The following information is a Web Extra from the pages of Farm Journal. It corresponds with the article "Bull's-Eye On Your Back” by Roger Bernard. You can find the article on page 20 in the November 2009 issue.
Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2009.
If you haven't had the opportunity to read Time Magazine's latest cover story "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food"
, hold your nose and do it. At best, this is a sad excuse for journalism. At worst, it's a high-profile article that goes to millions of readers and may mislead those who don't notice there is little citing of sources to back up the claims the author chooses to present as fact.
The Human Society of the United States (HSUS) is threatening to support legislation in Ohio that bans the use of modern production practices for livestock and egg producers. The HSUS was successful in supporting passage of a similar ballot measure (Proposition 2 in California) that bans confinement of hens, pregnant pigs and calves raised for veal by the year 2015.
Thoughts on American Agriculture
By Clayton Yeutter, former USDA Secretary:
I do believe we're seeing a more concerted, deliberate attack on American agriculture by left wing organizations than we've ever observed in the past. In many instances their base of attack is different, but they're aiming at the same target. For example, a number of NGOs have in the Doha Round regularly chastised the U.S. for protecting and preserving agricultural subsidies that allegedly damage the interests of developing countries. In many cases the agenda of a particular NGO is broader than this, but criticizing U.S. agricultural policy fits with that broader agenda.
Those entities that are strongly supportive of organic agriculture have their own reasons for attacking what they call "conventional agriculture." Those who are opposed to GMOs (the European Union in particular) attack us not just for our significant adoption of biotechnology, but because they believe we are encouraging the farmers everywhere to use biotech. We are, and we should be, if we're going to have enough food to care for the world's growing population.
Then there are those who strongly advocate producing and selling food "locally" for a variety of reasons, many of which are valid but not practical if we are truly serious about achieving the production efficiencies that are needed on a worldwide basis.
Finally, there are those for whom "big is bad," no matter what the issue. Those folks are alarmed by the growth in farm size in this country, even though nearly all of those are still "family farms." They'd like the country to return to the small farm agriculture we had when I was growing up. Having lived through that period, with vivid memories of shocking oats in 110 degree heat, I for one have no desire to give that option any thought. Nor would anyone else who grew up on a farm half a century or more ago! It is awfully easy for folks these days to sit in an air conditioned office and pontificate on what an ideal American farm should look like!
Ongoing Ag Education Efforts
Truth about Modern Pork Production
After Proposition 2, which is titled Standards for Confining Farm Animals and appeared on the November 2008 ballot in California, swept the state, Scott Vernon, professor at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, realized the tide for agriculture on the west coast was turning, and he knew something needed to be done. That something was the "I Love Farmers” campaign.
College Aggies Online is a joint venture of the Alliance and American National CattleWomen, Inc. that connects college students from across the country who are interested in promoting agriculture. Participants receive training and instructions from industry professionals and enjoy access to a private forum to post information about current and emerging issues facing farmers and ranchers.
Helping Agriculture Define Itself
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Stories in the urban press that contain misleading or flat-out wrong information about U.S. agriculture do more than just raise your blood pressure. They foster and imbed the wrong perception of U.S. agriculture. But there's a new effort under way that is seeking to turn this tide.
- November 2009