Agenda 21 is either sound policy or something sinister

Agenda 21 first came into being as a “non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations regarding sustainable development” at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. The icleausa.org website says the gathering, also known as “Earth Summit,” took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  However, based on whom you ask, this document may be more than that.

The original Agenda 21 document (photo from agendatwentyone.wordpress.com)

The original Agenda 21 document (photo from agendatwentyone.wordpress.com)

 

Visit the bgci.org website and you’ll find Agenda 21 described as a “process for meeting the needs of the present generation without harming the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”  Americanfreedomwatchradio.com calls Agenda 21 an “elitist plan to control your life, demanding you do as I say not as I do.”

 

Agenda 21 is born

 

According to the un.com website, the “Earth Summit” was a first-of-its-kind U.N. Conference, both in terms of the number of attendees, and the wide-ranging scope of concerns it dealt with. The U.N. sought to help world governments redo their economic development processes, as well as limit the use of disappearing natural resources and reduce damage to the environment.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the conference in Rio.  The message of the conference was “that nothing less that a complete change of thinking, in both attitudes and behaviors, would bring about necessary changes.”

 

Townhall.com notes as a result of the Earth Summit, over 170 countries signed on to Agenda 21, including then-American President George H.W. Bush

Earth Summit delegates signing the Earth Pledge (photo from the guardian.com)

Earth Summit delegates signing the Earth Pledge (photo from the guardian.com)

 

Agenda 21 and hidden motives

 

Americans Against Agenda 21 is a group based in Rochester, Minnesota, and in recent years began noticing some interesting terms popping up in their local neighborhood planning meetings.

 

Their website, aaa21.org, notes the terms included “sustainable development, open space, heritage areas, historic preservation, comprehensive managing, growth areas, and smart growth.”  The group said, “all of these terms sound good, and we thought they were things we could support.”  However, as time went by, they learned more about Agenda 21.

 

AAA21 says those “good sounding terms have a foundation directly in Agenda 21.”

More walking paths over fewer cars on the roads because of Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

More walking paths over fewer cars on the roads because of Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

The website notes that some readers may think it “sounds like a crazy conspiracy.”  They say, “It may sound like some crazy kook theory that the average person should just write off.”  They encourage readers to look through all the evidence on their website and make their own decisions.

 

The people behind Agenda 21

Glen Beck is a one-time political commentator for Fox News, and he offered some evidence supporting the theory that Agenda 21 is not what it seems:

 

 

 

 

Plans in motion

 

In a video posted by Jason A on Youtube.com, local communities around the country are realizing what Agenda 21 actually is:  an infiltration of local governments by globalists in the United Nations:

 

 

The “stack em and pack em” comment in the video caught the attention of Steve Roberts, a member of Rochester, Minnesota-based Americans Against Agenda 21.  He says it’s begun happening in recent years to Rochester residents.

 

“In recent years, planning department are putting increasing pressure on homeowner associations regarding an increasing number of bike paths, less and less parking, and shoe-horning multi-family developments into residential areas.”

 

He offered up the example of a new development on Fifth Avenue Southwest in Rochester.  “It’s right there, literally next door to single-family homes on all sides,” said Roberts.  “Neighborhood residents didn’t want it there, but the city said the

More multi-family dwellings and less homes in Agenda 21? (Photo by Chad Smith)

More multi-family dwellings and less homes in Agenda 21? (Photo by Chad Smith)

project owner did due diligence, and we’re going to allow it, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”  His allegations were confirmed in Amendment to Land Use Planning  #R2014-001LUPA, showing a medium-density, multi-family dwelling put into a residential neighborhood.

 

He offered as proof of his claims a written document that Rochester’s membership in the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, which is a United Nations-backed organization, directly created by the original Agenda 21 document to influence local governments.  Roberts included a string of emails with then-Rochester City Planner Phil Wheeler stating Rochester’s ICLEI dues totaled $1,710.

What happens to modern Agriculture under Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

What happens to modern Agriculture under Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

 

“This is not going to go away,” said Roberts.

 

The americanpolicy.org website agrees with Roberts.  They say, “Isn’t Agenda 21 just a plan to protect the environment and stop urban sprawl?”  No.  They say they oppose Agenda 21 because it is designed to control every aspect of our lives.

 

How will Agenda 21 affect individuals?

 

The teaparty911.org website called Agenda 21 “a substantial attack on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”  They state Agenda 21 is designed to replace the economic and social structure of the United States, and offered up some of the “unsustainable” targets:

 

Page Number Unsustainable =We will take this away!
337 Ski runs
350 Grazing of livestock
351 Disturbance of soil surface-plowing of soil, building fences
728 Commercial Agriculture-Modern farm production, chemical fertilizers, fossil fuels, etc.
730 Any Industrial activity
730 “Human-made caves of brick and mortar (single family homes)
730 Paved and tarred roads, Railroads, floor and wall tiles
733 Technology, range lands, fish ponds, plantations or rangelands
738 Harvesting timber and modern hunting
748 Logging activities
755 Dams and reservoirs, straightening of rivers
757 Power line construction
763 Economic systems that fail to set proper value on the environment.
Will Agenda 21 mean the end of golf courses? (Photo by Chad Smith)

Will Agenda 21 mean the end of golf courses? (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Conspiracy theory or sound policy?

 

Americans Against Agenda 21 said on it’s website, “after investigation, we found that the essential elements of this document are being supported locally, sometimes using public tax dollars.  Not only are the elements supported, they are being implemented as well.”

 

They say it’s “not remote. It’s not abstract and off in the future. It’s here, and it’s here now.”

 

They and other groups against Agenda 21 invite readers to do their own research, and form their own opinions on whether or not it’s a global conspiracy or sound environmental policy.

Farm income is on the way down in 2014

The United States Department of Agriculture released its Farm Income projections for 2014 on Tuesday, February 11.  According to the desmoinesregister.com, the projections are showing almost a thirty percent drop in net farm income compared to 2013.

 

Income on the way down

Farm Income Forecast to Drop in 2014

Farm Income Forecast to Drop in 2014

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber (photo courtesy of beltway beef.com)

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber (photo courtesy of beltway beef.com)

 

Joe Glauber is the Chief Economist for the USDA, and one of the principal architects of the report.  He said, “Net cash income is projected to be just under 102 billion dollars, a 22 percent reduction from last year.  Net farm income, which takes in the value of stored grain on the farm, is projected to be 958 billion dollars, which is down 35 billion dollars from 2013, almost a 27 percent drop.”

 

Mitch Moreheart, a senior agricultural economist with USDA, told the desmoinesregister.com that one of the biggest reasons behind the drop is a lower commodity price for crops like corn and soybeans.  Crop prices have been at all-time highs in recent years, but Glauber said they’re on the way down:

 

 

Glauber said the recently passed Farm Bill contains reforms that will take another big chunk out of farm income in 2014:

 

 

The USDA website said government payments to farmers will total just over 6 billion dollars in 2014, but that’s close to a 50 percent decrease from 2013.  The loss in government payments means an additional 5 billion dollars in cuts to farm incomes.

 

Some good news ahead

 

While crop receipts will drop roughly 12 percent, Glauber said, “Livestock receipts, by the way, are up marginally.  They’re up at 184 billion dollars.  It’s the first time in a long time we’ve seen crop receipts and livestock receipts at roughly the same level of income.”

 

The livestock sector is getting help from the other bit of positive news in the economic forecast.  “On-farm expenses are forecast to be down, right at 310 billion dollars,” said Glauber.  “That’s primarily due to the lower cost of feed.”  The USDA said it’s only the second time in 10 years that expenses were lower than the year before.

 

Moreheart told the desmoinesregister.com the livestock sector has a very optimistic outlook because it doesn’t cost as much to feed the animals, dairy-farming revenue should pick up, and the beef herd is expected to expand in the near future.

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (photo from politico.com)

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (photo from politico.com)

 

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke about the income forecast, and said the lower numbers didn’t surprise him.  He did say it’s important to keep perspective on the lower numbers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping a weather eye on Minnesota

“Persistent.”  Not exactly the word many Minnesotans may choose to describe this winter, but it’s appropriate, according to Mark Seely, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist.

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

U of Mn Extension climatologist Mark Seely (photo from minnesotaalumni.org)

 

According to a recent Google search, the word ‘persistent’ has many interesting synonyms:  tenacious, determined, single-minded, relentless, interminable, and uninterrupted.  Seely said the reason all these words fit is it hasn’t been this consistently cold in Minnesota and the Midwest in a long time. In fact, the Minnesota Public Radio website calls this “the coldest winter in 30 years.”

 

Looking back

 

Seely said the interesting thing about this bitterly cold winter is, “it didn’t necessarily start early.  The winter that we know it as, frankly, didn’t start until the first week of December.”  Since then, Seely said the state has been in a deep freeze, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in some time.

 

“Since December, it’s been the coldest weather, by any measure, since the winter of 81-82.”  Winter this consistently cold is a new experience for many young Midwesterners:

 

Seely said the Midwest has had colder winters, but few that have been this persistent.  “It has been so consistently cold, we’ve had many of our observers report large numbers of nights with below zero readings.”

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS)  (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

How this winter stacks up against past winters (graph courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS) (photo from blogs.mprnews.org)

 

What is driving the cold?

 

According to the Weather Underground website, a weather phenomenon known as the polar vortex may be driving this relentlessly cold weather in the Midwest.  The polar vortex is an area of very cold air that typically centers over Siberia and Canada’s Baffin Island.  A piece of the vortex broke off, and was forced south in part by the Jet Stream, into the Great Lakes Area of the US.

 

DTN Senior Meteorologist Mike Palmerino said “An unusual area of warm air over Alaska and northwest Canada pushed the cold air south.  They’ve had a lot of warm weather in Alaska this year.”  The polar air has pushed south in the past, so it’s not an unusual occurrence.

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino  (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

DTN meteorologist Mike Palmerino (Photo from www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com)

 

Uneven snow cover

 

“I would say the eastern half of the state ended up with fairly decent snow cover that’s pretty consistent,” said Seely.  “However, the western half of the state, because of the high winds, ended up with variable snow cover.  In areas unprotected from the wind, our weather observers have reported seeing areas of bare soil in their farm fields.”

 

Seely said in unprotected areas, the lack of snow cover has allowed the permafrost has driven 4 to 6 feet deep, and that’s something, “We haven’t seen that in a long, long time.”  That means the ground is going to take time to thaw for spring planting in Minnesota.

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

One of the few areas where wild grass pokes through snow cover in SE Mn (photo by Chad Smith)

 

What is ahead?

 

“The weather models are coming together and showing some moderation for the rest of the winter,” said Seely.  “That’s not to say we won’t have colder than normal days, but the sheer number of below zero days are going to go away.”

 

Palmerino said soils “east of the Mississippi River are in pretty good shape moisture-wise.  If anything, I think the main concern going into spring is that it’s too wet.”  He said “a stormy weather pattern and cooler than normal temperatures would definitely interrupt spring planting.”

 

Seely said the good news is the future models are showing moderating temperatures into March.  However, not all the predictions are positive:

 

Palmerino said it’s a fine line when farmers look to spring.  You want the weather to warm up and melt the snow, but not too fast either:

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

SE Mn has a lot of snow to get rid of before spring planting (photo by Chad Smith)

 

Here’s what it’s been like to drive in the Midwest this winter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farm Bill is the first step for Agriculture in 2014

American agriculture leaped over a major hurdle with President Barack Obama signing into law the 2014 Farm Bill during a ceremony at Michigan State University on Friday, February 7th.  According to the New York Times website, the Bill was several years in development, but came together early this year, adding stability to the Ag sector of the American economy.

Dairy farming is one of many areas of the economy regulated by the Farm Bill (photo by Chad Smith)

Dairy farming is one of many areas of the economy regulated by the Farm Bill (photo by Chad Smith)

 

While it was a major hurdle to overcome, it was just the first in a series of hurdles the Ag sector faces as it looks to the 2014 calendar.  Agriculture involves a very diverse group of people and organizations, but there are some common concerns listed by many of the groups, even as they celebrate a new Farm Bill.

 

2014 starts with good news

 

Kevin Paap is the Minnesota Farm Bureau President.  According to their website, the Farm Bureau calls itself “an advocate for agriculture, driven by the beliefs and policies of it’s members.” He said the Farm Bureau has been working with lawmakers to get a new Farm Bill in place, and it was a long time in coming together:

 

Chandler Goule is the Vice President of Government Relations for the National Farmers Union.  The NFU website bills it’s organization as “United to grow Family Agriculture.”  He said the Farmers Union feels it’s a good bill, and says there are a lot of positives in the legislation for family farmers, including country of origin labeling for meat products at the grocery store:

Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union (photo from newenglandfarmersunion.org)

Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union (photo from newenglandfarmersunion.org)

 

Renewable Fuels still a challenge

 

According to the website ethanol-information.com, the Renewable Fuels Standard is a part of “energy legislation that would set a minimum number of gallons to be used in the nation’s transportation fuel supply each year, including corn-based ethanol and biodiesel, which is soybean-based.”

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap (photo from twitter.com/kevinpaap)

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap (photo from twitter.com/kevinpaap)

 

According to the Biotechnology Industry organization website, the EPA recently proposed slashing the mandated amount of renewable fuels in the nation’s supply.  Paap said that’s simply unacceptable. “The Renewable Fuels Standard is working.  We’ve got cleaner air; we’ve got more jobs, economic development, and energy diversity.  There are over 380,000 jobs just from ethanol production.”

 

Goule said, “The rug has been completely pulled out from under the Renewable Fuels Standard.  Big oil companies don’t want us to grow our own fuel, and they don’t want to give up their share of the marketplace.” He said, “Land-grant University studies have shown the price of gas will go up without an RFS.”  Rural America will also be hit hard as well:

 

 

Immigration reform to deal with

 

Beginningfarmers.org quoted a White House report on their website, saying, “Among all economic sectors, the U.S. Ag sector is particularly reliant on foreign born workers.”  Papp said, “Agriculture hires about a million workers a year.  It’s physical labor, and it takes place in all seasons.  We need the ability to find workers when they’re needed.  Crops and livestock won’t wait for farmers to find help.”

 

He said, “The current H-2A program is not working.  It’s too costly, there’s administrative delays, and it’s got very tough recruiting requirements.”

 

Goule said many folks outside of the Ag sector don’t realize how important the immigration issue is to agriculture:

 

A lot to do yet

 

Agriculture did enjoy a big victory, but Papp said there is still a lot to do yet:

 

Goule agrees:

 

Is OSHA guilty of regulation overreach on grain bins? (photo by Chad Smith)

Is OSHA guilty of regulation overreach on grain bins? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

Bob Stallman is the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is the national umbrella organization for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.  He spoke recently on the Georgia Farm Bureau’s website about issues Ag will have to deal with in 2014

 

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.