American churches and the “Big Game”

Super Bowl copyright infringement is something that churches across the country should keep in mind if they’re planning to host a Super Bowl viewing party this Sunday.  Copyrights are not typically on a church’s party planning list, but the NFL would like it to be at least somewhere in your top five.

Football fields are silent, but football fans are gathered around their TV screens for the “Big Game"

Football fields are silent, but football fans are gathered around their TV screens for this Sunday’s “Big Game” (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to copyrightcommunity.net, Super Bowl Sunday is actually one of the biggest evangelism opportunities of the year for churches across the country.  Christiancopyrightsolutions.com calls it one of the best chances to engage in “friendship evangelism.”    Before the big game and the big group gets together, let’s talk about what you need to know.

Christ Community Church in Rochester will host a “Big Game” viewing party on Sunday, February 2

Christ Community Church in Rochester will host a “Big Game” viewing party on Sunday, February 2 (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

At this point, a logical question might be, “Why are you bringing this up, and what do I care?”  If your train of thought is running down those tracks, it’s important to understand just how seriously the NFL takes its copyrights.

 

Copyrightcommunity.net said back in 2007, an Indiana church planned to host a Super Bowl viewing party, and publicized the event on it’s website.  The NFL spotted the plans and overnighted a letter to the Fall Creek Baptist Church, demanding that the church cancel the party.  The NFL’s actions led to a number of churches around the country canceling their Super Bowl viewing events.

Companies like EA Sports pay a lot of money to use the NFL Shield logo (photo by Chad Smith)

Companies like EA Sports pay a lot of money to use the NFL Shield logo (photo by Chad Smith

 

The NFL continued to alert churches to the possibility of copyright violations into 2008.  It took bipartisan legal action by Congress to bring the conflict to something resembling a resolution.  Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania brandished legal action that finally brought a positive response from Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL.

 

In a letter to Senator Hatch after the ’08 Super Bowl, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL would no longer object to “live showings, regardless of screen size, of the Super Bowl,” by religious organizations.  The conditions are that admission can’t be charged to the event, and the showing should be on the premises that the church uses on a “routine and customary basis.”

Brandon Ganz of Christ Community Church in Rochester (Photo from www.cccrochester.org)

Brandon Ganz of Christ Community Church in Rochester (Photo from www.cccrochester.org)

 

Brandon Ganz is the Pastor of Administration for Christ Community Church, which serves over 3,000 people, in Rochester, Minnesota.  He recently sent out an email to ministry groups in the church about not “using the term Super Bowl, or team logos and names, in any of our publications or on our church website.”  Ganz said there have been churches that don’t worry about the copyright law, thinking that “it’s for the greater good, but they still wind up breaking the law.”  As Pastor of Administration, he said one of his tasks includes keeping up to date on potential copyright violations, as the laws continue to get more complex.

Churches may show the Super Bowl on any size screen they normally use in their place of worship

Churches may show the Super Bowl on any size screen they normally use in their place of worship (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

 

According to guideone.com, there are a few things for churches to keep in mind, which will help them stay on the right side of the NFL:

 

  1. The game must be shown live on equipment you use for your ministry.  It can’t be a recording.
  2. Don’t charge admission to the event.  You can ask for donations to help defray the costs of the event.
  3. To avoid any copyright infringements, avoid calling it a “Super Bowl Party.”  Pick a version of the “Big Game,” or something similar.  Do not use any of the NFL trademarks or intellectual property.  This includes using the terms Super Bowl and NFL, plus don’t use team names or logos.  The towns where teams are located are fine.

The internet has broadened a church’s reach and influence in society, but because of copyright law, it’s also means churches have to be more careful about what they post and publish on their websites and their publications too.

 

 

 

Farm Bureau sues EPA over alleged confidentiality breach

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the release of personal information on tens of thousands of individual farmers and ranchers back in early 2013.

 

Danielle Quist is the Senior Counsel for Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. She said the EPA received a request from environmental groups under the Freedom of Information Act regarding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO’s.  The EPA defines Animal Feeding Operations as agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed.

Quist said the EPA recently asked states to provide information on the CAFO’s in their borders, and talked about the information they compiled from 29 of the 50 states:

Are beef cattle farmers and ranchers safe from animal activism? (Photo by Chad Smith)

Are beef cattle farmers and ranchers safe from animal activism? (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to FoxNews.com, the FOIA request came from three environmental activist groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust, and EarthJustice.   Quist said, “Without looking at what was contained in the requests, released all the information.”  The Farm Bureau says that’s where the problem arises.

 

Quist said “we found that states had given the EPA things like personal home phone numbers, personal email addresses, and even the GPS location of where each house was precisely located on these farms.  EPA literally put a bow on it, turned around, and handed the information to these environmental organizations.”

 

“We’re not talking about the number of animals on a farm, or the type of manure storage facility on the farm, which we have no problem with people knowing.  We’re talking about personal information.”

 

Quist said EPA’s position is “this information is available in the public domain, and they’re under no obligation to redact any of it.  Farm Bureau’s position is “if the home and the business are co-located, that is a home address, and there is case law in Minnesota, where the suit was filed, to support this.  Supreme Court decisions, for decades, have said that’s all personal information.” She said “the Supreme Court has said even though you run a business from home, that’s still all private information.”

 

Farm Bureau is concerned about the potential for mischief at these operations.  “You’ve got generations of family members that live on the site of these operations,” said Quist.  “We’re not trying to protect farmers with separate business locations and information, we’re trying to protect the farmers that live on site with a spouse and children, and we want their information to be kept private.”

Olmsted County Farm Bureau in Eyota, Mn (Photo by Chad Smith)

Olmsted County Farm Bureau in Eyota, Mn (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to the nationalreview.com, agro-terrorism is a new term that burst into the national spotlight back in the early hours of January 8, 2012.  A fire broke out at Harris Farms in the San Joaquin Valley of California, destroying 14 trailer trucks and causing more than 2 million dollars in damage.  An anonymous news release from the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility, describing how the attack took place, and concluded threateningly: “until next time.”

The Animal Liberation Front is a worldwide organization as you can see in this video.  The American Farm Bureau doesn’t want this kind of activism in America:

 

Bob Stallman, the President of the American Farm Bureau, told Agri-Pulse.com “EPA is in effect holding up a loudspeaker and broadcasting where private citizens live and where their children play.”

Are farms public businesses or private homes?  (Photo by Chad Smith)

Are farms public businesses or private homes? (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Quist expects the case to “be in motions for summary judgment by this summer,” and is hoping for a final ruling by the end of 2014.  “This is a case everyone should be paying attention too.  If the EPA gets away with breaching confidentiality, which government agency will be next?”

 

America’s livestock industry fights back against misinformation

Animal rights groups around the nation have gone on attack against livestock production facilities all over the country, and livestock farmers have begun to fight back through social media and direct interaction with consumers.

 

One of the more recent videos put out to the public by the group Mercy for Animals is available on YouTube.  It’s graphic and very offensive in nature:

 

Emily Meredith is the Communications Director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and she says what you’re seeing in videos like this isn’t the whole picture.

 

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

She said the Animal Ag Alliance is a “non-profit, broad based coalition of everyone in the animal ag food chain.”  The chain includes “farmers, ranchers, producer organizations, and veterinarians.”  She said the goal of the organization is to speak “with a unified voice, to the media and public about top of mind issues, which includes animal rights.”

 

The Alliance feels the real motivation for these videos are more bottom line oriented.  Meredith said “they’re trying to use these videos to fundraise.  They’re also trying to scare the American consumer into believing that their meat and eggs are not being produced humanely, which drives their vegan agenda.”

 

 

Dal Grooms is a spokeswoman for the Iowa Cattleman’s Association, and spoke to Fox News.  She said these activists aren’t in it for the animals benefit.  “Who cares more about the livestock?  The farmers who own it and make sure it’s healthy, or people that kind of stop in for a bit, and then move on to their next victim?  They’re trying to put livestock farmers out of business, and they’re trying to raise money too.”

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Meredith said the food production chain has checks and balances in place to ensure that animals are treated humanely.  “There are animal welfare programs in place in each sector of the livestock industry, and buyers want to insure that farmers are following these guidelines.  If farmers are abusing animals, they’re not going to stay in business long because no one will buy product from them.”

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to msn.com, “the meat and poultry industries have begun to push back against animal activists by trying to get bills passed against shooting undercover video in production facilities.”  Humane Society of the USA California Director Jennifer Fearing said, “I wish the cattlemen actually wanted to stop the cruelty instead of the documenting of cruelty.”  Meredith said there’s more to it than that:

 

 

Meredith said farmers haven’t been vigilant in following sound hiring practices when they look for help around the farm. “They’re farmers, not private investigators,” she said. “A lot of these families haven’t been following up and checking references, so they end up hiring someone who’s seeking to destroy their way of life.”

 

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

“At the Alliance, we’ve encouraged farmers to do your diligence.  Check references.  Make people apply for work in writing, don’t just hire on a handshake,” said Meredith.  “A lot of farmers now make employees sign agreements that if they see abuse, they’ll report it immediately to the owner or to the authorities.

 

Meredith said there are signs that can help a farmer determine if a worker is there for hidden purposes.  “This person will be in areas they’re not supposed to be in.  They’ll be on the farm after hours in some way.  There may be complaints from other workers that they aren’t following proper procedures,” she said.  “In most cases, when the farmer starts asking questions, that activist is gone.”

 

 

Southeast Minnesota farmers take a hit in 2013

The catchphrase is “prior planning prevents poor performance.”  In 2013, southeast Minnesota farmers found out that Mother Nature can have plans of her own.

 

Southeast Minnesota farmers saw a banner year in 2012, with the growing season producing bumper crops.  In 2013, farmers saw a complete 180-degree turn for the worse, and the area is still feeling the effects as farmers look to the upcoming growing season, when they get back into the farm fields that help produce our nation’s food supply.

 

2013 started poorly

 

Lisa Behnken is a Regional Extension Educator in Crops with the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Rochester, and she said 2013 saw a very slow, wet start to the season.  When spring did finally begin to wake up, the first problem area farmers saw hit the livestock industry particularly hard.

 

Lisa Behnken of the U of Mn Extension office, Rochester (Extension Photo)

Lisa Behnken of the U of Mn Extension office, Rochester (Extension Photo)

“The first thing that hit people was the alfalfa,” said Behnken. “We had a massive alfalfa winterkill.”  She said roughly 50 to 90 percent of a farmer’s acres died.  This alfalfa is a prime source of feed for the beef and dairy cattle industries, and farmers were in a tough spot.  Behnken called it the first “big, red flag of the spring.”

 

A wet spring delays planting

 

Behnken said farmers took the winterkill into consideration heading into spring planting, and rearranged some plans to include re-seeding of alfalfa, but here came the next challenge:

 

2013 was hard on livestock farmers because of alfalfa winterkill

2013 was hard on livestock farmers because of alfalfa winterkill

Southeast Minnesota saw a very wet spring.  Behnken looked back at the calendar as May 2 saw an estimated 15 to 20 inches of “heavy, wet snow” blanket the region.  “It turned cold, and the snow just stayed in the fields.  There was virtually no window to plant in the month of May.”

 

She estimated farmers saw a very small window to plant in mid-May, when a few fields opened up.  Farmers were able to plant a few fields of corn into the dead alfalfa stands, but there was still manure and fertilizer to get down on empty fields, and it was “a lot to do in a very small window,” said Behnken.

 

To plant or not to plant

 

May 31 was the deadline for farmers to decide on taking payments for prevented planting acreage, or to keep forging ahead to try to get corn in the ground, and it was a tough decision for everyone, but especially for livestock farmers.  Behnken said the livestock farmers “needed feed for their animals.  They had to plant.”

 

June 15 led to another tough decision for farmers – whether or not to plant soybeans or take prevented planting

payments to help cover some of their farming costs.  “Acres were still under water in mid-June.  It’s not like they were going to dry out if we had many sunny days in a row.  They were simply not plantable.”

To plant or not to plant?  A tough decision for many farmers in 2013 (photo from nebraskacorn.org)

To plant or not to plant? A tough decision for many farmers in 2013 (photo from nebraskacorn.org)

 

Livestock producers weren’t the only ones who needed to produce grain.  Grain farmers who had forward contracted their crops owed bushels to their local elevators.  Farmers who had contracts with ethanol plants had to come up with bushels as well for the plants to use in their production.

 

June fields were very muddy, very sticky, and “it was very tough planting conditions,” according to Behnken.  As a result, southeast Minnesota farmers were still planting well into July.

 

An aphid explosion in August

 

“As the weather began to change, warming up in the third week of August, we saw soybean aphid populations explode,” said Behnken. “It’s probably the worst case I’ve seen, in terms of numbers and the speed at which populations grew.”

 

Soybean aphids (U of Mn Extension file photo)

Soybean aphids (U of Mn Extension file photo)

“If you weren’t out scouting your fields and following good IPM practices when you reach the threshold for spraying, you took a big yield hit.”  Soybeans were at least two stages behind normal growth rate, and that made the hit even worse.

 

Behnken was at a field day in early September when soybean damage was at it’s worst, and saw many bean fields that were literally black in color.  “Soybean aphids defecate excessive plant sap, called honeydew, that drips onto the lower leaves.  A black to gray mold may then colonize the honeydew, turning the surface of the leaf a dark gray.  In severe infestations, the field will take on a very dark cast.  The mold then covers the green areas of the leaf, interrupting photosynthesis, and reducing plant growth.”

 

Behnken said some farmers walked away from their fields when they saw this.  “Some farmers began to throw up their hands, understandably, and say to themselves, enough.”  Several farmers weren’t going to put any more money into their bean fields, especially since it was planted late to begin with, and they weren’t sure the returns would make up for the cost of producing the damaged crop.

 

Better harvest than expected

 

Harvest was a challenge as well.  The weather was cool, which led to “very poor drying conditions in the field,” said Behnken.  She called it a very nasty harvest season.  “It was going to be late, which we expected because we planted late.”  She offered silage as an example, which she said was chopped six weeks later than normal.

 

To exacerbate the poor drying conditions, southeast Minnesota farmers had to deal with a shortage of propane for their dryers.

 

“Our yields were…okay.  For most producers, we were pleasantly surprised that we came up with an average

Corn harvest (photo courtesy of indianagrain.com)

Corn harvest (photo courtesy of indianagrain.com)

yield,” said Behnken.  She estimated the average corn yield for the area at 150 bushels per acre, with extremes on either side of that number depending upon how much snow landed on each farm field.  “A few fields in the area did go over 200 bushels, but that was the exception.”

 

Many soybean yields came in at roughly 40 bushels per acre.  Between 40 and 55 bushels per acre is considered a pretty good year.  There were extremes as well, with “some farmers harvesting only 20 bushels per acre off their fields.  Overall, it was a modest harvest, definitely not a bin buster.”

 

Turn the calendar

 

Behnken said the Extension Service is encouraging farmers to turn the page to the New Year, but not to forget the lessons learned from a rough 2013.

 

“Let’s learn the positive lessons.  There’s going to be a weed seed bank out there.  There are going to be pest issues because some spraying last year simply didn’t get done in time.

 

“Did we do anything with our fields that would cause soil compaction issues as we get set for spring planting?”

 

She said farmers in the area did learn a lot about cover crops, which could be very beneficial to soil health in the years to come.

 

2013 was a legitimately bad year for most, and she said “it’s time to turn the page.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it beef or Pink Slime

One of the largest defamation lawsuits in American history revolves around something known as “pink slime,” and that term is at the center of a dispute between ABC News and Beef Processors Inc., of Iowa.  Over one billion dollars is at stake, depending on the outcome of the case.   According to examiner.com, the lawsuit is a result of a series of ABC News investigative reports on how one of the nation’s biggest meat producers prepares its products for the marketplace.  What ABC News characterized as pink slime is what the beef processor calls “lean, finely textured beef.”

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on "Pink Slime"

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on “Pink Slime” (Photo by Chad Smith)

Carissa Nath is a meat scientist with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, which specializes in finding new uses for agricultural products and technology, with the goal of expanding business and employment opportunities.  She explained what Lean, Finely Textured Beef is: “When carcasses are fabricated (cut; broken down) into steaks, roasts and other retail cuts there is always some amount trim left over.  This trim is mainly fat, but often times there will be a good amount of lean that could still be salvaged from this trim.  Due to the fact that carcasses are fabricated manually (by human hands), it is impossible to capture all this lean at the time of fabrication.  This trim can then be slightly heated and spun rapidly (think of a large salad spinner) to remove all the fat and retain all the lean.  The resultant product (beef lean tissue) is LFTB, 100% beef. LFTB is then used in the beef industry by adding it back into other trimmings (ground beef) to make varying levels of lean to fat ratios (85/15 (85% lean 15% fat); 90/10 (90% lean 10% fat), etc, to meet consumer demands.”

Mark Malecek is a cattle farmer from Redwood Falls, Minnesota, and said the goal is to “make the nation’s beef supply go farther, and make beef more affordable for the consumer at the grocery store. They’ve been using this process since 1990.”   The controversy arises when the separated beef is processed, heated, and treated with a cloud of gaseous ammonia to kill E. Coli and other bacteria.  In 2001, the Food Safety and Inspection Service okayed the process, and agreed that the ammonia was a “processing agent, and didn’t need to be listed on the ingredient label.”

According to Reuters, Dr. Gerald Zirnstein was a microbiologist at USDA, who sent an email to fellow scientist, first using the term “pink slime.”  In the email, he said he was “disgusted by the process and USDA’s approval of it,” and coined the term pink slime.  He said “USDA undersold it to the public and the meat industry soft-sold it to consumers.”

The issue came back into the public eye thanks to British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, devoted an episode of his television show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” to Pink Slime in 2011.

ABC News then picked up the Pink Slime story and ran a series of reports in 2012 about the product.

 

According to the Pink Slime Wikipedia page, as a result of the series run by ABC News, grocery chains, restaurants, and even school districts announced they would no longer be purchasing beef with the Lean, Finely Textured, beef product.   The beef industry was hit hard by the Pink Slime controversy.

On May 8, 2012, Beef Processors Incorporated announced it would be closing three of its four processing plants in the Midwest.  On April 12, another producer, AFA Foods, a ground-beef processor, announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Beef prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit a three and a half month low.  Malacek said the cattle prices on the Mercantile “went down about three and a half dollars per hundredweight, which is a significant chunk of the local cattlemen’s profit.”  Malecek said prices have returned to where they were before the controversy became news headlines across the country.

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

As a result of financial losses, BPI announced on September 13, 2012, that it had filed a 1.2 billion dollar lawsuit against ABC News, claiming damages as a result of the pink slime controversy.  ABC News denied the allegations, and tried to get the case moved from state court to federal court.  In June 2013, a federal judge sent the lawsuit back to state court.   According to Reuters.com, on December 17 of last year, lawyers for ABC News asked South Dakota State Judge Cheryle Gering took under advisement oral arguments from both sides in the case, and will issue ruling in the near future as to whether or not the case will proceed to trial.

The Farm Bill fight continues

Legislation In Gridlock:

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that sets America’s farming and food policy, usually in four-to-five year increments.  According to the American Farmland Trust website (http://www.farmbillfacts.org/2012-farm-bill), the Farm Bill has been around since the Great Depression.  Congress first enacted the bill to support the nation’s farmers and help maintain their land.

A Rochester, Minnesota farm sits and waits for the 2014 planting season.

A Rochester, Minnesota, farm sits and waits for the 2014 planting season.

The most recent version of the Farm Bill expired in 2012, and has been stuck in limbo ever since as Congress haggles over renegotiating the new bill.  America is beginning to feel the negative effects of not having a Farm Bill, and not just on the nation’s farms.

 

Frustrated farmers:

Michael Landuyt farms in near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, with his wife Kari and their three children.  He raises corn, soybeans, and wheat on their fourth generation farm.  They also finish roughly 1,400 livestock per year.  Landuyt said the lack of consistent farm policy does affect his business, mostly when it comes to planning for the future.

Landuyt said the lack of long-term policy “makes it hard to know what the government is going to throw at you.”  Farmers rotate different crops on different fields on a yearly basis.  That’s where long term planning comes in.   Farmers have to buy inputs, like seed and fertilizer, well in advance of the growing season.

For example, Landuyt will take one of his farm fields through a three-year cycle, planting corn the first year, corn the second year, and soybeans on the third year.  In fact, Landuyt said “I’m 90 percent sure of what I’m going to plant on my fields in fifteen years.  Therein lies the potential problem for him.

With the development of a new Farm Bill, the government could impose new regulations on his business that force him to completely change his plans.  If new regulations force him to change plans just ahead of a growing season, that could potentially mean having to purchase thousands of dollars of new inputs on very short notice, which is hard to do. “That’s where it affects me.  It doesn’t affect me today.  It doesn’t affect me next week. But it affects me two to three years down the road,” said Landuyt.

 

Farm Income is struggling:

South Dakota rancher lost thousands of livestock and millions of dollars in an early October storm

South Dakota rancher lost thousands of livestock and millions of dollars in an early October storm

One of the most beneficial parts of the Farm Bill is disaster relief for the nation’s farmers.  Never has this been more evident than the livestock disaster this year last October in western South Dakota.

One of the earliest snowstorms on record dumped massive amounts of snow in South Dakota last October.  According to a story on the Washington Post’s website (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/10/11/blizzard-lack-of-farm-bill-threatens-south-dakota-cattle-ranchers/), tens of thousands of cattle were killed when the storm swept in unexpectedly.  The storm came in so early that the livestock hadn’t even developed their winter coats yet.

A Rochester, Minnesota John Deere implement dealership is one of many businesses who feel the pinch of lower farm income

A Rochester, Minnesota, John Deere implement dealership is one of many businesses who feel the pinch of lower farm income

Thom Peterson, the Government Relations Specialist with the Minnesota Farmers Union, said a Farm Bill would have been a huge benefit to farmers.  “The freak snowstorm in South Dakota killed a lot of cattle.  No Livestock Indemnity Program means no help for ranchers who desperately need it.  That could result in farmers and ranchers going out of business.”

 

Consumers will feel it at the store:

The price of a gallon of milk is set to take a potential price jump in January

The price of a gallon of milk is set to take a potential jump in January

When farmers go out of business, the law of basic economics will kick in.  Lower numbers of crops that go into making the nation’s food supply mean a higher demand.  When food manufacturers have to pay higher costs to get the inputs they need, then the higher costs will be passed on to consumers.

The dairy industry is a good example.  With the expiration of the Farm Bill, milk prices are set to take a jump on January first because of no government subsidies.  Landuyt said if the government isn’t subsidizing the dairy industry to keep milk prices low, then consumers are going to feel the pinch at the grocery store.  He said, “The government isn’t subsidizing the dairy industry to make the farmer rich.  It’s so the farmer can sell milk for three dollars a gallon to the processor instead of six dollars a gallon, which would mean more money for consumers when they run to the store for a gallon of milk.”

 

 

The Farm Bill is more than just farming:

A recent projection of spending for the upcoming Farm Bill

A recent projection of spending for the upcoming Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a bit of a misnomer.  More than 75 percent of the Farm Bill monies go to funding nutrition assistance programs around the country.  The food stamp program of the past is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.  The lack of a Farm Bill has Jill Martinez of Hunger Solutions in Minnesota concerned.

Martinez said as of right now, 10 percent of Minnesotans are enrolled in the SNAP program.  She said all SNAP programs  are temporarily unchanged from their previous policies.

With potential changes coming to the program with a new Farm Bill, she said, “our biggest concern is that if you need food assistance, you can get it.  We don’t want any barriers to access limited.”

 

On to January for a vote:

Tom Vilsack is the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and spoke recently as a guest on the agriculture news show Agri Pulse (http://www.agri-pulse.com/Audio-Thursday.asp). He’s tired of waiting for a new Farm Bill:

 

Debate on a new Farm Bill, with a potential vote, is now scheduled for January in both Houses of Congress.  Meanwhile, farmers and consumers are stuck in limbo, along with the legislation that governs the food they raise and eat.

 

 

 

 

Minnesota is the new frozen tundra with lots of snow

I took the camera out to take a few pictures to get in that holiday spirit with all the SNOW in Shoreview, Minnesota.  It’s going to be a white Christmas!  This snow isn’t going away till spring!

My wife Monique will not be on the Mommy Swing in Shoreview anytime soon!

My wife Monique will not be on the Mommy Swing in Shoreview anytime soon!

The leaves didn’t even have time to fall here in Shoreview before the snow fell!

The leaves didn’t even have time to fall here in Shoreview before the snow fell!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..!

A beautiful(?) sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland!!

Fighting for the little guy on the family farm

 

“Nothing gets done without politics.”  Not exactly what you’d expect to hear from a 4th generation farmer, but it’s a philosophy that Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson has lived by his entire life.  He’s using that philosophy on a relentless campaign to improve the lives of farmers in Minnesota, and across the country.

 

Doug Peterson at a recent FarmFest near Redwood Falls, promoting agriculture at the Farmers Union booth (photo by: Mn Farmers Union)

Doug Peterson at a recent FarmFest near Redwood Falls, promoting agriculture at the Farmers Union booth (photo by: Mn Farmers Union)

Growing up on the farm:

Doug grew up on his father’s 300-acre farm south of Madison, Minnesota.  After his birth in 1948, he attended a one-room schoolhouse.  He spent a lot of his early childhood years at Farmers Union county meetings, where his father was the county President.  Some of his earliest memories at those meetings include “sitting in mom’s lap and riding on dad’s shoulders.”

 

A family of his own:

Doug is married to Elly Peterson, his high school sweetheart, who he began dating in ninth grade.  They have two sons, Aaron, who’s a lobbyist, and Ryan, a virologist who conducts stem cell research at Cornell University.

After graduating from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he played college football for four years, the family settled in to life at Glencoe, Minnesota, where Doug worked as an art teacher and football coach for ten years.

 

Back to the Farm:

Doug returned to the family’s 300-acre farm soon after his father passed away from cancer in 1978.  He planted his first crops on the farm in 1981, and farmed actively until 2000.  He also worked full time as a teacher in the Canby and Montevideo school districts. It was during this stretch that he began his foray into politics.

 

Off to the state Capitol:

Doug was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature in 1990.  It was there that he gained “very valuable legislative experience,” according to Minnesota Farmers Union Vice President Gary Wertish.  Doug accomplished a lot during his time in state government.  One of his biggest accomplishments was authoring a bill mandating the use of 10 percent ethanol in every gallon of gas dispensed in Minnesota, a law that is still in effect today.

 

The Farmers Union comes calling:               Farmers Union Logo                        

After serving in the Minnesota Legislature for 12 years, Doug was elected President of the Minnesota Farmers Union, a job he’s held since then.   Doug describes Farmers Union’s main purposes as Legislative and Educational.

 

His knowledge of how to play the political game is very valuable, as Farmers Union spends a lot of time at the Minnesota State Capitol, as well as Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., advocating for policies that aid farmers in doing their jobs as efficiently as possible.  Farmers Union Vice President Wertish said Doug’s political experience and personal connections have proven invaluable as they make the rounds in state and national government offices.

 

Doug Peterson speaking with a reporter during a Farmers Union Fly-In campaign to Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mn Farmers Union)

Doug Peterson speaking with a reporter during a Farmers Union Fly-In campaign to promote agriculture in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mn Farmers Union)

 

 They’re having some success at the process.  According to the North Carolina College of Ag and Life Sciences website, farmers, as a mere 2 percent of the population, produce food so efficiently that they feed the nation, and still export close to 100 billion dollars worth of their products too.

Peterson said Farmers Union is on a mission to educate the non-farming public on just what it is farmers do to produce the food on their dining room table.  He said “98 percent of our population is getting further and further removed from having direct access to any kind of farm or farming practices.”  That results in a lot of misconceptions about farming.

Clearing up the confusion on farming:

He said the biggest misconception the non-farm public has, is just how much money it takes to farm.

“If it cost you 400 dollars an acre to plant a crop, and you farm 1,000 acres, you’re looking at 400,000 dollars to plant a crop in a single year.  Most people I know don’t have that kind of money sitting in the bank somewhere as liquid assets.”

File photo of a family farmer at work (photo by Mn Farmers Union)

File photo of a family farmer at work (photo by Mn Farmers Union)

Government farm safety net payments have long raised the ire of non-farmers when it comes to agricultural practices, and Peterson said, “show me other major public investments that don’t have some kind of subsidy.  Things like roads, bridges, airlines, schools, and hospitals always have some kind of governmental help.  New businesses rarely build a new road to their place on their own.”

Farming has changed a great deal in the last few decades.  Most of the off-farm public have no idea that computers are now driving tractors.  The Farm Bill now creates roughly 16 million jobs around the country.  The average dollar spent in the farm sector turns over in the economy 7 times, according to Peterson.  In other sectors of the economy, the dollar turns over a mere two times.

 

Agriculture brings a lot to the table in the nation’s economy.  Peterson said they can’t ever quit bringing that fact to the attention of state and national legislators, and just as importantly, to the American public as well.

 

Minnesota Farmers Union 2012 Year in review:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving in a down economy

Thanksgiving in a down economy

It’s no longer just family time. It’s time to punch that clock and get working for the man.

  1. Thanksgiving.  It’s a traditional American holiday set aside for food, family, catching up with long lost relatives, and a lot of antacids after dinner.  Yes, there’s a football game or two as well.

    Thanksgiving is changing rapidly. More and more of us are working.   Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney’s, and Toys R Us are all cutting into the Thanksgiving holiday, rendering it a non-event for thousands of American workers.  Are they rendering the holiday moot for the rest of us by encouraging mass consumerism instead of family time?
  2. The NFL has been a part of Thanksgiving for so long, we do forget that there are a lot of people working to bring the games to national TV.  It’s not just the big, sweaty dudes out there on the field, either.  It’s a whole legion of people working behind the scenes to bring you holiday football.
  3. I don’t know why wal-mart employees are complaining, NFL employees have had to work on thanksgiving for years.
  4. I’m not sure I’d make that last comparison.  I’m very sure the employees of the NFL make a few more dollars per hour than their counterparts at Wal-Mart do.

    There is something to be said for the spirit of the holiday.  Be thankful for what you do have.
  5. Sad I have to work on thanksgiving. But hey at least I have a job.
  6. I have a feeling that you’re opinion of working on Thanksgiving may have something to do with Black Friday, and the fact that we’ve been seeing ads since last month, at least.

    It may also have to do with whether or not you are one of those brave souls who are working on the holiday.  But remember, there are workers who have no choice.
  7. Don’t forget the families of service personnel who are overseas.  They may be spending the holiday by themselves, while wishing their loved ones could be home for the holiday season.
  8. God bless the first responders that give up their holidays to watch over us.  You are special people indeed.

    Lastly, don’t just be thankful today.  Find someone you’re thankful for today, and tell them.  Make it a phone call, email, Facebook post, a tweet, or even a text message.  Just make sure they know you care.  It’ll put a smile on their face, especially if they have to go to work in a few hours and brave the Black Friday elements.

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