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August 2009 Archive for U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

RSS By: U.S. Farm Report, US Farm Report

Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Farms & Petting Zoos...A Good Combination??? Even More Comments...

Aug 24, 2009
Editor's Note:  John's commentary on petting zoos having no place on today's farms is drawing quite a bit of response.  Below is his original commentary...followed by viewer comments by email and by voice mail:

John's Commentary from August 15-16, 2009:
   I VISITED WITH DAIRY FARMERS IN THE OHIO REGION THIS WEEK AND ONE OF THE TOPICS THEY DISCUSSED WAS THE DAIRY INDUSTRY REACTION TO THE CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS. I WAS IMPRESSED BY THEIR DILIGENT STUDY OF THE ISSUES AND THEIR EFFORTS TO REACH OUT AND LISTEN TO PEOPLE ON ALL SIDES.
    ATTITUDES IN THE PUBLIC HAVE CHANGED SLOWLY AS THE NUMBER OF COMPANION ANIMALS IN OUR COUNTRY INCREASES AND LIVESTOCK ON FARMS CONSOLIDATE INTO ENORMOUS OPERATIONS FARTHER FROM PUBLIC SCRUTINY.
   THE EFFECT HAS BEEN TO BLUR THE LINE BETWEEN COMPANION ANIMALS AND FOOD ANIMALS. UNFORTUNATELY FARMERS ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THIS CONFUSION WITH ACTIVITIES LIKE PETTING ZOOS AND HOW THEY PRESENT ANIMALS - ESPECIALLY YOUNG ONES - TO VISITORS ON THEIR FARMS.
    THE MESSAGE FROM THE DAIRYMEN ACTIVE IN THIS DEBATE WAS CLEAR: WE NEED TO DISCONTINUE PRACTICES THAT PROMOTE THE IDEA OF CALVES AND LAMBS AS CUDDLY AND CUTE. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT AS SCHOOL ,AND COUNTY FAIR OFFICIALS HAVE DISOCVERED FROM THEIR INSURANCE AGENTS THE RISK OF DISEASE TRANSMISSION IS ALSO A SIGNIFICANT THREAT.
    PETTING ZOOS WERE HAVE PLAYED ON THE INSTINCTIVE REACTIONS OF HUMANS TO BABY ANIMALS. BUT THE PROGRESSION FROM "AWWWW" TO "YOU'RE GOING TO KILL THEM?" IS TO BE EXPECTED. FOR THE SAKE OF OUR ANIMAL AGRICULTURE I THINK IT'S TIME TO LOSE THE PETTING ZOOS.
 
Farm Report Mailbag from August 22-23, 2009:
     TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAIL BAG...
     MY COMMENTS ABOUT PETTING ZOOS SPLIT OUR VIEWERS RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE. FOR EXAMPLE THERE WAS THIS VOICEMAIL FROM COLORADO SPRINGS:
     "TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT THE PETTING ZOO. CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN ANIMALS ARE NOT TO BE AFRAID OF. PETTING ZOOS ARE GOOD."
    WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY THIS MESSAGE FROM JOHN IN OHIO:
     "GOOD POINT ON PETTING ZOOS. THIS GIVES PETA A LOT OF HELP. GOOD COMMENT, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK."
     THEN THIS: "OK IS THIS REALLY A FARMER SAYING NOT HAVING A PETTING ZOO IS GOOD. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS? VERY DISAPPOINTED."
     AND THIS FROM NORTHERN ILLINOIS: "I AGREE PETTING ZOOS SHOULD BE ELIMINATED. KIDS WON'T GET STEPPED ON OR ANYTHING ELSE."
     BUT MY FAVORITE WAS THIS ONE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE: "IT'S TIME YOU PEOPLE GOT CIVILIZED AND REALIZE PETTING ZOOS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT."
     I THINK IT IS SAFE TO SAY THE SEARCH FOR CONSENSUS CONTINUES ON THIS ISSUE, BUT I WILL ADD ONE OTHER FACTOR I ALLUDED TO IN MY COMMENTS LAST WEEK.
     WHETHER YOU SUPPORT THE IDEA OF PETTING ZOOS OR NOT, THE INCREASING AWARENESS OF EVEN FAINT POSSIBILITIES OF ANIMAL TO HUMAN DISEASE TRANSMISSION HAS PUT INSURANCE COMPANIES ON EDGE.
    FOR PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS SCHOOLS OR FAIRS, HUMAN -ANIMAL CONTACT IS BECOMING SEEN AS AN AVOIDABLE RISK, AND AT LEAST TWO SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS HAVE TOLD ME THEY HAVE ENDED PETTING ZOOS AT THE ADVICE OF THEIR INSURANCE AGENTS.
 IS IT ME, OR HAVE INSURANCE COMPANIES BECOME THE FINAL AUTHORITY FOR PROPER CONDUCT?

VIEWER RESPONSE:
#1:
   Petting Zoos are great for kids and should be kept without question.  It can be that one contact that a child has with an animal that can shape a life long outlook.  I would much rather have a child touch an animal than an Anti-American insurance company.
   The insurance companies can go back to their corporate corrupt office on wall street. If they don't want the business, then they should get out. When an insurance company says they won't insure something, whatever it is, fine. It only means that they do not know their own business,(which is corruption anyway).
   America could fix the corrupt insurance companies by dropping all insurance policies. They would all go broke and out of business very quickly.
Dave

#2:
John,
   Your final comments regarding the petting zoos issue are close, but I'm afraid you stopped just short of the real problem.  It's not the insurance companies themselves who are dictating behavior.  They, too, are only reacting to the issues and situations they face.  I could take it a step further by claiming it's the (expletive deleted) lawyers.  But even that claim still skirts the problem.  The real problem, as always, is where the buck stops -- we, the people.  Those who elect the politicians, pay the lawyers, culture the victimhood and allow such inane activities to continue will continue to pay the price for our own foolhardiness.  "Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it."  (can't remember who said that ;-)  A faithful viewer (and big fan of Tractor Tales). 
Kent Wagoner
Parma, Idaho

#3:
   What is the difference between a petting zoo and a county fair?  I have yet to figure this out.
Justin Dare
Liberty, IN

#4:
   My husband and I regularly watch US Farm Report on RFDTV -DISH channel 231.
We own and have operated a 850 milking cow Dairy and 1000 acre Farm in Central California since 1978.
  We agree with your comment regarding the Insurance Industry having the final say and opinion on many decisions we make on our dairy farm.
  Especially with living in our highly regulated state of California. We live in constant fear of lawsuits and fines regarding air and water quality every day we remain in business all the while just struggling to hold on to our business with the high feed and fuel costs and record low dairy prices.
  My 85 year old father is a retired cotton/alfalfa and grain farmer. I grew up seeing him as well as my grandfather being stewards of the land and working diligently to provide an honest living for their families. That was back in the day when a man's word and a handshake was all that was needed for an honest transaction. I have always understood what was meant when it's said; "farming is in his blood". I grew up with my father's stories of living through the "Depression" and how the family struggled through it and survived. 
   Now we are fighting to hold on to our business because we know that dairy & farming isn't just a business to us but a way of life. 
Regarding your comment on Petting Zoos last week:
  After giving your views some thought I agree that "Petting Zoos" are probably not the best way to promote farming and knowledge of farm animals with the general public and school children. I believe the better way to promote understanding is by demonstrating how farm animals really do their work on farms. Our local fair has an exhibit of real dairy cows being milked and the products that come from milk. This "show and tell" type of setting is much more productive to our industry than representing baby farm animals as cute & cuddly animals that children and adults relate to as house pets. 
 Julie & Tony Jorge- California

Voice Mail Comments:
#1:
  Plenty to say about petting zoos. I am in favor of them.  Children who grow up without being around animals vs. those that do treat other human beings differently.  Those that do not grow up around animals really don’t learn how to treat others.  Also, who really get diseases from these animals?  It is not like these kids are getting the HIV virus which is much more serious.  Last, children who need children therapy uses animals to get across these children.  Animals are a good thing and so are petting zoos.
 
#2:
   If children don’t keep having no contact with human and computers like they do…instead of animals they can relate to.  They’re not even going to be human.

#3: 
Montgomery, TX:  I believe that if Ag would like to do themselves a favor they should have a petting zoo on the white house lawn.  It would be good for Obama and his kids.

Picture This - A Crazy Corn Plant

Aug 18, 2009
Editor's Note:  The August 15-16, 2009, edition of "U.S. Farm Report" generated viewer response on a number of fronts...

#1:
   Good Morning!  Thought you might be interested in this oddity.  I wonder how much corn has this kind of genetics?  
Dennis Spangler   
New Berlin, PA

 

#2
John,
   I am always interested in your take on government programs--I find your views quite refreshing. I am a small, diversified, first-generation dairy farmer (grain farmer wannabe but can't affordtobe). I have participated in grain-based government programs for as long as I have been farming, but like you, I wonder if we might be better off with the opportunities and level playing field and better PR that would be created in their absence. On a side note, however, I am quite appreciative of the MILC program this year.
   My recent indecision about the ACRE program has now officially resulted in a decision. I can honestly say I am satisfied with my decision, so I thought I'd share my thought process. My farm calculated an ACRE payment probability percentage for this year in the 60s--better than a coin toss. We have an excellent Extension Ag Business Specialist in our county, and her advice was for me to look at the risk management needs of my operation and see how the ACRE program fits in. Well, on our operation, a year of lower crop revenue does not necessarily result in a year that is less profitable. Crop yields are important, but even corn with a zero grain yield will still make silage and generate a large crop insurance payment.  Higher crop prices often hurt our bottom line more than they help. Milk prices have a much larger impact on our operation. Viewing ACRE as a risk management strategy for us seems to be flawed. Therefore, I have come to look at ACRE as more of a gamble than as a risk management program. In a year when every dollar is going to be necessary to pay bills, gambling with any percentage of direct payments (the bird in hand) doesn't seem to be a prudent idea, no matter what the probabilities are.
   If profitability ever returns to dairy farming, and if we can find somebody to milk for us, maybe we'll just take a trip to Vegas and try our luck with that 20% of our direct payments. Surely that would be more fun than all this number crunching. 
Derek England
 
#3:
   (Regarding "Smokey Bear") OK, so his middle name is not "the," but the concept that fewer fires are always good is not true. My understanding of forest ecology, weak as it is, suggests that some fires are needed for proper working of the ecosystem. I have heard some of the monster fires attributed to the idea that all fires are bad, fuel builds up, then when a small fire breaks out, it is uncontrollable.
Tom Colvin
 

#4:
   Nearly two years ago, a father wrote in and asked how his son could "get into" farming. I responded but your system had a meltdown. I received an email asking me to resubmit, but forgot about it until cleaning out some old deleted files. My response is tardy but still valid...
  I am sure that young man has found something, but the information could help others looking at farming as a life choice.
  First, get an education! After high school, attend a college with an ag department, looking toward a bachelor's in agricultural management. Take six years instead of four. You will still only be 24 when you graduate.
  During that time, look ANYWHERE for a part-time job in the "business" of farming. I worked a couple of summers at a small-town feed store. I learned a lot about crop production just from listening to the farmers bringing in their crops to sell. Listen closely. There will be many discussions about which is the best way to do things. Which weed products work best, which fertilizers are best and so on.
  Soak up as much information as you can. While all is not good  advice, the best combined with what you learn at school will filter out the bad and let you keep the good.
  There are large "farm" stores near big cities. They carry things for everyone from the real farmer to the couple who plant a few tomatoes, to clothes and so on. A job in their "ag" department would be another place to pick up information. A beginner's job at a newspaper is another choice. Or, if a job is not possible, see if you can tag along with an experienced ag reporter while you develop your "sea legs."
   If you are very, very lucky, you might actually find a part-time job on a farm in your area. Oftimes, older farmers just need another pair of hands and even if you don't make much (or possibly ANY) money, you will still have your hands-on experience.
   There are many other places you can find a part-time job that will get that foot in the door. The feed store was probably the first place I heard of the death of a local farmer, the fact that his kids had moved to the city, had no interest in the farm and if it was to be sold -- long before the local Realtors had heard a word. And during the time you are in college, establish the BEST CREDIT POSSIBLE. Get a Visa or MasterCard. Charge $25 to $30 each and every month and make sure you pay the entire balance well before the due date.
   If you need to buy a car, get an older, cheap one and, if possible, finance at the bank where your parents do business. You won't have a credit history there, but THEY do. You will probably need their co-signature. Don't be offended. It is just good banking. Make sure you can afford the payments and make them promptly.
   By the time you have your degree, you will know a whole lot about the farming "business" (because that is what it is), you will have established an excellent credit history (absolutely necessary if you are going to have to finance land), and you will know the lay of the land where you want to farm.
   There are probably many more suggestions for the young person (not necessarily a man these days) that would be appropriate, but that is all for me at the time. I hope my letter will prompt others to write in suggestions I have omitted. 
    Thanks for your excellent programming. I usually miss the first half-hour, as my wake-up call from the critters is 5:30, but I am sure the first half is just as good as the second one.

Kate Rivers
Riverbend Farms
Wentworth, Mo.
 
P.S.  I have a small acreage, a few White Park cattle, a couple of Percheron horses, 20 or so Spanish goats and a few Australian cattle dogs that I show when I can get away. I am nearing 70 and it gets harder each and every year, but I couldn't imagine any other lifestyle.
 

Two Strong Opinions...

Aug 10, 2009
John,
    I attended the meeting our FSA office had on the new program (ACRE). They used a couple farmers that were there to give them their acres and crops so they could use them for an example. One was going to lose $900. The others were not any better. She had to come up with a phony example to make it look like anything. 
   The general feeling was that it is the biggest bunch of BS ever.  I asked if they had come up with that as job security. What do you expect with this administration? Ag was never mentioned in the last election. This new health care thing they are trying to rush through is criminal.
Thanks for listening,
Dale Hartley


   I was in the bathroom getting ready for work this Saturday 8/8/09 when I heard you folks talking about the Heavens and the crops. I know in my heart that the phases of the MOON effects planting and harvest. Also the corn crop in northern Michigan is in real trouble this year. Also there seems to be a lack of bees and wasps in mid and northern Michigan. What is up with that cold weather? Michael H. MacCready
Manton MI
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