The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal Media. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.
The AgriTalk broadcast is done for today, but the conversation continues. AgriTalk host Mike Adams shares his thoughts and opinions on the news of the week and invites your feedback.
Farming in any state is challenging but right now agriculture finds itself in perhaps the most challenging state of all….LIMBO! The failure of the farm bill in the House leaves many unanswered questions. It’s certainly hard to make plans not knowing what the rules will be. Attempts to pass the Senate bill in the House won’t be easy and perhaps impossible. Meanwhile the White House, which had already expressed their dislike of the House ag committee’s bill, now threatens to veto the ag appropriations bill. Also caught in limbo is the proposed horse processing plant in New Mexico. While Congress still says it is ok to have horse processing they at the same time seem to be trying to cut funding for inspectors. As we have seen in many other cases, passage of a bill means little without the money to fund it. Representatives of the company in New Mexico continue to be optimistic they will get their plant open. While that seems to be a long shot at this point they may have one thing in their favor. Until Congress passes an appropriations bills without money for horse plant inspectors then the funding remains. In other words, doing nothing might be the best chance of opening the plant and with this Congress that’s a strong possibility.
SNAP! That was the sound as the House voted down the Farm Bill Thursday. A shorter than expected debate led many to predict the bill's passage. Passage of a dairy amendment favored by Speaker Boehner seemed to be a positive sign for passage too but in the end the deal breaker was the same issue that kept the bill from even coming to the House floor for a vote last year. The nutrition program, which makes up about 80% of the bill's spending, proved to again be the deal breaker. Some wanted bigger cuts, others none at all and an employment amendment seemed to be the final straw. No one was going to get everything they wanted but passage would have at least allowed a conference committee to improve the bill even more. Conventional thinking says the nutrition program is needed to get a farm bill passed. So how's that working out? Maybe agriculture needs to rethink that position. As we have seen with numerous other issues, extreme views in both parties have produced gridlock. While the chance to pass two major bills in the same year (farm & immigration) remains, the chances seem a lot slimmer now. Instead we get more of the same finger pointing and political pontificating that Congress has become infamous for.
Not satisfied with the removal of subsidies for renewable fuels, critics have launched an all out effort to repeal the Renewable Fuels Standard and prevent E 15 from reaching the market place. Despite studies to the contrary, ethanol in particular continues to be blamed for rising food costs, engine damage and environmental problems. I'm surprised critics haven't found a way to blame ethanol for the IRS scandal too. While I understand concerns about mandates, where is the outcry against the big oil mandate and subsidies? We keep hearing about the domestic oil boom that is underway but still we see high prices at the pump. Not a bad deal for the oil industry. They have more product to sell at higher prices and still get people to blame ethanol. Obviously addictions are hard to break and our oil addiction is no exception. However that is no excuse for not trying. We need more fuel supply diversity not less. Are we really to believe that if the RFS is repealed food prices will drop, engines won't break down and the environment will be pristine? No doubt other excuses would be offered to explain why those things didn't happen but until then the RFS remains a convenient scapegoat.
The move to Meatless Mondays by some schools on the East Coast and now San Diego in the west is troubling for several reasons. It's bad enough that students are deprived of the chance to choose whether they want to eat meat or not but it also deprives them of a nutritious protein source. Price and quality are important but separate issues. The bigger concern is the influence animal activists have to promote their vegan agenda. These groups won't be satisfied with eliminating meat from school meals one day a week. Each victory, whether real or perceived, emboldens these groups to push for more. While it's hard to imagine a school district in rural America making such a decision, it can't be taken for granted. These decisions should be a red flag to others. Also of concern is the message Meatless Mondays sends to kids. Animal rights groups would love to have a generation of kids not eating meat grow up to be a generation of adults not eating meat. While I acknowledge local school boards' authority to make these decisions I do question their reasoning for doing so. Even if their intentions are good they have opened the door and allowed a dangerous precedent to be set.
While I make the transition to 1% milk, surprisingly there are people who seem to really want to consume raw milk. Personally I can’t imagine why anyone would prefer a non- pasteurized product and the health risks that go with it. However I do understand the reluctance to give up the right to make your own decisions. Each state decides whether to allow the sale of raw milk and I suspect much of the support of the idea has more to do with preserving the right to choose rather than how to best preserve milk. That' s fine as long as you are willing to accept the risks that go with raw milk consumption. Today’s consumers, not used to raw milk, may be getting more than they bargain for. If a problem occurs, are they going to blame someone else and not take responsibility for their choice? Many in today’s society are quick to blame and litigate. Personal responsibility is in short supply these days. No wonder many dairy producers don’t support the sale of raw milk. They realize the potential problems and negative publicity. While I respect the right for consumer choice, in this case the risk seems greater than the reward. While it is fashionable these days to want to go old school, it is also wise to remember that not everything in the "good old days" was good. I would put lack of pasteurization in that category.