NCBA answers beef checkoff questions

“We put a total of 14 options on the table to make it (the Beef Checkoff) a more fair and balanced program, and every one was rejected because it took NCBA out of the drivers seat.”

That’s the reaction of Chandler Goule, the Vice President of Programs for the National Farmers Union, to the recent negotiations that led to several Ag groups signing a Memorandum of Understanding on how to go about raising the national Beef Checkoff from one to two dollars per head sold. Groups like the Farmers Union and R-CALF USA didn’t sign the document because of objections that NCBA says aren’t accurate.

NCBA controlling the checkoff

“The only body that really makes the decision on how to spend checkoff dollars is the Beef Promotion Operating Committee,” said Scott George, past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “It reflects the wishes of the states through those 10 representatives from the Federation of State Beef Councils, and 10 from the Beef Board.”

Scott George is a Wyoming-based dairyman and beef producer who also was the 2013 President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (Photo from beef magazine.com)

Scott George is a Wyoming-based dairyman and beef producer who also was the 2013 President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (Photo from beef magazine.com)

“It takes a two-thirds majority to approve decisions,” said George. “I noticed Chandler Goule (of the National Farmers Union) said this Federation is controlled by NCBA and they only need one more vote to control the spending decisions. That’s absolutely incorrect. Nobody ever tells the Federation how they should vote.”

“I’ve served on the Operating Committee four different times and I’ve voted against other Federation members, I voted against my Chair when I was Vice Chair, I voted against my Vice Chair when I was chair, so there isn’t any block voting,” said George.

“Two-thirds of the Committee, which equals 14 votes (not 11) is what it takes to approve spending decisions,” said George. “If the Operating Committee is voting, and it’s not unanimous, there’s a roll call vote and they record it in the minutes of every meeting.”

NCBA doesn’t control the checkoff

 George said the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group is taking steps to get more beef industry organizations involved in the checkoff through a proposed joint nominating committee which interviews candidates for the Operating Committee.

“Right now, the Beef Board has seven members that sit on a nominating committee, the Federation of State Beef Councils will have seven seats, and we’re proposing that seven seats are given to industry representatives,” said George. “So these organizations that sign on here send a person to sit on that committee, and it will be a joint nominating committee.”

George added, “You’ll have a 21-member nominating committee, and they’ll interview all the candidates that apply from the Beef Board and from the Federation, for the Operating Committee seats, and they’re going to have to pass by a two-thirds majority to move that candidate forward.”

This idea didn’t come without controversy either.

“We have certain groups that didn’t like this because the policy groups had been excluded from seats on the advisory committees,” said George. “But others have said having industry groups sitting in the room, looking at the quality of candidates, helping make the decision, will give them ownership, involvement, and it educates the groups about the candidates and what we’re trying to accomplish with the checkoff.”

He added, “Everything will take a two-thirds majority to move forward, so no one will control that.”

Most checkoff dollars go to NCBA

 “First of all, it takes a two-thirds majority vote of the Operating Committee to award contracts,” said George. “It’s important to remember that.”

George said the best way to answer that accusation is to go back to their last meeting.

“Someone said ‘NCBA is getting a lion’s share of the money’,” said George. “A representative from one of the other groups in the room said ‘you have to understand that NCBA is presenting most of the Authorization Requests.’ It wasn’t me that said that, it was someone else.”

“It’s important to understand that the Beef Board has a list of eligible organizations that can sign contracts,” said George. “The last list I saw was well over 50. It was probably approaching 75 organizations eligible to contract with the checkoff. Off all of those, I think maybe five apply regularly.”

So why raise a fuss about the money NCBA receives from the checkoff if you don’t apply yourself?

“Good question,” said George. “There can be a lot of reasons people don’t apply.”

“When you apply and get a contract, you have to look at what the industry identifies as a problem,” said George, “and you try and come up with a solution for one particular part of it. You have to estimate your costs. You then present that to the Operating Committee. If they award you a contract, you have to spend your money first. You do the project, and then submit bills for reimbursement.”

“Some organizations just aren’t willing to put their money up front,” said George. “It takes a long time for a contractor to do the work and submit their bills to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). The CBB has oversight of the whole process. They will only reimburse you up to the amount you contracted for.”

“Sometimes costs go higher than a contractor estimates,” said George, “and it’s about cost recovery, and not making a profit. If I say I’m going to do a project for $100,000, and it costs me that much to hire people and buy materials to do that, I don’t get to come and say I need ten percent more to go into the coffers of the contracting organization.”

“One organizations asked why we would do this when we don’t make any money at it,” said George. “You’re right, you don’t make any money at it. It’s cost recovery only. The projects are set up to address consumers questions about beef so they’ll keep buying the product, which supports cattle producers.”

“The other thing that prevents organizations from contracting,” said George, “is if you’re a contracting organization, you have to have an independent third party audit your books, and then submit that audit to the Beef Board. The Beef Board also has authority to come in and look at your books and audit you. The Ag Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the Beef Board, also has the authority to look at your books.”

“The Secretary of Agriculture ordered two Office of Inspector General audits on everybody’s books last year,” said George. “They looked at AMS, which oversees the program, they looked at the Beef Board’s books, they looked at contractor’s books, and both audits came out and said everybody is acting in accordance with the law.”

 

 

 

 

Raw milk at the center of Wisconsin bacterial outbreak

It should have been one of those nights that high school students remember foryears. For students at Durand High School in Wisconsin, September 18 of 2014 was a memorable night for all the wrong reasons.

Durand, Wisconsin was at the center of a bacterial outbreak that sickened dozens of people in late 2014 (photo from best places.net)

Durand, Wisconsin was at the center of a bacterial outbreak that sickened dozens of people in late 2014 (photo from best places.net)

It’s tradition in many small towns across America to serve their high school football teams a group meal the night before a game. Thursday, September 18, the Durand football team got together with cheerleaders, parents, team managers, and friends to enjoy a night of togetherness, with a large selection of food on the menu.

The Durand, Wisconsin high school was at the center of a serious bacterial outbreak which began in late 2014, sickening over 2 dozen people (photo from weau.com)

The Durand, Wisconsin high school was at the center of a serious bacterial outbreak which began in late 2014, sickening over 2 dozen people (photo from weau.com)

The list of food items served at the potluck-style meal was innocent enough: a chicken entrée, a broccoli salad and other side dishes, a variety of desserts including cookies, bars and brownies, and a variety of drinks, including Kool-Aid, chocolate milk and white milk — a typical pregame meal you might see in small towns across the Midwest.

The following Monday, September 22, the Durand High School nurse called the Pepin County Health Department (PCHD) about an unusual increase in absenteeism related to a gastrointestinal illness in football players and team mangers, as well as the Panthers’ coaching staff. Symptoms included diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever and abdominal cramps.

The PCHD notified the staff in the Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section (CDES), Bureau of Communicable Diseases, Wisconsin Division of Public Health (WDPH), and a joint investigation was launched.

The gastrointestinal illness didn’t just hit the football team. During the joint investigation, a large increase in absenteeism showed up on the volleyball team, too.

The investigation noted that food at team meals is typically bought, prepared, and served by parents of team members. September 23, the PCHD learned that some of the milk was unpasteurized, and provided by a parent who brought it from his or her own farm. Thus, it was store-bought chocolate milk and unpasteurized white milk served at the dinner. Parents reported 3 one-half gallons of chocolate milk, and a 5-gallon cooler of white, unpasteurized milk, which was served after the chocolate milk was gone. That’s when the questions really began to intensify.

The US Food and Drug Administration website, fda.gov, defines raw milk as milk from cows, sheep or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill bacteria. This raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella and Listeria, which can cause serious food borne illnesses.

However, Wisconsin State Health Officer Karen McKeown said they didn’t necessarily assume that’s where the outbreak started.

“Even once we found out there was unpasteurized raw milk, we needed to continue to look at the whole picture,” she said. “We needed to do a thorough investigation, and not jump to conclusions. We continued to ask questions about everything that people had eaten.”

On September 23, the CDES staff began conducting phone interviews with all students, parents and staff associated with the football team. While the various health workers were doing their jobs, the community was asking a lot of questions, including why school wasn’t closed for the week following the outbreak.

“We were in constant contact with the county and state health departments as soon as we first learned about it,” said Durand Superintendent Greg Doverspike. “I posed that question to the State Health Department and they said there was no need to close school. This is confined to a cohort (group), and there’s no evidence to show it’s spreading beyond that cohort. There’s also no evidence it’s airborne, either.

“They did say to encourage students to use good hygiene by hand washing. We were also doing extra cleaning and disinfecting things like door handles, water fountains, bathrooms, desks and buses, so we were going above and beyond our normal routines.”

One of the concessions the school did make to the illness outbreak was to cancel several athletic and extracurricular activities, including the football game on September 26.

As the investigation continued, McKeown said the Wisconsin Department of Health reached out to the State Department of Agriculture for help.

“We asked the Department of Agriculture to go to the farm (where the raw milk came from) and do a test of the milk in the bulk tank,” she said. “They did not find any bacteria that would match what we had found in the investigation.”

Sixty-five people were interviewed for the investigation, and testing stool samples showed that 26 of them were infected with laboratory-tested cases of campylobacter jejuni infection. But the bacteria hadn’t shown up in the milk at the farm, which McKeown said wasn’t unheard of.

“Cows do not always shed this bacteria,” she said. “It can happen intermittently, and milk can also be contaminated after the cow has been milked, too.”

After the milk had been tested, McKeown said the Department of Health asked the Ag Department to head back to the farm for more testing. This time, they collected manure samples.

“With no bacteria in the milk, we couldn’t conclude that the milk was the source, said McKeown. “We needed additional information.”

Questions began to be answered after the manure test results came back from the lab. “We found a match between the manure samples and the samples that we received from the sick individuals,” said McKeown.

“Once we did our complete analysis, looking at what people had eaten, what thestatistical analysis showed us and looking at information from the lab, we did feel that the raw milk was the common factor in the outbreak,” said McKeown.

Raw milk, which is illegal in Wisconsin, was determined to be at the center of the campylobacter outbreak in Durand, Wisconsin (photo from campylobacterblog.com)

Raw milk, which is illegal in Wisconsin, was determined to be at the center of the campylobacter outbreak in Durand, Wisconsin (photo from campylobacterblog.com)

The farm owners who supplied the raw milk came from pointed out that chicken alfredo was served at the meal, and may have been a possible source of the contamination

“We looked at that as well, but since everybody ate that, there was nobody to compare it to who did not eat the food,” said McKeown. “But there were also nowhere near the percentages of people who became ill. When we ran the numbers in the statistical analysis, that helps us to pinpoint that it was the (raw) milk rather than the Chicken Alfredo.”

McKeown credited the quick thinking of the Pepin County Health Department for helping to find answers to what was affecting students and staff at Durand High School.

“As soon as Heidi (Stewart, Pepin County Health Officer) started hearing about these sick children, she moved very quickly to begin those interviews and start the identification work, and she called us in very quickly,” said McKeown. “I do think that Heidi acted well in beginning a prompt investigation of this illness.”

The dangers of raw milk cannot be over-emphasized. Despite the investigation concluding, students are still trying to recover from a very serious illness.

One student shared the timeline for their illness, and it’s scary. The student preferred to remain anonymous because of a pending court case.

September 19, the student attended the team dinner. Sunday night, September 22, the student became seriously ill, with chills, fever and vomiting. The parents initially dosed the student with NyQuil, thinking it may be the flu.

September 23, the students fever was up to 104, and immediately was taken to the hospital. The examining doctor dispensed with the initial examination, and the student was immediately admitted to the hospital and given IV fluids.

That same morning, the State Health Department interviewed the student. Parents were not allowed in the room without hospital gowns and gloves.

As the day went on, more and more students were admitted to the hospital.

When the student went to the bathroom, everything had to be kept for the State of Wisconsin Health Department to examine.

September 25, the state confirms it’s a campylobacter outbreak after testing the fecal matter of the students and manure from the farm.

September 26, the student is released from the hospital, but would be home until September 30.

The student lost 30 pounds from the illness, and suffered for months from loss of feeling in limbs, joint pain, and trouble sleeping and concentrating.

The moral of this story is simple: don’t take any chances with raw milk.

Calling all farmers to Winter Workshops in January

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The dark days of winter can be a great time to learn new things, so the Minnesota MDA-logoDepartment of Agriculture (MDA) is again providing farmers a day of Winter Workshops in January. The MDA will offer six workshops covering a diverse array of farming topics on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Workshop details and online registration are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/amdor by calling 651-201-6012 and requesting a “Winter Workshops” brochure. The workshops include:

All Day (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

The Nuts and Bolts of Running a CSA, presented by Mark Boen and Bernard Crosser of Bluebird Gardens, Cost: $50

 

Transitioning to Organic: From Deciding to Doing, presented by Carmen Fernolz of A-Frame Farms. Cost: $50

 

Morning Workshops (9 a.m. to Noon)

Grazing Basics, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Cost: $25

 

Reality Checking your Farm Plan, presented by John and Lisa Mesko from the Sustainable Farming Association of MN (SFA). Cost: $25 (free for SFA members)

 

Afternoon Workshops (start at 1:30 p.m)

Fine Tune Your Grazing System, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Ends at 4:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

Save Your Own Seed, presented by Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen from Seed Sages and Tiny Diner Farm. Ends at 3:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

While they immediately precede the two-day Minnesota Organic Conference to be held January 9-10, also in St. Cloud, these workshops are designed to benefit all kinds of farmers. Minnesota Organic Conference details are posted at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

Bitter winter has impact on gypsy moth in Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Ag Logo Last winter’s harsh temperatures have resulted in some positive benefits – a decline in the state’s gypsy moth population. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) captured approximately 500 moths this year in traps around the state. That’s a major shift from last year’s count of over 71,000 moths.

“We knew going into this survey season that our numbers would be down,” said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, MDA’s Gypsy Moth Program Supervisor. “Studies have shown extended stretches of extreme cold have an impact on gypsy moth eggs as they overwinter. However, we cannot let our guard down over this invasive insect.”

In fact, University of Minnesota research has shown gypsy moth egg masses can survive a harsh winter if located below the snowline.

“While the decrease in moths is good news, we know they will bounce back quickly.” said Dr. Brian Aukema of the forest insect laboratory at the University of Minnesota. “A single surviving egg mass will produce more than 500 hungry caterpillars.”

The placement of survey traps throughout the state also affected 2014 trapping numbers.

“We placed 60 percent fewer traps in the quarantined counties of Lake and Cook this year,” said Thielen Cremers. “We know a reproducing population is established there; 90 percent of the moths caught in the state in 2013 were in those two counties, so this year we placed more traps ahead of that established population to keep on top of the spreading gypsy moth infestation.”

Gypsy moth caterpillars, which are not native to North America, eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs. Severe, repeated infestations can kill trees, especially when the trees are already stressed by drought or other factors.

A male, gypsy moth caterpillar (photo from www.constructionandtreeservices.com)

A male, gypsy moth caterpillar (photo from www.constructionandtreeservices.com)

Last winter’s harsh temperatures have resulted in some positive benefits – a decline in the state’s gypsy moth population. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) captured approximately 500 moths this year in traps around the state. That’s a major shift from last year’s count of over 71,000 moths.

“We knew going into this survey season that our numbers would be down,” said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, MDA’s Gypsy Moth Program Supervisor. “Studies have shown extended stretches of extreme cold have an impact on gypsy moth eggs as they overwinter. However, we cannot let our guard down over this invasive insect.”

In fact, University of Minnesota research has shown gypsy moth egg masses can survive a harsh winter if located below the snowline.

“While the decrease in moths is good news, we know they will bounce back quickly.” said Dr. Brian Aukema of the forest insect laboratory at the University of Minnesota. “A single surviving egg mass will produce more than 500 hungry caterpillars.”

The placement of survey traps throughout the state also affected 2014 trapping numbers.

“We placed 60 percent fewer traps in the quarantined counties of Lake and Cook this year,” said Thielen Cremers. “We know a reproducing population is established there; 90 percent of the moths caught in the state in 2013 were in those two counties, so this year we placed more traps ahead of that established population to keep on top of the spreading gypsy moth infestation.”

An example of tree damage from gypsy moth infestations (photo from gypsymothalert.com)

An example of tree damage from gypsy moth infestations (photo from gypsymothalert.com)

Gypsy moth caterpillars, which are not native to North America, eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs. Severe, repeated infestations can kill trees, especially when the trees are already stressed by drought or other factors.

For more information on gypsy moth, go to www.mda.state.us/gypsymoth.

 

RCTC program closures generate controversy

Earlier this year, Rochester Community and Technical College’s new President, Leslie McClellon, announced that two of the schools academic programs would be closing. The programs are equine science and occupational skills, with both scheduled to end by May 2016.

RCTC President Leslie McClellon (Photo from the RCTC Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/myrctc/inside-rctc/

RCTC President Leslie McClellon (Photo from the RCTC Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/myrctc/inside-rctc/)

The October decision to close the programs has generated some controversy on campus and in the Rochester community. The furor doesn’t just surround the programs themselves, but also the manner in which the decision was made. The decision came without warning, with little give and take between the administration and the people most affected by the decision.

One of the people most affected by the decision is Jonathon Holland, an Equine Science instructor. He said there was no warning when he was told the program would shut down and he wouldn’t have a job at the end of the year.

“I got a call on a Friday afternoon in October, and was asked to come to a meeting the following Monday with Michelle Pyfferon, Dean of Academic Affairs,” said Holland. “Then, on Monday morning, Pyfferoen called an hour before the meeting and said I should probably have union representation. I laughed at that, and said ‘first of all, I find it hard to believe you didn’t know I’d need representation on Friday when you called. An hour before the meeting, and there’s no chance I’m getting anyone to come that quickly.’”

“I told her ‘if I can’t have union representation there with me, maybe I shouldn’t come to the meeting,’” said Holland. “She said ‘well, it has nothing to do with you.’ If I needed representation, why wouldn’t it have anything to do with me?”

After finding out the meeting had nothing to do with his teaching or any of the students, he decided to attend. “As soon as I walked in, I was handed a set of papers, and told that as of May, I would be done teaching at the school, and the program would be closing.”

“There wasn’t much in the way of discussion. It was simply handed to me as a decision that was already made,” said Jonathon.

“I then learned that the President would be having a question-and-answer session with interested parties the following Monday,” he said. Over 150 people came to the October 27 meeting. Faculty, staff, current students, alumni of the program, even community members all showed up.

“Most of our advisory board was at the meeting,” said Holland. “As a background, all technical programs on campus must have an advisory board. They are not paid. It’s a volunteer position.” He said, “We ask community experts to sit on the advisory board and keep the program up to date with current trends, and as effective as possible for students.”

“Our advisory committee was shocked and dismayed,” said Jonathon. “The hostility with which they were treated, simply because they wanted their questions answered, was so disrespectful for these community members who give their time and effort to help this college.”

He said, “They were treated horribly. She (President McClellon) was very aggressive towards them. It’s almost as if she believed they didn’t have the right to question her,” said Holland.

Lita Hottel

Lita Hottel of Rochester is an internationally known horse judge, and a member of the Equine Science Advisory Board (photo from http://www.ranchhastar.se/september10.htm)

Lita Hottel of Rochester is a member of the advisory board, and an internationally known horse judge. She was shocked at the way she was treated simply by asking questions. Hottel started her part of the discussion by reading a statement from President McClellon in the schools newsletter. The statement said:

“I want to thank everyone, especially the faculty, who have taken significant steps over the past few years to do everything possible to avoid these program closures. I also want to thank Vice President Jim Gross and the academic deans for all of their time and commitment to carefully consider all aspects before coming to this decision.”
~Leslie R. McClellon, President

“I asked President McClellon to explain what ‘doing everything possible over the last few years’ looked like,” said Hottel. “The reason I’m asking is her very qualified staff didn’t seem to know about the possibility of the program closing until the day before it closed.” She added, “I am on the advisory board, and I would have loved to help find a solution, but I’m not really sure what the problem was.”

McClellon then passed off the question to Michelle Pyfferoen, Dean of Technical Programs. However, Hottel was not satisfied with what she heard.

“I said, ‘She didn’t answer the question,’” said Lita. “President McClellon just repeated something she had said before about state guidelines. It appeared she just didn’t want to answer the questions.”

“President McClellon then asked me for a solution to the problem on the spot, which was obviously after the fact,” said Hottel. I said, ‘If you want a solution, I would be happy to bring you one.’ She then became verbally aggressive and demanded a solution right then. I would have loved to bring RCTC’s program a solution, and told her so.” Lita said, “It was very demeaning to be put on the spot for a solution to a problem I was just learning about.”

Julie Christie is the program leader for Equine Science at the school, and she attended the meeting as well with a lot of questions to ask.

Julie Christie

Julie Christie is the Equine Science Program Director and instructor at RCTC (photo from thelandonline.com)

“We were asking why she never gave us a chance to turn this program around, or to meet new goals, or change things to make it more feasible for the college,” said Christie. “No one ever told us what we needed to do to keep this program going. We didn’t have a chance.”

“A member of the Advisory Council told the President ‘we have a lot of smart people on this board who run businesses and have great connections,’” said Christie. “’You never asked us what we could do to help this program stay afloat’. She basically said ‘what are you gonna do?’ It was very hostile.”

Christie had a private meeting with the President the Friday before the college-wide meeting took place. “I had asked to talk with her to discuss alternatives to closing the program. As we were talking, she made a surprising statement, saying ‘Well, you know, this program was started because of rich doctors’ wives that wanted to learn how to ride.’”

“It was just so shocking, I didn’t know what to say,” said Christie.

“President McClellon then added, ‘You know that rich horse owners keep their horses in California, and fly out on weekends to ride them.’ How do you make a blanket statement like that?” asked Christie.

“That [first] comment was an insult to the women of Rochester and everyone who works at Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. Pam Whitfield. Dr. Whitfield designed the original curriculum in 2003, and taught the first class offered the next year.

Audrey Lidke was a counselor and transfer specialist at RCTC for 30 years. “More than 500 horses can be found within ten minutes of campus. I talked to ropers, trainers, nutritionists, barn builders, and even truck sales people before I decided to start the program,” said Lidke. She added, “Dr. Pam Whitfield created all the curriculum for free, which was a $30,00 in kind gift to get the program going.”

“We started this program after talking with literally dozens of people to determine there was a need for this kind of offering at RCTC,” said Lidke.

“Every college in the MnSCU system is supposed to have a program review process in place,” said Whitfield. “Doing a thorough program review is a prerequisite for closing a program. The Equine Program was not given this opportunity.”

Dr. Pam Whitifeld

Dr. Pam Whitfield on the back of her horse, Casper (Photo from blogs.mprnews.org) http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2011/10/pam_whitfield/

“She did not do her homework,” said Dr. Whitfield. “You know, college presidents do not close programs. The MnSCU Chancellor closes programs and he bases his decision on paperwork filed with his office. The application (for closure) must show the proper process was followed.”

Whitfield has served on the equine advisory board since its inception. She said, “The faculty was blindsided. The advisory board was blindsided. There was no due process.”

The RCTC Faculty Academic Affairs and Standards Council weighed in on the discussion with an email to President McClellon that called her attention to the MnSCU Policies and Procedures Manual. Chapter Three deals with Education Policies that cover program closure.

The manual states, “The Chancellor must approve closure of an academic program.” Approval of the closure will only come if certain conditions are met. Chapter Three further states that the application for closure must come with documented information, with a list of nine topics that have to be covered. You can find the complete list here.

The email does point out that McClellon is new to MnSCU and RCTC, so the President may not know that she has not followed protocol. The Council mentioned they have received no paperwork showing that the nine sub-points have been met that would allow the application for closure to even be sent to the Chancellors Office.

The email goes on to say: “The college works best when faculty and administration work together and when both the contract as well as the procedures developed to observe the letter and spirit of the contract are followed.  Your decision to act without faculty consultation is detrimental to a collaborative working environment and reveals your disrespect for faculty and contempt for the faculty contract.”

Not only is Jonathon Holland left in limbo, but also there are students in the program who don’t know what their future holds. “We have about 30 students in the program currently,” said Julie Christie. “They’re all planning on finishing. They’re good students who are self-starters who know what they’re doing.”

A great many of the programs graduates go on to start their own businesses, and Christie said, “It’s too bad, because the Minnesota economy is going to lose out on a lot of businesses that would have been started.” Records show that more than 25 alumni have gone on to start a business, and Christie asked, “Isn’t that what Minnesota would like to promote in its own state?”

Technical programs (like veterinary technology, horticulture, EMT, dental hygiene, etc.) are admittedly more expensive than other programs, but they require a lot of hands on learning. Christie said, “Hands-on learning means more facility cost, smaller class sizes, more inventory, and et cetera. Many of these students come to a Community and Technical College (as opposed to a four-year school) because this is where they learn the skills they need for a successful career.”

“Why would you take technical programs away from a Technical College like RCTC?” Christie said, “It appears as if the administration is trying to get rid of these programs, and if they do, wouldn’t that be the death of our college?”

It may not end here. President McClellon met with the Equine Science students to inform them of the decision. Holland’s students returned and told him that the President said they might be looking at up to 9 other programs for potential suspension or closure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much change to Minnesota fence law

The need for man to fence in livestock has been around a long time, and Minnesota is no exception. Minnesota Statutes, Chapters 346 and 561, cover livestock fencing, and state that a landowner does not need to fence his land against the livestock of another landowner. The livestock owner is required to restrain his livestock from entering the land of another.

Cattle behind a fence

Humans have fenced in livestock as far back as anyone can remember. But who actually pays for fencing in Minnesota Law Books? (Photo from www.extension.org)

However, Minnesota Statute, Chapter 344, supplements the Common Law of 346 and 351. Chapter 344 covers “partition fencing,” and says the livestock owner is not the only one responsible for maintaining the fence that keeps livestock on his land and off his neighbors. A landowner who doesn’t have livestock may have to pay his neighbor to help put up that fence.

“When there’s adjoining land and one of the parties wants to have a fence erected, the other adjoining landowner has to pay for half. That’s the long and short of it,” said Bruce Kleven, President of Kleven Law in Minneapolis, and a lobbyist for the Minnesota Cattlemen and Minnesota Wheat Growers.

Bruce Kleven

Bruce Kleven of the Kleven Law Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo courtesy of brucekleven.com)

The obligation doesn’t stop when the fence is put up, either. “It says build and maintain in here (the statute),” said Kleven. “If we think that out, say 20 years go by and you have to paint it, the adjoining landowner would pay half the cost.”

Kleven has been involved in agriculture law for years, and said he thinks many farmers may not even know the law exists. “I think most farmers, if they want to put up a fence, they put up a fence, and they don’t even know they could charge the adjoining landowner for half the cost,” said Kleven. “Property law has been around a long time. It’s old. It’s mid-1800’s.”

“The law itself is a territorial law, which means it predates Minnesota statehood,” said Kleven. “When you look at the development of the law, it was put in out state code in 1858 when we hit state hood. There was an amendment in 1866, and then a couple more in the late 1800’s.”

“Since then, it’s been pretty quiet on Minnesota fencing law through most of the Twentieth Century,” said Kleven.

The only recent amendment to the law was applied in 1994. “The amendment said this law applies to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) like it does to everyone else,” said Kleven. “Elk farming was taking hold at that time. For clarity, I think they said if there’s an elk farm next to a piece of DNR property, this law applies to the DNR like it does to everybody else.”

“I don’t think we’ve had any bills attempting to change the fencing law at the Legislature since 2000 and ‘02,” said Bruce Kleven. “House and Senate members from the Otter Tail County area brought a bill forward, but it never really moved.” He said, “Then, in 2002, House and Senate members from Wright County brought the same issue, and it didn’t move either.”

“What they were trying to do is change the fence law because urban sprawl was beginning to cause conflicts between farmers and non-farmers,” said Bruce. “The non-farmers were moving out into the country and asking ‘why do I have to help pay for your fence?’”

Minnesota hasn’t seen a large number of fencing conflicts in recent years. “There was a court case in 2001 up in Lake of the Woods County,” said Bruce. “The case made it to the Court of Appeals in St. Paul, and the main question there was what kind of fence would be used instead of whether or not one was needed.”

“Some of why it’s so quiet is if you go back 100 years, we had more grazing, cattle, and prairie. Quite a bit of livestock has left the state, and we’re seeing more confinement and feedlot-type activity, so that may be some reasons why we haven’t see a lot of land use conflict,” said Kleven.

“Just think of the Dakotas. Miles and miles of fences, and we just don’t have that here.”

Kleven did find one exception to the state Statues. “The local Township Board, by resolution, may exempt adjoining landowners or occupants from this Statute when their land is less than 20 acres,” he said. “That can get into your suburban landowner who moves a couple miles out of town and only has five acres. They can take it to the town board and get an exemption.”

Salmonella cases linked to raw, frozen chicken entrees

MDA logoST. PAUL, Minn. – State health and minnesota-department-of-health-logoagriculture officials said today that six recent cases of salmonellosis in Minnesota have been linked to raw, frozen, breaded and pre-browned, stuffed chicken entrees. The implicated product is Antioch Farms brand A La Kiev raw stuffed chicken breast with a U.S. Department of Agriculture stamped code of P-1358. This product is sold at many different grocery store chains.

Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) determined that six cases of Salmonella infection from August and September 2014 were due to the same strain of Salmonella Enteritidis. One person was hospitalized for their illness.

“Our DNA fingerprinting found that the individuals were sickened by the same strain of Salmonella,” said Dr. Carlota Medus, epidemiologist for the Foodborne Diseases Unit at MDH. “The Minnesota Department of Agriculture collected samples of the same type of product from grocery stores and the outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in packages of this product.”

There have been six outbreaks of salmonellosis in Minnesota linked to these types of products from 1998 through 2008. This is the first outbreak since improvements were made in 2008 to the labeling of these products. The current labels clearly state that the product is raw.
Salmonella is sometimes present in raw chicken, which is why it is important for consumers to follow safe food-handling practices. This includes cooking all raw poultry products to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. “The problem arises when consumers don’t realize that they are handling and preparing a raw product,” according to Dr. Carrie Rigdon, an investigator for the MDA Dairy and Food Inspection Division.

MDA and MDH officials advised that consumers with these products in their freezers, if they choose to use them, should cook them thoroughly. Other important food handling practices include hand washing before and after handling raw meat, keeping raw and cooked foods separate to avoid cross-contamination, and placing cooked meat on a clean plate or platter before serving. Consumers can find more information about safe food-handling practices on the MDH website at: www.health.state.mn.us/foodsafety

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever. Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 72 hours after exposure, but can begin up to a week after exposure. Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5 to 7 days, but approximately 20 percent of cases require hospitalization. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can lead to death, particularly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

Approximately 700 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in Minnesota.

More information on Salmonella and how to prevent it can be found on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/salmonellosis/index.html

Propane supply replenishing after a rough winter

 

 

Did you know that propane is a key fuel in the United States, as it heats over six millionPropane pic 2 homes in the winter?  According to philly.com, it’s vital to American farms as well, because it runs grain dryers after a wet fall harvest season, and it keeps livestock barns all over the country warm too.

According to reuters.com, propane is becoming a key component on the nation’s farms at the other end of the growing season.  After finishing spring planting, more and more farmers are using propane to power their irrigation equipment, and they’re having success doing it.  Farmers are reporting a significant decline in the amount of fuel they need, which in turn saves them a lot on their overall cost of fuel.

However, philly.com reports that after a brutal winter in the Midwest and Northeast USA, there are questions about the supply of propane.  Despite the fact that the nation produces more propane than it can consume domestically, there was a big shortage of propane during the winter heating season.  The shortage was so bad, 30 states declared emergencies, and loosened certain trucking restrictions on propane deliveries from other areas.  Governments boosted heating aid to low-income residents, and propane dealers were forced to ration the fuel.

Several factors contributed to the shortage.  Field to Field talked with a couple gentlemen who are deeply involved in the propane industry.  Mark Leitman is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Propane Education and Research Council, and Phil Smith is the lead energy salesman for the Aurora Cooperative in Nebraska.  They both called last winter a “perfect storm” for the propane industry, and feel the supply will be enough for next winter, and in the years ahead.

 

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

 

 

 

 

 

The 18th Annual Pro Bull Riding Event is this weekend in Rochester

The 18th Annual Bull Riding Challenge is coming to the Graham Complex at the Olmsted County Fairground in Rochester this Friday and Saturday night. The even begins at 7:30 each night, with the doors opening at 6:00.

A wild, eight-second ride is all that will stand between experience bull riders and cash prizes. Of course, that wild ride will come atop a 1,200 to 2,000 pound bull. It’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun for the whole family to watch.

Matt Merritt is a veteran rodeo entertainer, which he said used to be called a rodeo clown. He said, “the bulls are legitimate athletes, and they have their own personalities. They’re amazing when you get a chance to sit and watch how the work.” He said, “The bulls have their own way of doing things and their job is to simply spill the rider as quickly as possible.”

Matt Merritt is a professional rodeo entertainer who will appear at a bullfighting event this weekend in Rochester (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)

Matt Merritt is a professional rodeo entertainer who will appear at a bullfighting event this weekend in Rochester (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)

If you aren’t familiar with riding, you may be surprised to learn there’s no saddle and no halter either. It’s much more challenging than that.

Merritt said, “The rider climbs on the bull with a braided bullrope that has a handle, similar to a bullwhip. The rope is wrapped around the body of the animal, behind the front legs,  while the cowboy grips the handle. The rope is pulled tight, which snugs the handle down on the hand.”

Next, the excess portion of the rope is held in the rider’s open hand. Merritt said, “The rope isn’t actually tied to the bull. It’s wrapped around the animal’s body, so the rider’s strength is what holds him on the bull.” He then has to stay balanced on the bull, and Merritt said, “It’s all the strength of his leg and groin muscles that keep him on the bull’s back.”

It’s a big challenge. “If the rider touches the bull with his free hand, he’s disqualified,” said Merritt.

Matt Merritt, pro rodeo entertainer, plays to the crowd at a recent event (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)

Matt Merritt, pro rodeo entertainer, plays to the crowd at a recent event (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)

Merritt is a veteran rodeo entertainer. His job is to keep the crowd entertained, and to keep the audience from realizing the show has come to a pause as they manage 40 bulls. “They’ll buck ten bulls in a section, and then they have to reset the bulls for the next ten rides. My job is to keep the show flowing with crowd interaction, humor, dancing, and keep the crowd from realizing the show has come to a temporary stop,” said Merritt.

He said the job has changed over the years. Bull fighting is no longer part of the rodeo clown’s job. “Years ago, when rodeo first started, there was one guy in the ring that did it all. As the sport has developed, bullfighting has become a separate job from entertaining,” said Merritt.

Merritt said he’s been in the rodeo business for roughly fifteen years now. “I started when I was about fifteen years old. I’ve been all over the country, and have gone to Canada and Australia as well,” said Merritt. “Rodeo was common back in northwest Louisiana where I grew up. I found a way to fit in and not have to risk myself quite like the bull fighters do.”

Overflow viewing will be offered this year. Folks who want to get away from the crowd or find a better view, you can go to an adjacent arena, to an area with concessions and bar service.

Friday night is “Tough Enough to wear Pink Night.”

For more information, check out the MF Production website at www.RochesterBullRiding.com. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to show support for breast cancer awareness. Sponsors have agreed to donate money for each person that wears pink.
Other events include a dance both nights, plus, don’t miss the fan favorite event Mexican Poker.