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September 2013 Archive for Grazing the Net

RSS By: Greg Henderson and Friends, Beef Today

Our editors spend some time roaming the web looking for stuff cattle people and others in agriculture might find useful or entertaining. 

It’s “D” Day!

Sep 30, 2013

We weren't sure what to call today ... We could go with "GS" Day for Government Shutdown Day. Or "TFBID" Day for The Farm Bill Is Dead Day. Or maybe "F" Day. That one fits for several reasons: Furlough, Failure, Fiasco, Flop, Frustration, Faux Pas, or any other f-words that might come to mind. But we decided on "D" Day: Decision Day. Since there are so many unmade decisions in Congress, it all boils down to da-day.

USA Today answers all your questions – and some you didn’t even think of – on the possible government shutdown.

What a bit of cattlemen irony? If the government shutdown occurs, staff assigned to COOL and other programs will be furloughed. We bet Canada has a big grin on its face. The EPA is also ready to shudder its doors, Grist says. But of course, Congress will still get paid.

The Washington Post reports it's been 17 years since the last government shutdown. Here's a little shutdown-showdown history for all those inquiring minds who want to know.

The LaCross Tribute says simply: Stop Stalling! Reuters relates the Farm Bill to a slow train to nowhere.


Wild Ride 

The cattle business is not for those faint at heart, and Friday's market reports echoed that. Record prices for feeders and calves alike turned some heads, and buyers didn't keep their hands in their pockets. It appears the shortage of cattle has finally hit high tide. BeefToday.com has the high-priced details.


Too Worn Out to Cook?

Tired and hungry? Instead of drive-thru, opt for a soy shake! A mixture of soy protein, olive oil, brown sugar and oat flour, the Soylent shake is a meal replacer for some. Not all. Perhaps those with odd taste buds? No taste buds? Yes, we know you're all running to get your own. Somehow, we prefer chewing our supper. Medium Rare.


Snoozing Report

If you need some bedtime reading, may we suggest the USDA report on foreign-owned agricultural land. What's interesting? Foreigners own 2% of U.S. land in ag production, and that percentage is increasing. What's not interesting? The 209-page report.


Oxymoron: Bill Clinton, McDonalds, Veganism

An interesting partnership was announced on Friday – Bill Clinton is teaming up with McDonalds to promote healthy eating at the fast food chain. We didn't know the golden arches served up much for a vegan former president. But then again, Bill's known to fudge a little on his vegan diet. And when he does, at least he's fudging for beef!


On the Lookout!

Iowa ranchers are on the lookout for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease after several herds have been confirmed with the ailment. Although it's typically not deadly for cattle, the disease affects the inside of the mouth of cattle and can make eating painful and difficult.


Water Woes

Agriculture.com takes a look at the Ogallala Aquifer, which has been a hot topic for some logical as well as scathing news reports since a Kansas State study highlighted the depleting underground water source.

Kansas City Infozine reports.

Treehugger.com's version.

Care2.com says there’s alternatives to meat, but not water.

 

Life Support for the Farm Bill?

Sep 27, 2013

Perhaps Congress hasn't completely forgot about the farm bill. The House took the necessary steps yesterday to hold a vote today that would tie the farm bill passed earlier in the summer with the SNAP legislation that was inked earlier this month. And get this, Politico says the Congressional leadership plans to work over the weekend!


Income Savvy

"Behind every good rancher is a wife who works in town." We grin every time we see someone with this T-shirt. But according to the USDA, it's true. Most farmers receive some type of off-farm income, according to USagnet. Big Picture Agriculture takes the study a little deeper with a graph of the percentage of on- and off-farm income. It's interesting to see the percentages. Where does your operation fit in the graph?


WANTED: Women

More women in agriculture--that's The Atlantic's answer to animal welfare. The food would be safer and animals would be treated more humanely if more women raised food. It's an interesting proposal, despite the author's reasoning that women would be more likely than men to name the cows or notice their personality traits, so the food supply would be safer and animals happier. We think it would be great for more women to join in agriculture, but we're not so sure we agree with The Atlantic's reasoning.


Shrinking Cattle--Good News, Bad News Scenario

While cattle producers could be cashing big fat checks this fall, it will also take some big fat checks to purchase beef. The retail side of beef is at record levels and has some analysts (and consumers) wondering, "How high is too high?" This price hike (on the producer's side of the equation, that is) might be a nice change for the short-term, but it has many concerned about cattle futures and the possibility of a big dip in demand. Beef Today has the details.


Democracy Gone Ary?

Even if you're not involved with the horse industry, this news could affect you or organizations you're a part of. The American Quarter Horse Association announced it will appeal a U.S. District Court decision that it violated antitrust laws. Two individuals sued the association for the right to register cloned horses saying that AQHA had a monopoly on the marketing of Quarter Horses. What's interesting about this case is AQHA is a member-run organization, and the membership overwhelmingly voted against registering clones. Yet, these two individuals won their right--initially--to register cloned animals. Although this is big news in the Quarter Horse world, perhaps its even larger news to private, member-run organizations. To think that two people can take certain channels of our court system and overrule the masses? Organizations: beware.


While in Salem

Grab some groceries if you're in the neighborhood. It might be as fruitful as winning the lottery. Shoppers in the Oregon town say they are finding $100 bills inside various grocery items, like a carton of eggs and a pink candle.


Not Too Quick, FDA

States say "slow down" when it comes to implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act. North Carolina Ag Commissioner says it's important for the FDA to hear from real farmers and ranchers across the country before implementation of the rule begins. But the Center for Food Safety says speed up!

The rule--voted on by Congress in 2011--is the first major change in food safety in almost 60 years and covers animal feed, import and third-party verification rules being drafted by the FDA. After all, the act is only a few years late. What's a little more time?


Wildfire Win

NCBA hails the passage of legislation that would improve federal forest management. Citing the danger to livestock during catastrophic wildfires, the legislation would allow needed fuel-reducing activities such as grazing and logging. This victory for cattlemen would be easier to celebrate if it wasn't overshadowed by a looming government shutdown. We doubt these services would be considered "essential."


Superman--No, Super Steroid

A story in Science Daily will likely get some more air time in the near future. It reports that trenbolone acetate, a product found in some implants, has been found in minute quantities in waterways. The author proposes that the steroid is excreted from livestock and eventually makes its way into the water supply via runoff. It even goes so far as to say that the steroid "hides in another form" during the day to "evade analysis and detection" and then readily grows at night. Maybe it's like Superman, and finds the proverbial phone booth at night?

If this does make the mainstream press, we should all be ready with our beef hormone facts, courtesy of AMI. One of our favorites? A 3-oz. serving of ice cream has 520 nanograms of estrogen, while a 3-oz. serving of beef raised with an implant has only 1.9 nanograms.


Beef Bites

If your up for a challenge and want to move to South Dakota, a judge OK'd the Aberdeen beef plant's credit request to hire an investment banking firm that can pursue the sale of the plant.

Agrimoney.com takes a look at some record highs hit yesterday on the futures market.


Along the Lines of Weird

If you're into stupid criminal stories, this one might give you a grin. How did a marijuana-smoking teenager from Brooklyn get into the cattle hide business? You’ll have to read the story for the punch line.

Remember the mysterious cattle mutilations in the 60s and 70s? A new book says the government was behind it, as well as UFO sightings and other things. Hmm ...

A conniving goat thief had a "baaaaad" plan to keep his captives quiet during the heist. He duct taped the goats' mouths together so they couldn't let out the "baaaaad" news of their disappearance. Huff Post has the "baaaaaad" story.

Any saxophone-playing-ranchers out there? This guy says it's the ultimate cow calling tool.

 

COOL Determination

Sep 26, 2013

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. That's the mantra meat industry groups are touting as they filled an appeal against a district court ruling that prevented an injunction of COOL. Farm Progress and Oklahoma Farm Report offer their interpretations on the appeal, but the National Farmers Union cries foul at the appeal, saying its just another attempt to obstruct consumers' right to know. Somehow this seems far from over.

Meanwhile, a five nation beef alliance came together to show their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The agreement states all tariffs and market barriers must be eliminated in order to facilitate unfettered trade between the countries. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the United States. We have to wonder if the other countries, especially Canada and Mexico, signed the agreement with a bit of cynicism since the COOL ruling.


King of the Farm Bill

Averting a government shutdown, with or without Obamacare funding, has taken center stage in Washington, so the farm bill is now akin to a needy orphan who has outgrown his only pair of shoes. Even though the shoes don't fit, the young lad can likely hang on a bit longer. And it appears that's what farmers and ranchers must do--hang on a bit longer. Most likely, Monday the bill will expire. But most of the programs in the bill don't officially end until December 31. We're sure Congress knows that, so simply ignoring things until they have time to address it will have to do.

Today the Huffington Post's Green blog takes a look at the King Ammendment that's included in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. Animal rights activists are passionately against it. In a nutshell, it says states can't enact laws that place conditions on how ag goods are raised or grown if they are to be sold in other states. The amendment takes aim at many of California's animal laws related to egg laying hens, gestation crates and other things. Beef Producer presents King's side of the argument. We think this is something you might want to learn more about.


Money on the Table

The EPA and Iowa cattle feeder Brandstand Farms have come to an agreement on alleged violations of the facility's water permit. The settlement includes a $26,000 investment by the feedyard in a wetland restoration project in lieu of a straight monetary penalty. The violations are big news in Iowa because the feed yard is owned by the governor's brother.


Too Much "Help"

With the week's news being dominated by activities in Washington, we found this story from BEEF more than a little timely. It spells out how too much government involvement brought down Argentina's beef industry. And with the farm bill on the table (supposedly) this article should make cattlemen and farmers alike scratch their head a little bit.


The Pickle Over Picky Eaters

After so much serious news this week, here's a fun read from one of Huff Post's senior writers. It's not pro-vegan or pro-red meat, but it does offer a tongue-in-cheek look at how obsessive people have become with their food preferences: no gluten, no meat, or our favorite "nothing that had a mother." She counters that she would eat basically whatever she is offered, albeit might not be her favorite. Ma'am, most of us learned that lesson around the age of 4 or 5, and we're passing that on to our kids. We're glad to know it still applies in a Huffington Post writer's kitchen, at least in principle.


The Rainless Flood

It hasn't rained much in Nebraska, but some of the state is dealing with a flood from their western neighbors. The South Platte River is swelling rapidly. In fact, 150,000 gallons per second are flowing by a checkpoint. That's enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every four seconds. Farmers and ranchers have had time to move livestock and equipment to higher ground, but there's one thing they can't relocate--their corn crop.


Other News Bites ...

It's National Pancake Day! ... well, some days are just better celebrated with a steak.

 

Dr. Seuss and the Farm Bill

Sep 25, 2013

Wouldn't it be great if a member of Congress had as much passion for the farm bill as Ted Cruz has for defunding Obamacare? After our night of slumber, Cruz was still at it. In case you missed it, he even read his children a bedtime story of Green Eggs and Ham from the Senate floor.

But alas, with other little things like Obamacare and the pending government shutdown, it looks like the farm bill is the baby thrown out with the bath water. RollCall.com doesn't give the bill any chance of passing since, well, there's no combined bill from the House and the Senate to vote on ... I do not like green eggs and ham.

The Detroit Free Press leads this mornings news with the catchy headline "No action on farm bill could lead to shortages at grocery stores." Although we think that's more of an attention-grabber than a truth at this point. ... I do not like them Sam I am.

According to the New York Times, house leaders are now talking "end of the year" as a goal to shoot for on the farm bill. Other verbiage in the story not encouraging to farmers says food stamps are financed through the appropriations bill, and their funding will continue despite farm bill uncertainty. ... I do not like green eggs and ham!

A new report from the USDA's Inspector General says one of the crop insurance programs pays farmers too much and discourages them from planting second crops. Ok ... no one has said the current farm bill is perfect. In fact, the masses agree it needs a major overhaul. But no farm bill? ... I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere.

Where's Sam I Am when we need him?


Immigration Narration

With everything else going on in Washington, D.C., immigration reform lacks the oxygen it needs to survive for some time. But the Washington Post reports it isn’t dead yet. And for another interesting twist on the topic, the Huffington Post reports that more Americans have moved to Mexico in recent years than vice versa. Bet that raised your eyebrows a bit. We didn’t fact-check their story, but it does cite some government studies. (We all know how accurate they are.)


Save Your Pennies for Chicago

A large number of ag interest groups, including NCBA, sent the Commodity Futures Trading Commission a letter regarding proposed rule changes. According to Agri-Pulse, the amount of pre-margin money required to be in a trading account would almost double if the proposal went into effect, and that would put some risk managers out of the market. Expanded trading limits on cattle contracts a few years back had a similar effect, requiring traders to double the money in their accounts to cover a maximum one-day market move.


Preconditioning Premium 

If you’re not into hedging, we'd at least hedge our bets on preconditioning your calf crop. It's one way to make up for a bit of softness in calf prices seen the last few days. Premiums paid for a preconditioned calf far outweigh the $5/cwt back quoted from last week's USDA marketing report.


The Ayes Have It

Smithfield shareholders have officially inked the deal with Shuanghui Holdings with 96 percent of the owners voting in favor of the acquisition. Agriculture.com reports there are several positives for U.S. pork producers. But food & water watch and Food Poisoning Bulletin are quick to offer skepticism on food safety.


Bland Beans

Chipotle is working even harder to become our least favorite restaurant. The company announced yesterday it will remove the bacon used to season its pinto beans so that the beans will be completely vegetarian. We have nothing against vegetarians. Really. If they want to eat bland pinto beans, feel free.

 

EPA Forced to Answer

Sep 24, 2013

A judge has ruled in a long-standing case that the EPA must provide a more detailed reasoning why it let states take the lead on water quality controls in the Mississippi River watershed, according to DTN. The watershed encompasses much of the corn-growing Midwest. Farmers backed the EPA's decision to leave the regulations to the states, but environmental groups think the EPA should put their proverbial foot down and take over the matter. If you're reading this blog from one of the affected states, we suggest putting this issue on your radar.  If the EPA steps in, farmers throughout much of the Midwest could be subject to the same scrutiny as those who farm in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Cowmen: Happy, Happy, Happy! 

Economists are forecasting the stars will line up for record high prices of calves and feeder cattle. Fed prices, corn prices and a limited supply should provide the Midas touch for the cowman who has calves to sell. BeefToday.com has the details.


More Dollars for Dairy

With farm bill negotiations (patiently) waiting in the wings, Daily Planet looks at legislation that will affect milk prices. And from the sounds of it, if the two sides of the aisle don't start compromising soon, we're going to have to fork over a lot more for dairy. Can you imagine the ripple effect if milk prices doubled for consumers? Some households have a taste for chicken, others beef, others pork. But milk is a commodity that spans the protein taste spectrum. Follow that with other dairy products like cheese, ice cream, yogurt ... the list goes on. And what about schools who provide a serving of milk with every meal? Likely most of that milk is contracted to a fixed price for the year, but someone would have to take the hit if milk prices double. Milk: the new delicacy.


Let Your Voice Be Heard

Ag Secretary Vilsack hopes to renew interest in the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, aka AC21.  The committee was active 2003-2008, but since then only meets on occasion. Now Vilsack wants to renew interest in the group, and is asking for input on "practical solutions that will help all sectors of American agriculture." He opened the comment period for 60 days to hear how agriculture coexistence can be strengthened.

Sounds good, right? But if you look back at what groups offered public comment at previous meetings, much of agriculture did not contribute. The Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch and others were quick to offer their dissatisfaction with GMO crops and other issues.  These groups have their radar finely tuned for opportunities to voice their opinions. Perhaps working agriculture groups should also hone in on these opportunities as well. Without our voice, the discussion is markedly one-sided.


Thank the RFS?

Cattlemen have argued against the Renewable Fuel Standard ever since it was enacted due to the demand the RFS put on corn. But a study shows the RFS put more than just a few pennies back in our pockets when it comes to gas prices – how about up to $1.50 per gallon! No, that doesn't make up for the red ink on cattle feeder closeouts, but it would be an interesting test to compare those losses with a cattleman's expense in fuel for a year. And we mean all fuel – fuel the wife uses to drive to down, fuel in the tractor or feed truck, fuel to buy cubes for the cows, fuel to drive to the bank and explain the impact of high grain prices to your banker ... you get the idea.


Low Fat Fries

I'll have fries with that! That's what Burger King hopes consumers will say after they roll out their new version of the tasty side. "Satisfries" have a less porous batter to prevent more of the oil from soaking in the french fry. Burger King says Satisfries are a healthier option. Let's just hope consumers order a burger with their Satisfries.


Other Beefy News

CME announced they will halt delivery of cattle fed Zilmax on Oct. 7 and a recent consumer study showed 84% of consumers never heard our industry's Zilmax-related news.

In today's feel-good news, Cargill has pledged more than $520,000 to support several National FFA programs and initiatives.

The Incredible Shrinking Cattle Numbers

Sep 23, 2013

Friday's USDA Cattle On Feed report showed what everyone expected--lower placements. But how low? Turn back the calendar to 1996. Yes, it's been 17 years since this few head were placed in feedyards. The tight inventories may allow cattle feeders to stop pulling money from their pockets for the first time in a long time ... those cattle feeders who are left, anyway. BeefToday.com has the rest of the shrinking details.


Funding Over Farming

There's a good chance the farm bill will be pushed aside this week as Congress works on averting the "threatened government shutdown, version 427," reports AgriPulse. You see, there's another pesky problem that arises on September 30th. It seems the farm bill's seven day life span isn’t the only Congressional item on life support. We get it; really, we do. While some are penning the obituary of the farm bill, a larger crisis would be to shut down the USDA, FDA, FAA ... continue with the acronyms as long as you see fit.

FarmPolicy.com has a lengthy but detailed look at where the farm bill goes from here. If you're interested in the next steps for the legislation, this article has everything you want (and maybe don't really want) to know. But if you read to the bottom, you will definitely learn a thing or two.


Grazing for Food News 

The House's vote on SNAP has led to a variety of articles and op-eds in the media over the weekend. And like any brood cow, we spent some time grazing through them, sorting out the weeds from the tastier, more nutritious ones.

The Washington Times takes an honest look at the issue, citing a 70 percent increase in food stamps since Obama took office. Columnist Deborah Simmons also looks at the faces of those that would be affected if the House legislation takes hold (ha, ha).

Public News Service tugs on your heart strings, reporting that a huge percentage of people receiving food stamps are kids, and they underscore their story with a photo of a cute kiddo nose-deep in a piece of watermelon. Don't get us wrong, no one wants kids to go hungry. But in a program weighted down with fraud, it was time for someone to do something. CBS out of Detroit printed names and their affiliated businesses of those recently arrested in a multi-million dollar SNAP fraud case. And the Huff Post did just as you would expect, saying the problem isn't with food stamps, it is with the lack of a jobs bill so people can afford food. Sure, we want everyone who is able to work, but the only thing a jobs bill will do right now is assure a j-o-b for Congress.

But of all the snappy articles we perused, the Washington Post wins our humdinger award. Not only do they prey on farmers by offering a negative headline regarding the SNAP-tied farm bill, they also analyze how the "farm bill" will hurt women farmers and low-income mothers. That's sure to get any bleeding-heart liberal to grab their picket and head to Washington.


SMH ...

We are shaking our heads this morning at a story in the New York Times titled "Dietary Report Card Disappoints." Ok, that's likely no surprise, and when we read the story is based on a report card from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, we brace ourselves for their opinion. Surprisingly, the article is not anti-beef. In fact, the word "beef" was only used two times. Why then does the graphic that appears immediately under the "disappointing" headline have an illustration of a beef animal?


Beefy Business

Bloomberg Business takes a look at one of the big boys in the packer industry--JBS. And it's an interesting read. How the company got its small-town start, how they came into the American market, and even what JBS stands for. If you don't know a lot about the company, it provides some good insight into the packer.


Shop Talk

Most of the talk of the farm bill has been about SNAP, crop insurance and direct payments. Here's a piece from Agri-Pulse highlighting the conservation programs that could also disappear with the looming expiration.

COOLer heads prevail in this op-ed from the Tri-City Herald. Kudos to this team for some honest journalism about the impacts of COOL and getting down to the nut-cuttin' about Country of Origin Labeling's origin having nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with a wordy labeling. If your non-ranchy friends have questions on COOL, this is a good read.

Farmers across the pond could have to set aside a portion of their land for a "bee motorway" to encourage the insects to migrate across the country. British bees must be smarter than those in the U.S. because the native variety doesn’t read many maps that we know of.

 

Oh, SNAP!

Sep 20, 2013

The House narrowly (217-210) approves to cut food stamps by $39 billion over the next 10 years, AgWeb reports. Opponents dub the measure as "heartless" and equivalent to "snatching food out of the hands" of babes, while proponents argue that the cuts will restore the programs original intentions to help the "truly needy." Politico states that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) considers this a victory, restoring the "spirit that led to welfare reform" in the 90’s but Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) questions the value of this bill, which she says is a huge waste of time because it won’t pass the Senate, and wonders how it will effect getting a farm bill. Whereas, Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) believes this is the first step in the ultimate goal—getting a five-year farm bill enacted.

Reuters gives a good back-and-forth between the two sides. One side says that this legislature is "preying on people," while the other side says that the program is "fraught with abuse" and it is "wrong for working, middle-class people to pay" for abuse. USA Today simply calls it a "bitter philosophical divide." That it is, USA Today. That it is.

It’s a fine line to walk—helping the needy and weeding out the greedy. It's as much an emotional battle as a political one. Whether it is a waste of time or a step in the right direction lets just get something moving. Now, can we get a farm bill already? The clock is ticking!


Speaking of the Farm Bill ...

Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow says Eric Cantor is holding up the farm bill in an interview on "AgriTalk." She said that "the Senate will work to tackle "legitimate waste, fraud and abuse," but that doesn’t mean trimming $40 billion from the food stamps program." The farm bill still has a lot of hurdles to overcome and a deadline that's not just nipping at its heels ... it's biting down and drawing blood. We just hope that this doesn't lead to yet another extension. Let's get it done people!


Coming Soon to an Employer Near You: Obamacare

The inner machinations of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, are an enigma ...

However, all confusion aside, there is a looming deadline approaching. By Oct. 1 (that’s only 11 days away, hard to believe September is nearly over) all employers must give a notice to their employees about the new healthcare reform exchange. This includes everyone, no matter if you run a ranch, farm or a beauty shop, you must give a notice. AgWeb has the details, PDF downloads and some advice from a CPA.


Antibiotic Resistance in the News ... Again

There is no doubt that antibiotic resistance is an important issue that needs to be taken seriously; however, it would be nice to have some real answer, with real solutions, instead of the blame game. But those pesky answer/solution factors just get in the way of finger pointing. So, like any good watchdog website, FoodandWaterWatch.org shamelessly blames the "unnecessary and inappropriate" use of antibiotics in livestock, which are used to counter act "unsanitary conditions."

This is where opponents to antibiotic use in livestock like to site the Denmark antibiotic ban as proof-positive we should stop treating our animals with antibiotics, just go cold-turkey. But if you ever find yourself in an antibiotic debate—especially concerning the Denmark ban—Food Dialogues offers up some antibiotic Q&A along with a list of all the negative side-effects brought on by the ban. You can end your hypothetical debate with a quote from Paul Harvey: Now you know the rest of the story.


Ag Disaster in Colorado

Crops are being smothered, barns and silos are crashing down, hay and alfalfa fields are underwater ... it sounds like the farm apocalypse but it’s happening in Colorado. This could spell real trouble for producers, causing tight supplies and skyrocketing prices. AgWeb has the details and a place to donate to the Colorado Farm Bureau, which is giving 100% of the proceeds directly to producers in the disaster zone.


Take Time to Stop and Smell the Milk

Have you ever thrown out milk because it was past the "sell by" date? It’s OK to admit it, we’ve all been there. Well, Grist explains what that date really means and why you should opt for the smell test instead of going by the date. Of course, this segues right into the issue of food waste in America but they do give some good tips on how to avoid waste, which is always a good idea.


High-Speed in the Boonies

If you live in certain parts of Iowa, Oregon, South Dakota or Minnesota, we’ve got good news! Broadband high-speed internet service is coming to you. That is, if you don’t already have a high-speed internet connection via satellite or cell towers. USDA just announced the approval of funding for the construction of the new network. Go ahead and rejoice with a happy dance, GTN don’t judge.


Just for Fun

Do you need a better way to get into your tree house, deer stand or otherwise lofty structure? Have we got a solution for you—a bicycle elevator. That’s right—you could even make it an elevator built for two with a tandem Schwinn. If you decide to build this for your deer stand, take note, the noise may scare every deer for miles but with some creative modification you could probably muffle the noise. Grist has the rather amusing video. 

 

Chess Match

Sep 19, 2013

The SNAP portion of the farm bill is on the House floor today with $40 billion in cuts over 10 years. Although on the surface, this gives the appearance of progress, this version and the Senate’s are so far apart, few think the two sides of the aisle can come to some sort of agreement in the next 11 days. Unfortunately, this debate has turned away from what’s good for farmers and into a political chess match--agriculture is a lowly pawn. The queens in this game are the politicians who take a stand for the "better good." It’s just that each has a varying opinion on what 'good' actually is. Farmers and hungry families will both feel the wrath when the current legislation expires on September 30.

NY Times: Anti-Hunger Advocates Put Pressure on Lawmakers

KBTX asks Do We Need a Farm Bill?

Daily Kos: A Look at the Starvation Bill


Fed-Sized Surprise

Stocks, bankers and cattlemen alike can breathe a collective sigh of relief after the Fed announced its decision to refrain from cutting stimulus programs. Doesn’t sound like Bernanke is wearing rose colored glasses when it comes to tapering off bond purchases. Keeping interest rates down and the consumer confident that he will have some extra income to spend on beef will help counteract rising prices at the meat counter.


Beef on the Fly

We fly commercial airlines fairly often, and most of the time a "free" soda is about as good as it gets. But if you’re on a cross-country flight or headed to another continent, you might get treated to airline cuisine. Ok, "treated" might be a bit generous, but you get the idea. If you’ve ever given any thought to just how airline food, especially high-end airline meals are made, CNN has the scoop.

If your travels take you to Spain, Forbes has a quaint little location known for its beef that you’re likely to miss if you don’t take note now.


Hungry CEO

Panera Bread has not been considered a friend of the beef industry, so we almost didn’t click on this CNN video to see what the CEO had to say. But, in light of food stamps being a big part of the farm bill politics, we were curious how their top-dog fared this week after he vowed to eat on just food stamps for a week. Kudos to him for trying the experiment. Although, he does manage to include a plug for his "inherently good" business at the end of the segment.


Much Ado About Nothing?

USDA has turned its head regarding a Washington farmer’s hay crop that was shown to have a low level of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Grist bills this as front page news, but is it really? Perhaps the best part of this article is not the news itself, but the commentary left by readers.


Brainy Thoughts

Likely your time spent reading this blog is more for a brain escape than to learn any hard core news. No worries! Policymic found that letting your mind wander is healthy! Here’s 8 reasons why busy people should make time to daydream.

HeiferPro’s Chuck Jolly sits down with Derrell Peel to pick his brain about expansion and the future of the industry.

 

Thanks, but ...

Sep 18, 2013

It’s all about the headline when it comes to selling newspapers, and we admit this headline grabbed our attention, too. The Omaha World Herald published an op-ed about the unfair negative news on lean finely textured beef. Heck, our "friends" at the Center for Science in the Public Interest even admitted the bad press was not just and that there’s no safety issue with the product.

Lean finely textured beef is now returning to school lunches. It’s all good news for beef, right? Then why slap on the headline "Beef Industry was Needlessly Slimed" to an otherwise positive piece? Unfortunately, they just slimed us all over again.


Hope HOT Exports Don’t COOL

Beef exports continue to gain strength, both in North America and the Middle East. Our trading partners to the north and the south imported 15% and 32% more beef, respectively. But don’t get to feeling too rosy about those numbers. If either Canada or Mexico follow through with hinted retaliation from COOL, those numbers could plummet.

Beef offal prices are also dependent on unfettered market access. Midwest Producer takes a look at how exports drive demand for offal, with the majority of intestines going to South Korea and Mexico. More than 90% of beef tongue and 75% of stomachs head to Mexico and Asia. But the bottom fell out of beef liver prices when Russia closed its market.

Let’s just hope we can stomach the results once COOL is implemented.

Farm Talk offers their version of the Future of COOL

National Hog Farmer has their two cents on COOL appeal.


National Cheeseburger Day!

So after we rebuked CNN for their deadly steak sins yesterday, we feel only slightly obligated to share a little love with them today. They – along with the rest of us – are celebrating National Cheeseburger Day! (You are celebrating, right?)

And just so you won’t lay awake wondering, the largest cheeseburger in the Guinness World Record Book was built at Minnesota’s Black Bear Casino in 2012. It weighed in at just over 1 ton.  Enjoy all the tasty details in this short, stomach growling video.


Pointed Protest?

Immigration is a topic of discussion today in that city-where-so-much-work-gets-done. Seven undocumented immigrants chained themselves to the White House gates to protest deportations, saying no one should have to go through what they did 20 years ago to reach American soil. Hmm ... seven people who live in this country illegally ... are publically protesting deportation and the fact they are illegals ... by doing something that will surely introduce them to law enforcement?

While we won’t delve into the intelligence of their protest, the fact is, immigration reform is all-but-forgotten with Syria, a government shutdown and oh, that pesky farm bill taking up so much of Congress’ time.


Captain Call to Sacramento

Sacramento will beckon back to the days of cattle drives and the old West as part of Farm-to-Fork Week. Kudos for organizers who want to make sure proteins aren’t lost in produce-heavy holiday. To keep beef in the mix, they have arranged for a Lonesome Dove-ish cattle drive to saunter down Capital Mall. Locals can even bring their own horses and participate. Sounds like a yee-haw good time!


Other News Bites ...

A new report might help boost sales of an E. coli vaccine. Philly.com reports that previous research did not take into account brief periods of "super shedding," and with that in mind, E. coli could be reduced by 85%.

Investment firm working to sell Northern Beef Packers.

Hear from a farmer on the farm bill.

Groundhog Day for the farm bill? Only this one doesn’t star Bill Murray.

Food "Safety" News reports on a third horse slaughter plant qualifying for USDA inspections.

DTN looks at the connection of hot and dry in the Midwest and the deluge of rain in Colorado.

 

It’s Getting Hot in the Farm Bill Kitchen

Sep 17, 2013

Just in case the farm bill didn't have enough issues to overcome, now it has one more--it might violate WTO rules against trade-distorting subsidies. Reuters reports that if the matter isn’t fixed, Brazil, China and Argentina could make some noise. Although the farm bill is getting a lot of press, ranking member on the House Ag Committee Collin Peterson says no one from across the aisle has called him about the farm bill. He said the last two electrons saw winners from non-farm areas and many want to "get rid of farm programs."

Peterson also said he was told Obama would veto an extension. That means the permanent law from 1949 would take hold. Two former senators from both sides of the aisle wrote an op-ed in the LA Times this week telling Congress to stop playing politics with hunger.

Politico calls the debate "The Hunger Games."

TakePart.com looks at the farm bill in a new light, saying the food stamp side of the legislation is a result of few living wage jobs. A growing economy, the site says, will not stem hunger unless the growing inequality of wages is addressed.

The two sides at odds on this issue are in disparate need of a play date. The sand is running through the hour glass at a rapid pace.


Antibiotic Resistance: Blame the Hospital

In the news today is the CDC’s report on antibiotic resistance. NPR’s The Salt takes the bold step (bold for NPR) and reports the deadliest resistance comes from hospitals, not farms. CBS says about 23,000 die from resistant infections each year, and says up to 50 percent of antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly or to people who do not need them. These stories are a refreshing turn about after animal agriculture has taken the blame for years.

However, not everyone is buying into the CDC’s opinion. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is quick to highlight foodborne hazards and the "overuse of antibiotics in the animal sector ..." Obviously, the science for the public interest group is the divine expert over the CDC.


Deadly Beef?

CNN has a warning for you today – Beware of the steak scam – courtesy of food "connoisseur" Josh Ozersky. First we’ve heard of this guy Ozersky, but it sounds like he’s developed a nice gig for himself – traveling around eating at fancy steakhouses.

He offers several criticisms of high-end steakhouses here, some we might argue with and others we’re not familiar enough to make an argument. (Like the argument about the cheap wine served with steaks – which, for some of us, we’d as soon drink that nasty red cough syrup with a steak as any wine on the menu. A few of us around here prefer a good beer anytime!)

So, we would challenge a few generalizations Ozersky makes, but our chief complaint is with CNN. The headline on the story is "7 deadly steakhouse sins." That’s an attention grabber, for sure, but there is nothing deadly about which Ozersky writes. Indeed, he’s offering a critique of that small portion of beef foodservice outlets where only the "one-percenters" can afford to dine. There’s nothing deadly described here – except the chilling effect CNN’s headline writers have on beef’s image.


Fine Dining Chickens

If you haven’t dined at one of Manhattan’s most elegant restaurants, too bad. But there’s a chance – albeit a slim one--the chicken you eat has enjoyed some tasty treats from one of the Big Apple’s finest. The New York Times says it’s a pilot project bringing together elite chefs who want to rediscover "what a chicken should taste like" by feeding the feathered friends a gourmet diet.


COOL FAQ

John Dillard stops in for the 411 on Consumer Ag Connection with the FYI on COOL. If you’re a little fuzzy on the subject, Dillard breaks down the requirements, without too many acronyms.


Other News Bites ...

Bloomberg reports on a study that a healthy lifestyle can modify cell aging. It encourages exercise, stress management and lots of fruits and vegetables. However, the article does not promote vegetarianism or veganism. Sounds like a good plan – steamed veggies, a salad and potato go really well with a steak.

 

Teach Your Cows to Drink Less

Sep 16, 2013

Ouch. Umm ... huh? That's our early thoughts on an article on Daily Kos saying cattle production is the driving force for the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer. The writer cites a Kansas State study highlighting the reduced underground water supply. Ok, yes, we know there is less underground water. The problem is real. All industries need to see what can be done to reduce water usage. But to place the blame solely on the livestock industry? Have they lost their minds?

Do they drive a car? Are they even vaguely familiar with the term "ethanol?" What about power plants? Growing communities? Swimming pools?  Perhaps in an effort to protect our water supply, they want to promote vegetarianism. What about soybeans? Oh, that's right. Tofu just comes from the grocery store.  

Perhaps Keenan Bishop, author of an editorial in the State Journal titled "What if Cows Roamed Free" should take the Daily Kos writer out to lunch. We're not sure if anyone could get through the thick skull at Daily Kos, but Bishop might at least give him something to think about.


Are you a 10%-er?

You know those signs you see at the gas pump tht say "May contain up to 10% ethanol." If your corner gas station doesn't have one, it may in the near future as Bloomberg reports ethanol's discount to gasoline expands as corn prices sink. Price drops are a result of the latest USDA crop outlook.

Here's the USDA's take on livestock supply estimates.

The next time you complain about the cost of a gallon of gas, consider this: in the U.S., it takes an average of 2.6% of a day's wage to buy a gallon of gas. Compare that to other countries like Indonesia, where it takes 34% of a day's earnings to buy a gallon. Or in Turkey, where a single gallon of gas is $9.55. This website offers the interesting comparisons.

The Blaze takes a look at the unintended consequences of the ethanol mandate, specifically higher food prices.


Containing Our Enthusiasm

An exciting week! That's what Agri-Pulse calls it as the House looks at the food stamp portion of the farm bill. It would be a lot more exciting if they could develop a workable agreement. Farm Bill, SNAP, water resources development law, funding the government ... We've got 14 days.

Info from Brownfield Ag News.

Oklahoma Farm Report's version.


Kudos to the Ag Teacher!

The ag program in Hagerstown, Indiana, will grow their own beef that will eventually end up in the school cafeteria. The Daily Reporter says the school is looking to buy and fatten about 10 head per year.


Black Market Beef

More than 22 tons of "fake beef" has been seized in China. The imposter-beef was actually pork, treated to look and taste like beef. It had been treated with chemicals and industrial salts to pull off the switch-a-roo.


Other News

Grist chides the Chipotle scarecrow cartoon ad, and even says "don’t let it brainwash you" in their latest column. But don't get too excited. The article isn't all puppies and roses.

Bored? How about cowhide sledding. No snow required.

Trouble swatting those flies? Perhaps that’s because a fly can process information seven times faster – like a fly swatter coming at it – than humans.

The pros and cons of GMOs from the Grist, if you trust their opinion.

Mooving Research

Sep 13, 2013

The beef industry is getting the respect it deserves, with two scientists winning Nobel prizes for their bovine research. Well, ok, we fudged just a little. They won the Ig Nobel Prize – an award that celebrates the weirdest and funniest scientific discoveries. If you’re not at least curious now, wait until you hear about the research, published by the BBC. Two Scottish gurus looked at the time cows spend standing up versus lying down. The research involved cows wearing a pedometer-like device on their legs that recorded movements.

If you want to read about the other big winners, the Daily Mail has all the details ... beer goggles, star-gazing beetles and more.

As wacky as that sounds, an Essex farm has used similar technology to track its cows via the internet. Apparently the Cow Tracking Project can alert a farmer if a cow acts differently, which could signal an illness.


No Chipotle on Our Plates!

Chipotle must like biting the hand that feeds them, literally. You would think a company who sells beef and chicken would use a different marketing strategy than their latest cartoon film "Scarecrow" that demonizes the beef and chicken industry. After their last gaff of "we only use beef treated with antibiotics from sick cows, not healthy ones," you would think they might be more cautious. This film is more than slightly creepy, and features a scarecrow that shuns industrial food.  To top it off, the company has released a downloadable ipad game to go with it. After watching this, we’re pretty certain you WON’T click your ruby slippers together three times and say "there’s no place like Chipotle."

HumaneWatch.org even jumped on the crazy chipotle bandwagon, asking "If Chipotle Only Had a Brain ..." 


Grow It At Home

That’s the philosophy behind West Virginia’s new school lunch program. The state is working with local ranchers and farmers to sell their products to nearby schools. The statewide "Farm to School" program hopes to have local food on the menu all year. It could mean big business for the state’s producers. The Charleston Gazette has the tasty details.


Beefing Up Kids

Beef sticks were found to be one of the most popular snack items among kids, and now the Texas Cattle Feeders Association is making sure kids who might not have enough food at home get beef. The association has donated $60,000 to Snack Pak 4 Kids which provides food-insecure students with healthy snacks to tide them over a hunger-filled weekend.


Mind Warp

Grist brings a grin to our faces today with their column about vegan yoga chef Darshana Thacker, who recently wrote a blog about how poor people aren’t trying hard enough to eat healthy on $1.50 a day. Kudos to the author for calling out this non-meat-eating-99-cent-store-shopping cook.


Green Ranchers

Ranchers are some of the nation’s best environmentalists. AgriNews highlighted a sustainability project sponsored the beef checkoff that shows beef production has reduced its carbon footprint 5 percent in just six years. This news was released earlier this summer, but the project was just recently certified by the National Standards Foundation.


Other News Bites ...

Germans rebuff idea of a vegetarian day – give us our meat!

Former Kentucky ag commissioner pleads guilty to theft.

Vilsack funds energy project improving rural electricity in seven states.

National Beef issues small recall for 700 pounds of beef tongue.

A Rock and a Hard Place

Sep 12, 2013

That’s what the U.S. district judge wrote in her decision against a COOL injunction. Politico offers an explanation of the court decision, offeringing that the judge’s hands are tied because COOL is in a law mandated by the farm bill. However, the article stops short of covering all sides of the issue, citing "U.S. ranchers ... are happy."

 

NCBA was one of the groups that filed for an injunction, and happy is not in their current vocabulary when it comes to COOL. Colin Woodall says that NCBA will continue to support industry-led voluntary labeling. He said the injunction was just one of many avenues the organization is pursuing to "get this fixed."

The American Meat Institute says it will appeal the ruling, according to Hoosier Ag Today.

Here’s Agri-Pulse’s take on the matter.

In related news, AMI and the North American Meat Association are considering a merger.


Beef: It’s What’s for Lunch

Lean finely textured beef is back in school cafeterias in four states, and others are expected to follow, Sioux City Journal says. However, the product can’t seem to shake the moniker "pink slime," which is again, making headlines. The Huffington Post and Politico both employ their full range of scare tactics, saying the product is unsafe and comes from scraps of cattle carcasses. If you take the time to read their versions, be sure to click on News Busters take ... it will leave you in a better mood.


Milking the Farm Bill

Since the Syria situation has moved from the front burner to the "wait and see" side of the stove, you might be hopeful that Congress will act on other pressing domestic matters. But don’t hold your breath. Democratic rep Collin Peterson is suggesting the USDA begin the process of implementing the 1949-era dairy policies that would take effect on Oct. 1 if a farm bill is not passed. Peterson’s scare tactics would result in milk prices doubling, and might act as a wake up call, he says.

Sen. Tom Harkin thinks the current farm bill will probably expire before Congress agrees to anything. That probability is becoming more and more likely, as House leaders can’t even come to a vote on funding the government.

Perhaps if this all comes to pass, the demand backyard milk cows will increase. Looks like it’s time to dig out that milking stool from the attic. Who all has practiced their milking techniques lately?


Watered Down Science?

Michelle Obama has a new platform to take to the American people – drink up! After all, her school lunch mandates have been so popular (enter sarcasm here) that it’s time to move on to another topic. The only problem is The Atlantic doesn’t think her advice is founded on good science.


Bits and Bites ...

Brownfield Ag News has the details on today’s USDA corn production estimate.

If you’re looking for a job this weekend, the Seattle Seahawks are hiring undercover cops to help control unruly fans. But there’s one twist – they will be wearing the opponents’ jerseys.

The House transportation committee introduced water resources development legislation. Congress is getting so much accomplished these days, we’re certain it will pass ...

Moo quietly, please. Employers better hope their cows communicate at a whisper after a French court ordered a pig farm to pay damages to a farm worker who said he went deaf because of the pigs’ squealing.

We couldn’t resist offering Bloomberg’s next installment of "everything you ever need to know about crop insurance" series. Somehow, we think they are leaving out the "everything" in their reporting, like one important fact: keeping food affordable.

Vegan bacon bits? Isn’t that an oxymoron? The Huff Post has a list of other surprising vegan foods. Admittedly, some of these are very tasty ... as a side dish or dessert to our steak!

Fledgling livestock producers in Kazakhstan could boost Canada’s cattle industry.

Cargill gets a new CEO.

Need a smile? Check out these new ads outing the HSUS from HumaneWatch.org.

 

Court Cold to COOL

Sep 11, 2013

Today, the U.S. District Court denied plaintiff’s request for an injunction blocking COOL implementation. The decision comes with cheers and jeers from people in the industry. Here’s a roundup of what’s buzzing on the decision.

Canadian’s iPolitics says the labeling rule is costing the Canadian pork industry $500 million annually, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association pegs losses at $750 million-plus.

National Farmers Union is pleased with the ruling, supporting consumers’ desire to know where their food comes from.


One Step Forward ...

And hopefully not two steps back. Vilsack says the house plans to vote on a nutrition bill next week. That would be the "other half" of the farm bill that made it through before Congress took their "vacation."

Singer/FarmAid founder Neil Young has jumped on the farm bill bandwagon, says the Washington Post.

Syria has taken top billing on matters that matter this week in Congress, but it’s also complicated things when it comes to commodity markets. AgWeb looks at the Syria factor and how the recent heat and long term drought are affecting markets.

Here’s the 3rd leg in Bloomberg’s series on crop insurance.


Rubber Band of Expansion

Experts everywhere have commented on the smaller cow herd, possible expansion and how long the process will take. Here’s a few new thoughts on the subject, some with the glass half empty, others half full:

Drought could impact industry for years

Lack of water for cattle to drink could hold back expansion

Kansas cattlemen finally making a profit

Russia is helping producers expand with $10 billion dedicated to rebuild


Breakfast Upgrade

Who needs pigs for bacon and sausage when you can have beef for breakfast! McDonalds has jumped on the beef band wagon with a new breakfast sandwich. You can now order your Egg McMuffin, Egg & Cheese biscuit or ANY McDonalds breakfast with steak. Replacing pork with steak is considered "upgrading" your breakfast and costs a little bit more. Cost aside, we like the idea that adding beef to breakfast is a way to "upgrade" your morning.

Beef prices in general will feel an "upgraded" cost, as the lack of Mexican cattle pushes prices higher.

In a related note, a North Wales McDonalds had a royal visitor this week.


Under Fire

USDA is taking more heat on its program to speed up processing and replace some government inspectors with company ones. RT.com said six USDA inspectors spoke out against the plan. Food Whistle Blower go so far as to say the plan is a disaster waiting to happen. Learn all you want about the issue courtesy of Washington Post TV’s story.

In a related matter, Change.org has a petition to "help bring a meat inspector home." An Iowa USDA inspector was reassigned to a packing plant 120 miles away from his home when he "blew the whistle" on inhumane pig slaughter practices.


Why Eat Meat?

That’s a question the Boston Globe is asking. The one-sided narrative cites the good life that vegans and vegetarians live. Our question is ... does the growing acceptance of vegetarianism have anything to do with the skyrocketing popularity of energy drinks?


Other News Bites ...

The Huffington Post says agriculture should get top billing at the UN Climate Change talks, citing water use and drought.

Cyndi Young with Brownfield Ag News gets "real" when it comes to big ag and PETA.

Read about Eastern Europe’s "meat war."

The test-tube burger was big news earlier this summer. How about an artificial egg made from plants?

No Slaughter Consequences

Sep 10, 2013

While horse slaughter remains tied up in the courts, the former director of the New Mexico Livestock Board offers his thoughts on the matter. No matter which side of the issue you are on, this opinion article from the Albuquerque Journal brings up some solid points that must be considered.


Pot Luck

Having a bad day? Then you should have been in Denver where you could have smoked your worries away. On Monday, hundreds lined up where free joints were given away. Organizers of the event were hoping to draw attention to a statewide ballot question asking voters to approve a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales, plus a 10 percent sales tax. The Denver Post said so many people lined up for the free offer, the group had to "furiously roll more" joints on the hood of a parked car.


Hot News

The heat is front page news in Iowa. And Thursday’s USDA crop report should give us some clues on how the heat and drought has impacted some of the nation’s corn and soybean crops. The Des Moines Register reported only one-third of the state’s corn and soybeans were in good or excellent condition. Agriculture.com says this year’s drought is like a "drought on steroids."


Farm Focus

The longer Congress delays on farm bill decision-making, the harder it is for farmers to make decisions regarding their crops, according to the Kansas City Star.

Everything you ever wanted to learn about crop insurance, oops we mean money laundering, Bloomberg style.

The New York Times takes a look at the farm bill prospects and farm subsidies.

Grist tours an Ohio farm that practices no-till methods accompanied by several NRCS "geeks" to see what’s working for one farmer. Considering it’s a farming article penned by someone at Grist, it’s actually pretty interesting.


Food Safety Hampered by Sequester

As part of our daily grazing, we look at several food safety-oriented web sites. Several have posted stories dealing with the two-month-long cyclospora outbreak that has affected 22 different states. The cause of the outbreak in most states is still unkown. But today, Food Poisoning Bulletin has some appetite-losing news for you--the outbreak investigation has been hindered by the government sequester.


News We Can’t Resist

If you go camping in Australia, don’t leave your beer out. Apparently a feral hog has an affinity for ale ... three six-packs worth.

Spongiform encephalopathy is in the news again, and thankfully it has nothing to do with the cattle industry. The Atlantic reports.

Tired of your neighborhood? You can apply for a one-way ticket to Mars, says The Independent. From early reports, it appears over 200,000 are ready to pack.

September 9 Is Here

Sep 09, 2013

It’s back to work for Congress. And let’s hope they’re not spending too much time at the water cooler because their to-do grows longer by the day. Before they left the Beltway, immigration and the farm bill were hot topics. But now Syria has taken center stage, and other legislation is waiting in the wings ... with a deadline that’s quickly approaching. House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas predicts they will pass a new farm bill, says National Journal, but the clock is ticking.

Vilsak is trying a new approach for the farm bill to leapfrog Syria and the debt-ceiling--using social media, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Tweet it. Facebook it. Instagram it. YouTube it. Hashtag it #MyFarmBill. Now, if you have no idea what all that means, ask your nearest junior high school student. Maybe the tweens and teens of America can help us save a farm bill. We’ve got 21 days.

More on the farm bill from the Detroit Free Press and the San Angelo Standard Times.

Bloomberg writes the first in a series about "farming for the government." Here is the first one, and we’ll keep you up to date on the rest as they are published.


Beefin’ Up Advertising

Winn-Dixie can make you a star! A star when it comes to beef, at least. The supermarket chain is launching its "I’m Beef People" advertising campaign, highlighting customers who are passionate about beef. Just log on to their website, print out a "beef people" sign and take a picture or short video showing what makes you a "beef person." The campaign supports the supermarket’s introduction of WD Brand Choice Angus Beef. So get out there and start showing why our readers are "Beef People!"


Chinese Love Beef

Rabobank sees green when they look at beef in China. AgWeb reports that consumption of beef in the country is expected to rise, on a per capita basis, by 24% in the next decade. And it sounds as if our country could produce more beef, the Chinese would eat even more. That’s good news for ranchers.

The not-so-good news when it comes to China and competing proteins comes from Bloomberg. Apparently the USDA has ended a ban on Chinese chicken imports. The article hints that this could lead to some possible food safety issues due to lack of USDA inspections on the imported chicken nuggets. Just to be safe, order beef instead.


Private Meat Inspectors?

The USDA is getting some heat about a pilot program that replaces USDA meat inspectors with private meat inspectors paid by the processing company. Five hog plants have used the system, and three of those were among the 10 worst offenders for health and welfare violations, says the Washington Post. The system was in use last year by a Canadian beef processing plant when it had to recall 8.8 million pounds of beef tainted with E. coli. It took several months for the Canadian plant to recover from the massive recall after JBS took over management of the plant. Ironically, the Post story broke exactly one year after the Canadian recall.


No Water, No Freedom

A Texas woman will spend the next year in jail after a jury found her guilty for failing to properly care for 9 horses. In August 2011, eight horses were found dead and another horse was euthanized after suffering from malnutrition and no water. Quarter Horse News reports the woman had agreed to check on the horses for their absentee owner. Two veterinarians testified the horses went without water for five to eight days before their deaths.

 

The Science of Drought

Sep 06, 2013

Congress will consider a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) bill when they return to work next week, Agri-Pulse reports. The program will cost $64 million over four years and provides drought and weather information to farmers and ranchers. Initial reports are favorable for the bill to pass. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get kicked to the side. There are plenty of other issues that Congress will have to tackle when they get back.

The drought is getting more intense in some areas of the country, according to USAgNet. And the heat is taking its toll on feedyards. Numbers are already low, and the heat is knocking a few more off the yard sheet. The Nebraska Radio Network says feedyards have lost "several hundred" head of cattle.


World Sustainability

The U.S. isn’t the only country working toward sustainable agriculture. Brazil, one of the world’s largest beef exporters, has enacted tough deforestation laws. The Raw Story details how one rancher is able to make a living within the country’s stringent laws. Walmart and The Nature Conservatory have also jumped on board. 


Weather’s Crystal Ball

If it’s rained at your house, congrats. We haven’t seen much of it in some places, including ours. But regardless if you’ve got green grass or not, a weather forecaster says cattle producers should plan for a drought. He cites a weather cycle from the 1950s and doesn’t think the dry times are over, even if you’ve got green under your feet. The Eagle has the full story. Additionally, AgWeb has some tips on how to prepare your pastures for next year.


Not So Quick, Doc

A psychiatrist could be treating people from behind bars after he shot seven cows that were roaming on his property, according to KGW. He faces aggravated animal abuse charges. In the cows’ defense, the area used to be open range, but the doctor led an effort to make the land "closed range." Apparently, no one told the cows.


Bad Press

This story falls under the category of headlines we don’t need: Idaho Farms Agree to Stop Overdrugging Cattle. That’s one way to win over the American consumer.  These producers must need new glasses, because some of their violations are outlandish. We’re not talking about a slight drug residue ... how about 2,000% more than the allowed level! Unfortunately, that’s not a typo. Boise Weekly has the disturbing details.


Hi-Tech Spy

National Geographic doesn’t have anything on the Aussies. Remember the story of a Nat-Geo photographer who was arrested for paragliding over a Kansas feedlot? Well, that looks like child’s play compared to what the Animal Liberation activists are doing down under. The "charity" purchased a $14,000 drone, and outfitted it with a high-definition camera. The group intends to use the "spy with wings" to aid with their campaign against intensive livestock production. And--according to the activists--it’s perfectly legal in Austrailia. ABC news reports.


Finger Soup

Necessity is the mother of invention, however we didn’t know there was a need for this deep fried soup, the newest menu item at KFC. But don’t run to the nearest chicken diner to grab up a bowl, or a plate, of soup just yet. Grist reports the item is debuting in Japan.

Funny Math

Sep 05, 2013

We’re not sure if this next story will make your blood boil, or if you’ll just shake your head in dismay. The Huffington Post published a blog on The Bizarre Economics of the Meat & Dairy Industries. In the write up, they cite a "superbly researched new book, Meatonomics" by a California attorney, who supposedly analyzed the "true cost" of producing meat and dairy products. But in his assessment of our industry, he also included the costs of animal cruelty ($20.7 billion), the cost of damage to the environment ($37.2 billion) and…here’s the kicker…health care costs for consuming meat and dairy. That figure is a whopping $314 Billion!

You will have to read this lament for yourself, including the suggestion that the USDA should change it’s mission from promoting the consumption of animal products to instead promote public health. We would like to ask the author a few questions, like what does cost to supplement your diet with iron since you are probably anemic? How about the Vitamin D you’re missing from no dairy? And why didn’t you figure what it costs to grow soybeans to make your precious tofu?

We can only assume that the person who wrote this obviously is missing something from his life—like a great steak with some ice cream for dessert.


Shifting Sand?

A math article that’s a bit more reliable comes from Harlan Hughes and BEEF magazine. Here, Hughes analyzes several figure in the pricing matrix of feed-to-cattle and believes that beef cow production will continue to shift out of the corn belt. Interesting economics, from someone who has a bit better understanding of the industry …


Is It Physically Possible to Cow Tip?

We can sleep tonight. One of the mysteries of the world has been solved. Or at least a minor mystery. Slate takes on the issue of cow tipping to see if it is physically possible. They go so far as to have a minor physics lesson, determining how many Newtons of force it would take for an individual to tip a cow. Obviously, Slate has nothing better to investigate. And, by the way, they determined that cow tipping was highly unlikely. We say let’s invite them to check pasture cattle sometime, and let them observe a highly trained cowboy rope, tie down and doctor a 700 lb. yearling. We bet they’d write another article about that.


Food Worries

Amid the battle with the farm bill and the issue of food stamps, the need for some food assistance is ever clear after recently released hunger statistics. The USDA reports that 12.6 percent of Iowans struggle with hunger. Even in the middle of the corn belt, people are going hungry, especially seniors and children. Across the U.S., 14.5 percent of households, or 49 million people are considered "food insecure." The Des Moines Register has the sad details.


The $1 and More ($3.99 more) Menu

Amid low margins with their Dollar Menu, McDonald’s is reportedly testing a Dollar Menu and More concept that would feature higher priced items, up to $4.99, AdAge reports. Although the Dollar Menu is very popular, it appears the golden arches are feeling the pinch of higher food prices.


"Green" Shoes?

The leather industry might be a bit concerned about this story, but we think it’s not much to worry about. The Albuquerque Journal test-wore a pair of biodegradable shoes made from a vegetable-based plastic material. Based on the review, we wouldn’t throw away your boots and tennis shoes quite yet.

 

What is Too Fast?

Sep 04, 2013

That’s the question some are asking when in comes to line speeds in meat and poultry packing plants. A legal petition has been filed requesting OSHA and the USDA to implement better health and safety standards to protect packing workers. American Meat Institute says one important factor is that there is enough staffing on the line. Head’s up packers … As consumers continue the "I want to know more about where my food comes from" mantra, the safety of plant workers could become their next "I wanna know."


Slim Supplies

Feeder cattle supplies are tighter than expected, reports Capital Press. Citing figures from last months Cattle On Feed report, Derrell Peel said the magnitude of the decline was the real shocker. Fewer cattle, along with the possibility of less beef produced since Zilmax is no longer on the market have some questioning how the two factors will work together in the market. However, one consultant isn’t so sure the Z-factor will be much of an issue.

With those factors in mind, Cattle Network discusses how fast the cow herd can be rebuilt.


Meat-Eating Vegan President

Sounds like the secret is out on PETA’s person of the year in 2010--Bill Clinton. He’s been exposed as a cheater. Grin. Ok, a different kind of cheater. He cheats on his vegan diet. The Daily Caller confirmed he enjoyed a filet in Madrid recently, as well as other culinary delights. Really, Bill, it’s okay not to be faithful to your vegan promise. The country will understand.


A Thief, Not a Rustler

Cattle associations are quick to call those caught stealing cattle exactly what they are--thieves. Rustling, they say, has a romantic ideology from the old west. NRP reports on all the details that go into catching a thief. And it doesn’t end with "hang ‘em high."


True Beef

Some schools are cutting back on beef and other proteins in their school lunch programs, but Austin Eater.com highlights a documentary currently being filmed with some Texas high school students and their efforts to earn an MBA--Masters of Beef Advocacy. It’s a program through the Connally High School Culinary Arts program. You can even watch a move trailer here. This just almost makes us want to go back to high school … almost.


Plated Dinner

No time to figure out what’s for supper? An East Coast company will do that for you, and when you come home from a long day at work, all the ingredients will be sitting on your doorstep. It’s a concept called "Plated." The Des Moines Register says it’s not cheap but some are finding the service well worth the expense and a sound alternative to eating out. Now if we can just find the energy to cook it!


Fun Facts

Facts About Beef has two interesting thoughts floating on the internet. 1) a fun graphic on water usage and how much water is used  to produce a pound of beef compared to making a t-shirt and other items; 2) they debunk the thought that feeding GMO crops is unhealthy for animals and results in unsafe beef. If you’ve got any nay-sayers in your book club or Sunday school class, factsaboutbeef.com is a good place to send them.


Moovin’ to Indonesia

Sounds like more Australian cattle will get a new address. The country has eyed the Indonesia cattle industry for some time, and exports live animals to the country. Now Indonesia has opened the door for more cattle, scrapping its quota system for live cattle. Instead a price-based system will be used. Although Indonesia would like to be self sufficient as far as beef is concerned, they currently need to import animals to maintain an affordable food supply. Australia’s ABC news has the details.

 

Brain Food

Sep 03, 2013

Just in case you need another reason to eat more beef, the Mayo Clinic has one--eat beef for your brain. In a study of 1,200 adults, those who ate more protein and less carbohydrates had the least amount of cognitive impairment as they aged. Ganaderia Mexico reports that those with the highest amout of carbohydrates in their diets were 3.6 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment. So when you enjoy beef at your next meal, just consider it "brain food."


Laborless Labor Day

Tom Vilsack took time yesterday to note that if immigration reform that is friendly to ag workers doesn’t pass Congress, the agriculture work force could be very shorthanded in the future. The Courier Herald published the op-ed penned by Vilsack.

Vilsack may have also drawn the proverbial "line in the sand" when it comes to the farm bill, according to the Clinton Herald. Saying there will not be an extension, Vilsack seemed somewhat confident that lawmakers would come to an agreement in less than 27 days. But who’s counting?


Hold Your Horses!

They say you can’t trust the police in Mexico. Well, apparently you can’t trust their horses either as 30 police horses stampeded down a busy street in Mexico City. One person was injured and 11 cars were damaged, The Blaze reports.


Buying FDA Approval

A not-so-flattering report from Food & Water Watch asks what the Zilmax situation teaches us about industry science. The story cites university research that is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and asks if their science is truly scientific, or even trust worthy. Although it is an important question to ask, those in the academia ranks know it takes money to conduct research, and typically pharmaceutical companies do help sponsor some of the research. The story goes so far to imply FDA approval can likely be bought.

Unbiased research is a cornerstone of our industry, and the livestock industry must continue to do R&D to bring high quality products to the market. Unfortunately, the article does not give researchers the opportunity to share their side of the story. But what else would we expect from Food & Water Watch.

Our southern friends seem to have the opposite problem. Little red meat research is being done my Meat and Livestock Australia, and the country’s ABC news says no major breakthroughs have happened for cattle production in 10 years.

We get dizzy thinking of all the new livestock technology introduced in the U.S. in the last decade. Sad to say our friends down south don’t reap similar benefits.


The Other Side of COOL

Last week folks on both sides of the COOL issue waited with bated breath to her a newly-robed District Judge’s ruling. But it was quite anti-climatic to hear "I’ll think about it." Much of the reporting on COOL in mainstream media is on the "pro" side of the debate, highlighting customers "need to know." But Policio does examine some points on both sides of the fence in this story.


California Wildfire Hits Home

As a cattleman, if you’ve ever fought a wildfire, you know how devastating it can be on your business. Injured and dead cattle. Missing cattle. Burned fences. No grass to graze. NBC News says our friends in California are realizing those facts all too well as the Yosemite fire gnaws away at precious grazing. More than 4,000 head called the Stanislaus National Forest home. There’s no quick fix to this one, and experts say the regional cattle industry there will take a big hit.

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