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Common sense speaks louder than pseudoscience | 5
November 5, 2012 Vol. 91
Participants share experiences | 3
Twenty-five Farm Bureau programs are winners | 8
Many U.S. farm goods now dutyfree in Panama With the implementation last month of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, nearly 56 percent of all U.S. imports to that country now receive duty-free treatment. Among the immediately duty-free farm and ranch products are high-quality beef, frozen turkeys, sorghum, soybeans, soybean meal, crude soybean and corn oil, almost all fruit and fruit products, wheat, peanuts, whey, cotton and many processed products.
Come January, farmers could face the ‘fiscal cliff’ Unless Congress acts before the end of the year, come Jan. 1, the U.S. economy will fall off a “fiscal cliff.” That’s when a number of tax breaks and government program spending will be cut in order to try to get the nation’s budget back on track. Because the Joint Select Committee for Deficit Reduction failed to come up with a plan to cut at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years, as tasked by the Obama administration, what’s known as “sequestration” will be triggered. This will require proportional, acrossthe-board cuts of $1.2 trillion to
more than 1,000 federal programs over the next decade, including those related to agriculture. So, what exactly does this mean for farmers and ranchers? If Congress does nothing and sequestration goes into effect, all commodity and many conservation programs will be cut 7.6 percent in 2013. As for crop insurance, nearly all subsidies will be exempt from automatic cuts under the first year of sequestration, but will likely come about in year two. Discretionary programs—government spending set by Congress
through an annual appropriations act—will receive an 8.2 percent cut in 2013. For agriculture, these programs include: agricultural research; education and Extension activities; some conservation programs; food safety; marketing and inspection activities; rural economic and community development; telecommunications and electrification assistance; and various export and international activities. “The impact of the cuts will really be felt in rural America,” said Cliff Continued on Page 3
Farmers anxious for action during lame duck on new farm bill, taxes
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GROWERS ARE EAGER TO SEE PROGRESS on a comprehensive five-year farm bill when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13 for their lame-duck session. Stopping an increase in capital gains and estate tax rates is critical, too. During its upcoming lame-duck session, Congress has some big policy moves to make. At the top of lawmakers’ to-do list, farmers and ranchers say, should be the farm bill and estate and capital gains taxes. Many of the provisions of the 2008 farm bill expired on Sept. 30. Most farmers are okay for now because the 2008 bill covers the 2012 crops, not just fiscal 2012. However, dairy farmers are struggling without a Milk Income Loss Contract program, which expired at the end of September. And even growers who are currently feeling few effects of not having a farm policy in place are at a loss in terms of planning for the future. Just before Congress adjourned in
October, hundreds of Americans, including farmers, congressional members and leaders from agriculture, conservation, energy, consumer and nutrition organizations, gathered on Capitol Hill at the Farm Bill Now rally. They called on lawmakers to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill. Such a bill, Farm Bureau says, is necessary to ensure stability for growers and allow them to plan for the future. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June and the House Agriculture Committee approved its own legislation the following month. Farmers and ranchers had hoped to see Congress compromise on the two measures before heading home in the run-up to the election.
“Now it’s a lame duck must-do,” said Dale Moore, American Farm Bureau Federation policy specialist. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she thinks there’s a good chance Congress will get the farm bill done, after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in late October that the House would vote on a measure after the election. Farmers and ranchers are also anxious for Congress to act on estate and capital gains taxes. On Jan. 1, the estate tax exemption is slated to drop from the current $5 million to $1 million per person and the top tax rate will climb from the 35 percent in place now to 55 Farm bill Continued on Page 6
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President, American Farm Bureau Federation
A labor plan for all farmers
or far too long, farmers and ranchers have had to struggle to make sure that they have a legal, reliable supply of workers. The reality has been a daunting, broken system, riddled with shortcomings that have resulted in labor shortages, lost crops, bureaucratic nightmares and neighbors competing with one another to get the farm hands they need. Farmers from around the country all feel the pain. From Washington state apple growers to New York dairy producers, there is an across-the-board shortage of labor for hire. Agriculture needs and deserves a legal, stable workforce, and Farm Bureau has a plan. Flexibility and stability matter Farm Bureau, along with other organizations in the agricultural community, is working on a solution for farmers and ranchers in all sectors, in all regions and for all commodities. What Farm Bureau is bringing to the discussion is a plan that we think will accommodate all agriculture—from a grower who needs to hire harvesters for only a few days, to a dairy that needs a workforce 365 days of the year. The crux of Farm Bureau’s plan is to establish and implement a new visa program
that would give both employers and employees stability and flexibility into the future, while also addressing the current workforce that has contributed to our farms and communities. Both elements are necessary to provide a longterm, stable and legal workforce. Building on how the domestic market currently operates, farmers would be permitted to offer migrant laborers either a contract or atwill work. Similarly, workers would be able to choose their form of employment. With a contract, both employers and workers would be provided longer-term stability and the worker could have a visa term of up to 12 months. On the other hand, the at-will option offers flexibility to employers who may just need a week’s worth of harvesting, while allowing workers the portability to work at other seasonal jobs for up to 11 months. This program reflects reallife workforce challenges and provides both the flexibility and stability that domestic workers enjoy. Just as important, the plan would allow key migrant workers—those who have been working in U.S. agriculture for a defined period, as well as those who are in management and other key positions at a farm—the ability to stay in the U.S. and continue to work in the agriculture sector.
Eliminating rigidity Since its inception, the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program has been riddled with problems, creating more challenges than providing solutions. Because of the diverse special labor needs within farming, the program has been difficult for growers to use, is not even available to some sectors of agriculture like dairy and simply is not feasible in some parts of the country. Farm Bureau’s plan would remedy many of H-2A’s failings by offering real-world solutions that better meet both employers’ and workers’ needs. Over time, as farmers begin using the new visa program, we imagine H-2A will become obsolete. A market-based, flexible agricultural worker program makes sense and is long overdue. It is important for workers, farmers and especially consumers that agricultural producers have access to a legal, stable workforce for the future. With all of agriculture working together, we are optimistic we can offer Congress a reasonable, practical, common-sense solution that works for growers while respecting the rights of workers. It is time to move the discussion forward and find a solution that works for all farmers and ranchers.
Connecting all farm types to direct marketing By Julie Murphree Not long ago, Bob McClendon, an organic produce grower in Arizona, had a clear and concise answer when asked how Arizona Farm Bureau could help small and local farmers and ranchers succeed. His reply: Help directmarket farmers and ranchers market their products. By digging into how best to honor his request, Arizona Farm Bureau discovered an opportunity to approach its bottom-line support of farmers and ranchers with a different method. The end result is a new guidebook, A Farmer’s Guide to Marketing the Direct-Market Farm. The book is the result of three years’ worth of interviews with direct-market farmers about their
marketing strategies and needs. One common thread is that farmers have often asked for simple, quick and inexpensive strategies for marketing their products. In other instances, innovative farm families have come up with straightforward methods of connecting with customers and selling their products. Both sides of this story became the foundation of the 68page guidebook. It’s loaded with questions for farm families to answer as they develop their marketing strategy and specific examples that other farm families in retail agriculture can relate to. Uncovering “traditional” farm and ranch families slowly dipping their toes into this new market was one of the most fascinating
Mace Thornton, Acting Director, Public Relations Erin Anthony, Editor Phyllis Brown, Assistant Editor Tracy Grondine, Contributing Writer Cyndie Sirekis, Contributing Writer Sarah Bittner, Contributing Writer Miranda McDaniel, Contributing Writer
November 5, 2012 Vol. 91
aspects to emerge from this quest to help direct-market agriculture. As the book went to press, more and more farm families with a traditional farm and ranch enterprise began to emerge as interested direct marketers. It’s clear that they identified with the goal of helping farm families of all types benefit from doing business directly with their end customers. One resounding experience common to all the farmers interviewed for the book—regardless of size and type—was how they grew to believe their farm story was their marketing message. They also realized that before re-evaluating a direct market connection, they were not inclined to tell their stories. As a result, many of the marketing strategies in the guidebook are built around the story that must be told. The last chapter is devoted to storytelling and easy tips for telling the farm story. When farmers are able to tell their stories in an engaging way, they are better able
Published semimonthly, except monthly in August and December, by the American Farm B ureau Federation, 600 Maryland Ave., SW, Suite 1000W, Washington, DC 20024. Phone: 202-406-3600. E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: http://www.fb.org. Periodical postage paid at Washington, D.C., and additional mailing offices. Subscription rate for officers and board members of county and state Farm Bureaus—$6, which is deducted from dues. For other subscribers—$10. Postmaster: Send address changes to FBNews, 600 Maryland Ave., SW, Suite 1000W, Washington, DC 20024.
to connect with their customers— the quintessential “public.” In this way, they earn trust from their customers and relationships develop. When a farm family recognizes that marketing is about their story, marketing becomes manageable and rewarding. Ultimately, marketing is simply a platform for a story; it gives voice to farm families and their products.
Julie Murphree is director of public relations for the Arizona Farm Bureau and is author of the book, A Farmer’s Guide to Marketing the Direct-Market Farm, which is available at Amazon.com.
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IFYE participants share experiences during, after exchange This is the sixth in a series of articles about the International Four-H Youth Exchange program. Since its founding in 1948, the International Four-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program has helped thousands of young people from across the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the South Pacific learn about life in other lands. The IFYE program is an in-depth learning experience in which 4-H alumni and other young adults and adults aged 19 to 30 live with host families in other countries to increase global awareness, develop independent study interests and improve language skills. Programs vary from country to country, with some emphasizing an agricultural work experience, volunteering at an adult training center or working with a local youth development program similar to 4-H. All have living with a family and learning about the culture as the key component. In our ongoing series of articles you have read about the experiences of young people from other countries, what host family experiences are like, the orientation process for participants and some other general points. This article
IFYE participant Kelly Moyer (right) of Colorado makes her grandmother’s apple dumplings with her German host sister in 2010. concentrates on what is expected of participants representing the United States. IYE representatives should become involved with the partner youth program in their host countries whenever possible. Depending on the country, this involvement could include helping with
camping programs, studying youth development issues or working with the formation of youth clubs in various settings around the host country. Participants are expected to share their own culture while learning about that of the host country. Through this sharing and learning, they will enhance global awareness and understanding. Some states require outbound delegates to prepare a cultural project that they can share with their host families. This project should focus on an aspect of American culture that is important to each participant. The project can be in any form and on any topic. For instance, previous delegates have: • Demonstrated how to throw a lasso. • Prepared their favorite food dish. • Sung a favorite pop song (with accompanying dance moves). • Taught their favorite sport/ game and then played it with their host family. The main goal of this project is to share a piece of American cul-
ture with host families and new friends and to have fun. While in the host country, participants regularly send newsletters home to the hosting organization, post on Facebook, write blogs and more, ultimately reaching out to thousands of people. After the IFYE delegate returns home, a debriefing is required to counter reverse culture shock and to begin engaging the delegate in promotional activities, such as a follow-up newspaper article, radio or TV appearances, and scheduling speaking engagements with community, civic, 4-H, school or church groups. The participant will be invited to join state and national IFYE associations and information urging them to participate in meetings or conferences will be given. If you or someone you know is interested in IFYE and would like more information, please contact Alan Lambert, president of the IFYE Association, at alanelambert @gmail.com.
Many U.S. farm goods now duty-free in Panama Continued from page 1 “Panama has long enjoyed duty-free access to the U.S. market, while our products were facing excessive tariffs when sold to the Panama market,” explained David Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation trade specialist. “Implementation of the Panama FTA is leveling the playing field
for U.S. farmers and ranchers by eliminating these tariffs.” The agreement also provides immediate duty-free access for specified volumes of standard grade beef cuts, chicken leg quarters, pork, corn, rice and dairy products through tariff-rate quotas. Most of the remaining tariffs will be eliminated within 15 years.
Farmers could face the ‘fiscal cliff’ Continued from page 1 Matt Erickson, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist. “While commodity program and crop insurance spending does impact farmers and ranchers, programs like rural development, agricultural research and Extension also spread throughout rural communities.” The fiscal cliff will also have a tremendous impact on tax breaks for the entire country, and specifically for farmers and ranchers. For example, the estate tax will revert from a $5 million exemption at a 35 percent tax rate to a $1 million per person exemption at a top tax rate of 55 percent. This could be disastrous for many farm families. It is estimated that one out of every 10 farms would owe estate taxes in 2013 if conditions dictate a transfer. Barriers are already steep for young farmers and ranchers to carry on the farming business. With the average age of a farmer being 58 years old, exorbitant estate taxes would make it almost impossible for a family to transfer the farm to a willing, younger member. When estate taxes exceed cash and other liquidated assets, sur-
viving family members are forced to sell illiquid assets, such as land, buildings and equipment. “Understand that 86 percent of a farm’s assets are illiquid, leaving farmers and ranchers few options to pay for estate taxes,” said Erickson. “This means it becomes a lot harder for farmers and ranchers who are in partnerships with family members to pass on the farm to the next generation.” Also on Jan.1, the capital gains tax rate will increase from 15 percent to 20 percent. The impact of capital gains taxes on farming and ranching is significant because production agriculture requires large investments in land and buildings that are held for long periods of time. On average, farmers own their farmland for 30 years, during which time land values can more than triple, as they have in the last 25 years alone. Because capital gains taxes are imposed when buildings, breeding livestock and farmland are sold—or typically transferred to a new or expanding farmer—it becomes more difficult for farmers to shed unneeded assets to generate revenue to adapt and upgrade their operations.
“Last year, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported more than $504 million worth of their products to Panama,” Salmonsen said. “With the FTA in place and Panama’s growing economy, those exports will only go up from here.” Looking at pork and pork variety meats only, the U.S. Meat Export Federation says the FTA would eliminate duties of 60 percent to 70 percent on most cuts; eliminate duties of 15 percent on bacon, cured hams and pig fat; and eliminate duties of 30 percent and 15 percent on prepared and preserved items. The U.S. is the top supplier of pork to the Panama market. Taking in the bigger picture, when the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement is fully implemented, it will increase agricultural exports by $46 million per year, according to estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service. The Panama FTA was one of
three bilateral trade agreements completed in 2006 and 2007. The others were with Korea and Panama. All three were approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2011. Together, the three agreements represent nearly $2.5 billion of additional agricultural exports from the United States and would support as many as 22,500 new U.S. jobs. Panama’s legislature in early October passed the last of four bills that had to be approved before the FTA was put in place. The Panamanian government also had to sign an executive decree that would adjust the way the country administers its tariffrate quotas for agricultural products in order to meet its FTA obligations. The Korea FTA went into effect in March, while implementation of the agreement with Colombia began in May.
Calif. farmers, consumers lose if labeling ballot passes Describing it as a poorly written measure with serious implications for family farmers and ranchers, the California Farm Bureau Federation is urging state voters to reject a food labeling initiative on the November ballot. Proposition 37 would ban foods containing genetically engineered materials unless they carried a special, California-only label. It would also prohibit most processed foods from being labeled as “natural.” The measure’s provisions would be enforced for the most part by private attorneys suing alleged violators. “Proposition 37 wouldn’t do anything to make food safer or more affordable. It would just make California farmers and food businesses less competitive,” said Paul Wenger, CFBF president. “Proposition 37 could force even farmers who don’t grow biotech crops to keep extensive records just in case they were sued by a bounty-hunting attorney.” Wenger said the labeling, as outlined in Proposition 37, implies a warning and would give people the impression something is wrong with foods made with biotech ingredients. “Many years of studies have shown that foods made with genetic engineering are safe,” he said. “It’s irresponsible and confusing to people to require what is essentially a warning label on products that are safe.” Consumers, too, would feel the negative effects of a labeling law, according to a study conducted on behalf of the “No on 37” coalition, of which CFBF, the American Farm Bureau Federation and dozens of other agriculture, labor, business and health organizations are members. Also on No on
37’s roster are several scientists, academics and Nobel-prize winners. By requiring food producers to relabel, repackage or remake thousands of common grocery products with higher priced ingredients, Proposition 37 would increase the cost of food by as much as $5.2 billion per year, the study, released in late August, found. The ballot initiative “will drive up grocery costs for California families, while providing absolutely no benefits,” said Jamie Johansson, a California olive grower and CFBF second vice president. “It’s a hidden food tax and it comes at the worst possible time to add more financial burden on consumers and food producers, when we already face an economic downturn and a severe drought.” The economic impact study, conducted by Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants, showed that if Proposition 37 passes, food companies would face important decisions about more than 100,000 food items. While it is impossible to predict what food companies would do to comply, researchers involved in the study considered two approaches. One is to switch to higher-priced non-GE or organic ingredients to avoid having their products labeled “genetically engineered.” The Northbridge study estimates that remaking food and beverage products with non-GE or organic ingredients would increase the costs of food products sold in California by $4.5 billion to $5.2 billion annually. On average, this would increase food costs for a typical California family by about $350 to $400 per year. Another possibility is to create special labels for the food products sold in California, noting that the products contain or may contain “genetically engineered” ingredients, as required
by Proposition 37. The Northbridge researchers estimate that if all of the 100,000 or more grocery products that contain some level of GE ingredients were segregated and relabeled just for California, it would cost food companies $300 million to $800 million. Among the state’s major newspapers to come out against Propositon 37 are the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and the San Jose Mercury News. The Los Angeles Times, in its Oct. 4 issue, criticized the burden the ballot initiative would put on retailers that would “have to get written statements from their suppliers verifying that there were no bioengineered ingredients—a paperwork mandate that could make it hard for mom-and-pop groceries to stay in business.” In a Sept. 20 editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle said the biggest problem with Proposition 37 is that it “invites citizen lawsuits as a primary means of enforcing the labeling law.” “Californians have seen what can happen when attorneys seize on a voter-approved disclosure law as a tool for ‘shakedown lawsuits,’” the editorial said. “Prop. 65, the 1986 initiative requiring disclosure of toxic chemicals, has been the subject of 16,000 legal actions—some legitimate, some designed to force businesses to settle quickly to avoid litigation costs.” Supporters of Proposition 37 include organic food growers and retailers, with major funding from Mercola.com Health Resources and the Organic Consumers Fund, according to the “Right to Know” campaign.
An open letter to California voters from an Iowa farmer:
Prop 37 impacts me, too By Tim Burrack Dear Californian, I can’t vote on Proposition 37 this Election Day, but I’m watching it closely, all the way from my farm in Iowa. This ballot initiative isn’t just bad for California—it’s bad for America. Here’s the problem: Prop 37 is an extremist measure that will raise food prices without making food safer or consumers more knowledgeable. Worst of all, it will stifle innovation. The fundamental idea behind Prop 37 is that there’s something wrong with the kind of food I’ve raised and you’ve eaten for more than 15 years. My corn and soybeans are just like the vast majority of the corn and soybeans planted and harvested in California and elsewhere: genetically modified to resist weeds and pests. Because these crops carry a natural resistance to weeds that steal moisture and insects that munch on roots and leaves, they grow stronger and healthier. This means more food and better food for everyone—and less dependence on herbicides and pesticides. American food security and the health of our environment depend on biotechnology. It allows us to grow more food on less land, which is the very definition of sustainable agriculture. The backers of Prop 37 just ignore this, but
they do say that consumers should know if their food contains biotech ingredients. The irony is that consumers who feel a need to avoid biotechnology already can do so: They look for the organic label. So the labels mandated by Prop 37 are pointless, except in the eyes of special-interest groups that want to drive consumers toward organic varieties. As a Stanford University study showed, organic food is not healthier than other kinds— but it is more expensive. There’s another profit motive at work here: Trial lawyers are eager to sue food producers for petty violations of arcane rules. Ten years ago, voters in Oregon faced a ballot referendum similar to Prop 37. They had the good sense to reject it, especially after learning that it would cost families hundreds of dollars in additional food costs each year. In our slowgrowth economy, this is a price that few can afford to pay, especially low-income families and seniors who live on fixed incomes. Even Californians who don’t alter their eating habits will see their bills go up as food producers redesign packages and processors segregate food so that it satisfies the complicated requirements of a new bureaucracy. Consumers, of course, will pick up the tab for these changes. The damaging effects of Prop 37 will reach well beyond California’s borders. The measure’s success would give biotechnology an un-
necessary black eye—at a time when we must rely on biotechnology more than ever before. You’ve certainly heard about this year’s drought. It was awful: probably the worst I’ve seen in a lifetime of farming. Yet biotechnology is on the cusp of making great strides in drought resistance, allowing crops to grow even when they don’t receive much water. Farmers like me want and need access to those tools. Seriously, consumers like you should want me to have those tools as well! California is the most populous state in the country. If its voters decide to pass Prop 37, they will send a powerful signal that public opinion is turning against agricultural technology. Researchers will shift to other fields. Food producers will worry about new regulations, approved not for reasons of nutrition or safety. Cut off from promising new technologies, farmers across the country will find themselves growing less than they should: That’s bad for California, bad for Iowa and bad for America. Tim Burrack raises corn, soybeans and pork on an Iowa family farm. He volunteers as a board member of Truth About Trade and Technology.
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Biotech industry paves way for smooth transition to generic
With the patent for the first generation of Roundup Ready soybeans slated to expire in 2014, and several expiring biotech patents to follow, representatives of the U.S. seed and biotechnology industry have been working for nearly two years to ensure a smooth transition to a generic marketplace. Leading the effort to establish what is known as the post-patent Accord are the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The organizations consulted seed companies large and small, trait developers and those who license traits to draft the Accord, which is a voluntary but contractually binding agreement that can be signed by any company or organization interested in developing or selling seed with a generic biotech trait. “Growers support an industryled solution to the commercial challenges,” said Kevin Richards, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist. “They also think buy-in from all stakeholders is important.”
“Everyone will benefit with a process in place that allows private companies and public institutions to use generic technology in their research and development after patents have expired.” To that end, Farm Bureau is actively engaged in the issue and providing input to BIO and ASTA. Under the Accord, access to the generic seed and the regulatory intellectual property associated with it would be provided through a clearly defined process in exchange for a commitment to maintain, or share in maintaining, necessary regulatory, stewardship and liability obligations. The Accord’s purpose is twofold. “First, it’s designed to create a predictable, transparent and contractually binding transition that ensures generic biotech events are available to seed companies,” Richards said. “Farmers want to make sure the generic biotech marketplace fosters competition and innovation. Everyone will benefit with a process in place that allows private companies and public insti-
tutions to use generic technology in their research and development after patents have expired.” Second, and perhaps more important, is the Accord’s role in avoiding trade disruptions. Right now, the cost of maintaining regulatory approvals required for biotech products exported to other countries is the responsibility of the company that holds the patent. Those trade and regulatory obligations won’t expire with the patents. “Farmers who choose to continue planting a biotech crop no longer covered by patents, from either purchased or saved seed, must be able to count on those crops being accepted in international markets,” said Richards. In comes the Accord. Divided into two agreements, the first part of the Accord, the Generic Event
Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA), will ensure all signatories are notified before a patent expires; the approved generic trait, also known as an event, is available upon expiration; and there is a process in place to maintain export authorizations. “This way, signatories—seed companies—will be able to access an event once the patent expires and can develop and sell products containing the generic event with the confidence that export markets for these products will be maintained,” Richards said. As of Oct. 31, the GEMAA is open for signature at agaccord.org. The second agreement, the Data Use and Compensation Agreement (DUCA), will provide a structured process for a signatory to gain access to the proprietary regulatory data necessary to obtain export authorization for the creation of stacked seed products containing a generic event. The DUCA is targeted to be finalized and open for signature the first quarter of 2013.
On biotech, common sense speaks louder than pseudoscience By Kevin Richards The French philosopher Voltaire famously said, “Common sense is not so common.” Activists trying to disprove the safety of agriculture biotechnology seem devoted to proving his witticism. Another so-called study, released by one of Voltaire’s countrymen, purports to show that a steady diet of biotech-enhanced corn causes tumors in lab rats. Sadly, the truth is the study is little more than blatant antitechnology propaganda, and the lead researcher is an activist with a reputation for playing fast and loose with the scientific method when it comes to agricultural biotechnology. The study, published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal, hit the media on Sept. 19. Despite attempts by the authors to quell scientific scrutiny, the study was immediately questioned and comprehensively discredited by every reputable scientific source that has weighed in. Defects in the study are so frequent and obvious that a full list would be comical if not for the harm intended by the deliberately faulty science. For example, the researchers chose a type of rat used in cancer research that has been bred to increase susceptibility to tumors; rats in control groups were so few and inconsistently analyzed to render the results statistically meaningless; and, perhaps most reveal-
ingly, when releasing the study, the authors attempted to stack the deck by asking friendly journalists to agree not to seek opinions from independent experts. Such are the tactics used today by anti-science activists devoted to rolling back technological advances in agriculture. They have no use for the staples of thoughtful analysis: defensible science, sound economics and an appreciation for actual consumer, industry and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, bad science can still make good headlines. The faulty French study is making its way through the typical sympathetic media outlets where activists are also calling for a moratorium on biotech regulatory approvals. Russia, in a very opportunistic trade move, has already announced it was suspending imports of certain varieties of biotech corn as a result. And, the study is fueling the Prop 37 campaign in California, which intends to further frighten consumers with misleading food labels. What can defenders of agricultural biotechnology say and do when faced by such a shocking barrage of misinformation? Let’s look at five points. • Genetic modification of food is not new. Recombinant DNA methods are just the latest in a long progression aimed at improving species for the benefit of mankind, starting with domestication of crops and livestock and
including selective breeding and more recent gene modification techniques. Indeed, today’s biotechnology is actually more precise and predictable than other cruder yet less regulated methods from the past. • The overwhelming scientific consensus on the safety of modern biotechnology is unequivocal. After reviewing decades of research spanning hundreds of studies, the European Commission—not a polity known for its friendliness toward biotechnology—recently concluded that biotech foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences agree. • Agriculture products derived from biotechnology are the most thoroughly reviewed and strictly regulated in history. In the U.S., USDA, EPA and the Food and Drug Administration share responsibilities for rigorously evaluating the human and environmental safety of biotech crops and food. • The benefits of agriculture biotechnology are vast and undeniable. With adoption rates in the U.S. hovering at 90 percent for corn, soybeans and cotton, farmers have resoundingly endorsed biotechnology as a tool to improve yield and profitability by reducing the use of costly inputs, improving weed management and reducing tillage for better soil, wa-
ter and air quality. Denying the potential of biotechnology would require putting incredible demand on scarce environmental resources while depriving consumers—including those in the poorest regions of the world—of a more affordable and higher quality food supply. • Finally, farmers and ranchers have been feeding literally billions of livestock genetically engineered corn and soybeans for almost two decades without any evidence of health risks. For the record, that is a slightly larger sample size than the French research team’s rat feeding study. When it comes to the safety and benefits of biotechnology there is a factual track record. You don’t have to be a molecular biologist to exercise a little common sense.
Kevin Richards is director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation specializing in biotechnology, sustainable agriculture and international environmental agreements.
November 5, 2012
STEM Coalition works to provide bright future for students The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture is a staunch supporter of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition, an alliance of more than 500 business, professional and education organizations. The coalition represents a broad and unified voice in advocating for policies to improve STEM education at all levels. This includes working aggressively to raise awareness among members of Congress, in the administration, and at other organizations about the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace. The coalition’s Leadership Council, which the foundation belongs to, sets the policy agenda and overall objectives for the group and plays an active role in direct advocacy with policymakers. “The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture believes strongly in STEM education and the direct correlation agriculture science has to STEM efforts,” said Dan Durheim, foundation executive director. “Agricultural science encompasses each component of STEM learning, providing careers and, as a result, learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” He noted that although STEM may be the latest buzzword in American education, it has long been the underpinning for agricul-
tural literacy efforts. “We are excited about this opportunity to connect educators with resources developed by the foundation that support STEM learning,” he said. The coalition advocates for strengthening STEM-related programs for educators and students and increased federal investments in STEM education. The coalition also supports robust federal investments in basic scientific research to
inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in STEM fields. Members of the coalition believe that the U.S. must improve the way students learn science, mathematics, technology and engineering and that the business, education and STEM communities must work together to achieve this goal. Informing federal policymakers and key opinion leaders about the critical role that STEM education plays in U.S. competitiveness and our nation’s future economic prosperity is
a key focus of the coalition. Advocating for appropriations for innovative and effective federal STEM education programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and other agencies with missions that focus on science and technology also is important. “Farm Bureau is an active participant of the STEM Education Coalition. We believe STEM education is critical to enhancing education and career opportunities for rural students,” said RJ Karney, director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Specific initiatives of the coalition include encouraging and inspiring more of the “best and brightest” students, especially those from under-represented or disadvantaged groups, to study in STEM fields; recruiting and retaining highly skilled STEM teachers; improving the content knowledge and professional skills of teachers, as well as informal educators; and encouraging partnerships between state and local educators, colleges, universities, museums, science centers, STEM research and development organizations, and the business, science and technology communities that will improve STEM education. Encouraging better coordination of efforts among federal agencies that provide STEM education programs also is a goal of the coalition.
Online tool addresses consumer questions on food Farm bill, taxes Designed to answer consumer questions about how food is grown and raised, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s new online resource, USFRA FoodSource, is a onestop destination for information on topics including antibiotic use in farm animals and biotechnology. “USFRA recognizes that consumers have questions and want to learn more about how their food gets from the farm to their plate,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “With so much information available to consumers today, we wanted to create one destination that compiled factual and unbiased information on food production. This new site, USFRA FoodSource, provides these resources and also adds the voice of
farmers and ranchers responsible for raising and growing the food we eat. Our hope is that the information on this site continues to grow over time based on new inquiries received from the online community.” USFRA FoodSource gives consumers the opportunity to learn more about how food is grown and raised by compiling information from third-party experts, including researchers and scientists at leading universities, into one easyto-navigate website. The site currently features nine topics related to food production, all aggregated in one online destination for the first time. These topics include: antibiotic use in farm animals, biotechnology in seeds, hormone use in farm animals, pesticide use,
water quality, farm size and ownership, available food choices, food safety and animal care. Up next for USFRA is The Food Dialogues: New York. The discussions, which will be held at The TimesCenter in Midtown Manhattan on Nov. 15, will go deep into some of today’s most pressing issues concerning food—antibiotics, biotechnology, and media and marketing. Along with farmers and ranchers, the panelists include Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating; Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union; and Pamm Larry, leader of California’s GMO labeling ballot effort. The panel discussions will stream live at www.fooddialogues.com.
Continued from page 1 percent. The spousal transfer for the exemption will also disappear. As part of an ongoing AFBF campaign, farmers and ranchers are e-mailing and calling their lawmakers to let them know how important estate tax reform is to keep family operations going and ease the transition following the death of a family member. Until estate taxes are permanently eliminated, farmers want Congress to keep or improve the current exemption, indexed for inflation, maintain spousal transfer and continue the top tax rate. “If Congress doesn’t act on estate taxes, many more surviving farm family members could be faced with making critical decisions to sell land, buildings or equipment to generate enough money to pay the tax,” said Pat Wolff, AFBF tax specialist. As with estate taxes, farmers are disproportionately affected by capital gains taxes. And, as with estate taxes, without congressional action, the capital gains tax rate will go up on Jan. 1, 2013. With the new year, the top long-term capital gains tax rate will rise from the current 15 percent to 20 percent, and the dividends tax rate will more than double to 39.6 percent. Nationwide, 40 percent of all agricultural producers report some capital gains, nearly double the share for all taxpayers. And the average amount of capital gains reported by farmers is about 50 percent higher than the average capital gains reported by other taxpayers, according to AFBF. AFBF’s FBACT Insider website, fbactinsider.org, is the easiest way to let Congress know how critical these issues are to agriculture. On the site, you’ll find a “Tax Issues” section, as well as a section dedicated to the “2012 Farm Bill.”
November 5, 2012
State quota, Navigator status
State FB Links
As of Oct.15, 2012 Quota states Alaska, 344 member families Arizona, 22,140 member families Colorado, 22,892 member families Delaware, 6,962 member families Florida, 147,119 member families Iowa, 154,424 member families Louisiana, 148,406 member families Maryland, 37,211 member families Massachusetts, 5,667 member families Minnesota, 27,537 member families Mississippi, 199,502 member families Missouri, 104,160 member families Montana, 16,896 member families North Carolina, 549,583 member families North Dakota, 27,287 member families Ohio, 214,400 member families Pennsylvania, 55,398 member families South Dakota, 12,376 member families Wisconsin, 44,169 member families Wyoming, 12,053 member families Navigator states Florida, 147,119 member families Montana, 16,896 member families North Carolina, 549,583 member families Pennsylvania, 55,398 member families Wyoming, 12,053 member families
Deadline nears for Farm Bureau, AFB Foundation photo contest
Arizona Farm Bureau against sales tax proposition
Honolulu proposes housing solution for farm workers
Ohio state Supreme Court steps into flood damage case
Arizona Farm Bureau supports a “no” vote on the Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment. The amendment will be on the Nov. 6 ballot as an initiated state statute. However, there is pending litigation surrounding the measure that could change the status of its ballot certification. The litigation relates to the initiative’s text. The proposal would renew a 2010 voter-approved one-cent sales tax that is supposed to be used to provide education-related funding. The sales tax, which is slated to end in 2013, was meant to alleviate the state’s budget strain. Although AFB supported the temporary sales tax as an emergency measure, it believes now’s the time for the legislature to do what’s necessary to get the state’s fiscal house in order. AFB does not think the state needs more budgeting by the ballot box, nor further constrains on the legislature.
The demand for more affordable housing for the farming workforce on the Leeward Coast on Oahu has led to a unique solution proposed by Honolulu City Council member Tom Berg. The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, American Planning Association, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture and others all make it clear that for a farmer, supplying housing for his or her workers is paramount to achieving a successful operation. Resolution 12-74 CD1, introduced by Berg and passed by the city Zoning & Planning Committee, would retrofit shipping containers on farmers’ land to serve as workforce housing on the Leeward Coast. Berg stated that the five-year pilot program does more than just house workers on the farm, but also offers the landowner added security to deter illegal dumping, theft and vandalism plaguing rural areas.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court to appear Dec. 4 to present its case for why it should not be found in contempt regarding the compensation of flood-damaged land in Mercer County. The damage in question stems from a spillway constructed on Grand Lake St. Marys in 1997. The state previously offered landowners $5,000 an acre, but recently removed that offer. The attorneys for about 87 farmers filed a contempt of court Sept. 6, after seeing insufficient progress in fulfilling a December 2011 order that the landowners must be compensated. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation filed an amicus brief in August 2010, arguing in favor of compensation for the landowners. OFBF said it will not have any further legal participation in the case but agrees “that compensation has not been timely.”
Newsmakers Eugene “Gene” Malone, former American Farm Bureau Federation assistant editor and director of Farm Bureau news services, passed away on Oct. 17. Malone worked at AFBF from 1978-1994. Robert White has been hired as the value added projects coordinator for the public policy team at Indiana Farm Bureau. White previously worked at WRW & Associates Consulting.
Kelly Turner took over Michigan Farm Bureau’s membership recruitment program. For the past five years Turner has worked as a liaison linking the statelevel organization with the grassroots members for six Michigan county Farm Bureaus. Dave Metzgar has been named director of support services for Kentucky Farm Bureau. Metzgar’s transition into this new role comes after serving seven years as the support services manager
for KFB IT. Mike Hodge has been named Illinois Farm Bureau’s new executive director of member services and public relations, effective Feb. 1, 2013. Hodge, who is currently a regional manager for ILFB, will replace Mark Frels, who will retire Jan. 31 after nearly 36 years with ILFB. Hodge assumed the position of executive assistant on Nov. 1 and will serve in that role until Frels retires.
The Nov. 30 deadline for the 2012 Farm Bureau Photo Contest is mere weeks away. The competition, hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, is open to all state and county Farm Bureau members and employees above 18 years of age, including professional photographers. Submitted photos will be used to accurately portray today’s agriculture and safe practices of farmers and ranchers, and also for future use in AFBF, and related companies, publications and promotions. The competition is broken down into the following five categories: Safety and Health Photos submitted under this category should exemplify correct and safe practices around the farm. My Scenic Farm/Ranch Photos submitted under this category can cover a variety of topics including, but not limited to: farm/ranch house, barn, crops and farm animals. At Work on the Farm or Ranch Photos submitted under this category can cover a variety of topics including, but not limited to: planting, harvesting, irrigating, animal care, branding, etc. At Home on the Farm or Ranch Photos submitted under this category can cover a variety of topics including, but not limited to: my farm/ranch family, gardening and family members. Consumer Outreach Photos submitted under this category should exemplify farmer and rancher interactions with consumers/the public. Monetary prizes will be awarded to the top three photos in each category. First place winners will be awarded $200, second place $150 and third place $100. Competition winners will be announced at the AFBF Annual Meeting in January 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. For more information on how to register and to view the contest’s rules and regulations please visit, http://www. fb.org/index.php?action=programs. photocontest.
November 5, 2012
County Farm Bureaus recognized for excellent programs Twenty-five county Farm Bureaus nationwide were recognized by the American Farm Bureau Federation for innovative program ideas in this year’s County Activities of Excellence Awards program. The winners will be highlighted during AFBF’s 94th Annual Meeting, Jan. 13-16, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. The CAE program acknowledges and shares successful county Farm Bureau programs and activities. The awards also are based on county Farm Bureau membership. The CAE focuses on Farm Bureau’s priority issues in the following areas: Education and Ag Promotion; Member Services; Public Relations and Information; Leadership Development; and Policy Implementation. “Winners will display their programs at the AFBF Annual Meeting trade show, allowing Farm Bureau members from across the country to learn about successful programs and activities that promote agriculture within farming communities,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. The winners in alphabetical order by state: Farm Safety Day (Farm Equipment Extrication Education), Blount County, Ala.—Blount County emergency responders were invited to a local farm for a presentation and demonstration on farm equipment extrication methods. Agribee, Butte County, Calif.— Agribee is a spell-and-define agricultural word competition for fourth- and fifth-grade students. Rural Health and Safety Training Events, San Joaquin, Calif.—San Joaquin County Farm Bureau hosted 15 training sessions to help their members and employees understand and meet changes in county and state regulations. Emergency Response for Farm Equipment Accidents, Hartford County, Conn.—Emergency responders from across the state were provided with tips on how to handle emergencies involving farm equipment. County Staff Exchange, Cook County, Ill.—Twenty Cook County government employees toured farms and farm-related businesses to help them understand the influence of farms and related operations on their community and its economy. Grow a Garden Feed a Family, Grundy County, Ill.—In an effort to help the underprivileged grow their own food and eat healthier meals, the Grundy County Ladies Committee taught selected applicants how to grown their own produce using donated space. Project P.A.I.L. (Promoting Agriculture in Literature), Livingston County, Ill.—Project P.A.I.L. brings the agricultural experience to 380 second-
at equine events, writing articles for horse publications and giving presentations at horse club meetings. They also donated $1,500 for local equine riding trails.
grade students through reading, listening and hands-on activities that complement a factual agbased book. Tractor Simulator, Clinton County, Ind.—The Clinton County Farm Bureau built an interactive tractor simulator for display at the county fair. Touch-a-Truck, Wyandotte County, Kan.—Wyandotte County Farm Bureau teamed up with a neighboring Farm Bureau to host a Touch-a-Truck event, which allowed school-aged children to explore trucks of all types and sizes, as well as other vehicles, including farm equipment. FarmSCool, Mercer County, Ky.— FarmSCool is a weeklong ag-literacy project helping Mercer County children understand where their food comes from. Each day focuses on a new agricultural theme. Ag Facts, Baltimore County, Md.—Based upon their large nonvoting membership, the Baltimore County Farm Bureau developed a fact sheet to help people understand the role agriculture plays in the local and statewide economy. Ag Facts were mailed to members, as well as handed out at farmers’ markets, the state fair, membership meetings and other agricultural venues. Schoolhouse Chicks, Frederick County, Md.—The Schoolhouse Chicks program educates school children and teachers about farm animal life cycles during classroom visits. Hudson Family Fundraiser— A Partnership Event with Five Farm Bureaus (Queen Anne’s, Kent, Talbot, Caroline and Cecil counties), Queen Anne’s County, Md.—This joint county Farm Bureau effort, also involving the Save Farm Families organization, raised $108,000 for the Hudson family, whose beef and chicken farm is being sued by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance.
to learn about the world’s fiber. Metro Bus Campaign, Meeker County, Minn.—The Metro Bus Campaign promoted agriculture by wrapping 49 buses with different agricultural messages. The campaign targeted 3 million people with limited backgrounds in agriculture. Fifth Graders: Farmers for Today, Ag Leaders for Tomorrow, Simpson County, Miss.—During this event, 400 teachers and students toured 10 stations focusing on poultry, beef, forestry, livestock, row crops, safety and drug awareness. Vote Agriculture in 2012, Wright County, Mo.—The main purpose of Vote Agriculture in 2012 was to educate voters on the importance of electing candidates who are supportive of agriculture. Share the Road: Rural Road Safety Initiative, Cortland County, N.Y.—The Rural Road Safety Initiative is a sponsored workshop that shared the rules and regulations for operating agricultural vehicles on public roads to help prevent accidents involving farm equipment. Making Farm Bureau Relevant to the Equine Community, Hamilton County, Ohio—To reach out to their more urban residents, Hamilton County Farm Bureau is engaging the equine community by setting up booths
Corner Post U.S. Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Percent of planted acres
Circle of Life, Ingham County, Mich.—The Ingham County Farm Bureau worked with retired farmers and the local FFA chapter to set up the Circle of Life exhibit at the county fair. The exhibit contained live farm animals giving birth, along with baby animals. Beginning of Life Exhibit, Livingston County, Mich.—In this hands-on county fair exhibit, visitors learned about the proper care and nutrition of farm animals in a barn-like atmosphere. Mother animals and their young were on display, as well as hatchling chicks in incubators. Demonstrations featured spinning wheels and looms for attendees
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service
Animal Agriculture Educational Kiosks, Wayne County, Ohio—Wayne County Farm Bureau strategically placed kiosks playing videos about farm families in barns at the county fair. Farming for Life—Growing the “Gift of Life” Together with the Red Cross Blood Services, Susquehanna, Pa.—The Susquehanna County Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership and Promotion and Education committees partnered with the District Red Cross Blood Services for an event during which Farm Bureau volunteers served fresh, local food and handed out T-shirts, while members donated blood. AgriCultural Festival: Around the World on a Plate, Greenville County, S.C.—This event promoted agriculture’s importance in the economy, environment and the lifestyles of people worldwide. Social Media Mondays, Dane County, Wis.—Dane County Farm Bureau created Social Media Mondays to offer their members one-on-one training for basic computer skills, e-mail and social media implementation. County Farm Barnyard Adventure Ag Education, Walworth County, Wis.—This dual-platform program includes “Come Grow with Us,” which reaches out to 24 local grade schools by teaching aspects of biology, and “From Seed to Supper, ” a tour during the county fair that explores various aspects of agriculture.