Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Response to the Support Prop 37 Crowd

Maria Rodale from the Huffington Post published a blog on the paper's site on Monday, indicating why California voters should support Prop 37. Remember, that proposition would require labeling for any GMO food in the state.

Normally I don't directly respond to a particular article, but this one is just too far out there and full of too many lies and misinformation not to. Someone has to say something, so I'm using my personal soap box to do it.

So, here is my response to Rodale's top 5 reasons to support Prop 37 (Rodale's reasons are in italics):

1. Proposition 37 will require all foods that have GMOs in them (that is, genetically modified organisms that are engineered to withstand extra applications of chemical herbicides and pesticides) TO BE LABELED.

Rodale believes labeling is a good thing. She also believes this is will not result in a ban of GMO foods.

It is a good thing when we label food that has certain allergens in it. It is a good thing when we label food that has met a certain classification, such as certified organic. However, there is absolutely no reason we need to label GMO foods. The FDA considers GMO foods exactly the same as non-GMO foods. Additionally, there has been no credible evidence that GMO foods have caused any type of health problems. Ever.

When studies have  come out indicating a problem, they've been discredited. (Like the recent "study" linking tumors in rats to GMOs.)

Instead, Prop 37 is a scare tactic. And while it may not ban GMO food directly, it does so indirectly. A label indicating that a food contains GMO products will only raise a false alarm to people. The food is the same, but the label will make consumers believe there is a difference. Labels scream "this is dangerous" and "pay attention." Indirectly then, the labels will create an unfair competitive advantage for organic farmers that do no have to have the label. Farmers that do grow GMO products will take a hit. Therefore, the ballot measure economically disadvantages conventional farmers and, therefore, indirectly will led to no market for the produce. It might as well be a ban.

2. Prop. 37 will not allow foods with a GMO label to also be labeled "natural."

So Prop 37 indicates that GMOs are somehow not "natural." As I've indicated before, the natural label means absolutely nothing.  But even still, food that contains GMOs is not "unnatural." The FDA has found it to be exactly the same as non-GMO food. Prop 37 is misleading consumers, along with Rodale.

3. The opposition to Prop. 37 is excessively funded by big chemical companies, and they are outright deceptive and threatening in their tactics and promotions.

False. The opposition to Prop 37 is supported and funded by scientists, farmers, grocers, ethnic groups, business, taxpayer advocates, and academics. Rodale is outright lying in her assertion that only the companies producing GMOs are against labeling.

4. Even though Prop. 37 will make it harder and more expensive for organic producers, they embrace the labeling and are doing what they can to get the word out.

Well, duh. Of course they want labeling. Because they're the ones that will gain the most from this. They're products will not have to carry a label. When the GMO label is specifically designed to scare consumers, what else are they going to buy? That's right, organic produce.

Meanwhile, it will be more expensive for conventional farmers and put them at a disadvantage locally, nationally, and worldwide.

Rodale sets a double standard. It isn't ok for companies to be opposed to the labeling requirement because it is against their economic interests. But it is perfectly acceptable for organic producers, who stand to win economically really big, to be in favor of labeling. The organic farmers have an economic interest in this just like conventional farmers.

5. Prop. 37 will set a precedent. If the proposition passes, it will be much easier for other states to adopt the same rules.

Which is just another reason not to support it. Rodale assumes that this will make the federal government "stand up and take action." Her unfounded beliefs rest on the idea that GMO food is dangerous and not healthy for us. Scientists completely disagree. The FDA already oversees GMO foods and keeps a close eye on them. There is tons of research and long years that go into producing these crops before any of them hit the market. We've been consuming them for 25 years now. There has been nothing to indicate they're harmful.

Rodale's suggestion is nothing more than a scare tactic. She is part of the problem: those people that will continually lie regarding GMO food. Maybe Rodale is afraid of science or has some stake in the organic crowd. Whatever the reason she continues to push the distortions, it is dangerous and a blatant attack on conventional farmers across our country.

Voters should say "NO" to Proposition 37 and support farmers.

Anderson Show Learns About Agriculture

I was super impressed to see a segment like this on the Anderson show, especially since the mainstream media gets a little sensational (remember the whole pink slime stuff?) when it comes to agriculture. In the video Anderson sends a New York mom to an Illinois farm to learn about organic food.

By the way, I disagree with the mom regarding the necessity of buying some foods organic. Pesticide residue is not something that we need to worry about (check out "Debunking the Organic Myth, Part 1" for more).

AAAS Board: No to GMO Labeling

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a statement coming out against California's Proposition 37, which would require labeling for GMO products. In the press release they correctly point out that:
"Several current efforts to require labeling of GM foods are not being driven by any credible scientific evidence that these foods are dangerous, AAAS said. Rather, GM labeling initiatives are being advanced by “the persistent perception that such foods are somehow ‘unnatural,’” as well as efforts to gain competitive advantages within the marketplace, and the false belief that GM crops are untested."
In other words, this is about a scare tactic, not actually promoting food safety. In that vein, AAAS also said:
"...it is important to distinguish between labeling intended to protect public health—about the presence of allergens, for example—and optional labeling that aids consumer decision-making, such as “kosher” or “USDA organic,” which reflects verifiable and certifiable standards about production and handling."
The GMO labeling does not serve the purpose of helping consumers make the choice or protecting public health. Again, it only serves to scare people into thinking that something must be wrong with GMO food if it has to be labeled as such.

Read the full press release.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Leopold Conservation Award

In Wisconsin there is an award given out every year in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award recognizes a Wisconsin farmer that has voluntarily undertaken efforts at conservation on his farming operation. 

This is super awesome, because it shows that farmers across our country voluntarily try to do whatever they can to protect the land. These people didn't need government regulations, tough oversight, fines, or anything else to motivate them. They just did it.

Here are a couple of the finalists from this years award:

"Jim and Valerie Hebbe, Princeton (Green Lake County)
Jim Hebbe has been implementing conservation practices for 25 years and has shared his ideas with other farmers as the Green Lake County Conservationist since 1984. He and his wife, Valerie, raise 1,100 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa in central Wisconsin. In addition to no-till planting all of the crops, he has worked to develop numerous conservation systems that compliment each other and lead to less erosion and more residue cover on the land. The farm includes land with a significant slope draining into a Class 1 Trout Stream. A water and sediment basin was constructed to help control and reduce field runoff into the stream. Native prairie grasses were planted in a field that borders the creek. Twenty-five acres of evergreen trees were planted on a farm with light and sandy soil. In 1985 he helped develop conservation standards for the Farmland Preservation Program participants to control soil erosion to sustainable levels."
"Justin and Lynn Isherwood, Plover, Portage County
Justin and Lynn Isherwood’s 156-year-old farm consists of 1500 acres, including 260 acres of woodland. They specialize in the production of vegetables, primarily potatoes, and grain. For the Isherwoods, an “ethic of landedness” is at the heart of their agricultural operation. Justin played a prominent role in the development of Healthy Grown potatoes, which demand a higher level of environmental quality production standards and require enrolled farmers to commit to ecological enhancement of their non-production lands. The Isherwoods’ farm includes four miles of stream edge, so Justin and Lynn are committed to water management to enhance wildlife habitat and strive to make water quality a community-wide discussion through the development of a booklet that gives voice to water issues from farmers, other landowners and elected officials. As an accomplished writer and farmer, Justin is dedicated to making “agriculture visible to a population ever more distant from agriculture.”

To read about all of the finalists and learn more about the award, check out the Leopold Conservation Award.

Image courtesy of prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The HSUS Lie

I know I've posted a lot about the North Dakota ballot measure 5, but it is so important for farmers around the country to rally together and stop the HSUS from getting a foothold in any state. They start in one state and then work around the country to pass laws and ballot measures designed to hurt farmers, especially animal agriculture. If you or your friends are in North Dakota, let them know about this ballot measure as well!

More information about North Dakota Measure 5.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scientists Defend GMO Crops as Safe

 From Truth About Trade Technology:
"Alteration of crops is widespread, producing plants with higher yields, less need for pesticides and other desirable qualities. And, many scientists say, such crops are as safe as any other.
To the naked eye, the white puffs of cotton growing on shrubs, the yellow flowers on canola plants and the towering tassels on cornstalks look just like those on any other plants. But inside their cells, where their DNA contains instructions for how these crops should grow, there are a few genes that were put there not by Mother Nature but by scientists in a lab. 
Some of the genes are from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis that makes proteins lethal to flies, moths and other insects. Others are from the soil bacteriumAgrobacterium that programs plants to make a key enzyme that isn’t vulnerable to a popular weed killer. These modifications allow farmers to grow crops with easier weed control and fewer pest-killing chemicals. 
To an increasingly vocal group of consumers, this genetic tinkering is a major source of anxiety. They worry that eating engineered foods could be bad for their health or cause unanticipated environmental problems. At the very least, they insist, they deserve the right to know whether the foods they might buy contain genetically modified ingredients. 
In California, this unease has culminated in Proposition 37. If approved on Nov. 6, the initiative would require many grocery store items containing genetically modified ingredients to carry labels. 
But among scientists, there is widespread agreement that such crops aren’t dangerous. The plants, they say, are as safe as those generated for centuries by conventional breeding and, in the 20th century, by irradiating plant material, exposing it to chemical mutagens or fusing cells together to produce plants with higher grain yields, resistance to frost and other desirable properties. Now they want to insert other genes into plants to make them more nutritious, resistant to drought or able to capture nitrogen from the air so they require less fertilizer, among other useful traits."
Keep reading here.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

More from the Chicago Moms and GMOs

If you like the video I posted on Tuesday about the Chicago moms in the field learning about GMOs, check out this video for more on their trip.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maryland Family Farm Under Attack

There is a major case taking place in Maryland right now.

Waterkeeper Alliance, a radical environmental group headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is suing Hudson farms and Perdue, the company that contracted to purchase Hudson's  chickens, over a suspicious pile of...something.

Here's what happened. Kathy Phillips, the self-proclaimed Assateague Coastkeeper, was flying over property in the area in order to find what she considered violations of federal environmental laws. Essentially, Phillips was looking for a lawsuit (under certain federal provisions, if a private citizen brings a lawsuit to enforce federal law, they may get all of their legal fees reimbursed by the government). What she spotted was a pile of what she thought was chicken manure. Tests in the area revealed that the nearby ditches carried high levels of nitrogen and other things. So Phillips teamed up with Waterkeeper Alliance and filed an intent to sue under the Clean Water Act.

The state of Maryland looked into the matter and realized the pile was actually legally purchased fertilizer; it was just being stored improperly. The Hudsons were told to move the pile and a fee was levied against them.  There was nothing to indicate that the pile or anything else on the farm had caused the higher levels of nitrogen in the nearby water.

But Waterkeepers Alliance and Phillips decided to go ahead with the suit anyway.

The case is so important though because not only did the sue Hudson Farms, they also sued Perdue. Perdue purchases the birds from Hudson Farms once they are full grown. The lawsuit claims Perdue is just as responsible for what happened on Hudson Farms as the Hudsons are, if the suit is successful.

The problem is, if this suit is successful, it changes who can be sued. Until now, a contractor up the chain could not be sued for what the farmer or someone else did down the line. This suit changes that and makes everyone up the line liable. As you can imagine, that means those larger buyers would now want more control over what is happening on the farms. It also means that when environmentalists bring up bogus lawsuits, they have some deeper pockets to settle with (in addition to not paying a dime of legal fees).

The trial just wrapped up yesterday. As soon as I hear the outcome, I'll make sure to share it.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more or donate to support the Hudson family, check out Save Farm Families.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Organic Not Necessarily Better for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics have issued a report indicating that organic food is not necessary for children. Coming off the heels of the Stanford study, the AAP has said that what is important is that children get plenty of fruits and vegetables -- and it doesn't matter if it was raised organically or conventionally.

Janet Silverstein, of AAP, said: "We do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce. ...What's most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods"

She added that the only diet that has proven benefits is the type recommended, regardless of how it was grown.

In September, Stanford released a study finding that organic produce was not more nutritious than conventionally raised food.

Read more about the AAP's report.

The Silent Spring that Never Was

If you've heard of Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," which sparked the environmental movement as we know it today, you may know that it turns 50 this year. The book condemned the use of DDT, which eradicated malaria in the United States and other areas of the world. However, partly because of the book, DDT was banned here and in other parts of the world (with a little good old fashioned US strong arming). 

I wasn't aware of some of the facts I found in this article, so I thought it was definitely worth a share. If anything else, I hate when people have misinformation.
"Consider some numbers: U.S. automobile deaths in 2011 — 32,310, yet millions of us get behind the wheel every day; deaths from preventable medical mistakes and hospital infections, 200,000 annually, but people still go to doctors and hospitals; 400 deaths annually from penicillin, still one of the most useful antimicrobial drugs in the medical arsenal; 5,000 deaths annually from food poisoning, but no one stops eating.
Contrast these to: Number of deaths from DDT since it was first widely used by the U.S. military in World War II for prevention of malaria and other insect-borne diseases to present day — exactly zero.
The most vilified pesticide on the planet, long banned in the U.S., yet one of the most effective against malaria, including the eradication of the disease in this country and Europe, not one single case of human death due to DDT has been documented over almost a 70-year period. (There is the oft-cited study where human volunteers ingested up to 35 milligrams of DDT daily for nearly two years with no adverse effects.) In 1948, Swiss chemist Paul Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize for its discovery and its “enormous value in combating malaria and typhus.”
Keep reading here.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Neighbor Is Not Warren Buffet

Remember, the death tax exemptions for estates less than $1million will expire at the end of the year. At that point, any estate over $1million will be taxed at 55%. With soaring farmland prices this will have devastating effect on farm families that want to keep the farm productive and in the family. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a farm to be taxed at 55% and not have to be sold off piecemeal. 

Found this piece which highlights the problem with allowing the death tax exemptions to expire and combating some of the stereotypes about the death tax:
"In 1975, my senior year in high school, there were five families farming along Route O, a two-lane blacktop that snakes along the section lines for the 10 miles between Tarkio and Westboro, two tiny towns in northwest Missouri. Four of these families are still involved in farming, and three of them have extended family farms, with several generations working in the family business. Each of those families is now headed by a farmer or a retired farmer who has a problem, a problem that is going to get much worse come January 1, 2013. 
That’s when the present law concerning estate taxes expires. The exemption for exposure to the “death tax” will revert to a $1 million level, and the maximum tax rate will increase to a confiscatory 55 percent. This is hardly a tax targeted at the filthy rich, but rather an unfair levy on almost everybody who has made a lifelong career on the farm. 
None of the families on my former bus route are rich. No assets compare to the Buffett fortune, or Bill Gates, or even one of those hedge fund managers who preside over Wall Street. These are people who’ve lived simply, saved their money and at this stage in their life have only one goal: to pass their life’s work to their children. In the case of the three families who have descendants actively involved in farming, they want to protect their children’s ability to live a life like they’ve lived. This rather modest goal is threatened by Congress’s failure to act on permanent estate tax reform."
Keep reading here.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

One Hungry World

Of all the videos I've found and posted, this is by far my favorite! It shows the relationship between increasing productivity, sustainability, and managing to feed the world.

Pig Farmers Face Pressure on Size of the Sty

This is by far the best article I've read so far regarding the gestation crates, HSUS, and farmer's reactions. 

Check it out: 
"ELDRIDGE, Iowa — Sow 44733 had broken the shoulder of one of her pen mates, rousted another who was huddled in the corner and was chewing on the ear of a third. 
Other sows in the pen sported abrasions, torn ears and bloody tail stumps — all souvenirs of her attentions. 
It was that kind of behavior that led hog farmers like Tom Dittmer to isolate sows in individual stalls called gestation crates that are barely bigger than the pigs themselves. 
“The reason the industry switched to crates wasn’t because we wanted to harm our animals,” Mr. Dittmer said. “We did it because we thought it was what was best for the animals.” The move also kept the price of pork reasonably low for consumers, he said. 
This year, however, Mr. Dittmer and fellow hog farmers are under increasing pressure from corporate pork buyers and animal rights groups to return to the old way of doing things: putting sows in group housing. In the last week of September alone, three companies — Dunkin’ Donuts, ConAgra Foods and Brinker International, which operates Chili’s — announced that over the next decade, they would no longer buy pork derived from pigs housed in gestation crates."
My favorite quote from the article:
“What I don’t like is some big restaurant chain in Chicago that knows nothing about raising animals is telling us how to raise pigs,” said Glen Keppy, a retired pig farmer whose sons finish raising Mr. Dittmer’s pigs for market, referring to McDonald’s, which promised in February to stop buying pork from pigs born in gestation crates. “Would they tell Microsoft how to make computers?”
So true. These people have no idea how to raise a pig, so who are they to start dictating how it should be done? They may have good intentions to make a pig's life more pleasant, but in reality they just end up hurting them.

Read the rest here.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Check Out All That Food!

Letter to Dr. Oz: Stop Lying About GMOs

The television"doctor" Dr. Oz is reportedly going to feature GMOs on an upcoming episode. Oz's pitch is that the show will provide detailed information regarding whether or not GMOs are safe (why wouldn't they be? we have no evidence to the contrary). It seems, however, that Oz was not exactly truthful or straightforward with the episode, and instead used it as an opportunity to attack GMOs for political purposes. 

Below is a letter from one of the scientists that was originally approached to the show, lambasting Oz for misleading the public and labeling it credible science:
"Dear Greg and Brook:
I am following up on my conversations and previous correspondence with you regarding the plans by the Dr. Oz Show to air health and safety claims by Jeffrey Smith about agricultural biotechnology (GMOs) and food issues. As discussed, I was unable to participate in your program due to a family conflict. After consulting with other colleagues who were similarly approached by you and those who did participate, however, I am compelled to again voice my concerns regarding the potential violation by Dr. Oz of medical ethics and high risk of misrepresentation of human health information by Dr. Oz, Zoco Productions and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios on this issue. 
As a public sector scientist, researcher and academic administrator with more than 40 years experience, I am appalled that any medical professional would give a platform to the likes of Mr. Jeffrey Smith to impart health information to the public. Mr. Smith has no accredited or formal education in any health, nutrition, or other related science fields. Research into Mr. Smith’s credentials reveals that his only professional experience prior to taking up his crusade against biotechnology is as a ballroom dance teacher, yogic flying instructor and political candidate for the Maharishi cult’s natural law party. The fact that Mr. Smith was even allowed to appear on stage on a nationally broadcast television health-oriented program is hard to believe; hearing from my colleagues who did participate that Dr. Oz referred to Smith as a “scientist” during the program taping is an egregious misrepresentation. 
Simply put, Mr. Smith’s health, environmental and safety claims about biotechnology have no basis whatsoever in medicine or science. Thousands of published and peer reviewed studies conducted over the past thirty-plus years contradict his claims and bizarre hypotheses associating health dangers linked to foods derived using biotechnology production methods. This is corroborated by such respected scientific and medical authorities as the American Medical Association, World Health Organization with the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Institute for Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association. Regulatory bodies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food Safety Commission of Japan (FSCJ) all confirm this safety."
Finish reading here.

Just another reason following television doctors is probably not the best idea.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Piercing the Corporate Farm Myth

Faceless corporate family?
While perusing posts by my friends on Facebook over the weekend, I ran across something from a friend describing the consequences of the site being publicly traded. She was under the impression that anyone owning a share of the website would now have absolute access and rights to any content she posted. I kindly explained what it meant for a corporation to be available for public shareholders and that her fears were unfounded. The misunderstanding about corporations got me thinking about the public perception of family farms and corporate farms.

Everyone seems to love family farms. Everyone seems to hate corporate farms.

But according to the EPA, 90% of farms in the United States are family farms. Only 3% of the total farms are "corporate," and 90% of those are still family farmed. (The other 6% are considered partnerships.) So, is it really that 10% of the 3% of the total farms in the country making such a negative impact that people are turned off by them?

No. The truth is, people don't understand how corporations works. And people don't trust what they don't understand.

What really turns people off to "corporate" farming is the name alone. Our society vilifies corporations, especially in politics. Agriculture politics is no different. We perceive the corporate form as a bunch of greedy, faceless people who are willing to do or destroy anything to make a profit. On the other hand a "family farm" is seen as a collection of well-meaning, good-intention people doing things the right way. When 90% of corporate farms are also family farms, how do we make these two ideas fit together?

In order to make sense of it, we have to understand why a farm would want to be incorporated.

If a farm is not incorporated, then the individual members own every asset of the farm as individuals. This is similar to how you might own your house or car. If mom and dad are farmers without a corporate form, it is likely that they own the land and equipment in their own names. Employees are paid out of the individual profits, taxes are paid as individuals, and income is made as individuals. The farm itself is not capable of holding assets because it doesn't legally exist.

Corporations are just a more legally sophisticated way of organizing the farm. Under the corporate form, the company itself is considered a legal entity and, therefore, can own the property, equipment, and profits. Mom and dad might still be in charge of the whole thing, but the business itself actually exists on its own. Instead of an individual's name on the deed, the farm name can be on the deed.

One of the biggest advantages to the corporate form is liability protection. Imagine if dad owns the farm as an individual. He might own 500 acres, a couple pieces of farm machinery, and the house he lives in. If there is a major accident on the farm and dad is sued, not only could he potentially lose the 500 acres and farm machinery, he might also lose the house he lives in. Since all of his assets are owned personally, they're all treated the same. In the corporate form, the corporation is the one actually conducting and owning the business. If a major farming accident occurs and the corporation is sued, dad might still lose the 500 acres and farm machinery, but it is unlikely he'll lose the house too. That's because the farm won't own the house, nor his other personal effects, and won't be available for the injured person to collect.

Major accidents on farms are not altogether uncommon either. If you're hauling a large tractor and planter down the public road, it wouldn't take much for a piece to come flying off and smash into a passing car. Or if a farm hand is working on machinery and makes a mistake, he could lose an arm. There could be some type of food contamination that ends up making people sick. The point is, there are a lot of situations where an accident can occur and the farmer is going to have to pay. The corporate form allows the farmer to only have to pay out of the farm assets, rather than including his family home, car, and other effects (in other words, his family doesn't necessarily become destitute because the farm is sued).

The ownership control of a corporation also allows for flexibility in passing the business on to the next generation. When a corporation has stocks or shares, a future farmer can slowly acquire those shares over his lifetime so that he will eventually own the farm. Or mom and dad can leave the shares of the farm to multiple children so they all have an ownership interest in the farm, which is especially helpful if more than one child wants to take over the farm.

Finally, the corporate (and partnership ) form also allows for individuals that are not related to enter into farming together. I've posted before about farmers that don't have their own children interested in farming allowing college kids that are interested to get involved on the farm. Maybe a couple of friends want to farm together. Or even a couple families. In that case, the corporation allows for flexibility in ownership. Each can own half of the business. Or the older farmer can slowly allow an unrelated youngster to own more and more of the farm. When all of the farm is owned as individual assets, it can become complicated, costly, and difficult to share that type of ownership.

Remember, just because individuals are not related does not mean they cannot have good motives. All of the examples I've given above are very likely the 10% of corporate farms that are not considered family farms. These are individuals that have come together to farm, even though their family is not involved. When you're working that often and closely, these people become like family!

To take it a step further, imagine if we expected companies like Apple to remain unincorporated. Steve Jobs would have owned the assets of Apple in his individual capacity. If an employee had been hurt while manufacturing iPads, Jobs would have been sued personally. He might have lost half the corporation and his personal home. When he died, the assets of Apple would have been passed onto his kids, even if they had no interest in running Apple. They may have sold those assets piecemeal, resulting in the destruction of the company. Having a corporate form for Apple made good sense: it protects the individuals involved and allows the company to continue after those individuals are long gone. No one would ask the CEO of Apple to own the company as an individual.

So there you have it. A corporate farm isn't evil. It isn't something we should vilify. Rather, it is a smart business decision for farmers, especially family farmers, that want to ensure the continued success of their farms.

Let's stop the negative rhetoric and distortions about "corporate farms."

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, October 19, 2012

Farmers Care, as you do, about the food they produce

I found a neat piece about dairy farming. The mom of 3 and dairy farmer explains how milk is kept antibiotic free and how cows are cared for and kept stress free. It may seem like common sense to those of us in agriculture, but it is so important to remind consumers that farmers also care deeply about our food! Remember: we have to eat it too.

The article: 
"Once upon a time, as Johnny circled home base and Jane mastered cartwheels, moms sat in the bleachers, sharing the latest family news and swapping recipes based on meals they'd shared. The world has changed since then. We still gossip (let's admit, who doesn't?) and we still talk food. But, while our moms focused on bringing food to the table, we're talking about how our food is grown and raised before it ends up in our shopping carts.  
We strive to serve healthful foods to our family, but we wonder whether that glass of milk is safe and wholesome. Are farm animals treated humanely? Are we confident in the environmental stewardship of our farmers?  
As a mom of three young children, I often hear those types of questions. And as a dairy farmer, I feel uniquely qualified to answer them, because I'm a mom first and because I don't have a farming background."

Keep reading here.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Harvest Safety

With all that big equipment out on the roads this time of year, be sure to pay attention and slow down when driving!

Indiana gives the following safety tips:

Before passing farm machinery:
• Check to be sure that machinery is not turning left. Look for left turn lights or hand signals. If the machinery slows and pulls toward the right side of the road, the operator is likely preparing to make a wide left turn. Likewise, sometimes to make a right turn with wide equipment, the driver must fade to the left.
• Determine if the road is wide enough for you and the machinery to safely share.
• Look for roadside obstacles such as mailboxes, bridges, or road signs that may cause the machinery to move to the center of the road.
• Be sure there is adequate distance for you to safely pass

Tips for Farmers and Rural Drivers:
• Farm machinery can unexpectedly turn onto a public road from a field or driveway. It is important for everyone’s safety to have patience and share the road.
• Farm machinery travels slower than normal traffic, often at speeds of 25 miles per hour or less. Automobile drivers must quickly identify farm equipment and slow down immediately to avoid rear-end crashes.
• Slow moving farm machinery traveling at less than 25 miles per hour are required to display a slow moving vehicle emblem on the back of the equipment. This is a quickly identifiable sign to other motorists. All lighting should be working properly and be highly visible.
• Slow moving vehicles are required to pull off to the right when three or more vehicles are blocked and cannot pass on the left.
• Machinery that is half on the road and half on the shoulder may suddenly move completely onto the road. Machinery may take up more than one lane to avoid obstacles such as road signs.

Stay safe!

Increased Estate Tax Looming

Coming in January 2013 is a large increase in the estate tax if Congress doesn't act. Currently the exemption allows for estates under $5million to be exempted from the tax. However, in January, that will expire and the new exemption will be only $1million.

That means any part of the estate over $1million will be taxed at a rate of 55%. You can imagine how this would be absolutely devastating to a family farm, especially with the current high prices of farmland.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Sustainable Side of Pork

I talk a lot about farmers being real environmentalists. About how farmers care about preserving and protecting the land. About how farmers are passionate about animal care and take exceptional care of their livestock. The best part that all of this is just part of the natural progression of farming. As new and better technologies are discovered, farmers implement them and the farms become more efficient and more environmentally-friendly.

Here is an example: the pork industry.

Over the last 50 years the industry has seen a significant increase in its sustainability. Let's take a look at what that means. Considering 1953 as a baseline, there has been "a 35 percent decrease in carbon footprint, a 41 percent reduction in water usage and a 78 percent drop in land needed to produce a pound of pork." (Source: Pork Checkoff)

Garth Boyd, an environmental researcher that conducted the study, concluded: The study underscores just how much improvement farmers have made over the past half century....The pork industry has been very successful in significantly reducing its environmental impact and use of natural resources by nearly 50 percent across the board per 1,000 pounds of pork produced, which is quite an accomplishment.”

So, how were hog farmers able to make so many improvements. It certainly wasn't because the government forced them to do so. And it also wasn't because some animal rights group put the pressure on them. Instead, it was the voluntary implementation of new technologies that spurred the changes. As better practices became available, farmers found they were more efficient and better for their operation. Putting those technologies into action was a way to help their efficiency, bottom line, and the environment.

See, farmers have a vested interest in our land and our animals. It defies logic that a farmer would want to poison his land with pesticides; he needs that land year and year to produce crops. Similarly, it doesn't make sense that a farmer would want to abuse animals; he needs them healthy in order for production. Being environmentally-friendly is a natural part of farming.

When the agriculture industry adopts a practice, it's usually a good thing.

1 Acre of Soybeans...

Iowa Farm Bureau Hosts Tax Webinar

If you're a member of the Iowa Farm Bureau, you might want to check this out. IFB is hosting a free webinar to members that will discuss tax planning, farm taxes, and upcoming changes. 

Farmers can learn more about tax planning, farm tax changes, bonus depreciation and more during the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) 2012 Iowa Farm Income Tax webinar held Friday, Nov. 9, from 1-3 p.m. The webinar is free to the public.

The seminar features Roger McEowen, director of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University (ISU), and Charles Brown, president of AgriFinancial Services, LLC. During the webinar, participants will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Farmers can access the webinar via their home/farm computers or at local sites where people can gather to participate. Those sites include: Polk County ISU Extension office, Altoona; Carroll County ISU Extension office, Carroll; Howard County Farm Bureau, Cresco; Dubuque County ISU Extension Office, Dubuque; Adair County ISU Extension Office, Greenfield; Hardin County ISU Extension Office, Iowa Falls; O’Brien County Farm Bureau, Primghar; Keokuk County ISU Extension Office, Sigourney; and Bremer County ISU Extension Office, Tripoli. More information and instructions on how to connect to the webinar can be found at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

If you have questions on the webinar, contact Ed Kordick at ekordick@ifbf.org or 515-225-5433. The webinar will be recorded and available at the IFBF website,www.iowafarmbureau.com, for members only to view the information on their farm/home computer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Carving!

Pumpkins are one of those cool things farmers produce: they're good to eat and fun to decorate! October is prime pumpkin month.

If you're going to carve some, I'd love to see pictures! (You can email them to thefarmersdaughterusa@gmail.com)

For those of you also having some fun with jack-o-lanterns, try these tips to keep them fresh for another 10 days: 
  • Remove dirt: Wipe the exterior surfaces of the carved pumpkin clean using a damp cloth.
  • Treat with bleach solution: Combine 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and put in a spray bottle. Spray the inside of your carved pumpkin and all of the cut surfaces with the solution. This will kill a lot of the surface bacteria and mold that cause rotting. Let the pumpkin sit for 20 minutes.
  • Rub the carved or cut surfaces with petroleum jelly. This will keep out new bacteria and molds and help prevent your jack-o’-lantern from dehydrating.
  • Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and keep it as cool as possible – but above freezing.
(Source: Jack-O’-Lantern Tips: How to Keep Your Carving Fresh)

Rural Votes Matter

As a voter in the middle of nowhere, it can sometimes feel like our vote doesn't make any difference. After all, just think of all of those votes being cast in bigger towns and cities. But, the rural vote absolutely does make a difference!

Check this piece out:
"The red and blue highlighted U.S. map we see so frequently as election time nears can be disheartening for rural voters. They may rightly begin to wonder if rural votes make a difference in any race where metropolitan areas exist. The answer is “yes.” 
For example, President George W. Bush won the rural vote in 2004 by 19 points. In 2008, President Barack Obama performed unusually well in rural areas, losing there to Sen. John McCain by just 8 points. That means 9 million rural voters cast their ballots for our current president. 
During this election cycle both presidential candidates have frequently been seen in states that have large rural regions. Both are well aware that rural country roads are an important part of the road map that leads to the White House. 
A recent poll for the Center for Rural Strategies showed 54 percent of rural voters favored candidate Mitt Romney. Obama knows he needs to win as many votes as he can in rural areas in 2012 to keep the margins tight again. Swing states that were polled are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. 
The Senate is another battleground where rural votes matter. Control of the Senate may well be determined by rural voters in Indiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin. All of these states are in the toss-up column according to most political pundits."
Keep reading here on AFBF's website.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Animal Activists Unnatural Response

Garden terrorist?
The Verdad restaurant in Bryn Mawr, PA decided to get a little creative with its latest marketing scheme.

The latest dish by head chef Nick Farina includes rabbit, duck, and venison. In an email to his regular patrons, Farina described the dish by saying:  

“Rabbits destroy the vegetable gardens, ducks feast on flowerbeds, and deer destroy millions of dollars in landscaping...Diners can make sandwiches or tacos out of the furry creatures that trash their yards and flower beds...What a delicious way to flip the paradigm and take something from a few species that takes so much from us.”

This didn't exactly entice animal activists to come try it out.

Instead they responded in an uproar, flooding the poor buy with emails and phone calls protesting his new dish and the restaurant.

Farina responded:
“We were poking a little fun at things. All the animals used in making the sausage was all raised to be food. It’s no different than the steak that somebody is eating. We were having a little bit of fun, and some people just took it the wrong way. I’m an animal supporter. I have a dog. One of the guys in my kitchen has three dogs. I think it just got a little carried away. If I was a hunter and legally licensed and went out in the proper season and killed a deer and duck and rabbit and made food and ate it, I’m not doing anything that mankind hasn’t been doing since its existence.”
They just have to take away all the fun; don't they?

(Source: Here Come the Animal Rights Activists)

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In Defense of Gestation Crates

The HSUS's biggest gripe with animal agriculture, and the pork industry specifically, is the use of gestation crates. Company after company is choosing to go with meat that is produced without the use of gestation crates. Unfortunately, the public has been badly misinformed about this practice and the end result isn't any better for the animals. 

Take a look at this defense of gestation crates:
"The pork industry has been in the sights of the Humane Society of the United States for what the animal protection organization says is cruel and abusive practices of pigs housed in gestation crates, or pens that are slightly larger than the pigs themselves. 
More than 30 national food companies have also jumped on the HSUS’ bandwagon, pledging not to purchase pork from producers using the crates. 
In late September alone, Bruegger’s Bagels, Dunkin’ Donuts, ConAgra Foods and Brinker International, a food company that runs restaurants like Chili’s, have announced they would no longer serve pork produced in gestation crates -- as much as one-fifth of the total amount of pork purchases, the New York Times reported last week. 
But local pork producers are defending the practice, saying that gestation crates improve the quality of life for some pigs while at the same time guaranteeing their health and a cheaper product. 
Nebraska Pork Producers President Shane Meyer, who runs the Plymouth Ag Group approximately five miles southwest of Beatrice, said gestation crates make for healthier pigs.
“I’ve been raising pigs my whole life, I’ve raised pigs on dirt in dirt lots and dirt pens, I’ve raised animals inside pens and inside stalls,” Meyer said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I think there is a reason we put them in the stalls.” 
“Basically, you keep the animals from fighting.”
Keep reading here.

By the way, here are some of the companies that have caved to HSUS's radical agenda: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sysco, ARAMARK, Sodexo, Costco, Kroger, Safeway, ConAgra Foods, Oscar Mayer, and Hillshire Brands.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Romney's Agriculture Agenda

A few weeks ago I ventured into the presidential contest with a post about Obama Courting the Farm Vote. You'll also remember that I posted some of the answers from Farm Bureau's candidate surveys from both of the president and Romney. Since then, several farmer-friendly political action committees have endorsed Mitt Romney for president, including Michigan Farm Bureau's (my home state) AgriPac. (Note: AFBF does not endorse any candidates.) 

With that in mind, I decided to post a statement by the Romney campaign regarding agriculture and what his administration's priorities would be, if elected.

"A prosperous agriculture sector is incredibly important for a vibrantrural America, and for the health of the entire American economy. The heartland of this country holds the best of what has made our country great and the dreams of what America can grow to be in the future. But it is not only ourcore values that thrive in our small towns and family farms; our economy does as well, when hardworking men and women are supported by sound policies that promote growth while minimizing unnecessary interference from Washington bureaucrats.
Mitt Romney understands this truth well, which is why his Plan for a Stronger Middle Class includes policies designed to strengthen our nation’s rural communities. He will embrace the immense opportunity of American agriculture, selling goods around the world and helping to achieve energy independence here at home. He will pursue fundamental tax reform that cuts tax rates for all Americans and eliminates the estate tax that unfairly penalizes family farms. And he will respect the legitimate needs and concerns of farmers and ranchers, by ensuring that a strong farm bill is passed in timely fashion and by pursuing rational regulation that protects health, safety, and the environment without imposing unnecessary burdens.
Romney will reverse President Obama’s out-of-touch and counterproductive approach to rural America and instead champion the efforts of those who guarantee the safety and security of America’s food supply, produce economic prosperity, and help to feed the world."
  • Implement effective tax policies to support family farms and strong agribusiness;
  • Pursue trade policies that expand upon the success of the agriculturesector, not limit it;
  • Create a regulatory environment that is commonsense and cost-effective; and
  • Achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020.
 Finally, if you want more information on Romney's position via agriculture, check out the Romney Ryan Agricultural Prosperity Plan.

Nebraska Landlord-Tenant Cash Lease Workshops

I have no idea how many of my readers are from Nebraska, but if you are and you lease farmland listen up! The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension is hosting workshops regarding these leases. It is definitely good to know what you're getting into and how to protect yourself!

Topics will include:

- Expectations from the lease, including goal setting for the rental property;
- Lease communication, determining appropriate information sharing for both the tenant and landlord;
- Relatives - tips for farm leases that include relatives;
- Alternative cash lease arrangements, flexible provision considerations for your situation;
- And how the 2012 drought affects leases.
Click here for more information and a list of dates and places. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

"You Been Farming Long?"

Antibiotics in Meat: Is My Meat Safe?

A lot of people are worried about having too many antibiotics in their meat and the effect that may have on the overall effectiveness of antibiotics. Of course, proper care of animals includes getting them healthy after they're sick. 

Check out this quick explanation by a farm mom about how antibiotics are used, monitored, and kept out of our food:

Just like people, most livestock are only treated with an antibiotic when they’re sick. And antibiotics to treat a sick animal can cost $25 per animal. By focusing on good animal care, proper nutrition and disease prevention, livestock farmers and their veterinarians reduce antibiotic use – and save money in the process.

Because there can be residues left behind from antibiotics, farmers watch sick animals closely and give them plenty of time to recover. (That’s what “hospital pens” are for in livestock barns.)
The FDA also has very strict rules about withdrawal times; about how long a farmer has to wait before selling an animal that has been treated with an antibiotic.
For example, beef and pork is tested constantly at the packing plant. Any antibiotic residue will be traced back to the farmer, and the FDA and USDA will quickly come calling.

Remember: Farmers love meat too. Farmers do not want to eat meat filled with medicine. We eat the same meat that we sell to our consumers. It is in our best interest to make sure that meat is safe and clean.

Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Blog Action Day: The Power of Farmers

Today is officially the day for Blog Action Day. The theme this year is "The Power of We." Why is this the theme? Because "The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around he world."

"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization." ~Daniel Webster
I want to dedicate my post to the hard working men and women across our country that farm.

Imagine the power of these individuals. They literally provide the world's supply of food. Every day their tireless work provides human beings in their communities, states, nation, and the world with healthy and nutritious food.

They're also cultivators of our planet, caretakers of our animals, and environmental stewards. They understand the importance of producing quality food and maintaining and preserving the environment. They don't just make a show of wanting to protect our planet, their entire livelihood literally relies on it. Farmers are able to make nature productive without destroying it. When it all boils down to it, farmers are true environmentalists.

The power of farmers lies in their natural instinct to be caretakers of our planet and economic prowess.

"There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry." ~Ben Franklin

Friday, October 12, 2012

Whole Foods & HSUS: Working Together

At this point I'm sure you've heard of Whole Foods, Inc. It's the supermarket that keeps popping up in new towns across the United States (we have one going in fairly close to here) and it claims to be a grocery store that simply cares about promoting ethical food choices. You know, they like organic, sustainability, natural, and vegan stuff.

Their website boats of their goals and missions, which sound all warm and fuzzy. Take a look at their goals for environmental stewardship:
  • Supporting sustainable agriculture. We are committed to greater production of organically and bio-dynamically grown foods in order to reduce pesticide use and promote soil conservation.
  • Reducing waste and consumption of non-renewable resources. We promote and participate in recycling programs in our communities. We are committed to re-usable packaging, reduced packaging, and water and energy conservation.
  • Encouraging environmentally sound cleaning and store maintenance programs.
We've seen this story before, of course. Opponents of conventional and modern agriculture are always claiming that they act in the best interest of the Earth, opponents of animal cruelty, and champions of sustainable living. They claim to be the real environmentalists and those dirty corporate farmers are destroying our planet. But, as usual, there is more to the story.

That's where John Mackey comes into the picture. He is the founder and former CEO of Whole Foods, Inc. Mackey claims to be pretty right-wing (he came out against government run health care, which created quite the backlash against his Whole Food followers) and embraces free market capitalism. He also hates unions and doesn't believe in climate change.

He seems like exactly the opposite of the type of guy that should be running a store like Whole Foods.

However, Mackey also sits on the board of HSUS. I've already explored, numerous times, the real agenda and goal of HSUS: shut down animal agriculture. So what exactly is Mackey, self-proclaimed right winger, doing sitting on the board of HSUS? Does he really want to shut down animal agriculture?

In 2005, HSUS and a bunch of other radical animal rights groups signed a letter thanking Mackey and Whole foods for participating in Farm Animal Compassionate Standards (the supposedly more humane and ethical way to kill farm animals). The groups hailed the store as being a leader in promoting humane animal care. Mackey recently praised a book by Wayne Pacelle, HSUS's current CEO, indicating he felt's Wayne's connection to the animals.

Whole Foods has also come out in support of California's Prop 37. Whole Foods has long opposed the use of GMOs, including a non-GMO verified seal on some of their products.

And, of course, Whole Foods is dedicated to organic food. Organic seems to the be staple of the food chain's products. The store promotes the category by claiming that organic farmers actually take care of the soil, diversify plants, and prop up rural communities. Oh yeah, and they claim organic food is healthier for you.

The fact is, Whole Foods is dedicated and founded on promoting some of the lies we've been fed over and over again. Organic is healthier. Organic is better for the environment. GMOs are giving us all cancer. Farmers are cruel to animals. Animals are being abused.

No doubt Mackey has made millions promoting the lies, catering to the misinformation, and getting in bed with radical environmental groups.

While the food chain claims that it is dedicated to promoting and supporting small farmers, nothing could be farther from the truth. In reality, they want to shut down modern and conventional agriculture right along with the other radical groups. Whole Foods only supports farmers that fit into their idealized, unrealistic (and quite frankly "never existed") vision of farming. Unfortunately, that doesn't include most of the family farms found across the United States.

Perhaps Mackey just thought there would be money in this venture. One of the major complaints about the store is the high prices. I hardly doubt the farmers are seeing that extra money. Or perhaps he really bought into the "organic is healthier" hype. Even if he's given the benefit of the doubt, the fact remains that he has created a store and movement, which has teamed up with groups like HSUS, to end conventional agriculture.

Supporters of US agriculture should avoid shopping at Whole Foods.

Image courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Striving for Continuous Improvement

If only this was how all conversations between farmers, ranchers, and consumers went!

(Nebraska Soybean Board)

"I'm a Soybean Farmer"

Brought to you by the Nebraska Soybean Board:

Is Whole Foods Wholesome?

Excellent article about Whole Foods, the food chain store that markets itself as being the ethical food grocery store.

Read why that isn't quite the whole story (pun intended) and how Whole Foods misleads consumers:

It's hard to find fault with Whole Foods, the haute-crunchy supermarket chain that has made a fortune by transforming grocery shopping into a bright and shiny, progressive experience. Indeed, the road to wild profits and cultural cachet has been surprisingly smooth for the supermarket chain. It gets mostly sympathetic coverage in the local and national media and red-carpet treatment from the communities it enters. But does Whole Foods have an Achilles' heel? And more important, does the organic movement itself, whose coattails Whole Foods has ridden to such success, have dark secrets of its own?

Granted, there's plenty that's praiseworthy about Whole Foods. John Mackey, the company's chairman, likes to say, "There's no inherent reason why business cannot be ethical, socially responsible, and profitable." And under the umbrella creed of "sustainability," Whole Foods pays its workers a solid living wage—its lowest earners average $13.15 an hour—with excellent benefits and health care. No executive makes more than 14 times the employee average. (Mackey's salary last year was $342,000.) In January, Whole Foods announced that it had committed to buy a year's supply of power from a wind-power utility in Wyoming.

Fair enough. But here's another technical point that Whole Foods fails to mention and that highlights what has gone wrong with the organic-food movement in the last couple of decades. But even if Whole Foods has a happy staff and nice windmills, is it really as virtuous as it appears to be? Take the produce section, usually located in the geographic center of the shopping floor and the spiritual heart of a Whole Foods outlet. (Every media profile of the company invariably contains a paragraph of fawning produce porn, near-sonnets about "gleaming melons" and "glistening kumquats.") In the produce section of Whole Foods' flagship New York City store at the Time Warner Center, shoppers browse under a big banner that lists "Reasons To Buy Organic." On the banner, the first heading is "Save Energy." The accompanying text explains how organic farmers, who use natural fertilizers like manure and compost, avoid the energy waste involved in the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers. It's a technical point that probably barely registers with most shoppers but contributes to a vague sense of virtue."
Click here to keep reading.  

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's With Nitrates in Bacon?

My family usually buys our bacon right from the meat counter, so I was blissfully unaware of the latest "bacon without nitrates" trend. The story, quite honestly, reminds me of the "pink slime" scare.

So what exactly is this trend?

Apparently a study came out which linked the nitrates in bacon to cancer. This set of a firestorm of sorts, where the general consensus became that the curing process bacon goes through pumps a bunch of dangerous, artificial nitrates into the meat. Those nitrates then accumulate in your body when you consume the bacon, raising your risk for all sorts of things, including cancer. (Check out this explanation from a "health" website.)

Unfortunately, the story stuck. And now you can see lots of bacon packaged on supermarket shelves that tries to take advantage of this scary story. Bacon will be labeled as "nitrate-free" or "natural." (I've already explained in Debunking the Organic Myth, Part 2, why you should be leery of anything labeled "natural" -- because "natural" has no meaningful legal definition.)

So what's the real story behind nitrates, bacon, and the curing process?

First, let's talk about curing bacon to begin with. The process of preserving our meat has been going on for centuries. If you can't eat it all right when its cut, you need to find a way to keep it safe from bacteria. For bacon in particular, you have to guard against botulism (also known as "the black death"). Curing also keeps the meat from turning color, having weird flavors, and smelling bad. The typical way to cure meat is by using sodium nitrate (also known as "salt"). (Source: Nitrite in Meat)

But what about those nitrates? Even though we've been doing it for centuries, maybe they aren't so healthy for us after all? The problem is, meat is not a major source of nitrates in our diet! In reality, most vegetables that we consume contain more nitrates (good reason not to eat celery, in my opinion). More than our vegetables, however, is our own saliva. In fact:
"It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. In fact, nitrites are produced by your own body in greater amounts than can be obtained from food, and salivary nitrite accounts for 70-90% of our total nitrite exposure. In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat." (Source: Chris Kessler, L AC)
So your body is creating this stuff naturally (there's that word again).

What about all of those "nitrate-free" bacon products? Better safe than sorry? Not quite. All bacon is cured in some way; otherwise it wouldn't be safe. The "natural" products are usually cured using celery and sea salts. As just explained, vegetables actually contain many more nitrates than any of our meats. Therefore, if you're going to cure meat with vegetables, you can actually end up with many more nitrates than you would from traditional curing methods. We also know that nitrates do not accumulate in our bodies. The nitrates that are not used by our bodies are completely out of our systems within 5 hours of ingestion. (Source: Chris Kessler, L AC)

What's more, you don't need to really worry about nitrates because they can actually be beneficial for us. The original study linking nitrates and cancer has been debunked. Since then, we've found out that "...nitrites are beneficial for immune and cardiovascular function; they are being studied as a potential treatment for hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell and circulatory disorders." (Source: Chris Kessler L AC) So not only are nitrates not dangerous, they're actually good for you! 

But even if you're still worried about overdosing on nitrates when eating bacon, consider that the USDA has a lid on how many nitrates can show up in your slice of bacon. Unlike "natural," there is a legal limit to how many nitrates can be used when curing meat. Since 1978, the USDA has said that only 1 pound of nitrates can be used for 5,000 pounds of bacon.  (For a much deeper explanation of the curing process, the USDA's limits, nitrates, parts per million, and bacon, check out the description and math laid out by the University of Minnesota). 

If you really want to find out more about bacon or curing, check out the USDA's Bacon and Food Safety page. I guarantee you'll find everything you need to know about bacon there. 

So, please, don't pay a premium for "natural" or "nitrate-free" bacon. It isn't anything more than a marketing gimmick set to capitalize on a scary and fake study. Just eat your bacon and enjoy it!

Image courtesy of piyato/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

ND's Proposal 5 (Hint: HSUS Wrote It!)

Hint: Click on the picture to read it.

North Dakota sure has a lot going on when it comes to ballot proposals this election cycle. Remember, I wrote about Measure 3 (vote yes!) that protects farmers and ranchers ability to use modern technology and practices. It turns out that ND voters will also have to decide on Measure 5, a ballot proposal written and supported by HSUS. 

Upon first reading the proposal, it doesn't seem to be all that scary or radical: 
"This measure would make it a class C felony for an individual to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse and provide a court with certain sentencing options. The measure would not apply to production agriculture, or to lawful activities of hunters and trappers, licensed veterinarians, scientific researchers, or to individuals engaged in lawful defense of life or property." 
You can read the full text of Measure 5 (the actual law) here

So, what's the problem? 

For one thing, the law is incredibly vague. It also is not a comprehensive act (it only protects dogs, cats, and horses...huh?). It also doesn't make any sense for the state. 

Here's an example: 
Suppose a horse owner has an aging, sick animal. This measure would expose that owner to legal liability if the horse were euthanized without a veterinarian present.
Now, if you’ve ever had occasion to visit or spend time in North Dakota, you’d agree with the joke about a 150-mile run to the store. Veterinarians—heck, people—tend to be few and far between in the Flickertail State (that’s its nickname; look it up) and paying for hundreds of miles of travel so the vet can spend five minutes administering an injections makes no sense. (Source: Pork Network)
The proposed law doesn't take into consideration the realities of ND. It also doesn't define concepts like customary agricultural practices, leaving it to the courts to figure out. Since when does a judge know what a customary practice for agriculture is? Trust me, they don't learn that in law school. Instead, the proposal randomly picks a couple types of animals and tries to make the whole thing look fuzzy and warm.

But all that vagueness makes ND's agriculture, hunting, and veterinarian community a little worried. The fear is that HSUS will somehow use the new law to gain a foothold in the state. Whether they later use the language of the law for litigation, or add to it with future ballot proposals, the result is not good for the industry. With HSUS's history of multi-million dollar litigation against farmers and ranchers, it's no wonder this isn't a very welcome solution to the supposed animal cruelty in the state. 

The leader of the opposition group, ND Animal Stewards, suggest an alternative. If passed the ballot proposal could only be amended by the state legislature with a 2/3 vote. Rather than allow such a vague and ambiguous piece of legislation to be almost amendment-proof, ask the legislature to address the issue and write a comprehensive law that would deal with the issue. And, most importantly, keep HSUS out of the process. 

"We definitely want to protect the animals," said Jason Schmidt, chairman of the N.D. Animal Stewards and a rancher near Medina, N.D “We deal with them everyday, they are our livelihood. We need the animals to be healthy and safe, we also need the people that care for those animals to be protected.”

That's exactly what I've been saying.