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Monday, January 30, 2012

HSUS and PETA - Lover's Quarrel


Did you hear the news?! PETA and HSUS are in a spat. But probably not for long - some celebrity like Kim Kardashian (I'll never understand why she's considered a celebrity) will wear a leather cap and then be back in cahoots. However, for now they aren't seeing eye to eye on a very important issue.

Horse slaugher in the U.S.

Remember a few months ago when a bill was passed that reinstated funding for federal inspection of horse slaughter plants? Well, HSUS is totally and 100% against horse slaughter saying that the decline in horse welfare over the past few years, mainly abandonment, has occurred because of economic circumstances. Which is partly true but as www.HumaneWatch.org puts it, "who can predict economic downturn?" On the other hand, PETA is actually the voice of reason in this debate - Ingrid Newkirk, PETA co-founder, recently said to the Christian Science Monitor:
It's quite an unpopular position we've taken. There was a rush to pass a bill that said you can't slaughter them anymore in the United States. But the reason we didn't support it, which sets us almost alone, is the amount of suffering that it created exceeded the amount of suffering it was designed to stop.
I never thought that I would agree with Ingrid Newkirk, not in a million years. However, she hits the nail right on the head. We (agriculturalists) have been saying for the past four years that if there's nowhere to take the horses in the states, they'll just be shipped to Mexico for slaughter and that situation certainly won't be as well-monitored as the U.S. once was. The reinstatement of funding is a good thing for agriculture, for many reasons, which I'll briefly go over again:

1. Horse meat is a delicacy in many countries. The U.S. could once again be a player in horse meat exports to Canada and France

2. The quality of life for horses can improve phenomenally if slaughter plants re-open. No more 30 hours treks to Mexico to be slaughtered in non-USDA plants. Owners, now with an outlet for their unwanted horses, will no longer be cutting brands off their horses and turning them loose on the range.

3. Slaughter plants need manpower to run - manpower comes from men (and women). Men and women who need jobs in a crappy economy. Slaughter plants = job creation.

I definitely side with PETA on this issue, as HSUS isn't about animal welfare improvement. Their goal is to abolish animal agriculture. At least for the moment, PETA is a friend of agriculture (although I'm not sure how long that will last).

To read more of the Humane Watch piece, click here.

Thoughts?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Friday, January 27, 2012

No Ag Gagging in Florida

Transparency is important in agriculture. By being transparent and opening our doors, I believe we can continue to narrow the urban consumer-rural producer gap. When we allow people to see our farms, we can put to rest any ill begotten ideas they have about agriculture production.

image from here 

That's why I'm thrilled that Florida has turned down the "Ag Gag" legislation which, if passed, would have made any person photographing or videotaping on a farm subject a person to criminal prosecution and imprisonment. This bill was aimed at getting rid of undercover animal rights videographers whose sole reason for employment was to catch bad examples in the act instead of actually helping the animals. But that's for a different day.

While I realize that the bill and it's proponents had farmers' best interests at heart, what kind of message would this bill have sent to the public? We're saying that agriculture has something to hide - which we most certainly do not.

The best way to provide great examples to the public is to do the right thing - be outstanding stewards of our land and animals. An additional option would be to conduct background checks and double-check employment history of all new farm employees. That's a management tactic that should probably already be in action, truth be told.

Iowa is debating the same bill, House File 589, and I sincerely hope it doesn't pass. We need to send a message to the public that we encourage transparency and closing our doors to photos and videos isn't the way to do that. I fear the repercussions would be far outweigh the benefits of this bill.

What are your thoughts?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australia Day

Last year at this time, I wasn't yet in Australia but was hastily packing my house after being married only four days previous (post on our anniversary coming soon). Nonetheless, we still heard plenty of hype about Australia day, and many other Australian holidays, while we were abroad.

For those of you who don't know, Australia Day is on January 26th this year and is a celebration of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships (Australia's first populants, besides Aboriginals, were convicts from Europe) and the flying of the Union Jack (flag) by that fleet's leader, Captain Phillip. In essence it's a celebration of the entire country's history, akin to our Independence Day. However, they also have an ANZAC Day which is akin to our Veteran's Day or Memorial Day holidays and is celebrated in April.

Back on track, if you want to read more about Australia Day click here.

The real reason for this post is to bring attention to the food movement for Australia Day that's taking place. Tweets and Facebook posts have been in my feed for a few weeks about 'eating Australian' on Australia Day. Know what that means? 

It means eat this:

 

or a better depiction, this:
 image from here

In order to boost lamb sales, producers want Australians to eat Australian lamb on Australia Day (that's a lot of Australia's in one sentence). It makes sense, it's the #1 consumed meat in the land down under and is becoming more affordable (or it was when we left a month ago) through 'price wars' between Coles and Woolies/Safeway which are the two biggest supermarket chains.

Eating products of their own country makes sense and I applaud the marketing efforts being made to promote a home-grown product. Maybe a few Americans should eat lamb to celebrate Australia Day, everyone should try it at least once.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Friday, January 20, 2012

How Useless would Agriculture Be if You Went Hungry?

The agriculture world has been abuzz today with the recent posting of an article titled, College Majors That Are Useless, where the generic terms "Agriculture Majors" sits at #1. Sitting at #4 was Animal Sciences and #5 was Horticulture. Oh, where shall I begin?

First off, one cannot major in agriculture. For example at my alma mater, Kansas State University, and most other land grant univerisities, you enroll in a degree program within the College of Ag. Degree programs may include Animal Sciences & Industry, Horticulture, Ag Communications etc. Upon graduation, you may have earned a degree in Agriculture but it is concentrated in a specific area of study.

Does this journalist (I use that term loosely here, because this was horrible, horrible journalism) have any idea who produces his food and fiber or the science behind creating those products? Obviously not. Agriculture produces more than just food - check out this list of ag prodcuts:

-- chewing gum
-- detergents
-- candles
-- photofilm
-- shampoo and conditioner
-- deoderant
-- emery boards
-- cotton clothing (got those cotton commericials stuck in your head now?)
-- glass
-- charcoal
-- medicine
-- wallpaper
-- chalk
-- cake mix

I'd be willing to bet that Mr. Loose (so-called journalist) uses one or more of those items on a regular basis. In addition to all those non-food products, let's not forget that if it weren't for AGRICULTURE, ANIMAL SCIENCE and HORTICULTURE, there would not be a food supply.
Agriculture graduates, regardless of their specific major, are employable in thousands of different job settings. A degree in agriculture is not necessarily indicative of a career as a farm manager. What about agriculture education, academia, meat industry, research, the thousands of veterinary clinics in the U.S., feed processing, ag sales - I could go on and on. Think about the number of agriculture jobs that there isn't even a need for yet? As our population continues to grow, so will our need for producers and people to develop new ways to feed so many people. I would be willing to bet that Terence wouldn't be saying agriculture degrees were useless if he was starving and naked.

There have been a multitude of blog posts and tweets circulate because of this outrageous article. Anna-Lisa Giannini has even created a Facebook group called "I Studied Agriculture and I Have a Job", which already has over 2500 likes. You can also check out these links to other blog posts on the topic:

-- Allen Levine, Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota wrote a piece of The Huffington Post
-- Food For Thought colleague, Tera Rooney, on the Food For Thought blog
-- An Open Letter to Terence Loose by Rebekah Bowen
-- Greg Henderson of Drover's CattleNetwork, wrote Yahoo! Please Don't Mess with the Goat Ropers

Also, if you want to send your own response to Terence Loose, you can do so by emailing him at tloose7@gmail.com

Let agriculture's voice be heard!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Only in America do we say 'Git R Done'!

That is a phrase that has made several trips around the U.S. and has become the motto for NASCAR fans, camo-clad hunters, farm boys and several million other Americans who, like me, embrace their country upbringing. In fact, Git R Done was my class motto (there were only 7 girls and 11 boys; we got outvoted).

The twangy, plaid-wearing Larry the Cable Guy made the phrase famous on the Blue Collar Comedy tour and never looked back. His success has been astronomical, with two BCC videos, his own stand-up career, playing Tater in Cars 1 and 2 and most recently, a TV series the History Channel called "Only in America."  It debuted last year and just premiered its second season last week. Basically, Larry takes camera crews around to various rural outlets and gives viewers a firsthand look at American rural life. During this year's premiere episode, he visited Alaska to try to bust moose poachers and dropped in on Sarah Palin and her family.


The next episode, which is on tomorrow at 8 pm/C on the History Channel, will be in Wisconsin getting a better look at the dairy and beef industries. The online summary says that, "His first stop is the state's largest dairy farm, where he works every tough job that goes into each glass of milk." Additionally, I'm sure we can expect the usual LtCG antics and humor which will probably spice up the show.

I am not sure if I'll be able to tune in but I'm sure going to try! If ya'll watch, please leave me some comment love and let me know how it goes!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Takes Credit for Agriterrorism?

If you haven't yet heard, earlier this week Harris Ranch in California was the victim of a horrible animal rights activist attack in which fourteen of their trucks used to transport cattle were set on fire and completely destroyed. After news reports surfaced, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) stepped up to take credit for the horrendous acts.

I'm sorry. Took credit?

Generally, people take credit for an accomplishment. This was a malicious attack, NOT an accomplishment. Harris Rach CEO, John Harris, is appalled at the "senseless and alarming attacks" which are, in my opinion, easily classified as domestic terrorism. These actions are unwarranted and unacceptable and I hope that the Fresno County police can get to the bottom of this whole thing.

A direct quote in the email authored by the activists says:
"We weren't sure how well this was going to work, so we waited until there were news reports before writing this," the statement said. "We were extremely pleased to see that all 14 trucks 'were a total loss' with some being 'completely melted to the ground.'"
The e-mail ended with, "Until next time."

People, pay attention. These so-called activists (I prefer the term agriterrorists) are not playing nice or fair. Apparently, it's common-practice within their circles to start cattle trucks on fire and endanger human lives for the sake of making a point (a poor point, at that). It seems that they will stop at nothing to push their cause. In fact, the United States Department of Homeland Security classifies ALF as a "domestic terrorist organization."  Their stated objectives are:
  • To inflict economic damage on those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
  • To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. laboratories, factory farms, fur farms etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering.
  • To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations
  • To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human.
  • Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.
These are not the objectives of a sane organization interested in reaching compromise. These are the objectives of extremists, whose goal is get rid of our industry. I am sick of it.
To the so called activists - whoever you are. You have done nothing but inflame the malcontent that the entire agriculture community feels towards you. Before, we just despised how you used money, fancy wording and sensational advertising to push your false agenda. After this malicious attack, you can rest assured that we are even more ticked off than before. You have physically and forcefully attacked our way of life, our livelihood, livestock and families. You have been warned - our efforts to inform society of your true goals and sneaky tactics will increase hundred-fold. I can only hope that the guilty parties are found and brought to justice.

So how do you feel? Are you ticked? I sure am. Leave me your thoughts below.

If you want to read up on the attacks click here, here or here. To read John Harris's full statement, click here.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Keep Families Farming

We all know that 4-H and FFA are fantastic outlets to get involved with agriculture at a young age, develop skills and find our passions. But most of us developed our interests for 4-H and FFA long before we memorized the creed or participated at our first state fair.

I, along with several hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S., grew up helping my family on the ranch. Feeding horses, filling water troughs, grooming animals - these tasks were all a daily aspect of my life and through those chores I learned responsibility, discipline and developed my love of the land and animals.

As many of you are aware, the U.S. Department of Labor is trying to pass a law that would prevent children under 18 from participating in or completing the following activities on a farm:

  • Paid workers age 15 and younger would be barred from operating tractors, combines, ATVs and almost all power-driven equipment, unless they obtain special certification.
  • Youths under the age of 18 would not be allowed to work at grain elevators, silos, feed lots, livestock auctions or in the transporting of raw farm materials.
  • Tobacco fields would be off-limits to workers under age 16 due to concerns about a problem called green-tobacco sickness, caused by the exposure to nicotine.
  • Children in both agricultural and non-farm work would be restricted from using personal electronic devices, including walkie-talkies, while operating equipment.
Anyone who has ever been on a farm knows that parents' #1 priority is safety for their children around livestock and machinery. This law would not only cripple the ability of children to get involved in agriculture at an early age but would also cause difficulty to those families who depend on teenagers to help haul hay, run the combines etc to get their work done on time.

There was a comment period for this legislation but unfortunately, it expired on Dec 31, 2011. However, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (R), is collecting comments to continue to capture the ag community's concern with this issue. Voice and opinion is critical if we are going to stop this action.

Want to share your story? Head on over to http://moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/keep-families-farming and help keep our traditions of hard work and family in place on the farm.

Additionally, a YouTube video has been produced to help spread the message about Keeping Families Farming.


 If you'd like to read the Kansas City Star article about this topic click here.

Help get the word out and share your comments and stories and hopefully we can Keep Families Farming! Tweet, blog and Facebook about it - this is a rather important issue!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Love McDonald's

For several reasons.

While in Australia, I ate a lot of McDonald's food. Not because I had cravings or anything (read: Buzzard is not pregnant) but because I generally didn't like the food in Australia (too many veggies and far too much lamb) so I took a lot of long walks to McD's (known as Macca's) for some world famous fries and 100% Australian beef (that's a topic for later discussion).

Australia's McDonald's did a great job reaching out to consumers and putting a face to their beef and potato producers. In fact, one of my first blog posts after arriving in Australia was about their great agvocacy on packaging.

That's why I'm super excited about the latest marketing campaign by U.S. McDonald's: commercials featuring beef, lettuce and potato producers for the chain. Steve Fogelsong, former NCBA President, is featured in the beef video and throughout the video he talks about passion, having experience and occasionally getting your "butt kicked." He also touches on the quality standards for McDonald's and states that "you can't get great taste without great quality."

In the other two videos, the producers talk about the hard work that goes into farming and how they are continuing a family farm for the 4th generation. The story about how iceberg lettuce got its name also comes up - you learn something everyday!

This is such a fantastic initiative and I am thrilled that McDonald's has stepped up to the plate to make the connection from farm to fork. Obviously, they are doing it for their own accord but the ripple effect that it could have for agriculture is monumental.

So for your viewing pleasure, here are the beef, potato and lettuce videos that are creating a firestorm of buzz among agriculturalists. I hope you enjoy them and share them with your friend!




Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~