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.

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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

Would a thankful heart improve discussion?

I don’t know about you, but I always get a little philosophical at the end of the year.  It’s a time to take another look at priorities, the worthiness of verbal battles, and respect for others.

I’ve had the discussions this season about Christmas.  I’m not an X-mas guy, whether it can be justified or not, I think people need to see CHRIST in Christmas.  In spite of all the hoopla, He is still the reason for the season.  I’ve also had some good ag discussions this year via social media.  Most were very respectful, and fun, but once in a while things got a little overboard on both sides.  I regret that, and one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more patient with people, even when it seems it may not be worth it.

I’ve heard stories from others that after some discussions, some people have stopped following them.  I’ve thought about unfollowing some, but I haven’t, and it turned out I was glad I didn’t.  I’ve seen through those follows stories of scooped snow for neighbors, donating business profits to charities, and other ‘good’ things.  This from people I sometimes wasn’t sure moved beyond our ag discussions and their ‘point of view.’  I hope they’ve seen I’m not so bad either, and that we just need to be a little more accepting of each other.  As the saying goes, especially in agriculture, we need to hang together, or we truly could hang separately.  As I said before, the vast majority of discussion with those who may not always think like me have been great, and I hope to engage more in 2011, for both of our benefit.

Here’s another reason I want to be thankful, and put more into perspective.  I have a cousin who is very ill.  He has brain cancer, cancer in his eye, and a very rough, unchartered road ahead of him.  I have other friends and acquaintances who are fighting various illnesses, from cancer to early aged Alzheimers, to severely broken bones from accidents.  I know I’m getting older, but they are all too young for this.  Their Christmas season was spent in chemotherapy and radiation, putting sleeves and pins in their bodies to hold their bones together, and in the realization that the normal things in life, including amazing memories, may be lost.

And so, our family has taken some time to be thankful for our health, for God’s provision, and for the promise of a new year.  Our discussions about agriculture are very important, and I won’t deny there is plenty of disagreement out there.  However, we all have reason to be thankful, and to work to have thoughtful, respectful discussion.

In the eye of the beholder

You hear a lot about media bias.  And yes, I believe there is a great deal of it, to the point that I believe very little  journalism exists from the network level down through major dailies, and even below.  Sometimes it’s not even hidden, sometimes it’s by omission, and often it’s by headline because many people are just headline readers.  You’ll also see bias in how some information not really wanted, but that must be included to at least imply impartiality, will be slipped in as late in the story as possible because so many others don’t take time to read all of an article.

Well, I ran across such an article the other day.  I’m not even going to get into the subject matter of the article itself and whether the action was right or wrong, that’s not the point.  I Just wanted to show the effect of the written word, depending on your views.  Here is the original article, word for word.

 

California Approves Use of Cancer-Causing Pesticide
Fresnobee.com via AP

FRESNO, Calif. — California pesticide regulators have approved a cancer-causing fumigant for use by fruit and vegetable growers, despite heavy opposition from environmental and farmworker groups.

Officials announced Wednesday that the state Department of Pesticide Regulation will register methyl iodide as a substitute for the pesticide, methyl bromide.

Methyl bromide is being phased out by international treaty.

The agency tentatively approved methyl iodide’s use in April, despite concerns by a scientific advisory panel that it could poison air and water.

Regulators insist the chemical can be used safely and say strict guidelines will be followed.

Tests have found no traces of the carcinogen in fruit from treated soil. The pesticide already is registered in 47 other states.


OK, from the headline on, you get the gist.  They may as well have said, “How could these people have possibly done this?”  As if to avoid it, at the end, if a reader goes that far, you finally see that 47 other states have approved it, and tests show no traces of chemical on the fruit.

But, if a regular observer/consumer is reading this, what if it said the following? Note the information is the same.

 

California joins 47 other states to approve agricultural economic tool
wherever.com

In what some are saying is overdue and could restore the fruit and vegetable growing sustainability of the region, California regulators have joined 47 other states in approving methyl iodide, a protective fumigant for fruit crops.

Following tentative approval in April, the state Department of Pesticide Regulation has now officially approved the crop tool, citing testing that show no traces of carcinogen in fruit after its use.

Methyl bromide was targeted for phase-out by some countries as part of an international treaty, forcing a substitute for the protection of California fruit crops.

In spite of safe testing results, some environmental groups are opposing the action, but regulators stress that the tool can be used safely and effectively under the guidelines imposed.

 

Sound a little different? If anything can be taken away from this, it’s that we should be careful of not only what we read, but how we read it.  We also need to make an attempt to put personal bias aside, and see if there is actually a jewel or two of truth we can discern.

Stupid is as stupid does

It’s hard to find a really good movie these days, but one good one a few years back was Forrest Gump.  The story was OK, but I will remember the great phrases, such as, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

In agriculture, that’s certainly true.  It seems in the last few years there has been a new concentrated attack like never before.  Whether you call it traditional, modern, conventional, or whatever, it is now considered by some the worst of the worst in ways to feed the planet.

The same goes for animals.  Everyone can pretty much agree on animal welfare, and abhors what is seen on some ‘undercover videos’ that are released.  The problem is the Humane Society of the U.S. and PETA videos have little to do with animal care.  Their agenda through showing these very rare abuse cases is to get us to stop eating meat.

If you ask most ag people, they roll their eyes that people are swayed by such efforts. “Don’t these urban people know what these groups are trying to accomplish?”  “I can’t make a living if I abuse my animals, they won’t grow efficiently, sickness will cost more, and dang it, I know I grow them for food, but I care about those animals, I love being around them.”

Well, in the words of Forrest, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’  I’ve had encounters with people who think we shouldn’t worry at all about feeding the rest of the world.  And, get ready for this, that anybody in say, Egypt, should just have their own ‘Victory Garden’ and supply their own food.  Now, if that should happen in places like Egypt, it’s a given for the U.S.

OK, sorry, that’s stupid.  Just as it is to mistake the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  Yes, some animals are grown for food.  If some choose not to eat meat, that’s their business, but it’s not the choice of the vast majority, and some of the misinformation and misguided efforts by those who want to achieve their no-meat agendas are…stupid.  But why does anybody listen?  Why doesn’t simple common sense take over?  Well, it’s a must to understand that most of the population is two, three or more generations away from the farm or ranch. They’ve only known food to be readily and abundantly available.  And, in too many cases, the only information they’re hearing is from the agenda-driven groups, not the farmers and ranchers that safely grow their food and care for farm animals.

I’m glad groups like the AgChat Foundation and farmers and ranchers in general are starting to recognize the problem, and are getting much more active in telling their story.  Because if they don’t, only one side will be told, and it’s not the real side.  In other words, farmers and ranchers out there need to get busy telling their story, or they can fit into the category as well.  You see, ‘Stupid is as stupid does’…or doesn’t.

McDonalds’s board shows some spine

It was good to see the story recently that the McDonald’s Corporation board of directors has recommended that the company’s shareholders vote against a proposal to require that five percent of the eggs purchased for the chain’s restaurants in the United States be the cage-free variety.  Obviously, this was another proposal brought forward by the Humane Society of the United States.

Other corporations that have caved in, at least at some level, to bogus HSUS banter that cage-free somehow means better are Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Sonic, and the retailers Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s, among others.

But the McDonald’s board said that the science was not there to support a switch.  Hooray for some common sense and a show of some spine by McDonald’s.  The HSUS is, without a doubt, the most dangerous and deceptive organization that wants to end animal agriculture as we know it.  They claim all they want is humane treatment, but their words and actions speak louder, they want to eliminate meat from your diet

Another item that speaks louder for the HSUS is their budget.  It’s now become more widely known that HSUS does not support your local animal shelter, though the tear jerking images of sheltered dogs and cats are the basis of their national ad campaigns.  The fact is that, barring some chump change from their 100,000,000+ budget, they lobby, pay huge salaries and benefits to their staff, and spread a host of misinformation about agriculture.  Part of that misinformation is about cage-free systems.  Cage-free eggs can actually be worse for chickens.  The birds are not protected from predators or each other.  Constant pecking, broken bones, more diseases, stress and death from predators, are all prevalent in many cage-free systems, and the list goes on.

What has happened in the boardroom at McDonald’s actually could be seen not only as a vote against the HSUS, but a vote for more humane treatment of chickens!  Let’s just hope McDonald’s holds their ground, and other corporations start seeing the truth about agriculture, and the deception of HSUS.