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April 2012 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.

Child Labor and Agriculture...The Debate Continues

Apr 30, 2012

In this past weekend's commentary (April 29-30, 2012), John Phipps focused on the latest developments in potential child labor regulations on the farm. We're posting a transcript of his comments, followed by viewer reaction.

JOHN'S WORLD COMMENTARY:

THIS WEEK THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ABANDONED EFFORTS TO EXTEND SAFETY REGULATIONS IN PLACE IN OTHER INDUSTRIES TO UNDERAGE, NON-FAMILY FARM EMPLOYEES. THE ACTION WAS TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO A VEHEMENT BACKLASH FROM FARMERS.
THERE ARE SEVERAL CONCLUSIONS THAT CAN BE DRAWN FROM THIS EVENT. IT'S A REMINDER ALL GOVERNMENT RULES REQUIRE PUBLIC BUY-IN. EVEN STIFF PENALTIES WILL NOT ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH UNPOPULAR RULES, SINCE ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS NEED MORE RESOURCES THAN AGENCIES COULD POSSIBLY MUSTER. CONSIDER HIGHWAY SPEED LAWS, IRS PICKUP MILEAGE RECORDS AND HIGHLY ERODIBLE GROUND. COMPLIANCE IS OFTEN MEDIOCRE AT BEST. AMERICANS ONLY SORT OF OBEY EVEN WHEN THEY GRUDGINGLY AGREE.

THE SECOND IS THESE RULES MAY HAVE HAD A FAIRLY SMALL IMPACT ANYWAY. FARMS THAT DEPEND ON HIRED CHILD LABOR IN THEIR BUSINESS PLAN ARE DISAPPEARING DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE WORK AND RISING RISK OF CIVIL, NOT CRIMINAL, LITIGATION. INSURANCE COMPANIES WILL SPEED THIS PROCESS. THE IDEA THAT CHILDREN WON'T DEVELOP AN INTEREST IN THE FARM UNLESS THEY PARTICIPATE IN THE DISPUTED ACTIVITIES ALSO IGNORES THE THOUSANDS OF FARM PROGENY NOW STREAMING BACK TO TAKE PART IN THE AG BOOM. TRUST ME, IT'S NOT FOND MEMORIES OF HANDLING PESTICIDES, BUT LUCRATIVE SELF-EMPLOYMENT THAT BRINGS THEM HOME.

HOWEVER, FARMING WILL UNDOUBTEDLY REMAIN THE LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO CHILD INJURY AND DEATH IN THE WORKPLACE. IT APPEARS TO BE A COST WE CONSIDER UNAVOIDABLE.

Viewer Reaction #1:

I am glad the Department of Labor changed their minds. I was raised in Iowa and helped work on my uncle's farms in Minnesota and Iowa until I was 18. I miss getting up and feeding the livestock and chickens every day and baling hay. OUTSIDE work is the best job I ever had and try to do that now at 62 just mowing yards.

Arthur Kallansrud
 

Viewer Reaction #2:

Great comments about the young returning to the farm to enjoy the rewards of hard work from self-employment. Unfortunately, unless highly subsidized from a family member, it's only a dream for many energetic young men and ladies. Current prices of land, machinery, and input expenses have definitely put farming into the High Risk Jobs category. Enjoy your show and thanks for helping us tell our story with correct, factual information.

Rock Katschnig
The "K" Ranch

Viewer Reaction #3:

My dad put me on the new IH 560 when I was five years old in 1960. We headed out to the north to go to Bellona, N.Y. I was between his legs and I steered the tractor. Between that and finding out that I ate some of my pet cow for dinner the night before. Then dad told me I had a new pet cow. You can eat your pet and get a new one. Dad sold out in 1963 and then the big circle around the outside of ag.

Well, if not for all that was done in those early days, I would have never been infected enough to want to farm. I started farming last year and got caught in the drought. The worst crops I ever had. So that statement you made on April 28 the money is bring the kids back to the farm. Maybe. I think a lot of it is genetic. Why else would someone start into something as grueling as farming at age 40 or older? You farm and you also know the different outfits that discouraged their kids not to farm. They pushed to get them to do anything but farm. I was one of those. I got lucky and made it back. I started from scratch and now own more equipment than Dad did. I hope to grow to a size that will support me so I can farm for as long as I want. The price of corn and beans have got high enough to make it possible for me to farm. If the price didn't go up, I don't think there would be many farmers left.

I watch all of you on Channel 68 at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning. You have a very good show. Question: How many of you have a Droid phone? Like a RAZR phone. Maybe once or twice a month, do a segment on the Droid phone and the apps it supports. Did you know that there is an app that can start the dump pit and dryer and the rest of the facility, all from the cab of your truck? The reason is to get these older guys who can't get past their flip phone. It might help them to move up to the present. Thank you.

Crawford McFetridge

Viewer Reaction #4:

I am seeing posts of hoorays and yeas about the latest news: "Department of Labor withdraws rule dealing with children working on farms." I too am glad that the Department of Labor withdrew from governing the work and chores of youngsters who live on a farm and work on the farm, BUT...now it is the responsibility of the parents to educate these kids about the dangers of the areas of the farm.

Almost each day, the national office of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids posts an accident or death on their Facebook page that happened on the farm somewhere in the United States. Is it any wonder why the Department of Labor felt they needed to govern the work of kids on the farm? Just like I wanted for my kids and grandkids, I want all kids to have a good work ethic and know how to work safely on the farm and become the future farmers.

To all farm parents: Take this moment right now to start teaching your child how to be safe on the farm and not just send them out to do adult work without the knowledge of what the work entails. These are your kids, and it is your responsibility to keep your kids safe as well as the kids who visit the farm. Make rules and make sure these rules are understood and that all kids abide by the set rules and safety regulations:
http://ocj.com/2012/04/department-of-labor-withdrawls-rule-dealing-with-children-working-on-farms/

Jane Brown
Arcanum, OH
Working member of the Darke County (Ohio) Farm Safety 4 Just Kids
 



 

Pink Slime: Label or Not???

Apr 09, 2012

   John's comment a couple of weeks ago about 'pink slime,' elicited a rather loud exclamation of, "YES!" from me.  But, I talked myself out of sending a congratulatory message at that time.  Your additional comments today as you answered a question about mechanically separated meat in other proteins prompted an "Exactly!" and a decision to write.
   I think a useful add on to all of John's observations is to note that chicken and turkey producers DO list mechanically separated meat on their package labels.  As a die hard label reader, I choose to not buy products that use mechanically separated meat.  This is where the beef producers are at a disconnect.  Many, if not most, consumers may choose to buy ground beef products that include the LFTB/'pink slime.'  The key word here is choose.  Consumers are not going to accept reassurances that this  product is 'safe & wholesome' when the entities putting it in their food do not disclose its presence and fight to continue to not disclose its presence.
   I would have thought that this would have been a no-brainer for the marketing folks involved with this issue.  They could have forestalled much of the backlash by taking ownership of the undisclosed use of the product.  Producers from all sectors of the economy have a bad track record in disclosing harmful, potentially harmful, or unattractive elements in their products.  (NB:  Observe the proliferation of daytime & late night advertising by product liability attorneys.)  A well crafted statement early on in this brouhaha acknowledging the use of the LFTB and why it has not been previously disclosed coupled with a well publicized request to USDA to include a disclosure statement on all packaged ground beef, would have nipped much of this in the bud.  Instead this controversy continues almost unabated nearly six weeks from its start.  I would counsel the leadership and board members of all beef production organizations to take at least one good course on the principles of effective marketing, and either shop around for new PR contractors or start listening to those folks when situations such as this arise in the future.  (We all can rest assured that they shall.)
   As a final note, I would refer everyone to the fall out from the Watergate break-in.  The Nixon White House stonewalled and denied for weeks.  Now ask yourselves, how did that work out for them?  If you are too young to remember this incident, just think back to your childhood and ask yourselves, what were the consequences when Mom caught yu doing something she may not have expressly forbidden but you were old enough to know you oughtn't do?
Sincerely,
Cindy Wilsey
Minneapolis, MN

***Editor's Note:  Below is a transcript of the Mailbag segment referred to in the viewer comment above...

   TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAILBAG....MY REFERENCE TO THE PINK SLIME CONTROVERSY PROMPTED THIS QUESTION FROM PAM STONE. 

"I SUDDENLY HAD A DISQUIETING THOUGHT: IS THERE "WHITE SLIME" IN GROUND CHICKEN AND GROUND TURKEY?"
 
   CONSIDER THE POWER OF LANGUAGE HERE. THE BEEF INDUSTRY IS IRATE ABOUT THE BLATANTLY DEROGATORY TERM PINK SLIME. BUT THE PROBLEM IS FEW PEOPLE KNEW THE CORRECT NAME WHEN THE PHOTOS STARTED HITTING THE INTERNET. IT IS OBVIOUSLY PINK AND IT LOOKS SLIMY, ALTHOUGH PASTE MIGHT BE A MORE ACCURATE DESCRIPTION. LEAN FINELY TEXTURED BEEF WAS NOT ON LABELS OR WIDELY SPOKEN ABOUT. TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, THERE IS NO WHITE SLIME, BUT THERE IS A SIMILAR MECHANICALLY-SEPARATED PRODUCT FOR POULTRY. IT TOO IS JUST AS SAFE AS WHOLE MEAT.
   BUT THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE NAME, DESPITE THE MEAT INDUSTRY MEDIA-BASHING. IT'S ABOUT THE DISGUST REACTION HARDWIRED DEEP IN OUR BRAINS. IT'S WHY I DON'T EAT RAW OYSTERS, FOR EXAMPLE. THE AMMONIA DOESN'T HELP EITHER. ADDING SECURITY TO PROCESSING PLANTS AND EXPECTING RATIONAL ARGUMENTS TO OVERRIDE THIS INSTINCT IS PROBABLY NOT GOING TO WORK.
   TWO THINGS NEED TO CHANGE HERE. FIRST CONSUMERS NEED RECOGNIZE THE REAL TRADEOFFS. IF YOU WANT FOOD FAST, EASY, TASTY AND CHEAP, DON'T BE SURPRISED WHEN HOW IT GETS MADE IS A LOWER PRIORITY. THE MEAT INDUSTRY NEED TO GROW UP TOO. THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOUR BUSINESS PLAN TO CONTAIN THE PHRASE "NOBODY WILL EVER FIND OUT".
 

John's World: Tricky Machinery

Apr 02, 2012

***Editor's Note:  "John's World" generated interesting response from our audience.  Below we're sharing a transcript of John's comments, followed by viewer reaction:

JOHN"S WORLD:

I REALIZE MANY OF YOU MAY JUST HAVE EATEN, BUT I'M AFRAID I WILL BE BRINGING UP A TOPIC TODAY THAT MAY PROVOKE A STRONG VISCERAL REACTION. I'M TALKING ABOUT THIS YEAR'S FIRST DAY ON OUR FARM.

LIKE ANY STARTUP, THE FIRST DAY OF PLANTING OR HARVEST ALMOST NEVER PROCEEDS ACCORDING TO PLAN, BUT SINCE WE WERE INITIATING A NEW PLANTER, NEW TRACTOR AND NEW COMPUTER SYSTEM - ALL FROM DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS - WE WERE PREPARED FOR CONSIDERABLE EFFORT TO GET GOING.

WE'RE NOW AT 87 HOURS AND COUNTING ON THIS 2012 FIRST DAY, AND WE ARE FACING THE MOTHER OF ALL TROUBLESHOOTING CHALLENGES: THE INTERMITTENT FAILURE. SOMETIMES EVERYTHING WORKS FINE, THEN SUDDENLY STOPS. SOMETIMES IT'S THE LEFT SIDE, THEN THE RIGHT.

WE'VE SWAPPED PARTS, CLEANED CONTACTS, REPLACED WIRES, REPROGRAMMED, AND STILL HAVE NOT IDENTIFIED THE PROBLEM. I'LL BET TV'S DOCTOR HOUSE COULDN'T DIAGNOSE THIS ONE.

WE'VE CALLED IN EXPERT HELP, AND THEY HAVE GIVEN IT THEIR BEST SHOT, BUT ODDLY SEEM TO ALL SUGGEST THE PROBLEM IS WITH THE OTHER EQUIPMENT, NOT THEIRS.

IT MAKES ME NOSTALGIC FOR THE DAYS WHEN MACHINES DIDN'T FAIL, BUT BROKE. THE TERM SAYS IT ALL. THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ONE PIECE WERE TWO OR SEVERAL. BIG CHUNKS FELL OFF IN THE FIELD. BREAKDOWNS HAD OBVIOUS CAUSES. GREMLINS HAVE MORE DEVIOUS TOOLS NOW.

HOWEVER, I AM CONFIDENT WE'LL EVENTUALLY THRASH THESE PROBLEMS OUT. IF HISTORY IS ANY GUIDE, HOWEVER, IT WILL BE SEVERAL SEASONS BEFORE WE TRULY TRUST THESE MACHINES FULLY.

 

Viewer Response #1:  John - your report this morning about new equipment hit home here!  Last year we bought a new forage chopper.  The metal alert kept going off every few feet.  After 3 hours the frustrated mechanic started pulling on wires and found a loose wire in the chopper control panel. Problem fixed.  A day or so later the PTO assembly flew off the machine and wiped out all the hoses!  Again a loose nut.  Factory quality control is apparently lacking.  They don't realize how much stress and loss they create on the farm. Start pulling wires and tighten up the nuts. Good luck.  

Dale & Teressa Jensen

Viewer Response #2: John - my son recently paid our local dealer almost $900 to chase down a single broken wire that disabled his hay cutter.  It took 5 days, numerous calls to the factory, and several trips to the farm. These fly by wire machines may spell trouble ahead.
Fred Lundgren
Katy, TX 

 

 

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