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‘Regional Issues—West’ Wildfires remain a threat | 4
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Supreme Court ruling reaffirms need for ag labor reform | 6
No. 13 fbnews.org
Farm Bureau, livestock groups address Consumers Union attack on antibiotics Using balanced information about the challenges, benefits and realities of the various approaches to raising and processing livestock and poultry—including the use of antibiotics when necessary— consumers can make informed choices about what they buy, eat and feed to their families, the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than a dozen other agriculture-related organizations recently wrote to Congress. The letter addresses the many
misconceptions and inaccuracies in a recent Consumers Union report, “Meat on Drugs.” The report is part of a Consumers Union campaign of the same name. The very title of the report, the groups said, is misleading and meant to inflame. “Our U.S. meat and poultry supply is ‘without drugs’,” they wrote. “Livestock and poultry are sometimes treated with antibiotics to prevent, control and treat disease, but strict withdrawal periods
must be used to ensure that no residues are contained in the products we consume, and federal data shows that the system works.” Farm Bureau and the other organizations said they encourage a dialogue about the use of antibiotics, but they remain adamant that antibiotics, when used properly, are critical to making food safe. Antibiotics Continued on Page 3
GM Private Offer drives members’ purchases | 7
Poor growing conditions affect grain supply, demand Dry weather continued to influence the crop outlook in the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released by the Agriculture Department.
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House Ag Committee approves farm bill The House Agriculture Committee on July 12 passed its version of the 2012 farm bill. The vote readies the bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R. 6083), for consideration by the full House and brings the farm bill a critical step closer to a conference with the Senate, which passed its version last month. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman commended House Agriculture Committee members for approving a “fiscally responsible, bipartisan measure that continues to provide a basic-but-broad foundation of risk management protection for America’s farmers and ranchers.” The committee vote was 35-11. “Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), committee chairman, in a statement. Lucas also noted that the current farm bill will expire Sept. 30 and only 13 legislative days remain before Congress leaves for its August recess. The House farm bill eliminates the farm program’s direct payments, Average Crop Revenue Election payments and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments or disaster payments, as does the Senate-passed bill. The committee said it was replacing the programs with a policy that would save more than $14 billion. The House farm bill would consolidate the current 23 separate
conservation programs into 13, cutting the cost of the programs by more than $6 billion. AFBF included consolidation of conservation programs in its farm bill recommendations earlier this year. The bill also would cut more than $16 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. That’s $12 billion more than the cuts in the Senate-passed bill, and the provision is expected to draw opposition on the House floor from both sides of the aisle. Some members want more cuts; some don’t want any. Stallman said the bill needs work, and there will be opportunities to make it better. “Just as with the Senate farm bill, there are provisions we think could be improved—and we will continue working with leadership of both committees as the process moves forward,” he said. “But at a time when bipartisan compromise is such a challenge in Washington, it is refreshing to see agriculture, through our elected leaders, set a clear example of working together on building a package of reforms in a fiscally responsible manner.” He said Farm Bureau was hopeful that a farm bill could be completed by Sept. 30. Southern peanut and rice producer groups that opposed the Senate bill, saying its reliance on the crop insurance program and Agriculture Risk Coverage
(ARC) provision would not provide an adequate safety net for their members, have endorsed the House bill. The bill sets high reference prices for those commodities under a new Price Loss Coverage program, increasing the likelihood that farmers will get farm payments when commodity prices decline. The House bill also contains a new Revenue Loss Coverage provision that is similar to the Senate’s ARC program. Some of the areas of the House farm bill that AFBF said, before the committee approved it, would benefit from additional work included: 1) ensuring equitable price support across all commodities; 2) ensuring the programs use a “planted acres” approach to determining eligible acres; 3) keeping current payment limitations and income limits rather than lowering them; and 4) making payments more timely, rather than a year after a loss occurs, and simplifying the program’s base-acre formula. “Fundamentally, Farm Bureau continues to support a single program option for the commodity title that extends to all crops,” Stallman wrote to committee members ahead of the vote. “We believe the safety net should be comprised of a strong crop insurance program, with continuation of the marketing loan program and a catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses for each crop.”
July 16, 2012
To feed the world: Building a framework for global biotech By Wendell Shauman Agricultural biotechnology, no longer a new technology, is rapidly maturing internationally and in the U.S. This presents the industry with certain challenges. Among the most important is the need to develop consensus on key legal and regulatory issues in order to avoid uncertainty in the market and needless litigation. Industry groups are hard at work forging workable accords on these questions. And the stakes are high. The world’s feedgrain surpluses will be largely in North and South America, while the bulk of projected demand growth is in Asia and Africa. Increased production and harmonized trade rules to sustain global progress are essential. At the same time, farmers are being challenged to grow more with less; this is where biotechnology plays an important role. Enhancing public understanding of scientific advances in agriculture and improving the legal and regulatory environment on biotech issues are essential to the industry’s success. Years of experience have clearly demonstrated the safety and reliability of scientifically enhanced crops. Biotech acreage continues to increase around the world, building familiarity and confidence in the technology. Biotech research is also being internationalized, creating a more competitive environment for U.S. technol-
ogy leaders in global markets that should, over time, see foreign policymakers taking a more nuanced view of the sector as their own technology providers enter the field. A U.S. Grains Council team, for example, recently met with key South American agricultural leaders who expressed an interest in exploring common ground with the U.S. on market access and biotech regulatory issues. This is an important signal of changing perspectives. China has seen rapid growth of its middle class, challenging the country to increase its agricultural productivity. It likely will undergo an evolution with regard to biotech and intellectual property issues as its homegrowntechnology portfolio expands. A final complication is the fact that a number of seed traits will be coming off patent over the next few years in the U.S., providing an opening for new entrants into the field. As with pharmaceuticals and chemical products, the emergence of generics raises myriad issues. Using a generic agricultural biotech trait is even more complex than in the case of pharmaceuticals and chemical products, because it is not a stand-alone product but, rather, delivered in a seed product that is likely to be protected by separate intellectual property protection. A broad-based industry group is now working to develop appropriate protocols that will provide a systematic path to ensure the continued marketability of traits once the patents expire, both in the U.S. and its export markets.
These protocols need to be developed in a timely manner, while ensuring that they are strong enough to both protect intellectual property rights and provide for a smooth transition to a marketplace for generics. Building a sustainable framework for global biotech is a work in progress. Consensus will be difficult to achieve. But the world needs to double food production over the next two generations, so building this framework is a challenge we must all work to meet.
In addition to serving as the chairman of the United States Grains Council board of directors, Wendell Shauman has served on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. He and his wife, Janet, operate a corn and soybean farm in Western Illinois near the Mississippi River. Their farm operation also includes a small cowherd.
Mandatory labeling of biotech foods not beneficial By Emily Brundick American consumers enjoy myriad food options when they enter the grocery store. And, depending upon the thickness of their wallet and personal preference, they can also choose how their food was raised: cage free eggs, grassfed beef, organic soy. The list is long. Enterprising producers and food companies have developed many products that meet consumer demand to know more about the food they eat. One example of this valueadded marketing is food that is voluntarily labeled as being produced without the use of crops enhanced through modern biotechnology. Soon, however, Californians will vote on whether to take biotech food labeling to the next level. And the results could be dire. In November, California voters will decide just how much information they want government to mandate on food labels. Proposition 37, California’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Foods Act, will require all food products that contain ingredients derived from biotechnology to
be clearly labeled as “Genetically Engineered.” If passed, California would be the first state to require mandatory labeling of biotechnology in food, and other states could quickly follow. If, as advocates claim, consumers have a “right to know” how their food was produced, then why is Proposition 37 and mandatory labeling not all it’s cracked up to be? First, there are zero safety benefits from mandatory biotech labeling. All biotech crops are rigorously reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Agriculture Department (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency before being grown and sold commercially. These regulatory agencies ensure the health and safety of biotechnology based upon scientific reasoning, not market preferences. And the science is clear on the safety of biotechnology. For example, in June the American Medical Association reaffirmed its long-held position that: “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class,” and “voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accom-
Don Lipton, Executive Director, Public Relations Lynne Finnerty, Editor Erin Anthony, Assistant Editor Phyllis Brown, Assistant Editor Sarah Bittner, Contributing Writer
July 16, 2012 Vol. 91
panied by focused consumer education.” No matter what shoppers decide to purchase, whether it has biotech ingredients or not, they can rest assured their food is safe. Second, mandatory labels of biotech foods won’t provide consumers with any real, meaningful information. The FDA already monitors food labels. Under current science-based policy, biotechderived food that is equivalent in nutrition and composition to traditional plant breeds does not require a special label. Imposing mandates that are based simply on marketing differences isn’t what consumers expect of federal regulators, whose role is to protect health and safety. Marking packages as “Genetically Engineered” would mislead consumers into thinking there is something to fear from biotechnology, which we know from science and experience is simply not true. In fact, unprompted, biotechnology barely crosses consumers’ minds when asked about additional information they would like to see on food labels. For example, a recent study conducted by the International Food Information Council showed that a negligible
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number of consumers, only about 3 percent, had a desire to add biotech information to labels. Third, individuals who choose to avoid biotech ingredients may do so by purchasing certified USDA Organic or other products that companies have voluntarily labeled as produced without biotechnology. Farm Bureau supports voluntary marketing initiatives of all kinds to ensure agriculture is responding to consumer preferences and to provide valueadded opportunities for farmers and ranchers. Those types of identity-preserved market alternatives depend upon differentiation from conventional products to justify the additional cost to consumers. Mandatory labeling of all biotech products could inadvertently reduce value in niche markets for growers once marketing information is required on every label. Finally, mandatory labeling would not only mislead consumers and affect the immediate cost of food and food production; it would also likely suppress longterm agricultural innovation and Biotech Continued on Page 6
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July 16, 2012
Field to Market report shows conservation, sustainability gains A new report released by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, demonstrates how U.S. farmers are producing six commodity crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice and potatoes) more efficiently than they did 30 years ago. There also have been major improvements in farm safety and economic sustainability for producers, according to the Field to Market National Report released July 12. “Producer involvement is key in developing sustainable agriculture metrics that resonate with all levels of the supply chain,” said Bob Young, American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist and director for budget and economic analysis. “This report takes a look at the sustainability story growers have to tell from inside the farm gate, where all food production starts.” AFBF is a member of Field to
“This report takes a look at the sustainability story growers have to tell from inside the farm gate, where all food production starts.” Market, a collaborative stakeholder group of producers, agribusinesses, retail companies, conservation organizations, universities and agency partners that are working together to define, measure and develop a supply-chain system for agricultural sustainability. Stewart Ramsey, principal and senior economist at IHS Global Insight, which conducted the
analyses for the report, noted, “Sustainability for agriculture is a complex, multidimensional topic; the intent of this report is to bring together best available data and science to inform the conversation and provide a picture of U.S. agriculture’s sustainability changes over the past three decades.” Developed by a diverse group of stakeholders, the report analyzes national-scale trends in environmental and socioeconomic progress. The analyses rely on publicly available data to estimate performance on 11 agricultural sustainability indicators ranging from soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions to labor hours and debtto-asset ratios. The trends provide broad context and a baseline for monitoring future change. Fred Luckey, chairman of Field to Market, describes the report as “an innovative, scientific and collaborative way to define and measure outcomes for sustainable agriculture. The report reflects significant progress as well as continued opportunities for improvement in the face of real sustainability challenges.” “Farmers have a great story to tell about improving conservation on their lands. We still have a lot of work ahead to meet the dual needs of production and sustainability. The way to get there is through partnerships like Field to Market and using better science and better tools to make documentable improvements in the footprint of commodity production,” said Suzy Friedman, deputy director, working lands, at Environmental Defense Fund. The report finds that, over the study period, all six crops showed progress in improving resource
use and impact per unit of production on all five environmental indicators (land use, soil erosion, irrigation water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions). For example, soil erosion per unit of production has improved 47 percent to 67 percent. Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production have decreased between 15 percent and more than 42 percent for all crops. Improvements in efficiency were driven, at least in part, by improvements in yield for all crops, ranging from 25 percent to 64 percent. Due in part to overall increases in production for five of the six crops (excluding wheat) and increases in total land use for four of the six crops (excluding potatoes and wheat), total resource use/impact increased for many crops on many indicators. Per-acre resource use/impact was more variable across crops. For socioeconomic indicators, the indicators for debt-to-asset ratio, fatalities and non-fatal injuries decreased (improved) over their respective time periods and farm classification. Returns over variable costs have been inconsistent over the indicator’s respective time period, but have been increasing for all crops, excluding cotton, since approximately 2002, and for cotton since 2009. Labor hours have decreased for all crops per unit of production and, excluding wheat, per planted acre. Overall, the agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP has increased over the explored time period in absolute terms but decreased as a share of the total economy. “Agriculture plays an important role in helping America achieve meaningful environmental and
The report finds that, over the study period, all six crops showed progress in improving resource use and impact per unit of production on all five environmental indicators (land use, soil erosion, irrigation water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions). sustainability gains,” said Steve Peterson, sourcing director, General Mills. “With the growing demand for increased food production, there is no better option than to do so safely—sustaining our planet’s land, water and natural resources for future generations. We have a long history of working closely with farmers to promote sustainable agriculture. The latest trends report demonstrates progress that aids our sustainability efforts throughout the supply chain.” The report is an update to Field to Market’s first report released in 2009. Field to Market defines sustainable agriculture as meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, including through increasing productivity and improving the environment, human health and economic well-being of agricultural communities. For more information about Field to Market or to read the full report, visit www.fieldtomarket. org.
Livestock groups address Consumers Union attack on antibiotics Continued from page 1 While offering to meet with lawmakers and their staff to help them better understand the livestock and poultry industry and producers’ commitment to consumers’ desires and demands, the groups said they were compelled to immediately address a few of the assertions in the Consumers Union report. From the report: “Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on people, but on factory farm animals, to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions. This is creating ‘superbugs’ on farms to which humans are being exposed and causing life-saving drugs to become less effective.” The groups responded that there is no comparable human and animal data that makes possible an analysis of what percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for humans versus animals. “Fully 40 percent of the animal antibiotics counted are compounds not used in human medicine and therefore, their use in animals cannot be compared with those used in humans,” they wrote. In addition, the groups pointed out, 97 percent of all farms are
“The issue of antibiotic resistance is scientifically complex and cannot be addressed with simple solutions—at best, such solutions are ineffective and in some situations, could make the problem worse.” family-owned, not corporate factories, and the antibiotics are allowed for four specific and discrete uses: treatment of disease, control of disease, prevention of disease and growth promotion/ feed efficiency. The only data indicating how much is used for growth promotion/feed efficiency comes from an Animal Health Institute survey last conducted in 2007, which indicates only 13 percent of the total antibiotics used was for growth promotion/feed efficiency. Regarding the accusation of crowded and unsanitary conditions, the livestock and poultry groups clarified that much of animal production has moved indoors because it enhances producers’ ability to separate animals from their waste, protect them
from predators and other diseasecarrying wildlife and shield them from weather extremes. The number of animals in these facilities is based on scientific analysis to optimize animal health and productivity. “Additionally, producers work with veterinarians and other animal health professionals to monitor and manage disease risks, which not only minimize the medicine and treatment labor costs but also contribute to producing safe, wholesome livestock and poultry for the food processing sectors,” the letter said. The groups said they’ve been encouraged by the significant changes taking place in the regulation of antibiotics, including the process initiated by the FDA to extend veterinary oversight of medically important antibiotics used in animal agriculture, which includes elimination of the growth promotion uses of these compounds. “Our members are working with FDA to enact these changes and believe these efforts work to address consumers’ calls for the elimination of growth promotion uses,” the groups wrote. Equally as important, producers strongly believe in strict adherence to prescribed withdrawal
periods when using antibiotics to prevent antibiotic residues in meat and poultry. “Finally, the issue of antibiotic resistance is scientifically complex and cannot be addressed with simple solutions—at best, such solutions are ineffective and in some situations, could make the problem worse,” the groups caution. Along with Farm Bureau, the organizations that signed the letter include the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, American Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Agriculture Alliance, Animal Health Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. The letter was sent to the House and Senate Agriculture committees, as well as the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees in both chambers.
New Mexico ranchers back bill to protect both their livelihood and regional mountains Like farmers, ranchers and wilderness groups, Democrats and Republicans don’t often find themselves on the same side of an issue. An exception to the rule concerns the pro-
tection of New Mexico’s Organ Mountains, a fact noted by Matt Rush, executive vice president of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, when he testified recently before the House Natural Resourc-
New Mexico rancher Matt Rush urges Congress to pass a bill that would permanently protect the 58,000 acre Organ/Franklin Mountains by turning the area into a national monument, while also maintaining existing water rights and ensuring motorized vehicle access on existing roads.
es Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Land. Organ Mountains is in Dona Ana County in the southern part of the state. Rush spoke on behalf of NMF&LB in favor of Rep. Steve Pearce’s (R-N.M.) Organ Mountains National Monument Establishment Act (H.R. 4334), which would permanently protect the 58,000 acre Organ/Franklin Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern by turning it into a national monument. The legislation would maintain existing water rights, ensure motorized vehicle access on existing roads, permanently withdraw the land from mineral exploration and ensure that new roads will not be constructed without the consent of the U.S. Interior secretary. Rush reminded the committee that several previous proposals have failed because the land mass that lawmakers wanted to include was too large and the wilderness designation was too restrictive. “The reality is that the majority of citizens do not want a desig-
nation so large that it would take away a full 25 percent of our county when so much of Dona Ana County and the surrounding area is already under federal control,” he said. Only 15 percent of Dona Ana County is privately owned. Rush explained that county residents have many concerns about adding to the county’s federal holdings, not the least of which is the impact it would have on ranching, which has been part of the culture and customs of that region since the King of Spain awarded land grants in 1598. “If alternative proposals are approved, it would all but eliminate ranching in our county and a vital cowboy culture would be lost,” Rush said. “The other fear that we have is that the people’s voice will be lost with a simple stroke of the executive pen through the Antiquities Act.” Pearce’s bill, he said, would ensure that the citizens of Dona Ana County are heard loud and clear.
Montana landowners oppose free-roaming bison Fires are a concern in Montana, as in much of the West, but the really hot issue is an entirely different force of nature that soon could be racing across the prairie: free-roaming bison. American bison are not on the federal list of endangered or threatened species. There are bison farms across the West as consumer demand for lean bison meat has grown. However, the only wild populations are in parks or conservation areas. Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest herd in Montana and possibly the U.S. The state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is proposing to relocate wild bison from the Yellowstone herd and possibly other herds to restore free-roaming populations outside the park. No one really knows yet what the state’s final plan will be for the reintroductions—where the bison will be and how many will be placed there —according to Nicole Rolf, a regional manager and legislative assistant at the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF). But she says that MFBF is concerned that the state is moving forward in the face of public opposition and despite farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns about their property. “It’s an infringement on private property rights,” says Rolf. “Farmers and ranchers are concerned about damage to fences, hay yards, wheat fields—anything that could be damaged by these wild animals.” In fact, MFBF says small releases of bison in the past already have resulted in property damage. Bison are enormous animals. Males can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Both the males and females have sharp horns. They eat a variety of vegetation, including grass and hay. Introduc-
ing them to public lands, where cattle ranchers graze their livestock under federal permit, creates competition for grazing land, Rolf explained. “There are deer, elk and other wild animals grazing on those lands too,” she acknowledged. “But if you add bison, there’s just that much more added pressure. They eat a lot more than a deer does.” If ranchers’ grazing permits are cut back because of over-grazing by bison, schools also will pay a price. Rolf says that under state law any lease for using public lands—for grazing, oil and gas development, etc.—raises money for public schools. The public also should be concerned about the potential of run-ins with bison, according to Rolf. “No matter where you put bison, they’re going to roam. There’s no saying they won’t come into towns, rural subdivisions or into somebody’s yard,” she said. That concern may be heightened now. In June, a tourist visiting Yellowstone was gored by a bison. While it appears the man may not have followed park rules concerning keeping a safe distance from the animals and he is expected to recover from his injuries, the incident shows the potential danger when bison and people get too close. Another concern for ranchers is keeping their cattle free of brucellosis, a disease that causes pregnant cattle, bison and elk to miscarry. Ranchers have followed rigorous quarantine and testing regimes and worked hard to gain brucellosis-free status for their state. Brucellosis can remain transmissible in
birthing material for weeks after a birth or miscarriage. If cattle and bison are on the same grazing lands or if bison are free to roam into areas where ranchers keep livestock, it’s going to make it that much more difficult to eradicate the disease. Rolf says the last reservoir of brucellosis in Montana is in bison and elk. “FWP claims the bison are going to be disease-free,” she said, “but there’s still concern about how to ensure they stay disease-free and what to do if they become infected.” Vaccination for brucellosis has not been allowed at Yellowstone. The park is home to the only wild bison population; once they leave the park, they become a species in need of man agement, according to MFBF. The state Legislature has passed three bills banning relocation of bison or restricting it to some extent, a fact that Rolf believes reflects the public’s wish to keep Yellowstone bison in the park. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), however, vetoed the bills. “Landowners are upset that FWP is pushing this on us,” Rolf said. FWP has seven Citizens Advisory Councils. In late June one council reported that “wild bison do not have local support in Region 6.” FWP has held meetings across the state to get public input on an environmental impact statement concerning the relocation of bison. John Youngberg, MFBF vice president of governmental affairs, says most people who have attended the meetings “are not happy about having wild buffalo crushing their fences, eating their hay and bringing in disease.” FWP has not yet established a timeline for bison restoration.
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States finalizing sage grouse conservation plans
Although ranching is not considered a primary threat to the greater sage grouse, a series of recommendations offered by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s task force will require a great deal of ranchers in the effort to protect the grounddwelling bird in a large swath of the state and ultimately keep it off the endangered species list. The recommendations will be incorporated into existing greater sage grouse management efforts under way since 2007 by local working groups. If these recommendations become state policy, everyone who uses state or public lands inside areas deemed critical or important to greater sage grouse can expect management changes that place greater sage grouse conservation above almost all other uses, according to the Idaho Farm Bureau. For example, livestock operators with grazing allotments inside areas deemed critical or important to greater sage grouse will have to manage that land to provide optimum conditions for sage grouse, including sagebrush canopy cover, sagebrush height, sagebrush proximity to riparian areas, grass and forb (a flowering plant) canopy cover and forb availability. Livestock producers can also expect changes related to fences and livestock handling facilities, water troughs and salt licks, grazing intervals and several other practices aimed at building sage grouse populations. The Idaho proposal is one of many being
played out across the West as states race to complete state sage grouse conservation plans before 2015, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide whether to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act. BLM will allow states that have USFWS-approved greater sage-grouse conservation policies to supersede the federal government’s plans. If states fail to get their USFWS-approved plans in place, they will face land-use restrictions that ranchers and many others consider
above and beyond what is necessary to preserve the species. “BLM and the USFWS would be foolish not to recognize the greater sage grouse conservation practices ranchers are already working with,” said Rick Krause, American Farm Bureau Federation endangered species specialist. “Farmers and ranchers can do more to save the sage grouse through voluntary, incentive-based conservation measures than an ESA listing would.” Two of ranchers’ biggest contributions to protecting the greater sage grouse are their preservation of open space and their work to maintain rangeland, which reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires, one of the biggest threats to the greater sage grouse. “Ranchers are constantly improving their land and striving to better manage their resources, which not only reduces threats to the sage grouse, but gives them better habitat,” Krause pointed out. As a result of ranchers’ practices, for example, greater sage grouse have better access to water sources and improved forage. AFBF earlier this year submitted comments addressing BLM’s efforts. The organization emphasized that to achieve practical and common-sense management policies, greater sage grouse conservation should be guided by initiatives developed at the state and local levels, rather than top-down, federal directives.
Wildfires are still popping up across the West the form of grass and sagebrush. He thinks increased grazing would help. Richard doesn’t expect much rain until frost begins in a couple of months. He says storms have brought minimal rain, and they come with the dangerous lightning that can spark a fire. That’s what most likely caused the much larger Kinyon Road Fire near Twin Falls in southern Idaho. It’s estimated that fire alone has burned close to 200,000 acres. Following Idaho’s 10, the states reporting large fires include Utah (5), Oregon (4), Wyoming (4), California (3), Arizona (2), Florida (2), Missouri (2), Alaska (1), Colorado (1), Montana (1) and Virginia (1). When the fires in central Colorado were at their worst about two weeks ago, the state actually had 12 major fires all burning at the same time, according to Troy Bredenkamp, executive vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau. “Of note to agriculture was the Last Chance fire that took place in this timeframe on Colorado’s eastern plains in Washington County,” he said. “This was a prairie/ grass fire that lasted only 36 hours but burned over 40,000 acres.” The Yuma (County) fire, which kicked off the state’s fire season in March, burned about 28,000 acres in an agricultural area on the eastern edge of the state. The Last Chance and Yuma fires have been the most devastating for agricul-
ture, according to Bredenkamp. CFB has raised tens of thousands of dollars through its Colorado Ag Disaster Fund to help farmers and ranchers who suffered losses. “In addition, we’re working with our county Farm Bureaus to organize what we are calling County Farm Bureau Assistance Teams and register these teams with the local emergency management officials,” he said. CFB envisions the teams being
activated at a moment’s notice to help evacuate livestock when a fire threat exists and respond to other disasters. Colorado is having a bit of a respite from the fire season, says Bredenkamp, which has given residents a chance to catch their breath and tally the losses. More than 200,000 acres have been burned this year in Colorado, Bredenkamp says, “and we still have at least two months left in the fire season.”
photo courtesy of uSDA
The High Point and Waldo Canyon fires in Colorado have drawn the most national media attention because of their proximity to highly populated areas. Less renowned fires in Colorado and other western states, while they have not threatened as many people, have burned hundreds of thousands of acres and caused agricultural losses. Idaho actually has the most fire activity of any state, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, with 10 large fires that have burned 285,000 acres. There also are dozens of smaller fires in Idaho. In Owyhee County, in the central part of the state, John Richard, the county Farm Bureau president, says numerous relatively small fires have been caused by lightning and Fourth of July fireworks. “All we’ve lost is a lot of rangeland,” Richard said matter-of-factly. He reeled off the names of several fires with colorful names like Poison Creek Fire and Elephant Fire. He said they would have a lasting impact for ranchers who graze their livestock on public lands. “They’ll (federal and state land agencies) take the guys off it for a minimum of two years to get it going again,” he predicted. “Some of these guys are going to be hit hard.” Part of the problem in his area, according to Richard, is that public lands are loaded with fuel in
Dozens of grassland fires in the West, in addition to the larger wildfires that have made national news, have damaged fences and threatened livestock. They could have a lasting impact on ranchers’ grazing permits.
July 16, 2012
Supreme Court ruling reaffirms need for ag labor reform The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law has reinvigorated farmers’ and ranchers’ calls for congressional overhaul of the immigration system so that it can provide agriculture with a steady, stable supply of workers, both in the short- and long-term. “The Supreme Court ruling hasn’t changed anything for us,” said Kevin Rogers, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation president. “We will continue to work with Congress to reform the visa labor program so we can have the legal workers we need.” Kristi Boswell, American Farm Bureau Federation labor specialist, explained some of the basics of a program that farmers and ranchers can use. “We need an overall solution that includes a functioning, efficient worker program that covers all of agriculture,” said Boswell. “An improved H-2A program with new temporary worker provisions, a portable visa for agricultural workers and an opportunity for legal status for some of those who have worked in agriculture are essential.” In its ruling, issued in late June, the U.S. Su-
preme Court struck down much of Arizona’s immigration law, including Arizona’s requirement that all immigrants carry their immigration papers and the prohibition on illegal immigrants seeking or holding jobs. The court said those provisions are in the federal government’s jurisdiction, not the state’s. The court upheld the controversial provision allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone stopped or detained for any reason. The Arizona law challenged in the Supreme Court “is only a band aid that has been applied over the festering, underlying problem of border security and of reforming the visa program to enable farmers to get the temporary and seasonal workers needed for their farms,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in his June Ag Agenda column. Arguing that immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government, the Obama administration sued to block the Arizona law. “Farmers and ranchers are a bit frustrated by this,” Boswell acknowledged. “On the one hand, the president is saying immigration reform is his and Congress’ job, which is
true. On the other hand, neither the administration nor Capitol Hill lawmakers have done what’s necessary to build consensus on a workable solution.” Few, if any, growers are expecting changes this year, considering the looming election and what a lightning rod this issue can be, Boswell noted. “However, with proposals to make E-Verify (a system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.) mandatory in our near future, an agricultural guest worker program that addresses farmers’ unique needs has become a necessity,” she said. Without a workable solution to agriculture’s labor shortage, if E-Verify is implemented, agriculture faces production losses of $5 billion to $9 billion per year, Boswell warned. Parts of immigration laws in five other states—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah—have been on hold in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision. Now, with the legal precedent set by the ruling, legal challenges to those laws are expected to proceed.
Continued from page 1 The WASDE report showed smaller projected yields from June estimates across the board for U.S. soybean and corn crops, despite increased planted acreage compared to last year. It also showed a decrease in projected ending stocks and feed use. According to Todd Davis, American Farm Bureau Federation economist, these trends will likely continue through the year. “The reductions in the July report reflect the World Agricultural Outlook Board’s belief that the drought has greatly reduced the production potential for corn and soybeans,” said Davis. Corn yield was estimated at 146 bushels per acre, reduced by 20 bushels per acre from the June projections. The 2012-13 corn production estimate was subsequently affected, dropping to 12.97 billion bushels, a 1.82 billion bushel decrease. The projected decreases in corn production will also have consequences on feed use. Ethanol use is also projected down 100 million bushels from June and export demand in corn has been reduced by 300 million bushels. The average projected soybean yield fell by 3.4 bushels per acre from June to 40.5 in July. Despite an increase in projected plant-
Photo by Katie Sawyer
Poor growing conditions affect grain supply, demand
Derek Sawyer of McPherson County, Kan., had his dryland corn chopped for silage because of the ongoing drought. The chopped corn will be stored and fed to Sawyer’s cattle this winter. If the weather had cooperated, the corn would have been harvested for grain. McPherson County was included in a federal disaster designation on July 12. The entire state was declared as a severe drought area on July 3. ings, the substantial yield reduction pulled down this month’s estimate of production by 155 million bushels from June to 3.05 billion bushels. This number is slightly lower than the 2011 crop. “Expect a lot of volatility in the
coming year,” said Davis. “As the crop size declines, USDA will make further cuts to projected use while prices climb to both curb demand and encourage production in 2013.” The report projected increased
corn prices of $1.30 per bushel from the June estimate to $5.90 per bushel for the 2012-13 marketing year. According to Davis, tighter projected stocks are to blame for the increase in prices. The 2012-13 ending stocks for corn are projected to decline 698 million bushels from June’s estimate to 1.183 billion bushels in July’s report. Soybean ending stocks don’t look any better, down 10 million bushels from June estimates to a current projection of 130 million bushels. A report due out in August will have the first survey-based measure of crop yield potential. USDA will conduct producer surveys and field analysis throughout the fall and will then have a better idea of the damage done to the 2012 corn and soybean crops, according to Davis. On July 12, 1,016 counties in 26 states became federal disaster areas due to severe drought, making farmers in those counties and contiguous counties eligible for low-interest loans. The disaster designation is the result of changes USDA announced to qualify counties almost automatically if they have been categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as severe drought areas for eight consecutive weeks.
Mandatory labeling of biotech foods not beneficial Continued from page 2 productivity. Biotechnology is embraced by a vast majority of American farmers: of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S., roughly 90 percent is enhanced through modern biotechnology. Adoption of biotechnology has increased yields and reduced food prices, and it’s more environmentally friendly due to less dependence on pesticides and traditional tilling practices. If the FDA had required labeling when biotech crops were first introduced nearly two decades ago, it is unlikely that these crops would have such a
success story. Similarly, imposing mandates now will place an immense burden on new technology entering the market, such as drought-tolerant wheat and more efficiently grown salmon. It’s clear that by imposing additional cost throughout the food production chain, these extreme labeling requirements would harm farmers and ranchers, grocers, food companies and small businesses without benefiting consumers. Do policymakers understand the unintended cost of mandatory labels for biotechnology? So far, the answer is promising. FDA has steadfastly defended
existing federal labeling policy and no state has passed legislation requiring labeling, yet. In June, Sens. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the farm bill that would allow states to impose their own labeling mandates that conflict with FDA policy. The Senate overwhelmingly rejected the amendment, which Farm Bureau opposed, by a vote of 26-73. The verdict is still out on whether the average consumer understands the costly consequences of mandatory labeling. But we will begin to get an answer in
November when California voters head to the polls. Here’s hoping consumers in California know the difference between real information versus misinformation and oppose Proposition 37 in California. Emily Brundick is an intern in AFBF’s Public Policy Department and a senior studying agricultural economics at the University of Missouri.
July 16, 2012
State FB Links
GM Private Offer drives members’ truck, car purchases Bureau members since September. Full-sized SUVs were somewhat more favored than mid-sized crossovers. A little more than 2,200 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon/Yukon XL models were purchased, while Farm Bureau members took home almost 2,000 Chevrolet Traverses, Buick Enclaves and GMC Acadias. Acadia is somewhat more popular than its two cousins. The Chevrolet Cruze was the most favored car with almost 1,240 deliveries, followed by its bigger brother, the Malibu, at almost 925 cars. Farm Bureau members are not all work and no play though. They’ve also bought almost 620 Camaros (including the powerful ZL1), 44 Corvettes and 440 Sonics through Private Offer. With the recent introduction by Chevrolet and GMC of new bifuel pickup trucks that will run on regular gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), Farm Bureau members have even more options. CNG can help areas such as Arizona and California’s San Joaquin Valley meet federal and state air quality standards that can be very difficult to achieve, particularly in major farming areas. The Silverado HD and Sierra 2500 HD offer customers fueling flexibility with a combined
CNG and gasoline range of more than 650 miles, the longest range available in the bi-fuel truck market. The pickups, which provide more options than any on the market, will be available in standard and long-box, two- or-four-wheel drive in the extended cab models, offering customization for specific needs. The pickups have a Vortec 6.0L V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between the two fuel systems. A single light-weight Type 3 tank in the bed maximizes available payload and bed space, offer-
ing more usable space than competitors. The GM Private Offer is one of the latest national member benefits offered by American Farm Bureau, Inc. AFBI was founded nearly three decades ago by the American Farm Bureau Federation to increase the economic value of membership in Farm Bureau. To learn more about how Farm Bureau members can get a $500 manufacturer’s incentive on the purchase or lease of these and many other new vehicles, please contact your state Farm Bureau.
Indiana drought concerns farmers and livestock producers
NYFB applauds efforts to promote Greek yogurt
Great Lakes Compact bill a victory for Ohio farmers
Pennsylvania exempts family farms from inheritance tax
Indiana is suffering from an extreme drought, effecting both crops and livestock. Dev Niyogi, Indiana state climatologist, says, “There is just not any rain coming at this point.” Much of Indiana’s corn crop has entered pollination, a critical period in plant development. With extreme temperatures and no rain, pollination success will vary greatly. Some fields could suffer complete pollination failure, said Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist. Nielsen said growers need to monitor fields throughout the remainder of the season and plan ahead for marketing and other financial decisions for harvest. Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt estimated that corn yields could already be down by as much as 14 percent from what was projected, and that projected soybean yields are down about 12 percent. He said yield prospects will drop further given the current forecast. Reduced yield means higher prices, which can be good for growers, but bad for livestock producers who are now worried about feed prices and availability. Mike Platt at Indiana Pork says drought brings long-term implications that pork producers will be considering, such as limiting their farrowing intentions and downsizing their herds.
New York Farm Bureau is grateful for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) efforts in asking the U.S. Agriculture Department to revise the federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to make Greek yogurt a more affordable option for schools. Current USDA regulations for public schools consider Greek yogurt to be the same as regular yogurt despite it having a higher nutritional content. Schumer has asked USDA to count Greek yogurt as a meat alternative, allowing schools to buy smaller, cheaper servings of Greek yogurt but still provide the same nutritional value to children. Also, for the 5,700 New York dairy farms, the change would provide greater stability in what is a volatile pricing market. “With a stroke of a pen [Agriculture] Sec. [Tom] Vilsack could provide healthier foods for New York’s school children and an economic boost for yogurt makers and dairy farmers, two of the state’s most important industries,” said Schumer. “Senator Schumer’s request would be a help to the New York dairy industry,” said NYFB President Dean Norton. “It takes creative, business friendly solutions like this to keep families on the farm in what is a tough economy. New York’s dairy farmers need strong, stable prices, and anything that that will boost sales is welcome news.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation outlining state regulations on water withdrawals, which was the final measure to implement the Great Lakes Compact—a decade-long agreement between seven states and two Canadian provinces concerning the impact that regulations on water withdrawals from the Lake Erie basin would have on the region. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation successfully supported a grandfather provision for agriculture, meaning that those who meet the threshold for water withdrawals would only be regulated for new or increased water use. Larry Antosch, OFBF’s director of policy development and environmental policy, told lawmakers that the bill ensures a safe, sustainable supply of water. “Environmental stewardship is a priority for Ohio’s farmers, which is why we continue to work to adopt state laws and regulations that promote water quality and maintain access to Ohio’s water resources for navigation, commerce, fishery and recreation through sound science and the protection of private property rights, including the right to reasonable use,” he said. Antosch added that OFBF believes the legislation is a balanced compromise.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau praised the state General Assembly for approving changes to the state tax code that it says will help preserve the economic viability of Pennsylvania family farms. The changes, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, include the exemption of farm assets from inheritance taxes as long the property remains a family farm. Pennsylvania families previously paid inheritance taxes on the first dollar of value of the decedent’s taxable estate. PFB President Carl Shaffer said the taxes were a burden for farm families that had low cash reserves and had to sell assets or farmland to pay the tax. “This reduces the productivity of the farm and threatens its viability in the future,” he said. The new law also exempts farm property from real estate transfer taxes when a family-owned farm business is reorganized to a limited partnership, limited liability partnership or a corporation managed by the same family—a change that can be common when farm businesses are passed from one generation to the next. Shaffer said the change “simply allows farmers to get the same tax treatment as other familyowned businesses,” which were already provided an exemption from realty transfer taxes when reorganizing.
Through the GM Private Offer incentive, Farm Bureau members in 40 states have saved almost $8.9 million since mid-September 2011. The GM Private Offer is a $500 incentive on the lease or purchase of any new Chevrolet, Buick, or GMC vehicle, except the Chevrolet Volt. “We’re thrilled that Farm Bureau members have embraced this offer,” said Ron Gaskill, executive director of American Farm Bureau, Inc. “We’re always looking for ways to help members maximize the value of the Farm Bureau membership. Automobiles are an integral part of American life, and trucks are the modern workhorses of many a farm and ranch.” The top choice among the Private Offer participants is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab. Of the estimated 21,966 vehicles delivered to Farm Bureau members through the program, about 9,850 have been full-sized Chevrolet or GMC trucks. More than 4,700 of those trucks were Silverado 1500 Crew Cabs. The Chevrolet Equinox is the second most popular vehicle to the Silverado 1500 Crew Cab, with more than 2,300 Equinox sold through the incentive. Add Equinox’s cousin, the GMC Terrain, and more than 3,400 small crossovers have been delivered to Farm
July 16, 2012
Festival helps educate public about agriculture By Erika Hooker “Where is the chocolate milk cow?” This is a question Peter Ryan, associate provost for academic affairs at Mississippi State University, answered many times during his week on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Ryan was there, along with other representatives from land-grant universities as a part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival is held every summer on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian as a tribute to living traditions throughout the country. While most years this means showcasing different cultures, this year one theme was tied with agriculture. Titled “Campus and Community,” the theme celebrates the 150th anniversary of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its partnership with land-grant and public universities. On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, granting states and territories tracts of land that provided funding for universities when sold. Today, these land-grant universities total 105, at least one in every state and territory. They have become famous for their research in cutting edge technology and continually shaping the future of American agriculture. At the festival, Ryan and colleague Dr. Scott Willard, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Mississippi State, gave a tour of their university’s tent. First, there is the crowd favorite: a life-size Jersey cow stat-
ue, complete with a working udder in order to show people where their milk comes from. After milking the cow, the public could learn about mastitis in cow udders and move to the second part of the exhibit: research and work with ther-
The University of Missouri’s “Seasonal and Simple” app helps consumers find local fruits and vegetables.
Mississippi State University’s life-size Jersey cow statue with working udder was a crowd favorite at the land-grant university exhibits at this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
mal sensing technology that allows professionals like Willard to locate and treat infections in the udder. “People have been really fascinated to learn about the technology and how much science can be involved in agriculture,” said Ryan. “Some people know nothing about agriculture but their grandparents will jump in and have recollections of their past farming. Generally, older generations seem more familiar with agriculture.” Mississippi State University was one of 28 land-grant universities to participate in the festival this year. Most schools set up tents with exhibits of ongoing projects or research their students and faculty are involved in, either agriculture or technology related.
Mark Kelly to keynote AFBF Annual Meeting Retired astronaut Mark Kelly will deliver the keynote address at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2013 Annual Meeting, Jan. 13-16, in Nashville, Tenn. More than 5,000 Farm Bureau members from across the nation are expected to gather in Nashville for the 94th annual meeting to hear from distinguished leaders and participate in a grassroots policy-setting process that will guide AFBF through 2013. Kelly is one of America’s most
experienced pilots and has logged more than 6,000 flight hours aboard more than 50 different aircraft. His experience includes 375 aircraft carrier landings, 39 combat missions, more than 50 days in space and serving as commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final mission. In addition to his experience as an astronaut and Navy captain, Kelly is a prostate cancer survivor and best-selling author. “Moustronaut: A Partially True Story,” is a children’s book written by Kelly that is slated for release in October. “We are excited to have Mark Kelly as our keynote speaker,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “His outstanding leadership, dedication to teamwork and courage under pressure are truly inspirational.” Kelly is married to Gabrielle Giffords, the former member of Congress who survived an assassination attempt in January 2011. Watch Kelly’s YouTube video about speaking to Farm Bureau members at http://am.fb.org/ InsideAM.aspx?id=31374. Farm Bureau members register for the AFBF Annual Meeting through their state Farm Bureaus.
However, some professors from these universities were also helping to lead presentations and workshops in common areas. Among these were presentations on cooking with goat cheese and using maple syrup in recipes. There were also presentations about sustainable agriculture and discussions with faculty panels about the changing face of agriculture programs at universities. At another spot on the Mall, in the University of Missouri tent, visitors were seated on the “tour bus” where they could watch a video showing farmland in southeast Missouri, a place many have probably never visited. They could also wander around the tent and visit with representatives from the Mississippi River Hills Association, like Lisa Palmer, who told visitors about efforts to get the public to eat local. “We use the ecology of the river to give added quality to our food products,” said Palmer, “We also educate people on when is the best time to buy what products.” Visitors to the University of Missouri tent could try out the “Seasonal and Simple” app, a detailed guide to finding, selecting, preparing and storing fresh
fruits and vegetables. The app aids Palmer in educating the public about local agriculture. Easy to use on smart phones and tablets, the app, created by students and faculty at the university, also gives the user a comprehensive list of Missouri Farmers Markets. The Folklife Festival gets around 1 million people attending each year. This year’s festival gave visibility to the land-grant universities and the programs available to students that some may not know exist. “When Lincoln signed the Morrill Act it had a huge impact on our country and the future of science and crop and livestock production,” said Ryan. Little did Abe Lincoln know that someday, 150 years later, the Morrill Act would lead to the founding of institutions that could dispel the rumor of the chocolate milk cow. Erika Hooker is an intern in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Public Relations department and a senior at Cornell University pursuing dual degrees in international agriculture and rural development/communications.
Corner Post Global Food Price Index
* January-June 2012 average Source: FAO