, a researcher from the University of Maryland, released information that he has proven that meat can be produced without an animal. In fact, he was quoted as saying, "With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply, and you could do it in a way that's better for the environment and human health. In the long run, this is a very feasible idea."

That follows research from 2002 when Touro College biology professor Morris Benjaminson reported growing fish meat in his lab. In his publication, he stated that during a one-week time period, the fish muscle increased up to 89% in size.

I can hear the skeptics now. The buzzword of the day is "natural." Even the soft drink 7UP is advertising that it is made of "all natural" ingredients.

The overall market for natural products remains on track for double-digit growth. Natural products, in some form or another, have already penetrated 94% of U.S. households.

Why, then, would we want to feed grain to animals for the production of meat when we could be using it for the production of renewable fuels and lessen our nation's dependence on foreign oil?

Of course, whether consumers will accept the label "naturally produced" on products from a laboratory is indeed a question that will need to be answered, but maybe other variables will come into play to influence that decision.

For instance, I have to believe that public pressure will force people to consume not the type of food they want but those foods that meet their true dietary needs. This Petri-dish technique could help curb the nation's problem with obesity and even alleviate people's fears of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza or Escherichia coli.

Researchers are currently working on new flavors that could lead to such lab-produced foods as bacon-flavored, enhanced omega-3 pork chops or chicken breasts. Of course, my favorite rib eye will be generated from a single cell and cultured and flavored to my liking.

In a recent LA Times article discussing this scientific breakthrough, the author reminded me of a Winston Churchill quote. In 1932, Churchill wrote that in 50 years, people would "escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken" by growing only desired parts -- like breasts and wings -- in the lab.

The bottom line is that we are quickly learning that there is no such thing as science fiction. If someone thinks of something, someone else will create it.

Most of you think that it just won't be cost effective to produce these products for the masses. Yet, one must wonder how many people said that the first time a person drove past them in an automobile instead of a horse and buggy, or when the first telephone was made and communication became relatively instantaneous instead of waiting for a reply on the telegraph machine.

People said the first home computers would cost too much for people to have in their homes. Odds are good that you are now receiving e-mail on your mobile telephone/television/computer.

The most ironic part about this entire concept is that researchers and consumers are aware of the scientifically based fact that the consumption of animal protein benefits our level of intelligence, yet the way things are headed, one must wonder if they have consumed a little too much meat because this intelligence could eventually eliminate the need for food animals altogether.

Ponder that while chewing on some good barbeque at this year's World Pork Expo.

Trent Loos is a producer, host of the "Loos Tales" radio show, public speaker and founder of Faces of Agriculture, which puts the human element back into food production. Find out more at www.FacesOfAg.com, or e-mail trent@loostales.com.

Monday, April 24, 2006

http://www.gazetteextra.com/farms042306.asp

Big and small farmers hoe different rows with same conviction
By Dan Hinkel
Gazette Staff

SPRING VALLEY TOWNSHIP-Tony Ends watched from atop a hill as Katie the pigtailed farm intern steered the tractor through a field of rocks and corn stubble under an unbroken blanket of dark April clouds.

Tears puddled in Ends' eyes. He talked about hope, and how it thrives despite the inevitability of defeat.

"To survive, we need justice. We need stewardship. We need community," he said.

He and his wife, Dela, run a subscription garden and goat milk soap-making business from their Scotch Hill Farm along an almost-unpopulated road near Rock County's border with Green County.

"We were just trying to live what we believe."

MAGNOLIA TOWNSHIP-Cow 1665 gave 26.6 pounds of milk before the gate pushed her out of the stall to make way for cow 1979.

As if to demonstrate how 3,500 acres of crops sustain 2,600 cows that gave 360,000 gallons of milk last year, 1979 made an unreflective face as she dropped a steaming load of green manure onto the floor and stepped in for the machine's turn at her udders.

Larson Acres did not accidentally become Rock County's largest dairy. Failure and bankruptcy are well-known fates in farming communities. The Larsons planned not to be a part of that trend.

A lot of Larsons depend on this farm on Highway 59 between Evansville and Albany.

"Ninety-nine percent of all the dairies in Wisconsin are family farms, some of them just have more family members," said Mike Larson, dairy manager and son of the farm's founder.

Is your way right, Mike Larson?

"I believe so," he said.

"You can do a good job with one animal or 100 animals or 1,000 animals."

From a bell to a barbell
Moderately sized one-family farms once dominated Wisconsin's countryside.

Call up the iconic image of four, six or eight people (perhaps wearing overalls), a red barn, two concrete silos, a small herd of animals, a tractor and a modest patch of corn and soybeans.

That's a stereotype, but one not without grounds in a past truth.

The curve of local farms once was a bell, with a cluster of mid-sized farms making the dome and smaller and larger farms in small numbers at the edges, said Randy Thompson, head of the Rock County branch of the UW-Extension.

A lot of moderately sized farms have died off through the years.

"There are fewer and fewer of those," said Ed Jesse, an agricultural economist at UW-Madison.

That leaves two different kinds of farms making up a larger percentage of local agriculture.

Big
The biggest are bigger than they used to be.

"I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but just as the corner grocery store, the neighborhood grocery store has been replaced by the big box entities … we're seeing that same thing in agriculture," Thompson said.

Our farms don't bulge to the behemoth size of California dairies, but the larger farms have been eating land and adding animals to build profits as farm margins grow ever thinner, said Bruce Jones, a professor of agricultural economics at UW-Madison.

"Ones that remain are basically incorporating the assets of the ones that are going out of business. It's not a recent phenomenon. This has been going on for a century," he said.

"Those that remain have been successful. They didn't get good because they became big, rather they became big because they were good," Jones said.

Dairies have grown especially.

The 2005 Status of Wisconsin Agriculture Report from UW-Madison and UW-Extension noted that dairy farm numbers have dropped while average herd sizes have expanded gradually. The proportion of Wisconsin dairy farms with more than 200 cows grew by 135 percent from 1997 to 2002.

The 20 percent of Wisconsin farms that have more than 100 cows produce more than half of the milk produced in-state, a number that has risen with herd sizes.

Small
They don't draw outcries about "factory farming," and they don't keep small cities of cows or pigs to offend neighbors during the hottest and stinkiest days of summer.

But if smaller farms are less noticeable, they are also common.

Small farms include hobby farms, retirement farms or farms that are too small to make enough money, so a family member needs to work away from the farm to pay bills. Many lifestyle and small farms lose money each year. Indeed, there are so many hobby farms they skew farm income numbers downward for farmers whose sole incomes come from farming.

"You'd be surprised around here at the number of folks who work at General Motors or some other business in town, but who live out in the country and farm several hundred acres," Thompson said.

Nearly half the state's farms are run by a farmer with a second job, according to the 2006 status report. The status report does not say how many of those farms are hobby farms on which farmers don't expect to make money and how many are farms unintentionally unprofitable enough to force farmers into other jobs.

Many small farmers use organic farming to maximize profits, although not all small farmers are organic farmers.

Still: "Organic farms in Wisconsin are almost exclusively small, family-run operations," according to the 2006 status report.

"The organic market has been a way that persons of more modest scale have been able to get more value added," Jones said.

The 2006 report described organic farming as the fastest growing portion of the state food market, but one that still supplies a tiny piece of state agriculture production.

Wisconsin was home to 659 certified organic farms in 2003. Estimates suggest there were about 880 certified organic farms in Wisconsin by 2004, according to the status report.

Choices: A family decision
Eight hundred heads swung over the metal gates on both sides of the barn, forming a living aisle for Mike Larson's Ford Lariat truck. The cows looked like jostling, drooling, mooing partygoers lined up for the guest of honor.

Four calves are born every day on average at Larson Acres.

The farm is milking about 1,450 cows on any given day, while more than a 1,000 more aren't milked because they are too young or otherwise un-milkable.

Eight hundred cows in one barn make the sound of a throbbing headache, but it's a noise the Larsons wanted and pursued.

"It was a huge decision we had to make," Mike said.

Family members decided in 1998 to expand the farm bought in 1957 by Don and Virginia Larson. The Larsons expanded from milking 180 cows in 1998 to milking 1,200 by the end of 2000. The Larsons now have enough cows to give three to every person in Magnolia Township.

Thirty people work the farm. Eleven of them are Larsons. If the dairy hadn't expanded, about half those Larsons couldn't work at the farm, Mike said.

"We're trying to make a living as much as everybody else is."

Farms have evolved-or devolved, depending on your point of view-since the days of rooster alarm clocks, draft horse-pulled plows and cattle brands.

The Larson Acres office looks like any city office, with computers and work furniture. The farm has a comfortable employee lounge with a schedule on a whiteboard. Employees get 401k and profit-sharing plans. The Larsons call their farm an "educational showplace." Visitors from 75 countries have toured the farm.

In the milking parlor, the cows are led in and out of the milking stalls in platoons by workers and automatic gates. As they mill into position, workers smear a yellow sanitizing agent on their teats. Screens record each cow's performance and offer past milking stats, like digital cow baseball cards.

"It is a science," Mike said.

Although Mike Larson stresses efficiency and consistency like a shop foreman, this farm does not closely resemble a "factory," as the unwanted description would imply. But it is clearly different from other local dairies.

Outside a machine is pumping liquid manure from a brown lagoon that wafts a rotten, sweet smell that clings to the nostrils, although the smell was not nauseatingly strong or distracting on a clear April day.

A thick hose ran out to a field in the nearby Amish country, near the Larsons' second cow barn. There a tractor disked the manure directly into the soil.

More feed. More milk. More manure. More feed. More milk. More manure.

More room for more Larsons.

"It's one way to do it," Mike said.

"That's what we chose."

Choices: A personal mission
The Ends' farm is a ramshackle Noah's Ark built of scavenged materials and free-roaming animals that look feral but are safely domesticated.

Next to the farm is a single acre of land. If there were a measure of how crucial an acre of land were to its farmer, this acre would boast a record amount of importance per square inch.

"It's fresh. It's local. It's chemical free," Tony said.

Dela and Tony worked full-time for years to support their fledgling goal, but they made a pact to farm the land by their values.

"It's not a romantic notion really to try to grow your own food. It's hard, hard work," Tony said.

"We're holding our heads above water," Dela said.

While the Ends don't hold leases on unending carpets of corn and soybeans, their farm has grown too. They started delivering vegetables and herbs to five customers in 1994. They hope to deliver to 200 in Wisconsin and Illinois this growing season. Full-time jobs have been pared to part-time jobs as the farm has made more money.

They make money selling produce, but the Ends show special affection-like salespeople-for their soap-making business.

Dela turns the milk she squeezes from the farm's goats into a selection of pleasantly soft smelling soaps. They grossed $30,000 with the soap business last year. The Ends are working for a government grant they will capture if they make a certain profit. They are trying to build a cooperative of farmers who help each other and protect their recipes.

"She turns $1.65 of raw milk into $180 of milk soap," Tony said.

The Ends speak in the language of thrift, because scavenging has always been necessary. There is no shiny new tractor in the barn. The goats are milked by hand. The greenhouse they use to start plants is not pretty, but it's a greenhouse.

"We didn't have a pickup truck when we started," Tony said.

They use a walk-in cooler they bought from the defunct Janesville Kohl's grocery store. The farm has that classic small farm feel, in which the useful and the broken down mix together so that the functionality of any piece of metal is never certain.

Animals including chickens, goats, sheep, a pony, dogs, and hissy, territorial geese come and go as they please.

Tony took the idea for the farm to eight lenders.

They responded: "Great idea! But we won't finance it."

They're doing this because they believe deeply in conserving resources, and caring for land at the smallest level. Tony-a man of deeply cut, serious eyes and deliberate words-is religious about his goal.

"It's a personal mission."

Values
If you don't think farm politics are touchy, call a farmer and ask how much his or her farm makes in subsidies. Hold the phone away from your ear.

But sensitivities are understandable among people who wake early and work long hours for small profits to make food and milk that goes into the fridges of people who move next to farms and act indignant when they smell manure.

Mike Larson concedes that his farm takes in its share of subsidies.

Although the farm took about $1.2 million from 1994 to 2004, according to the Environmental Working Group, 40 producers in the state took more federal money.

Larson echoed many other farmers when he said he wished the business paid enough that farms didn't need subsidizing.

You won't find Tony Ends high on the list of subsidy takers, although he did pursue the soap-making grant.

Ends keeps a list of complaints about the dominant system of large farming near the top of his head. He generally doesn't blame large farmers who use mainstream fertilizing and animal raising methods so much as he blames a system that makes large scale, chemical-using farming seem like the only option. That system pollutes the environment, contributes to harsh conditions for migrant workers, mistreats animals, keeps people from knowing their food sources and depletes soil nutrients without replacing them, he said.

Farmers pursue huge size, blowing up a balloon of production and pollution that one day will have to burst, he said.

"I look at the facts. I'm very concerned about our rural communities. It's a short term gain and a long term loss," he said.

Ends was involved with a lawsuit against the Larsons involving the site of the family's second cow barn. The Larsons lost the last round of the dispute when the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a previous loss. The Larsons will next argue the issue in a Rock County court, Mike said. The case is over as far as the Ends are concerned, Dela said.

Mike can't say why some disapprove of the way his family runs its farm. He says "sustainability," the same as Ends does, but he means sustaining the farm's viability for decades.

"It's a business that can be here 50 years from now," he said.

The Larsons work more with the state Department of Natural Resources than they did before they expanded, Mike said. He makes the point that if his farm were poisoning people, some of them would be Larsons.

"We live here. We drink the water," he said.

His farm is a family farm, and it meets a crucial criteria: last year was the first in 31 years in which a Larson didn't show an animal at the Rock County 4-H Fair. They'll be back in 2007.

Larson doesn't judge how a farmer farms, although he emphasizes a simple personal philosophy of doing things right, however a farmer sees right:

"I don't think there's a right way to do it."

Futures
"I'm very optimistic," Mike Larson said.

He's optimistic that the family's decision to take their farm huge in 1998 will mean a profitable business for family members long after his farming strength gives out.

Tony Ends is confident that his system is right.

"My heart goes out to big farmers. How can a system like that continue?" he asked.

"We get a lot out of the little bit of space. What good is it to make a success if the whole rural community around you goes to hell?"

He pointed to Katie Korson, a farm intern from Michigan learning about the Ends' methods. Her parents run a tiny beef cattle operation. She wants to go back to Michigan and use a piece of land for small-scale growing.

"Anything that's sustainable. Something that can make a small farm survive," she said.

Ends spoke to a simple premise: different farms require the same hard work for the same small margins.

"Large scale, small scale. They all work hard."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why I would not be a farmerBy Alan Caruba

March 15, 2006

Time was, when most Americans were farmers. Today, about two percent of the population does an astonishing job of raising, and harvesting, all the crops that turn into an astonishing variety of foods that we take for granted. Our supermarkets are stuffed to overflowing and, given the abundance, so are a lot of us.

You know something is terribly wrong, when the price of wheat at harvest time nets less than $3.00 per bushel, a price that is well below the cost of production. Many of us are paying about as much for a gallon of gasoline, and therein, lies the problem facing farmers today. Historically, it hasn't been this bad since the Great Depression.

I was raised in the suburbs. My mom had a rose garden, but that, plus mowing the lawn and trimming the hedge, was about as close as I ever got to growing anything. In the 1980s, though, I had the opportunity to travel widely throughout the nation, visiting farmers, and getting to know what it was like to work long hours and still end up in debt, because the price of wheat, soybeans, corn, and other products were tied to international competition, and other factors beyond their control.

One of those factors today, affecting all of us and, in particular, our nation's farmers, is the price of energy. Recently, the Agriculture Energy Alliance, a coalition of 75 organizations, has been lobbying Congress to implement policy changes that will protect, expand, and improve our energy supplies. Most of us don't give much thought to the way energy is vital to the provision of a safe and abundant food supply.

I doubt that most of us think of food in terms of our national security, but stop a moment, and think what you would do if there wasn't a constant supply of food in your local supermarket, restaurant, or hamburger chain. Most of the nation's population lives within fifty miles of either the East or West coast. Few of us have a clue about raising produce or livestock.

There's another aspect of energy and food that most of us never connect. It is the role that natural gas and other chemicals play in the production of fertilizers used to increase the output of every acre of farmland. Add that to the gasoline or diesel used to run the huge tractors and combines modern farming requires, and you may understand why the "Farm Bill" is actually called the National Food Security Act.

These days, farmers are increasingly frustrated, and they have good reason to be. Agriculture is perhaps the most heavily-regulated industry in America. Moreover, it comes with no guarantees that Mother Nature will cooperate. While those of us in the suburbs and cities of America, hear reports of drought conditions in various parts of the nation, we rarely give it much thought.

Too much rain, or too little rain wreaks havoc for farmers. Too much sunshine means irrigation, and farmers must pay for the water they use. When the federal government turns off the spigot, as it did with the Klamath Valley farmers of Oregon, the hard work of generations is destroyed, in the name of saving an "endangered" suckerfish.

This is how we thank farmers, who, over the years, have tripled yields, reduced erosion by eighty percent, and wind-blown dust by six hundred percent. These are huge achievements in productivity and stewardship, since crops were first planted 11,000 years ago.

What we have in America, today, is a genuine farm crisis and, if you are dependent on the mainstream press, you are probably totally unaware of it.

How bad is it? The first Northwest wheat crop was planted in 1815 in Fort Vancouver, Washington. When the railroad lines arrived in 1883, the area boomed. Today, it is the principal white wheat producing area in the nation; a major supplier to both national and international markets. In 1992, there were 5,000 wheat farmers in Washington. Today, there are about 3,000. And, if the price of gasoline increases, along with all the other costs of farming, these and other farmers around the nation will stop farming.

When that happens, the rest of us are going to find out about it the hard way.

That's why we have to begin now to find, and extract the energy that exists in abundance here in the United States. It's offshore in areas where drilling for oil is prohibited. It's trapped in shale deposits in Utah and Colorado. It's in Alaska in the ANWR. Congress and the states are not permitting the energy industry to get at it, for the rest of us.

When it comes to sustaining our current farming population, we have a genuine crisis, and we are running the risk of losing the next generation of farmers.

Federal energy, agriculture, and foreign policies have created this crisis. A look at Congress, today, suggests it is oblivious to it.

Editor's note: Alan's book, Warning Signs, is available. If you have enjoyed Alan's columns, you'll love his book. Check it out.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alan Caruba is the author of "A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam," and a pocket guide, The United Nations Versus The United States, both are available exclusively from www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. He also writes "Warning Signs," a weekly commentary posted on the Internet site.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Loos Tales column printed in High Plains Journal Feb 25, 2006

The only true lottery winners

As our nation was honoring Presidents Washington and Lincoln on February 20, 2006, a very ironic meeting was taking place in North Platte, NE. Lincoln, who created the Homestead Act of 1862, was surely rolling over in his grave if he heard some of the obscurities presented at the Open Space Conference, which was hosted by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. As a refresher, let’s do a quick history lesson. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave one quarter of a section (160 acres) of undeveloped land in the American West to any head of a family or person that was at least 21 years of age. In order to claim ownership, he must live on the land for five years and build a house of a least 12 by 14 feet. The family head could also opt to buy the land for $1.25 per acre after six months.

Without question, the Homestead Act paved the way for our forefathers to turn a vast wilderness into the most balanced ecosystem in the world. The Lewis and Clark Journals alone give us great insight into some of the troubles of that day. Their journals indicate that within the first 40 days of their journey, every member of the Corp of Discovery faced bouts of disentary because of silt, filth and ooze that was in each cup of water they drank from the Missouri River. Yet today those with an agenda simply choose to ignore the improvements that humans have made to the ecosystem of what once was a Wilderness.

Without a shred of doubt, the United States of America has led the world in innovations and the development of technologies to improve natural resources and humankind. The land of the free and the home of the brave has proven that American intelligence and preservance can create what is the envy of the world. Private ownership of land and personal property and our pride in the toil and tribulations from one generation to the next since the passage of the Homestead Act has created a place that disconnected Americans like to visit. They often comment that “the sandhills of Nebraska are like a dream come true”. That statement was made possible because of the hard working hands of ranchers who used careful stewardship on their land. In support of that was one of the most logical bits of information presented in North Platte which came from Jim Stubbendick of the University of Nebraska. He presented studies that indicate the sandhills are in less need of protection than they have been in the last 100 years because of the land management of private property owners.

You should know that the Nebraska Environmental Trust is state government agency that is funded in large part by the Nebraska Lottery. Boil down all of the fancy lingo about helping “preserve Nebraska beauty” and you will find that Lottery dollars are finacing one of the largest land grabs in the history of the country. One of their board members, Warren Arganbright, an attorney from Valentine, says, "The areas of concern are how to preserve, protect and repair the land". I would like to ask him what he is protecting the land from? Is it private ownership and good stewardship?

Eric Freyfogle, from the University of Illinois College of Law, was a featured speaker and must be the first human to actually accomplish time travel because his words would indicate that he completely missed of the downfalls of communism. I chose to use that word because he himself referred to land ownership as a “regime.” He actually said in public that private ownership of land was “morally problematic and a lousy idea”.

Don’t lull yourself into believing that Nebraska just happens to be where this meeting took place. Nebraska is the epicenter of the largest land mass owned by an individual in this country. Ted Turner now owns 2% of the United States prairie. There is a reason these individuals with United Nations money behind them are converging on places like Arthur Country, NE with a population of 400 and ½ person per square mile. I don’t think it is because there is a rapidly growing urban sprawl problem. It is because there aren’t too many people to fight back.

When you sum up this movement, the only way these individuals will be successful is if they continue to do their dirty work in the dead of night. Once we shed light on the fact that they are trying to gain control of the land through easements and acquisitions and we engage the same farm and ranch families who helped turn this wilderness into the most productive resource in the country, all the money in the world can’t compete with the grit and determination these families will use to send these lottery winners to another ecosystem to execute their land grabbing ways.



Trent Loos is a 6th generation United States farmer, host of daily radio show Loos Tales and founder of Faces of Agriculture, non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com or email Trent at trent@loostales.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

From Boston Globe

Animal rights group sues to stop removal of parakeet nests
January 13, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --An animal rights group said Friday that it filed a lawsuit against United Illuminating Co. seeking to stop any future removal of monk parakeet nests from utility poles.

Friends of Animals argues that the birds are part of Connecticut's ecosystem and should be protected.

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the capture and killing of the birds and wants the court to compel UI to take humane measures that would dissuade the parakeets from building their huge nests on utility poles.

Nebraska steers folks straight on beef facts

Celebrating and Savoring Nebraska Beef Celebrating and Savoring Nebraska Beef By Governor Pete Ricketts May 11, 2021   Governor's offici...