Archive for June, 2009

Creation of Ohio Livestock Board Riles HSUS

COLUMBUS, OH – The effort to create a Livestock Care and Standards Board which would establish a framework for making livestock care decisions in Ohio, has been called “disingenuous” by the HSUS.

Much like the referendum process in Colorado, if approved, joint resolutions in the Ohio state House and Senate would place the measure on the November 3, 2009 Ohio general election ballot.

The board will comprise a broad base of experts in livestock and poultry care, including three family farmers, two veterinarians (one of whom is the state veterinarian), a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two members representing Ohio consumers. The purpose of the group will be to promulgate standards of care and wellbeing of livestock animals in the state.

The move has riled the Humane Society of the United States President, Wayne Pacelle, who calls the measure a “special interest power grab” in an official statement and demands Ohio leaders “insist that the Ohio Farm Bureau and other agribusiness groups” work cooperatively with his organization. The organization has also threatened to launch a statewide ballot initiative for November 3, 2010 if their demands were not met. The potential initiative would be very similar to Proposition 2, the HSUS led measure which passed last year in California.

This is not the first time HSUS has made threats to file an initiative if industry leaders did not sufficiently cooperate with HSUS demands. Last February HSUS officials sat down with Ohio Farm Bureau and other Ohio commodity groups and disclosed their intention to reform animal welfare in the state. The Ohio Farm Bureau has not agreed to work with the animal rights organization.

Farmers and Ranchers Speak Out

Ohio farmer Bob Peterson testifies for SJR 6, while his family looks on.

On Wednesday, both the Ohio House and Senate Ag committees heard testimony on the resolution. Farmers and ranchers from across the state gave testimony supporting the measure. In addition to Farm Bureau leaders, representatives from the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, the Ohio Poultry Producers, the Ohio Soy Council, the Ohio Pork Council, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, the Ohio Corn Growers and the Ohio Department of Agriculture were on hand to deliver expert testimony to lawmakers.

“Animal care is a top priority for Ohio farmers – it’s the right thing to do and it keeps our animals safe, healthy and disease-free,” said Bob Peterson, a Fayette County farmer and an Ohio Farm Bureau state trustee, during Senate testimony.

Staff from the Ohio Farm Bureau was on hand to report on the proceedings, recording audio clips and using the social networking site Twitter, to keep those who were not present up to date.

Dean Vickers, a representative of HSUS was on hand to testify against the resolution in House Ag, and committed a slight Freudian slip, saying that the “Ohio Farm Bureau has disingenuous intent while driving this issue” (emphasis added). Later in Senate Ag, Mr. Vickers told lawmakers that the measure was a “power grab” by “big Ag”, and that his organization wants a “serious look” at “factory farming.”

By far one of the most cogent comments of the day came from Ohio Rep. Jeff Wagner, who in response to HSUS testimony, asked, “I started out with 200 pigs and worked my way up to 2000. At what point did I stop caring for my animals?”

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‘Car of the Heartland’ Unveiled in Denver

Furniture Row Racing recently unveiled its new concept NASCAR racer, ‘The Car of the Heartland’ The ceremony was done to the attendees of the AFBF Public Relations Conference in Denver.

The idea behind the car is to raise awareness about agriculture in American life. In addition to the roll-out of the car, Farm Bureau communicators were treated to an in depth tour of the Furniture Row NASCAR garage. On hand to answer questions were many members of the Furniture Row Racing staff and their driver Regan Smith. The genesis of the ‘Car of the Heartland’ began with Pat Driscoll, Corporate Relations for Furniture Row Racing. A former farm broadcaster, it is clear that Pat has a love for both racing, and for agriculture.

Blogger Chuck Zimmerman did a short interview with Pat about the concept. You can also view more pictures of the car on the Colorado Farm Bureau Flickr page.

Drought Tolerant Corn Unveiled

Scientists from Monsanto and BASF have unveiled the discovery of a naturally occurring gene can help corn plants combat drought conditions and confer yield stability during periods of inadequate water supplies. The companies stated that they will use the gene in their first-generation, drought-tolerant corn product that is designed to provide yield stability to farmers. This product will be the first biotechnology-derived, drought-tolerant crop in the world.

The announcement comes at a time when recent studies, including one by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, are warning of declining crop yields and global food shortages as a result of climate change. According to a United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization report prepared for ministers of the G-8, the number and duration of dry spells, especially in already drought-prone areas, is expected to increase.

House Ag Committee Grills Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack began his testimony before the House Agriculture Committee shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday and didn’t leave the table until nearly 6 p.m. as committee members peppered him with questions on how H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, will impact agriculture. Vilsack did have a brief break from the hot seat, when committee members took a brief recess for a floor vote.

Vilsack did not endorse or oppose the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, but he did say he supported the concept of the measure. He told committee members he respected the role they will play in crafting the legislation and there is clearly a lot of work to be done on the bill.

Many committee members stressed to Vilsack that USDA, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), should run an offset program for agriculture. The House bill does not specify which projects would qualify for carbon offsets, and instead would leave that to EPA.

Several committee members said USDA is best positioned to oversee the offsets due to its experience, resources and extensive rural network of offices. “Leaving these offsets at the discretion of the EPA makes me nervous,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R- Va.).

But Vilsack said it was premature to hand the responsibility solely to USDA and insisted the program was better positioned to be shared by EPA, USDA and other departments.

Vilsack acknowledged that the bill would create additional costs for agriculture, but said “if we do it right, I know the benefits will outweigh the costs” because of the proven ability of the U.S. to innovate. He provided no specific details on how agriculture would benefit, but did say that improvements in seed technology could reduce costs and the need for energy-based inputs.

In response to a question, Vilsack said USDA has not done a cost or impact study of the legislation and is instead waiting on a study from EPA.

Drop in Soybean Stocks Biggest News in WASDE Report

Due to increased domestic soybean crushings and higher projected exports, the Agriculture Department reduced U.S. soybean stocks by 20 million bushels, from 130 million bushels to 110 million bushels. Terry Francl, senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, sees the potential for even lower U.S. soybean stocks due to improved exports.

USDA released its June World Agricultural Supply and Demand estimates (WASDE) Wednesday, and Francl said the biggest news in the report is the 20 million bushel drop in soybean stocks.

“Many analysts were expecting an even bigger drop in soybean stocks due to strong crushing demand and a robust export picture, but the USDA estimate is pretty much in line with what I expected,” Francl said. “However, by the time the crop year ends on Aug. 31, I would expect projected soybean exports to increase another 20 million to 30 million bushels.”

The latest WASDE report made no adjustment to soybean yields, holding the number at trend line projections.

Ag Republicans Ask for More Time on Climate Change

House Agriculture Committee Republicans have asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for more time to consider H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey climate change and energy bill. Previously, Pelosi told the committee they had until Friday to consider the bill.

In a news release issued Wednesday, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), ranking member, and his 17 Republican colleagues on the committee sent a letter to Pelosi reminding her that the current timeline has allowed the committee to hold just one public hearing on the bill with no time for a mark-up. The letter also pointed out, “To date, only the Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Rep. Henry Waxman is the chair, has been able to hold a mark-up, out of the nine committees that have jurisdiction of the bill.”

“All witnesses said they could not support the bill,” the Republicans noted, referring to the committee’s June 11 hearing with testimony from eight witnesses (including American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman) to review the impact of H.R. 2454 on ruralAmerica. “Beyond these witnesses, 99 agriculture organizations have already publicly expressed opposition to the bill and more are added to the list each day. This is indicative of the growing concerns we are hearing throughout the agriculture community,” the letter stated.

Dust Rules Draw Concern

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