Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Farm is NOT a Sweat Shop

Thankfully the U.S. Department of Labor has figured out that while a kid may work up a sweat bailing hay in the middle of August, farm families should have more leniency than other industries when it comes to putting kids to work.

Today the Department announced strong plans to re-propose the parental exemption portion of the child labor in an agriculture proposed rule to reflect more fully the needs of families in rural communities. Bottom line: for now it’s still OK to let your youngsters help out on the farm. And it looks like their ability to work for family members will be protected in the future.

From the Dept. of Labor’s news release:
The department recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.

An advantage of a rural life is that you start building a strong work ethic from the first day you enroll in a 4-H livestock project. I know many 5, 7 and 9 year-olds who take their responsibilities caring for livestock very seriously. It would be a crime to lose that because of strict regulations created a chilling environment for parents and grandparents.

We don’t have kids, but we have certainly benefited from having our friends and neighbor’s children help out working cattle, bailing hay, doing some basic chores. I believe that we’ve also shown a few of these kids that their moms and dads were:
1) not so mean
2) not so hard to work for
3) smarter than the kid gave them credit for
We think those are important lessons to learn before one graduates from high school. Hopefully the rules will allow us to help out in this manner in the future.

This is a great example of where farmers and ranchers can have success when they’re vocal about their way of life. We all still need to pay attention to how the final rule comes together, but the farm community can breathe a little easier today

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe for a federal takeover of farming

Applause for Doug Wolf, president of the National Pork Producers Council who raises hogs and cattle as well as corn, soybeans and alfalfa in Lancaster, Wis.

He authored a tell-it-like-it-is piece for the Chicago Tribune "Recipe for a Federal Take Over of Farming" regarding his objections -which should be all livestock owners' objections - to federal bill H.R. 3798.  This is the bill that has the support of the United Egg producers who agreed to back positions held by the Humane Society of the United States regarding how chickens should be raised.  Click here for their take on the legislation.

Maybe you don't have a single chicken on your place, but if you do have cattle, hogs, sheep or goats you should care deeply about this bill. 

From Wolf's article...
"If some producers want to cooperate with the animal-rights movement and agree to specific rules for raising their animals, that's their business.

But when they write those rules in federal law, that's everyone's business — at least all of us in agriculture. By
injecting the federal government into the marketplace with no benefit to the public or animal health, it has the potential to irreparably damage the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers across the country.

It also likely would lead to higher food prices, fewer consumer choices and scarce federal resources being redirected away from assuring safe food and other things the government should be doing."

Wolf is spot-on when he calls this "a recipe for a federal takeover of farming."  If you are a livestock producer large or small, you must be familiar with what the Bill is suggesting and be vocal in your opposition.  Once these decisions are taken out of the hands of the real animal experts we all lose--consumers and farmers alike.

Or one day we may be saying which came first...the chicken or the legislation?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The right kind of Green Revolution

Bill Gates just might be the best advocate agriculture has at the moment.    

In his 2012 annual foundation letter, Bill Gates shines a light on the need for expanded agriculture production and more focus on research to deliver new solutions and approaches to improve the lives of the poorest people on the planet. 

Because of the philanthropic causes he’s been involved in, he has seen firsthand the food insecurity that exists around the world and he wants to do something about it by encouraging more research to improve productivity in the sector. 

From his letter…
"We can be more innovative about delivering solutions that already exist to the farmers who need them. Knowledge about managing soil and tools like drip irrigation can help poor farmers grow more food today."  

He encourages a “Green Revolution” meaning a new era of research and development that is similar to what happened in the 1960s and 70s when according to his letter “Norman Borlaug and other researchers created new seed varieties for rice, wheat, and maize (corn) that helped many farmers vastly improve their yields. In some places, like East Asia, food intake went up by as much as 50 percent. Globally, the price of wheat dropped by two-thirds. These changes saved countless lives and helped nations develop.”

He speaks of the 1968 book The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich that predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death because production couldn’t keep up with increases in world population rates.  He credits the “green revolution with staving off those predictions and causing food costs to drop dramatically from 1970 through the 1990s.  Food prices have been climbing during the past decade and that has him concerned for the poorest of the poor."

Before this green revolution, he sites that 40 percent of the world’s population was poor compared to the 15 percent today.  Reading between the lines of his letter, one can see that he’s worried that as food prices climb—for whatever reason—we could see those rates rise dramatically.   

Now I don’t know what Bill Gates knows about modern agricultural production practices, but I’m optimistic that he is realistic about using science and technology to improve yields and cut costs.  I hope he isn’t implying that funding for small ag should trump investing in large ag.  I believe investments in ag must be made in the vein of helping “all boats rise together” or we will not see the advancements needed to support the population boom expected in the next 40 years.   

I do like that he’s raising the issue. 

Whether it’s a large U.S. farmer feeding 130 people or a mother in Tanzania who produces enough to feed only a hand full of people, all of agriculture can benefit from increased investment in research.

What would your biggest priority for investment be? 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Humane Society of the United States DOUBLES CONTRIBUTION to animal shelters

The HSUS nearly doubled the amount of money it gives to animal shelters according to it's 2009 tax documents.

But that's not hard to do when you're going from about one half of one percent (0.5%)  to four-fifths of one percent (0.8%).

Here are a few more numbers from the HSUS tax return courtesy of
•Total revenue: $101.6 million
•Total expenses: $121.7 million
•Net assets as of December 31, 2009: $160.5 million
•Fundraising expenses: $22.3 million (23 percent of every dollar raised)
•Salaries and benefits: $35.8 million
•Total grants to other groups: $6.7 million

Here is some more info from Humane Watch:
•At long last, internal documents reveal what it takes to be one of HSUS's 11 million "members and constituents" (Hint: Just get on the group's mailing.)

•HSUS was for animal abuse registries before it was against them.

•HSUS quickly and quietly retired Humane Society International's $11 million debt in 2009. If you give "$19 a month" to HSUS, those were your donations at work.

If you're not going to weekly you should be.  I would also encourage everyone in agriculture to make a donation to this group. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Vegans are now “Vegan Skeptics”

Like many in the farming and ranching community, I watched Oprah yesterday and was unhappy with her promotion of a Vegan diet.  But surprisingly, I think a few vegans were unhappy with her show too.

There’s a growing voice among hard core animal activists that they should not be discussing veganism in the ways it was discussed on the Oprah Show. Here’s a blog on that subject with links to others sharing the same sentiment.

Through that post, I found an interesting paper online titled: Boycott veganism: Animal rights only begins with your diet “
It’s 14 pages of rationale and documentation as to why promoting a vegan diet is actually harming the animal rights movement. It’s an interesting read with lots of insight into how the animal activists are trying to reshape the animal rights/welfare debate into something akin to this country’s debate of and abolition of slavery.

From the paper….
“When asked why they pass on the cheese, for example, they simply say ‘Because I'm vegan.’ In doing so, they have failed animals and the movement in two ways. First, they have dodged an opportunity to offer a clear and compelling message on behalf of the animals. If the concept of veganism were eliminated, animal rights advocates would lose their rhetorical shortcut (Because I'm vegan), and be forced to offer a powerful, but more challenging, message of injustice and inequality -- e.g. ‘Because killing innocents is wrong’; ‘Because exploiting someone just because they are different from us is not fair’; etc. Without veganism, the focus of the conversation would move to animals and their lives, rather than humans and their french fries.”

“They allow themselves to ignore the fact that every piece of meat is murder, that every egg is oppression, and that their ‘vegan lifestyle’ is not a personal choice, but a moral and political imperative. The message sent by their personal boycott becomes, not just confused, but content-less.”

The rhetoric is about to escalate, and the debate is about to be reframed—read the paper. Those of us who believe that meat is an essential part of the diet will have to be ready with new arguments.

What do you think about comparing meat eaters to slave owners?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Your deficit and mine

For some time, the U.S. has had a federal deficit over $1 trillion dollars. But have you ever stopped to think what that really looks?

I sure hadn't.

A trillion dollars is written as $1,000,000,000,000.  That's a lot of zeros huh? The Outstanding Public Debt as of this morning is: $13,839,908,891,247.82.

Are you nervous yet? Angry?

At the Kansas Livestock Association annual convention last week, it was put in perspective for me. If you went on a $1000 shopping spree every day for the next 2.74 million years you would spend a trillion dollars.

When I posted this, your share was over $44,500. It's more now.  The debt per tax payer is over $125,000.
Click here to see it in real time: but be warned, it could cause a headache. (A really big headache.)

So multiply those 2.74 million years a few times--whatever's appropriate for how ever many trillions of dollars we owe on the day you're reading this.

I know a lot of people who have turned off the evening news because they've reached their limit and don't want to hear any more about the economy or the state of affairs in this country.  But it's time for all of us to plug back in and demand that the federal budget be balanced.

Services we enjoy are going to go away, but it's time to pay the piper.  We're going to be paying him for a very long time--even longer if we don't start the payback soon.

There are a lot of sacred cows in the budget.  What's the first one you would butcher to bring spending back in line?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hunting

You know it is deer season when:

Camouflage vehicles come out of the woodwork

The local radio station plays the Thirty Point Buck song over and over again. 

The neighbor who you hear from only once a year calls to say they’re going to hunt in that same spot again—permission is presumed just because you gave it last year

You see trucks parked in lots of out of the way places, but no teenagers are making out inside

Blaze orange is the must have color

You don't see the "King of the Forrest" where he's been every morning for the past 2 months.

Good hunting, and let’s be careful out there. I would love to know what other signs of the season you've seen this week.