Common sense agriculture on CNN?

Yes, it may sound unlikely, but I have to hand it to CNN.  The following post is by Ryan Goodman, AR_Ranchhand on Twitter.  His blog is  www.AgricultureProud.com, and he’s also on facebook .

I want to thank Ryan for his balanced and solid information about agriculture, in particular beef production, and to CNN for running it.  The dialogue and sensible mindset Ryan talks about is what is sorely needed is this day of agendas and misinformation.  Consumers deserve this kind of information.  Enough said, just go to  http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/06/15/cattle-farmer/?hpt=hp_bn11.

A unique mom sees the value of her son on the farm

The link below is to a blog so good, it simply needs no enhancement.  See how a mom describes what happened to her son when he had the advantage to work on a farm, and why the current plan by the Dept. of Labor to keep kids from working on the farm is so misguided.

http://learningtosubmit.com/2012/04/25/should-rural-kids-be-allowed-to-work-on-farms-ranches/

The irony of ‘slime’

Well, even though it’s settled down some, there is a huge ‘dent’ of damage left over the so-called ‘pink slime’ debate held recently.  People lost their jobs.  Businesses closed. Consumers were scared.  And all for nothing.

But one of the biggest parts is the irony of the entire issue of finely textured beef.  Opponents, just as it is many times when people knee-jerk react before they look at facts or think about consequences, actually hurt their own cause.

Now I know you should never assume, but just for grins, let’s say these finely textured beef opponents also claim to care about the environment and food safety.

What are they fighting against? Finely textured beef is perfectly safe.  When steaks and roasts are cut, it creates the “trim” that becomes ground beef.  The compaines supplying lean finely textured beef use a process to remove a lot of the fat from the lean beef in the trim, which is then added to ground beef as a concentrated, lean source of protein.  It may also be SAFELY treated, just as many other foods are today, to eliminate possible bacteria contamination.  In short, the beef is safe, so says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Here’s more.  Finely textured beef eliminates waste because it uses all the true beef available.  If it’s not used, the extra lean beef is thrown away.  Is that good for the earth, or for hungry people?

According to the amount gained, if finely textured beef isn’t used, beef demand would require another 1.5 million cattle.  Let’s see, 1.5 million times all the extra feed, water, extra space, etc. etc. etc. Does that make sense?

None of this yet deals with the bottom line.  Without finely textured beef, the price of your hamburger goes up, for no reason.

Then there is the issue of labeling.  Finely textured beef is just that…beef.  I guess the label could say “beef, with added beef.”  Would that be better?

Finely textured beef has been around for more than two decades, when the technology and idea became available to not waste this valuable lean protein.  All these folks who jumped on the ‘slime’ bandwagon so fast, without looking at facts or consequences should know this.  Lean finely textured beef is not necessarily ‘pink,’  It’s actually very environmentally ‘green.’  Next time, they should stop and think before their actions damage an industry, hurt other people, and hurt the environment they claim to care so much about.

More info and sources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDiPjmsKeh8&feature=player_embedded

http://www.kfb.org/news/newsimages/pinkslimeisnt.pdf

http://beefisbeef.com/

Labor Dept. needs some country living

People love to talk about ‘change.’  It’s understandable, because many things have changed over the years.  Probably one of the most easily recognizable is technology.  I now e-mail, tweet, post to facebook, watch video, check markets, navigate through cities, find restaurants and gas stations and a lot more on my ‘smartphone.’

Sometimes, I even make a phone call.

Girl and her calf on a Jackson, County Kansas farm

Modern Agriculture has changed dramatically too.  The amazing advances in technology make it the most efficient, productive, and environmentally sound food, fiber and fuel producing system in the world.

But a couple of things about agriculture have never changed, and the Department of Labor doesn’t understand it.  That’s why we now have what could be the most misguided proposal for the overregulation of agriculture we’ve ever seen.  You see, the Dept. of Labor wants to basically keep kids from helping, or working on the farm.  In the real world, that’s absurd on so many levels.  But Washington D.C. bureaucracy is not the real world.

Apparently, the Dept. of Labor doesn’t think youth under 16 can be around cattle, operate a mower or tractor, milk a cow, or cut weeds.  That’s just a few of the restrictions the new proposal would implement. In other words, many things I did growing up on our family farm, and all others before and after me, would be illegal.

I was starting to drive a tractor, ‘driving’ a pickup in a pasture to fix fence, riding horses to move cattle, and feeding cattle at around 9 yrs. old.  Could some of this be dangerous?  I suppose so.  But does the Dept. of Labor actually believe that my parents wanted me injured or killed?  Just as farmer Chris Chinn from Missouri told Congress in her real-life testimony on the issue, She, and I, were hurt more often and much worse at school than we ever were on the farm.  The farm is the perfect place and opportunity for parents to teach common-sense safety rules and precautions, the responsibility of handling expensive equipment, and the values of work.  That work ethic, and other skills and values I learned on the farm, has served me very well as an adult in my employment, relationships, finances and more.  We don’t need to keep kids from working on the farm, we need to get more out there.  I remember my city friends at school who came to see me on the farm, and some worked during the summer.  Their parents knew it was good for them to learn the responsibilities of taking care of animals, the value of equipment, the importance of a work ethic.  These kids were better adults because of their time on the farm.

The Dept. of Labor needs some country living.  Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran has invited Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to Kansas to see personally how these proposed rules can threaten the family farm and its historical value.  I hope she comes.  She needs to see the value system, the work ethic, and the skills learned on the farm.  I thank Sen. Moran and others in the Kansas delegation who are keeping up the fight to do away with this misguided overregulation.  If you grew up or work on a farm, you can help, too.  Just go to www.keepfamiliesfarming.com and tell your story.  Much of Washington D.C. doesn’t ‘get’ the value of rural living.  We must teach them through our action, or lose a heritage that will hurt everyone.

Saying goodbye to a great ag lady: A letter to Mom

Dear Mom,

Your passing this month was very hard.  I knew you had a bad heart, but things seemed pretty good lately.  It was a little surprising you left us so soon, though, at nearly 89, I guess they would say you had a good run.

Of course, it wasn’t long enough for me, and lately, I’ve had a rush of memories of you on the farm.  We could be on the back side of the quarter section when you would let out your special ‘woohoo!’ from the house at a decibel level and tone that would reach across the acres to bring us home to dinner.  You and Dad would sit at the dining room table and work on all the fertilizer bills, farm planning, etc. together, to make the best out of 800 acres of Kansas farmland.

You were also ahead of your time.  There weren’t a lot of  ‘working mom’s’ in those days, but your work at the nearby town bank gave us the ‘extras’ we all had as kids, while the farm provided the basics.  It didn’t seem we were rich, but it always seemed we had what we needed.  You made sure of that, and I’m grateful.

Working never stopped those Sunday fried chicken dinners for the family, or the pies, oh the pies you would make for the local church suppers, while you always had an extra one or two for home.

There’s so much more.  The games and the plays you always attended with Dad during school, the regrets of dropping piano lessons to play football, when I probably could have done both.  You were always proud of me and I knew that, and you loved family, especially when a huge group could gather on the farm.  I remember you crying when Dad broke his knee after being thrown from a horse, and the neighbors brought in twenty or so tractors and drills to get the wheat planted.  You loved that farm community and the people.  They were real, they were caring, and that has never changed.

I was glad you and Dad were able to travel in later years.  After being on the farm most of your life, places like China, Hong Kong, Russia, Europe, Hawaii and all over the continental U.S. were great adventures for you.  Thankfully you did it when you were both young enough and healthy.  I remember you told us you were spending our inheritance, but we didn’t care.  You sacrificed a lot, and it was wonderful to see some reward.

The sunset I described to Mom

It almost seemed fitting I was in Hawaii when we got the call you had taken a downward turn.  Of all your travels, Hawaii was your favorite.  I was wishing you were there as I described to you on the phone where we were, with the sunset, the ocean waves lapping the shore, beautiful flowers and the palm trees swaying.  It was your thing.

You never wanted me to play football, and I completely trashed my knees doing it.  It’s why I wonder.  We had arrived at the beach for stand-up surfing lessons when we got another call that you weren’t doing well.  It was clear we needed to come home early.  Any kind of surfing at my age may not be such a great idea.  Did you, just one final time, bring me home before I did something stupid?  I’ll always think so.

There are so many people that are missing you, and you can count me at the top of the list.  Thank you for being such a great farm lady.  Thanks for the love of the country and its people you helped instill in me.   Thanks for being my Mom.

Love,

Your son

A reflective harvest

Getting ready to unload on the go

Harvest is a tremendous time of year.  Growing up on a farm, and now working in town, harvest is an annual event I so look forward to.  It gets my mind clear.  I love the open air and space, I love reconnecting to a unique and wonderful group of people who grow food for all of us.  These people are the salt of the earth.  Their values, their caring for each other,are a tremendous boost whenever I’m there.

So, when our tenant called last Friday morning and said the corn dried out earlier than predicted, and they’d be in our field in the afternoon, I called my wife, we loaded up, and headed to the farm.

As we happily drove, with excited anticipation of being on the combines, tractors and trucks, watching the culmination of the miracle of growth of a crop, we saw some sobering sites.  As we passed many fields on the way to our own, we saw that this year would be different.  Farming in SC Kansas, we were on the edge of the severe drought that hit the Midwest this year.  We saw dryland and irrigated crops that didn’t look like year’s past.  We knew what that meant.  Many farmers would struggle this year.

Making room for more

What we also knew was ours was far from the worst.  Further west in Kansas, and into Oklahoma and Texas, many farmers had nothing.  The further we went, the more we reflected on our fortune.  No, we wouldn’t have the crop of past years, but we were blessed to have what we did.

We made it to the farm, rode the combines, tractors and trucks, and watched the corn flow.  It was still a wonderful harvest, but we did take time to talk about and ponder what could have been, and what was reality just a few miles west and south of our farm, as well as some who were not as fortunate right in our area.

Farming can be a teacher for all aspects of life.  When we think we don’t have what we want or all we’d like, we should consider others, who would be ecstatic just to have what we have.  We always try to count our blessings.  This year some of those blessings came in small yellow kernels a lot of good people didn’t have.  Take some time to count your blessings.  I’m betting you have more than you think.

Food with Integrity? Maybe Not

Sometimes I think agriculture is falling into a well-conceived trap.  We’re told we should market to the consumer, provide what the consumer wants, and it’s the only way to be successful.  While there clearly is merit in that belief, even to the point that it may be hard to survive without doing it, it begs a question of what has happened to that consumer, and where are they getting their information?

Before I continue, I must say that I believe one of the greatest words in the English language is ‘balance.’ So understand that I believe there is room for all kinds of agriculture.  I just don’t like it when one group misleads the public about another to boost a self-serving agenda.  Yes, I realize not all do, but some with large pocketbooks certainly are.

Just today, I learned of a new video from Chipotle, the burrito-making bunch.  It has some great music (though it’s sad Willie Nelson is drinking the cool-aid) with a well-done animation of a farmer, who is putting animals in fences and buildings, then sees the ‘error of his ways’ and releases them all, into this nirvana of open pasture, much to the delight of Chipotle.  The purpose and message behind the video and the Chipotle website is what they call ‘Food with Integrity.’  Well, to make their claim, they say, or imply, you must never use hormones or antibiotics, fencing or housing animals is not caring for them, and a host of other agenda-driven hype.

I can spend a lot of time talking about science-based and practical reasons why housing animals save many of their lives annually, especially this year during the heat and drought.  I can talk about predators, prudent use of antibiotics, the ‘natural’ presence of hormones, and a lot more about animal welfare and food safety.  But my real concern goes beyond all this.

I am concerned that the consumer is getting inaccurate and misleading information on purpose.  If  ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’ agriculture isn’t torn down, then other forms cannot be nearly as successful.  So, at whatever the cost, the public is being misled by some to believe that if a hog is housed, the farmer doesn’t care about its welfare, when actually just the opposite is likely true.  Hey Chipotle (and others this applies to), lying about food production hardly sounds like ‘Food with Integrity.’   It seems before we blindly accept ‘marketing to the consumer,’ we must continue and improve our effort to provide the consumer the truth.

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