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Livestock and cattle production news and information from Southeast Farm Press provides farmers and ranchers with best practices, trends, and farming news.
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    Tommy Irvin, who was a commissioner of agriculture longer than anyone in U.S. history, died Sept. 14 in Georgia. He was 88.

    Tommy Irvin, who was a commissioner of agriculture longer than anyone in U.S. history, died Sept. 14 in Georgia. He was 88.

    He was also the longest-serving statewide official in Georgia’s history. For 42 years straight, he was the state’s commissioner of agriculture, elected to that office in 1969. He began his public service in 1956 when he was elected to the Habersham County Board of Education.

    On hearing the news of his passing, current Georgia agricultural leaders remembered Irvin’s stalwart leadership and the legacy he left on the state’s No. 1 industry.

    Gary Black, Georgia’s current agriculture commissioner who was elected to the office following Irvin’s retirement, said, “Commissioner Irvin loved serving Georgia’s farmers and consumers for over three generations. He touched us all with his unsurpassed spirit of stewardship, commitment and work ethic. Beyond agriculture, his commitment to education put a strong and admirable exclamation point on his life’s work. We pray for and offer our condolences to the Irvin family during this difficult period.”

    "Georgia farmers and Georgia Farm Bureau lost a longtime advocate and friend last night with the passing of former Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin. Commissioner Irvin was a fine gentleman and public servant, and he was steadfast in his support of Georgia farmers. He was a Habersham County Farm Bureau member for more than fifty years,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long.

    Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop said, “I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of my friend of longstanding, Tommy Irvin, who served as a devoted champion for Georgia’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers. … His passion for public service and his advocacy for the agriculture community will not be forgotten. He is an example for all public servants to follow. My thoughts and prayers go out to Tommy’s family and friends during this time of loss.”

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    The primary founder of the Sunbelt Expo was the late Joe Burnside. His original job description didn’t include starting a major farm equipment show.

    This year marks the 40th celebration of the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition. The Expo is the agricultural technology extravaganza that has been at the forefront of introducing new farming practices to new generations of American farmers and agriculturists.

    The first Sunbelt Expo was held in 1978. However, the history of the Expo actually began years earlier, starting in 1964 with the first Dealer Day held on the campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga. These Dealer Days were intended for local farm equipment dealers to show off their new equipment while giving ABAC students the opportunity to meet with potential employers.

    The primary founder of the Sunbelt Expo was the late Joe Burnside, who worked for University of Georgia Extension as a coordinator of agriculture and forestry. His original job description didn’t include starting a major farm equipment show. That is something he did on his own.

    Burnside had a difficult job in persuading the agricultural industry along with University of Georgia administrators to support his idea of a large outdoor regional farm show. He was successful beyond all expectations.

    A bunch of firsts

    The first Expo in 1978 featured 410 exhibits and attracted an estimated crowd of 140,000.

    In 1979, Burnside announced that the first summer row crops field day would be held. He called the field day a “mini Expo” because it offered a preview of the crops to be harvested during the mid-October show. The field day has since become an annual event attracting hundreds of visitors each year.

    Some of the entertainment that highlighted the Expo during 1979 included hot air balloon rides provided by Diamond Shamrock and racing pigs in the Heinhold exhibit.

    The 1980 Expo attracted an estimated crowd of 200,000 visitors, and the Expo that year joined the North American Farm Show Council which consisted of the largest farm shows in the U.S. Home economists in the Consumer and Family Living exhibit section introduced visitors to the new wonders of microwave cooking. The 1980 show also featured the addition of 20 new shuttle wagons to transport visitors to the harvesting and tillage demonstrations. The shuttle wagons saved individual visitors about two miles of walking. Comedian Jerry Clower entertained huge crowds at the International Harvester exhibit in 1980.

    During the 1981 Expo, Florida was designated as the Expo’s first spotlight state. Nine new exhibits from Canada that year introduced an international flavor to the farm show. Cotton module builders were a new innovation used for the first time during the 1981 Expo.

    Traffic congestion eased greatly during the 1982 Expo after the highway from Moultrie was widened to four lanes. A new special exhibit section during the 1982 show introduced farmers to wide variety of information available from then-new desktop computers.

    The first pickup and automotive exhibit section was started during the 1985 Expo. That same year, the University of Georgia celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding with a big birthday cake. By 1985, hay harvesting had become the Expo’s most popular field demonstration. Hay harvesting today remains the field demonstration that attracts the largest crowds of visitors.

    During Burnside’s tenure as Expo director, the show started new exhibit sections such as beef cattle exhibits, along with exhibits for lawn and garden implements and pickup and automotive vehicles. All of these broadened the appeal of the show and continue to be major attractions at Expo.

    The 1988 show featured a new pavilion to house beef cattle exhibits. That year, Auburn University and University of Georgia offered exhibits on new scientific advancements in biotechnology. The 1987 Expo also saw Kelley Manufacturing Company introduce the industry’s first four-row peanut combine. Portable sawmills made their first appearance during the 1987 Expo and these machines now comprise a major exhibit space in the western section of the exhibit grounds.

    Number of improvements

    After Burnside retired in 1987, the position of Expo director was filled by Bill Farrington. Though he was director for only one year in 1988, Farrington implemented a number of improvements.

    Farrington started a college and university student fence-building contest that was well supported for several years. He expanded food services on the Expo grounds. He also greatly expanded the sawmills and forestry exhibits. Farrington oversaw the first stock dog trials at Expo.

    He brought in the first horse demonstrations and the first hunting and fishing exhibits. Farrington also started a new annual event honoring young farmers and ranchers attending the Expo.

    The major growth in the number of exhibits came when Ed White was the Expo director. White was the head of the University of Georgia’s Rural Development Center in Tifton when the Expo was organized. He served as acting director of the Expo in 1987 and became permanent Expo director following the 1988 show, a position he held until his death in 1997.

    Exhibit numbers increased from about 400 when he became director to more than 1,000 when he died. White is also remembered for working with the company that became Swisher International in helping to found the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards program that began in 1990. By 1996, White noted that the Farmer of the Year had become the most prestigious award for farmers in the U.S.

    Cutting horse demonstrations were a new attraction during the 1989 Expo. The new horse arena that year also hosted demonstrations from Paso Fino horses, draft horses and mules. A new five-row cotton picker was also introduced during the 1989 Expo by John Deere.

    White was also instrumental in signing a long-term lease in 1989 with the city of Moultrie which owned the Expo property. This lease provided exhibitors with the confidence that they could put up permanent exhibit buildings.

    The 1990 show was held for the first time on a Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule, but major exhibitors were disappointed, and persuaded show managers to return to the mid-week show schedule that has remained each year since. A new dairy exhibit section made its debut at the 1990 show. Also, two new permanent agribusiness buildings were constructed in the middle of the show grounds and used for the first time to house 1990 exhibits. Virginia farmer Nelson Gardner was recognized as the first Southeastern Farmer of the Year during the 1990 show.

    Making things permanent

    During the 1991 Expo, a group of farmers from Argentina came to the show and bought equipment to take back to their farms. By 1991, the Expo had put up three permanent buildings for agribusiness exhibits. Permanent restroom facilities were also installed in the middle of the show grounds for the 1991 show. Young Farmer chapters competed in the first barbeque pork cooking contest during the 1991 Expo. Cotton stalk pullers and stalk shredders received the attention of visitors in the harvesting and tillage demonstrations that year. The 1991 Expo also welcomed television weatherman Willard Scott who delivered his Today Show weather reports from the Expo exhibit grounds.

    Based on exhibit numbers in 1992, the Expo became the second largest farm show in the U.S. One new exhibit section in the 1992 show welcomed ostrich, emu and rhea birds. Another new exhibit section saw the debut of antique farm tractors during the 1992 Expo.

    During the 1993 Expo, a Southern Living cooking school was a big hit that was held twice daily in the Maule aircraft facility. A faculty member from Baylor University in Texas brought an ethanol-powered airplane to demonstrate at Expo. That same year a South Georgia farmer exhibited and demonstrated a no-till bermudagrass sprigger he developed on his own farm.

    One of White’s most controversial moves came in 1994, the year he retired from Georgia Extension. White and the Expo board at that time voted to separate the farm show from its University of Georgia origins. Relations between the University and the Expo were strained for a period, but have since been smoothed over. Today, University of Georgia scientists continue to conduct field research at Expo and the University continues to be one of the farm show’s prominent exhibitors.

    Also during 1994, Expo officials held another lease signing ceremony with the City of Moultrie. This ceremony, as with others in the past, was aimed at putting to rest the rumors that the Expo would leave Spence Field for another location.

    The 1994 Expo was notable for a funeral service held for the boll weevil that year. Boll weevil eradication began in North Carolina and had been a grand success in the Southeast. It was fitting that the 1994 Expo spotlight state was North Carolina.

    Former President Jimmy Carter visited the 1996 Expo. That year, new exhibit sections were opened for small ruminants, cotton farming and small farmers. Also that year, Ed White said the Expo had become the largest farm show in North America.

    The 1997 Expo featured a fourth new permanent agribusiness building. Deere introduced a new six-row cotton picker. The 1997 Expo also featured an expanded beef pavilion.

    Beef cattle herd health demonstration became an annual fixture at Expo starting during the second Expo in 1979. Extension veterinarian Dr. David Bedell helped start the beef herd health demonstrations, and after he retired in the late 1980’s, Bill Patten of Fuller Supply Company stepped in as a volunteer leader of the livestock exhibits.

    Current direction

    In 2002, the Expo’s beef cattle pavilion was named in honor of Patten. A longtime member of the Expo board of directors, Patten helped to establish and expand the show’s livestock displays, including the dairy and horse exhibits, along with the alpaca and sheep and goat exhibit sections.

    The Expo’s current director Chip Blalock began to manage the show starting in 1997. One of Blalock’s major contributions was to develop the Expo’s official slogan as North America’s Premier Farm Showtm. Blalock also oversaw the move of the Expo’s staff from rented office space in Tifton to a new permanent headquarters building on the Spence Field site near Moultrie.

    Like his predecessor Ed White, Blalock has been a strong champion of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

    During Blalock’s tenure, the Expo pioneered in introducing farmers to new genetically engineered crop varieties along with precision farming technologies such as variable rate applications and automated steering.

    A new exhibit during the 1998 show featured 12 colleges represented in the Land Grant University tent. The University of Arkansas exhibit within the tent introduced farmers to the COTMAN computer system that simulates cotton growth. The 1998 show also showed the first emphasis on precision farming technology. Infrared and aerial photos showed that the Expo farm would benefit from variable rate nutrient applications. Also precision farming exhibits became a fixture in the Expo agribusiness buildings.

    During the 1999 Expo, the U.S. Commerce Dept., promoted the Expo globally along with 20 other major U.S. trade shows as part of its International Buyer Program. Delegations from several countries visited the Expo as a result of this promotion, with large groups coming from China, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. Also that year, a Georgia-based farmer introduced a new machine he invented that converted large round hay bales into smaller rectangular bales.

    Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College also opened a new permanent exhibit building during the 1999 Expo. ABAC was one of the original sponsors of Expo and has exhibited at the farm show each year since the first Expo in 1978.

    Also during 1999, the Southern States cooperative became a major sponsor of the Expo’s precision farming demonstrations.

    The 2000 Expo featured new exhibits from Mahindra that had recently entered the U.S. small tractor market, along with new models of the Mule all terrain vehicle from Kawasaki.

    Automated steering tractors with technology from Trimble Navigation and corn silage harvesting with equipment from John Deere helped to highlight the field demonstrations during the 2001 Expo.

    A new cotton picker from John Deere helped to pick some of the Expo’s cotton that was planted in 15-inch rows in 2004.

    In 2005, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns came to Expo for a listening session to gather ideas for a new farm bill.

    Looking forward

    Poultry exhibits and seminars became established during the 2006 Sunbelt Expo. The first broadband cloud allowing quick, wireless access to email and the internet was provided for visitors attending the 2006 Expo.

    A new aquaculture exhibit section was one of the highlights of the 2007 Expo. Also, the poultry exhibits were housed in a new permanent building during the 2007 show.

    In 2009, the Expo’s research farm was named in honor of longtime Expo farm manager Darrell Williams.

    One of the highlights of the 2011 Expo was a new exhibit building near the show site’s main gate sponsored by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau. More than 200 acres of cotton were planted at Expo in 2011 to mirror the growth of cotton acreage in the Southeast.

    During the 2012 show, the Expo recognized a century of service to the farming community by the propane gas industry. Propane-powered vehicles led the antique tractor parade that year. Also that year, two longtime irrigation exhibitors, Reinke and Valmont/Valley opened new permanent exhibit buildings.

    For the 2013 Expo, visitors were offered the opportunity to download an app for their smart phones and handheld devices that would update visitors on the latest Expo activities such as harvesting and tillage demonstrations. This was the third year for the Expo app to be available from Penton Media, publisher of the official Expo program and Southeast Farm Press.  Corn and soybean harvesting demonstrations made a return appearance during the 2013 show, and the app gave visitors the starting times and locations so they wouldn’t miss these field activities.

    The 2014 Expo saw the introduction of a new Rural Lifestyle exhibit section with displays and seminars geared to backyard gardening, backyard poultry, locally grown food crops and organic crop production. This exhibit section was later named the Hoss Tools Sustainable Living Center. New unmanned aerial vehicles or drones also made a big splash at the 2014 show.

    In 2015, the show’s sheep and goat exhibit section was named in memory of Will Getz, longtime Extension animal scientist at Fort Valley State University. Getz helped to coordinate the sheep and goat seminars at Expo over many years. The Expo’s fish ponds were also expanded in time to grow bigger fish for visitors at the 2015 show.

    Aquaponics, using components of both aquaculture and hydroponic plant culture, helped to highlight the Expo’s fish pond exhibit section during the 2016 show. A driving range for compact tractors that was new in the 2015 Expo was expanded for use in the 2016 show.

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    Hurricane Irma cost Florida agriculture $2.5 billion in damages, according to a recently released report.

    Hurricane Irma cost Florida agriculture $2.5 billion in damages, according to a recently released report.

    In an initial report released Oct. 4, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated losses for each segment of the state’s agriculture. The preliminary economic assessments account for current crop losses and ancillary losses, such as debris cleanup, damaged infrastructure, and animals' long-term welfare affected by Irma. This preliminary assessment will change as new information becomes available, and it is not representative of any specific funding request, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture.

    “Florida agriculture took it on the chin as Hurricane Irma pummeled the state, and the $2.5 billion in agricultural damages is only an initial assessment. We're likely to see even greater economic losses as we account for loss of future production and the cost to rebuild infrastructure. We're going to do everything within our power to support Florida agriculture as it recovers from Hurricane Irma's devastation,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

    The estimated economic agricultural damages according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' preliminary report are:

    • Total Florida agriculture: $2,558,598,303.
    • Citrus: $760,816,600
    • Beef Cattle: $237,476,562
    • Dairy: $11,811,695
    • Aquaculture: $36,850,000
    • Fruits and Vegetables (excluding citrus): $180,193,096
    • Greenhouse, Nursery, and Floriculture: $624,819,895
    • Sugar: $382,603,397
    • Field crops: $62,747,058
    • Forestry: $261,280,000

    The estimates included in the preliminary report are based on data obtained from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the UF-IFAS “Impacts of Hurricane Irma on Florida Agriculture: Update #4 Report,” UF-IFAS crops budgets, Timber Damage Estimates prepared by the Florida Forest Service, and early surveys the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducted with industry leaders and individual producers.

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    Seldom Rest Farm from Pulaski, Tenn., won the overall prize for the 2017 Southeast Hay Contest with an alfalfa entry scoring a relative forage quality score of 269.

    Despite weather setbacks this year, the annual Southeast Hay Contest once again shows good management decisions can still lead to high-quality hay in the Southeast.

    Seldom Rest Farms from Pulaski, Tenn., won the overall prize for the 2017 Southeast Hay Contest with an alfalfa entry scoring a relative forage quality score of 269. Lee Gilmore from Seldom Rest Farms accepted the honor on the opening day of the 40th anniversary of the Sunbelt Ag Expo on Oct. 17.

    “Weather is always a major factor when attempting to produce high-quality forage. This year, wet conditions early and dry conditions late in the growing season proved to be a major limitation for many producers,” said Dennis Hancock, University of the Georgia Extension forage specialist who coordinates the contest each year.

    Though it was wet early, Hancock said, drought lingered in some parts of the region later in the season, resulting in problems with high nitrate levels with 11 percent of contest samples disqualified because nitrates were higher than 5,000 ppm, Hancock said.

    The contest is joint venture ran by UGA Extension, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Clemson University Extension and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

    The contest has seven categories, and drew nominations from seven states this year. The top three entries based on RFQ score received cash prizes. First place received $125, second received $75, and the third place entry received $50.

    As top winner, Seldom Rest Farm won a choice of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series disc mower or RK Series rotary rake for the 2017 hay production season plus $1,000.

    The contest began in 2004 when a group of county Extension agents began a program to highlight forage’s relative forage quality, a way to predict the fiber digestibility and animal intake of harvested crops.

    For a comparative way to use RFQ scores, Hancock provided a few examples:

    • Hay with a RFQ of 100 or more can usually be economically fed to maintain beef cows
    • RFQ of 125-150 is adequate for stocker cattle or young growing replacement heifers, and hay with an RFQ of 140-160 is suitable for dairy cattle in the first three months of lactation.
    • RFQ of 155 could conceptually be labeled premium hay.

    Massey Ferguson is the primary sponsor of the contest, and Hancock and the company have partnered to produce an educational video series called “A Cut Above the Rest,” which includes information on agronomic management and equipment operation, he said.

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    The weather wanted the 40th annual Sunbelt Ag Expo show to go perfect.

    The weather wanted the 40th annual Sunbelt Ag Expo show to go perfect.

    “We’ve had a great week so far. The Lord has blessed us with beautiful weather. It’s cool and breezy,” said Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

    The show started in 1978 with 410 exhibitors on about 25 acres on Spence Field in Moultrie, Ga. This year, Blalock said, the show hosted 1,200 exhibitors, and 100 of them were new to the show, on about 100 acres of exhibitor space representing more than 4,000 products and services. Of the original 410 exhibitors, 23 have participated in each of the 40 years of the show.

    “The success of the Sunbelt Ag Expo is built on the fact that we adhere to our main mission: To provide an environment to bring exhibitors and farmers together to learn from one another and ultimately for those farmers to purchase machinery, technology and services from those exhibitors,” he said.

    Blalock said the Expo also strives to provide a family-friendly atmosphere with many exhibitors providing products and services and activities for people of all ages who come to the Expo to learn more about opportunities and benefits of the rural lifestyle.

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    Less than 20 seconds into his unscripted speech, the creed he proclaimed hit home, and the jolted audience returned to him a thunderous clap of their own.

    Like a familiar thunderclap, his words rolled over the docile crowd. Less than 20 seconds into his unscripted speech, the creed he proclaimed hit home, and the jolted audience returned to him a thunderous clap of their own.

    On Oct. 17, first-generation Virginia farmer Robert Mills, Jr., held the 2017 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award in his hand and proclaimed the FFA creed to the more than 600 people attending the opening-day luncheon at the 40th anniversary Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga. From that opening salvo, he launched into one of the best speeches given to accept the award; and many a fine farmer has given many a fine speech over the 28 years of the farmer of the year program.

    The quality of the recording isn’t great. An Olympus digital recorder held just off the right side of the stage where Mills gave his speech was used to capture it, but the short speech is worth a listen.

    Mills, a tobacco and livestock farmer, was one of ten farmers competing to be the farmer of the year, which is announced each year during the Sunbelt’s opening day luncheon. Any of the top farmers could have won, and each one was advised days prior to the announcement to have an acceptance speech ready, or remarks jotted down in case he won.

    During the speech, Mills obviously wasn’t talking from written notes. When he was asked after the speech if he prepared his remarks in any way before hand, he said, no; not really. He just said what was in his heart. This is what came out.

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    'It leaves the cattle producer absolutely punchless.'

    by Deena Shanker

    After years of fighting for an Obama-era rule that would help farmers sue the mammoth companies they work for, advocacy groups for America’s small poultry, pork, and beef growers may have been dealt a final blow by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The fight was about whether small farmers can sue if they feel they’ve been mistreated by big companies. Poultry farmers, for example, often get their chicks and feed from big meat producers, which in turn pay the farmer for the full-grown product. If a farmer wants to sue a company for retaliating against him because he complained about his contract—say, by sending him sick chicks or bad feed—the farmer needs to show the company’s actions hurt not only him, but the entire industry. 

    Under President Obama, that high bar would have been lowered. Under the interim final rule, a showing of harm to only one farmer would suffice to support a claim. The Trump administration last week threw out the Obama-era rule in a move hailed by lobbyists for the big agriculture companies.

    “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am,” says Mike Weaver, a West Virginia poultry farmer and president of the Organization for Competitive Markets, who voted for Donald Trump. “Rural America came out and supported the president, and if it weren’t for us, he wouldn’t be where he is now. What they did was wrong, and it shouldn’t have happened that way.” 

    “This gives the meatpacking industry the ability to do whatever they wish in terms of retaliation against an individual”

    Farmer groups—including the National Farmers Union, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Farm Aid, R-CALF USA, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the Organization for Competitive Markets—supported the Obama-era rule. Many farmers and ranchers thought Trump would allow it to take effect, citing his support for small business and rural Americans. Industry lobbyists, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and the North American Meat Institute, hoped the Republican president would undo the rule, citing fears over increased litigation from farmers. They also thought they’d found a champion for their cause in Trump, who had vowed to cut federal regulation. 

    “When Trump was coming in with the mantra of reduced regulation,” says Jeremy Scott, a protein research analyst at Mizuho Securities USA LLC, “there was relief.” In the end it was industry, not farmers, that guessed correctly. National Chicken Council President Mike Brown publicly praised the USDA decision. 

    Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers are left with few options to challenge huge companies over allegedly anti-competitive behavior. “This gives the meatpacking industry the ability to do whatever they wish in terms of retaliation against an individual,” says Jay Platt, a cow-calf rancher in Arizona, who also voted for Trump. “It leaves the cattle producer absolutely punchless.”

    In addition to Democrats on Capitol Hill, at least one member of Trump’s own party sees it that way, too. “They’re just pandering to big corporations. They don’t care about family farms,” Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told reporters upon hearing the news of the USDA decision. “This is an example of a swamp being refilled.”

    Although the Trump administration has faced litigation opposing other attempts to undo Obama-era regulations, lawsuits are unlikely to succeed in this case because the USDA took public comment on the possibility of withdrawing the rule, which itself was based on an interpretation of existing federal law, before doing so. 

    “If there’s some ambiguity, the agency responsible for carrying out the rule is given deference,” says Cary Coglianese, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Program on Regulation. “It may have been reasonable to interpret the statute the way the Obama administration did, but that doesn’t mean the Trump administration’s isn’t reasonable.” 

    For now, farmer groups are looking at other avenues. Weaver has sent a letter asking Trump to issue an executive order reversing the USDA’s decision. He still lays part of the blame, however, with the Obama administration, whose rural agenda was largely stymied by Congress.

    “Obama had the opportunity to do the right thing, and he didn’t,” says Weaver. “He made a lot of promises to the farmers about the things he was gonna do and never followed through on them.” 

    To contact the author of this story: Deena Shanker in New York at

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rovella at

    © 2017 Bloomberg L.P

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    You should be proud that Harper is growing faster than any of the other calves on the place and is looking more like a replacement heifer every day.

    We know that calving isn’t easy. And we realize that motherhood is even more challenging. We can only imagine what you were thinking when you first experienced the full suite of hormones that accompany being a first-calf heifer.

    We saw the persistent, stinky bulls chase you around until you gave up. We fed you when you were ridiculously hungry for a few months and knew you were questioning why you lost your girlish figure. We brought you close to the barn when you looked like you were about to calve and took excellent care of you when you went into labor. We even cleaned up the copious amount of afterbirth that you were supposed to consume (and thought we had disposed of it properly until one morning the dogs decided to bring us a treat).

    We introduced you to your new bundle of joy and were disappointed in your apathy. We thought maybe you were in shock. We made sure your little heifer got the colostrum she needed to get a head start in life. We were grateful that despite your lack of interest in her, she still had a voracious appetite and more than enough interest in getting the milk she needed.

    We fed you better than any cow on the place three times a day so that your heifer could nurse. At first, you seemed like you might be tolerant of her occasional, not-so-gentle teat pulling, but then you decided to constantly kick and head butt her and us; so we now have to put you in the squeeze chute twice a day.

    We thought if you had a roommate whom you admired and who was actively choosing to be a good mother, then maybe you would warm up to the idea. Currently, it seems that the only advantage to this attempt is that your heifer gets to share an occasional meal with her cohort because your roommate is extra maternal.

    We will persist in making sure that you and Harper (yes, we named her because she is officially part of our family) are well fed and safe. We will not hesitate to clean sweet Harper when she needs a bath and give her lots of good chin and back scratches daily because we know where her “spots” are.

    We will be patient and continue to sacrifice a ridiculous amount of time doing for you the one job you are well equipped to do…because that’s what motherhood is all about.


    Two Concerned Mothers Who Could Have Their Druthers

    P.S.You should be proud that Harper is growing faster than any of the other calves on the place and is looking more like a replacement heifer every day. You should also be worried that one day she may replace you.

    Rebecca Bearden and her sister, Rachel, ranch in Alabama.

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    Two farmers told a public hearing sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration that biotechnology allows farmers to increase yields while using less fuel, less chemicals and with less impact on the environment.

    Two farmers told a public hearing sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration that biotechnology allows farmers to increase yields while using less fuel, less chemicals and with less impact on the environment.

    Bryant Chapman, a dairy, beef, poultry and grain farmer in Alexander County, N.C., and Don Duvall, a grain farmer from Carmi, Ill., both emphasized that biotechnology allows farmers to produce abundant and affordable food with less inputs.

    The FDA public hearing was held Nov. 7 at the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlotte. The hearing was part of the Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative passed by Congress, which appropriated $3 million for FDA to work with USDA to educate the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology. Another hearing is set for Nov. 14 in San Francisco.

    Chapman, testifying on behalf of Dairy Farmers of America, said the environmental footprint of farming has been significantly improved thanks to biotechnology. “These benefits are very consistent with things that consumers tell us are important to them which is high quality food that is affordable and grown in ways that conserve our natural resources and chemical use,” Chapman said. “It’s very clear that most consumers aren’t making the connection between what and how GMOs help accomplish that.”

    Chapman said farmers need to both listen to consumers and share their personal stories to help them understand the importance of biotechnology to agriculture. He emphasized that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, provide huge opportunities to help reduce food insecurity, especially in the developing world where safe options currently aren’t available to protect crops against diseases and pests.

    ”We can make an impact by proving that biotechnology helps in the United States where we have the ability  to use it and practice it safely. If we don’t engage with the consumes in the United States then we can see a potential life threatening ripple effect by losing these technologies and not being able to use them in developing countries,” Chapman said.

    As a dairy farmer, Chapman acknowledged that milk is not bioengineered, but he stressed that much of the grain he feeds his cattle is bioengineered. He said widespread marketing against GMO concerns him.

    “Many food companies are labeling and promoting products that are non-GMO or organic or things of the like and are trying to reinforce confused consumers that GMOs or biotechnology as a whole are things that they need to avoid. And that’s just not the truth,” Chapman said. “As a dairy farmer I welcome efforts led by the FDA that will lead to better informed consumers with a greater awareness on the implications of food choices and a stronger foundation when they make food decisions.”

    While milk is not a GMO-crop, Chapman said dairy farmers are still challenged by “marketing gimmicks” when milk is labeled as containing no antibiotics. He emphasized that no milk can leave a farm if antibiotics are found.

    He used the antibiotic issue in milk as one example of deceptive marketing that harms farmers and makes it appear the crops they produce are unsafe or harmful. “In all reality our goal day in and day out is to make sure we produce the safest food available for anybody to consume,” he said.

    Chapman said many people opposed to GMOs and biotechnology are using social media as a platform to attack those who are conventionally producing crops. He called on USDA and FDA to get out the true facts on GMOs and biotechnology to counter the deceptive attacks.

    “I’m not a communications or consumer research, but as a farmer I know the importance of telling a story of my farm to my neighbors and my community. I hope FDA will be able to work with real people with real stories who can help reach consumers with accurate trustworthy information that is also grounded in science,” Chapman said.

    Duvall, testifying on behalf of the National Corn Growers Association, said it is important for FDA and other agencies to reassure consumers that their food is safe. He emphasized that genetically modified crops are extensively tested by multiple agencies.

    “For the more than two decades that genetically modified products have been grown there has not been a single documented incident of harm to human health resulting from genetic modification,” he said. “GMOS reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. We’re using less fuel, less chemicals, less inputs and that results in a healthier environment.”

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    • Wheat prices are expected to hold well into next year. • Beef cattle prices likely will remain strong. • Farmland values are expected to stay strong. • Farmers and ranchers also will face more rules and regulations.

    Wheat prices are expected to hold well into next year, and farmland values are expected to stay strong.

    Beef cattle prices likely will remain strong as well, but producers must manage production costs, especially feed, closely.

    Farmers and ranchers also will face more rules and regulations as the pace for regulatory change continues to increase for farms and small businesses.

    That’s the gist of an economic outlook presented by a quartet of Oklahoma State University Extension economists recently at the third annual Rural Economic Outlook Conference in Stillwater.

    Derrel Peel, Breedlove Professor of Agribusiness and livestock marketing specialist, said drought continues to weigh heavily on the beef industry with continued herd liquidation, record high grain, forage and replacement cattle prices.

    Producers are experiencing reduced cow-calf profitability, and feedlot and packer margins have been poor. Herd liquidation also has resulted in higher wholesale beef prices, more limited beef demand and weaker beef exports.

    That’s a recap, he said for 2012.

    For 2013, the industry wonders if drought will persist, accompanied by even more liquidation. Or will more normal weather mean higher heifer retention? He anticipates tighter cattle supplies into 2014. “Beef demand is the key unknown and is tied to the general economy.”

    Prices will push higher

    Cattle and beef prices, he said, will push higher because of limited supplies next year. “Beef production is down by 4.5 percent. Beef demand will limit price increases, however.”

    Other factors that could affect the cattle markets are how much higher beef prices will move before hitting a barrier and whether and how much feed prices will moderate. Higher cow and heifer prices also will influence the cattle market and breeding cow and heifer demand.

    Cow-calf operators have opportunities for good profit but must manage costs. “Stockers offer good value with gain but packers and feedlots will continue to struggle and loss of capacity is likely. Production challenges will be bigger than marketing challenges.”

    Peel said the industry will be a long time in transition. “We expect a long period of limited cattle supply.”

    Land values, said Damona Doye, Sarkeys Distinguished Professor and Extension economist and regents professor, are variable across the country but have held up in Oklahoma. Nationally, cropland value is up 14.5 percent with pastureland up 4.5 percent. In Oklahoma, cropland is up 16.8 percent with pastureland up 10.6 percent.

    Values in Oklahoma are higher where there are mineral rights. “North Central Oklahoma has the highest land values in the state,” she said.

    Nationally, the corn states show the highest value for cropland. Improved pastureland to the east also is valued higher than native pastures in the west. Pastureland in Oklahoma is valued at $1,150 per acre, same as the national average.

    “The highest land rental values are also found in states with the highest cropland values, the Midwest.”

    In Oklahoma, dryland cash rent rates were up 10 percent in 2012, compared to 2011. A breakdown by crop shows wheat land at $32.81 per acre cash rent. Alfalfa is $41.40 and grain sorghum is $29.03 per acre.

    Doye said pastureland for rent was limited last year because of drought. “If folks had pastureland to rent, however, they could command high rental rates.”

    In spite of farmland values holding up investing in rural land is not always a good option. “The investment does not always provide a good return,” she said. “We have seen times when farmland outperformed the stock market, but timing is the key.”

    She said renters and landowners need to communicate accurately. “That’s why we need to see more written lease agreements.”

    Wheat outlook

    Kim Anderson, Extension economist and wheat marketing specialist, said wheat prices should remain profitable into 2013. Drought will continue to affect the market even though wheat stocks currently are adequate.

    Corn supply will continue to influence wheat, Anderson said. Drought and “the ethanol effect,” will keep pressure on corn supplies. “Corn will have to buy acres and that will keep prices up.”

    If corn stocks decline, wheat may move into the feed market.

    “If we don’t get corn and beans planted next spring, we could see $10 wheat,” he said.

    Anderson quoted one-time colleague Luther Tweeten about the effect government programs have on the wheat market. “He said, ‘policy comes and policy goes, but weather determines prices.’”

    Shannon Ferrell, assistant professor, OSU agricultural economics department, discussed changes in agriculture law and the changing population dynamics facing farms and ranches.

    “The pace of (regulatory) change for farms and other small businesses is changing. Agriculture will face more rules and regulations.”

    The economic impact of regulations, he added, is not considered.

    Regulatory change also comes in conjunction with changing farm population dynamics. A recent survey shows that 55 percent of farms in Iowa are owned by “people old enough to retire, 65 years or older.”

    He said older farmers are less productive than younger ones.

    “We have to think about how to turn over farms to the next generation,” he said. “We have to manage that transition, and manage it in time for the next generation to learn.”

    As the farming population ages, he said, the next generation may be well into middle age by the time they take over farm management. “We have to actively engage the next generation,” he said.

    Rising input costs also create hardships for young farmers. Land prices, for instance, have risen steadily since 2003. And recent increased prices for agriculture commodities have been largely offset by increased production costs.

    “More young farmers are now embracing a leasing mentality to bridge the expense gap to get into farming,” he said.

    The shift to renting or leasing farmland should include educating landowners on the advantages of adopting new production technology. 

    Ferrell said change is inevitable and has been for thousands of years. He quoted the Greek philosopher Heracleitus: “Nothing endures but change.”


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    The three finalists that will vie for Kentucky Farm Bureau's "Farmer of the Year" honors have been chosen as preliminary judging for the 2017 award has come to a close.

    The three finalists that will vie for Kentucky Farm Bureau's "Farmer of the Year" honors have been chosen as preliminary judging for the 2017 award has come to a close. Darren Luttrell of Ohio County, Richard Preston of Hardin County, and Lisa Robards of Bullitt County are the three finalists.

     KFB initiated a "Farmer of the Year" awards program as a way to recognize its members for their commitment to excellence in agriculture, efficiency in farming practices, sound financial management and outstanding leadership in their county Farm Bureau and other civic organizations. The award recognizes an individual whose personal efforts not only strengthen the state's agriculture industry but also demonstrate service and leadership on and off the farm.

     Farmer of the Year Finalist, Darren Luttrell

     Since 1982, Darren Luttrell has been a part of the family farming operation and has seen production acres double from 1,800 to 3,600 consisting of corn and soybeans. He also operates eight broiler houses and raises 380 head of beef cattle.

     In addition, he has also been associated with a leading agriculture technology company as a dealer for the last 16 years. While this part of his overall farming experience is not a major revenue contributor, Luttrell said it has allowed him to know and utilize their technology quickly and work with some of the best and most progressive farmers in the area.

     The Luttrell operation is a true family farm. His two sons are both involved full-time on the farm primarily focusing on the grain and cattle operations while wife Debbie helps him with the poultry business.

     Luttrell has used different precision farming tools over the years to help reduce input costs and has always been willing to try new farming practices.

     He would like to expand his grain system and grow more acres in the future. He also plans to give his sons more responsibility in the decision-making process on the farm.

     "The key to our future is a well-executed succession plan that will ensure a successful operation for many years to come," said Luttrell.

     He has been active in the Ohio County Farm Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, his church and the local school system where he is known as "Farmer Luttrell" and has helped teach children about life on the farm.

     Farmer of the Year Finalist, Richard Preston


     Richard Preston, a native of Kentucky, began his farming operation 39 year ago after coming from a science career in California and establishing himself as a first-generation farmer. He started by buying feeder pigs and finishing them using a computer program he developed to guide his decisions. From there he utilized older farm equipment and assistance from local extension to help with capital issues and his inexperience.

     Over the past four decades, Preston's operation has grown from 269 acres to 2,415 of owned and leased land. Today he raises several no-till crops including white and yellow corn wheat, soybeans, canola and rye. Preston notes that he raises both GMO and non-GMO corn and beans while utilizing cover crops on over half of his land. 

     Preston has also served in many capacities with his local Farm Bureau as a director since 2004 and is the current Vice President. From a community involvement standpoint, he has coached youth basketball and baseball, served as an elementary school PTA president and served as the chair of the Hardin County Cable Commission.  

     In addition, Preston works with young farmers in his area and has advocated making the Farm Bill more young farmer-friendly.

     He would like to continue his farming career and accomplish his many goals by incorporating more technology on the farm.

     "I want to continue to learn how to best manage cover crops to improve profit and environmental stewardship," he said.  

     Farmer of the Year Finalist, Lisa Robards

     Lisa Robards became involved in farming by marrying a life-long farmer. She said he gave her three bred ewes for their first Christmas as a married couple and her farming career was born.

     "I quickly learned through books and mentors, how to care for my small flock and how to spin and weave with wool," she said.

     Today, in addition to her sheep, Robards raises cattle, horses, chickens and llamas on the family farm that consist of 733 acres of owned and leased land. The farm's crops include corn, soybeans, hay, wheat and rye.

     In addition to marketing through conventional methods for grains, she also uses direct marketing for free-range eggs and fleece products.

     Robards has been involved as a 4-H volunteer leader, in church committees, as president of the local Extension Ag Council and has organized mentoring programs for at-risk youth.

     She has also been active in her local Farm Bureau serving on the Women's and Education Committees as well as attending numerous conferences and conventions.

     Robards said one of her first obstacles to overcome as a beginning farmer was a lack of knowledge, something she remedied by utilizing learning resources in the state such as the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Sheet and Wool Producers Association. She plans to continue efforts to learn more about her profession as a way to increase sales.   

    Judges met in late-September to conduct interviews with the finalists and visit the farms. The "Farmer of the Year" recipient will be announced at KFB's 2017 state annual meeting in Louisville on December 1 and will receive $1,000 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation. All three finalists will be given a KFB jacket, and the runners up will each receive $250 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation.

     In addition to the statewide recognition and prizes, KFB's "Farmer of the Year" winner will represent Kentucky in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern "Farmer of the Year" contest, the South's most prestigious agricultural award, in Moultrie, Georgia, in October of 2018. Last year's winner received a $15,000 cash award plus $2,500 as a state winner from Swisher International, the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative and a Columbia jacket from Ivey's Outdoor and Farm Supply.


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    Pork Checkoff leads investment in antibiotic research — more than $6 million since 2000.

    Source: National Pork Board
    America’s 60,000 pig farmers continue to make progress in their quest for superior antibiotic stewardship to help protect people, pigs and the planet. On their behalf, the National Pork Board is pleased again to celebrate U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week with organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “This week of antibiotic awareness is a good time for those of us in the pork industry to reflect on our long history of accomplishments with antibiotics, such as using these medications responsibly and embracing the updated Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification program,” says NPB President Terry O’Neel, a pig farmer from Friend, Neb. “As pig farmers, we are aware of issues such as antibiotic resistance, and we are dedicated to working hard to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, both on the farm and in human medicine.”

    This year, the CDC changed the name of its educational outreach to Be Antibiotics Aware. The national effort focuses on how everyone can help fight antibiotic resistance and improve antibiotic prescribing and use. The agency says while antibiotics save lives, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. The CDC estimates at least 80 million antibiotic prescriptions each year are unnecessary for human patients, which makes improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority.

    “Antibiotic resistance is a public health issue with numerous contributors across human, animal and environmental health,” says Heather Fowler, D.V.M., director of producer and public health with the NPB. “Because of this, pig farmers understand the key role they and their herd veterinarians play as part of the overall One Health, multi-disciplinary approach to antibiotic stewardship.”

    Fowler believes ongoing collaboration with academia, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations is the best way to move forward in solving the complex global issue of antibiotic resistance. As examples, she points to yet another revision to long-time programs such as PQA Plus to focus even more on antibiotic stewardship. She also noted the NPB approving a Checkoff investment of more than $6 million for antibiotic-related studies since 2000, which includes novel work on antibiotic usage standards and metrics.

    At the national level, the Pork Checkoff has been very active in its ongoing mission of education and outreach to all audiences about how America’s pig farmers are progressing on antibiotic stewardship. During 2017, the NPB hosted a live webcast that brought together experts in farming, veterinarian medicine and the retail and foodservice industries. This event drew more than 60,000 online viewers, with 400 pork producers in the studio audience. A replay of the broadcast can be viewed online at The Checkoff also participated in a panel discussion at the annual Global Ag Investing conference in New York City to address the shared responsibility of antibiotic use in both animal and human health. Closer to home, the NPB hosted an Iowa farm tour with 20 National Press Foundation journalist fellows.

    From a producer perspective, O’Neel says 2017 has been another milestone in antibiotic stewardship, with farmers taking even more proactive steps in pig management and biosecurity. He points out that these efforts have helped increase the health of pigs and reduce the need for antibiotics.

    “Last January, the implementation of Guidance 209 and 213 that expanded the Veterinary Feed Directive and eliminated the growth-promotion use of medically important antibiotics took effect,” O’Neel says. “While some of our detractors may have been expecting chaos on our farms, we proved them wrong. America’s pig farmers simply did what we always have done. We stepped up and demonstrated our competency to practice good antibiotic stewardship and our ongoing dedication to doing what’s right for people, pigs and the planet.”

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    If nothing else, working with family keeps you humble.

    It’s not for everyone. Even in the best of scenarios, power dynamics rear their ugly heads, personal opinions detract from progress, and disagreements cause temporary bitterness.

    But when it clicks just right, there is nothing more beautiful than being able to work with family.

    Generations of agricultural families have survived and thrived together as a unit because of the “whole outfit” approach to making a living. It is arguably the best way to raise the next generation. Few activities foster understanding and appreciation like group work. Of course, the opposite case could be argued for the creation of lifelong resentment when your family drives you over the edge of sanity. Still, if the end goal of feeding yourselves and hopefully others can only be attained with everyone’s participation, you swallow your pride and figure it out.

    Though engagement of the entire family unit is no longer imperative for operating in today’s agricultural world, there is still value to be gleaned from executing work that involves the blood kin crew.

    I may be biased because I not only love but I respect my sister. Plus she is infinitely easier to work with than Daddy was, though I respected him equally as much. We all three worked well together despite his propensity for drama. His approach was just altogether different than my sister’s. She is more willing to communicate her plan for the work in question. I think Daddy assumed we could and should have read his mind.

    “Don’t forget to shut that gate,” she will say prior to working, as opposed to Daddy’s prolific cursing followed by “You knew you were supposed to shut that gate” after the fact.

    No one is perfect. He was a heck of a cowboy, but people management was not on his resume.

    Thankfully, my sister integrates his superb animal husbandry skills with a revised version of his old school management style to improve workplace morale. With her, even the most stressful bovine-related events are laced with humor and perspective.

    I honestly thought that any event involving a squeeze chute would always by nature elicit stress, until my sister took the ranch reins, and either replaced or repaired the old chutes that Daddy had dealt with, likely because he was trying to support a family of four and chose private school tuition over equipment repair. Previously, I had to awkwardly (and often unsuccessfully) secure the rusty head catch with a rope each time a cow entered the chute, creating the slowest vaccination record in history. Now I can barely keep up with the number of heads passing through, and the cattle (and people) are much less stressed from reduced chute time.

    In addition to her willingness to reduce drama with better equipment, she also lightens the mood when the outcome may not be favorable. A few childhood jokes and some movie lines bring much-needed relief on a cold, windy and rainy day when you have no choice but to carry a sickly, week-old calf, born to your favorite cow, to the catch pen for additional treatment, knowing that all of the meds in the world cannot change the prognosis.

    With all of her valiant efforts to put people and animals at ease, she occasionally loses her cool herself, though it still borders more on hilarious than heated. During the fall works this year, after chasing stubborn mama cows underneath a dusty barn for almost 10 minutes trying to get them to turn into a smaller pen, she started cursing and screaming at the top of her lungs. “Just pen already, you stupid cows!”

    She turned around, shook her head at me and at one of the men helping, and we all three burst into laughter. There are few sights more amusing than watching a sweaty, angry, 118-pound woman with a curly ponytail throw her dirty hat after pregnant Charlais cows that refuse to pen.

    If nothing else, working with family keeps you humble.

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    Turkey more likely than tofu to be on Thanksgiving menu

    I haven’t consulted Pat about the Thanksgiving dinner menu yet, but I am confident that tofurkey will not make the cut.

    Tofurkey, for those who are interested, is a concoction containing vegetable products, tofu, I’m certain, and other herbs and spices, I suppose, to create a taste that might be mistaken for poultry. Based on images I’ve seen, the mixture is molded into something resembling a large bird, baked, and served on a platter with the usual accompaniments of a holiday feast.

    This time every year I receive at least one press release detailing the reasons why eating turkey is a bad idea. The annual reports, which come from various sources, include information that should not simply be ignored. It always includes commentary about the conditions of factory farms. I think most reasonable folks can agree that animals, even those bred and raised for food, should be treated as humanely as possible. For one thing, it’s bad economics not to raise farm animals as responsibly and as healthy as possible. But turkeys are not pets, though some would treat them so.

    The annual news releases also rely on the oft-repeated mantras of those who would ban all animal agriculture — overuse of antibiotics, the health risks of consuming meat, the environmental impact of raising animals for food, and the notion that all animals should roam free. The reports are long on innuendo, short on research-based fact.

    Take the highly exaggerated assumption that consuming turkey will kill you, a contention supported by the well-worn warning to avoid fat and cholesterol. I think we can all agree that eating too much fat, consuming too much cholesterol, and leading a sedentary lifestyle are not practices that will lead to a long, healthy life. But those of us who include animal protein in our diets take solace in numerous health and dietary studies that show a combination of moderate consumption of fats, inclusion of ample fruits and vegetables in our diets, and getting off the couch on a regular basis gives us decent odds of staying healthy.

    I have no argument with anyone who chooses a vegetarian diet. I have no issues with folks who eat steaks well done, cheese on their scrambled eggs, or sushi, either, though I prefer medium rare, hold the cheese, and raw fish for bait only.  Diet is a lifestyle choice, and people in this country are blessed with many choices — organic, gluten-free, free range, and low fat, to name a few. 

    I do object to organizations that use biased, unproven and exaggerated assumptions to scare people away from their choices and to poison their minds about animal agriculture.

    One wonders what these organizations would have us do with the animals currently raised on farms. Turn them loose to roam the countryside? How that has worked with feral hogs? Maintaining animals on pasture with no income to support them makes neither economic nor environmental sense.

    I hope vegetables are a part of our Thanksgiving meal, just not the entre.