Category Archives: Agriculture

A view inside a Cargill Meat Solutions slaughterhouse

I was flipping channels last night when I came across a repeat of Tuesday’s Oprah Winfrey Show. The show’s focus was veganism, but the part that caught my eye was a segment by Lisa Ling.

Ling visited a Cargill Meat Solutions slaughterhouse in Fort Morgan, Colo. Ling toured the plant with Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, the general manager in Fort Morgan. Johnson-Hoffman did a great job explaining the process during the tour and in a segment on the show.

I found the video interesting, albeit a tad gross for this city boy, so beware if you just ate lunch and aren’t interested in finding out where your burger was a few days ago.

Moran corrects broadcasters on flu name

Rep. Jerry Moran has sent a letter to major news broadcasting companies requesting that they stop referring to the H1N1 virus as “swine flu.” He noted that the labeling has “magnified” the pork industry’s ongoing economic woes, which is expected to grow to $1.89 billion in losses by the end of the year. In 2008, Kansas’ gross swine market was $406 million, 10th in the U.S.

On the brighter side for pork, the National Pork Producers Council announced today that China has lifted its ban on U.S. pork imports. China implemented the ban in late April in wake of the outbreak of H1N1 flu. China was the No. 3 destination for U.S. pork in 2008, when nearly 400,000 metric tons worth nearly $690 million was exported to the Asian country, according to the NPPC.

Field day to address animal rights concerns

In recent years, livestock organizations have tried to address what they consider to be unfair criticism from animal rights activists. They have taken a more active role in explaining the care ranchers and farmers take in handling their livestock.

Today, at a field day near Hutchinson, Animal Agriculture Alliance executive vice president Kay Smith will explain how her organization is helping the industry respond to concerns about animal care. Other topics will also be discussed. All livestock producers and others involved in the business are invited. The event starts at 3:30 p.m. at the Jon Mollhagen family’s Reno Ranch. Go here for directions.

Farmers keeping up with social media

Farmers aren’t ignoring social networking. According to a  recent survey, Agriculture New Media Usage Study,  found 62 percent of large crop growers have sent or received text messages during the past year and 63 percent of the respondents have taken pictures with mobile phones.  Facebook and Twitter are also attracting farmers.

Ag site helps explain ACRE

The National Corn Growers Association has developed a bulletin for landowners on the farm bill’s ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) program. But Art Barnaby, a Kansas State University agricultural economist, says the paper is also a helpful resource for wheat growers.

Barnaby stressed it’s important for producers to stay on top of ACRE information, particularly with the USDA’s statistic service releasing its first yield estimate Aug. 12.

“The Aug. 12. . .report could be a game changer in some states,” Barnaby said. “I think the (corn) association’s bulletin explains most of the landlord issues.”

If the phone line is busy . . .

Wednesday was the eighth day on the job for Kirk Schulz as Kansas State University’s new president.

How time flies when you’re busy dealing with the controversy over the contract of ex-KSU football coach Ron Prince and an audit released last week by the Kansas Board of Regents that revealed financial irregularities at K-State.

Schulz spent part of Wednesday speaking at the luncheon meeting of the Agri-Business Council of Wichita at the Hilton Wichita Airport.

“I hope my second week is nothing like my first week,” he said. “I’ve talked more to the media in the last 10 days than I have total in my first four years.”

Ag community divided over cap-and-trade

WICHITA — The agricultural community doesn’t speak with one voice when it comes to federal cap-and-trade legislation now being considered by House committees.

Roger Johnson, the new president of the National Farmers Union, made it clear in an interview with The Wichita Eagle this week that he would only support cap-and-trade if ag would be allowed to sell carbon offsets.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation appears to be against the climate change bill, which includes the proposed cap-and-trade system, under any conditions. AFBF president Bob Stallman notes that the legislation would put U.S. farmers at a competitive disadvantage in the international marketplace.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, said this week it’s not likely that revenue from offsets will “even come close” to mitigating the increased costs of inputs that would result from the legislation.

Fed report: farmland values steady, ag credit tightens

Farmland values appeared to stabilize in the first quarter of 2009 for the 10th district, according to a survey of agricultural credit conditions conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

District farmland values held relatively steady after modest declines at the end of 2008. Non-irrigated farmland values rose 1.4 percent during the quarter, and there was no change in the value of irrigated acreage.

The survey of 255 bankers also found that softer farm incomes slowed capital spending, and turbulent agricultural and macroeconomic conditions contributed to tighter agricultural credit conditions.

Collateral requirements edged up and the rate of loan repayment fell for the second straight quarter. The bankers also felt that agricultural credit conditions could weaken further.

The 10th district includes Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, the northern half of New Mexico and the western third of Missouri.

Farmers respond to their critics

A new agriculture organization, The Hand That Feeds U.S., has been formed to explain the farmer’s side of the story to the media. The effort is in response those critical of farmers on various issues, including areas of food costs and the environment, the group said.

“It makes no sense that we’re being demonized by many of the nation’s top newspapers,” said Linda Raun, a rice grower in Texas. “We haven’t done a good enough job telling them our story.”

Monday, two U.S. senators, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., wrote an open letter to U.S. media outlets noting that opposition to debate leading up to the 2008 farm bill was “largely marked by misinformation.”

Andy Quinn, a Minnesota corn and ethanol producer, said, “We’re the best farmers in the world, but we’re far from being master communicators. For too long, we’ve let a handful of environmental extremists and coalitions bankrolled by big business define our industry in the news.”

Among tidbits of information cited by Farm Policy Facts:

- Americans spend 9.8 percent of their income on food _ less than consumers in any other country.

- For every dollar Americans spend on food, farmers get 20 cents.

- Of the $2.99 retail price for a one-pound loaf of bread, farmers receive 12 cents.

- Only 10 percent of funding in the farm bill goes to farm programs. More than 70 percent of the farm bill-related spending goes to food and nutrition programs such as food stamps.

- 95 percent of U.S. farms are run by families, farmer partnerships or co-ops. Less than 5 percent are corporate farms.

Moran wants food safety to stay under USDA


Proposed legislation to take food safety out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and move it to the Food and Drug Administration will be discussed this week by the House ag committee. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, gave a preview Monday night in Wichita on where he stood on the issue:
Dead set against it.

“The FDA has more on its plate than it can handle,” Moran told an audience of about 250 at the Sedgwick County Extension’s 62nd annual barbecue. “We need someone involved with food safety who understands agriculture to some degree.

“And while I have my differences with the department of ag, I would rest more easily with them. We will work hard to retain food safety in USDA.
It’s important to us as producers. Even the threat, even the rumor of BSE (mad-cow disease) can cause markets to drop.”

How about chickens in your garage?

During his presidential campaign of 1928, Herbert Hoover promised a chicken in every pot to encourage the nation’s economy. We know how that worked out the following year.

But economic hard times are here again and so is talk of chickens.

Scott Beyer, a Kansas State University professor and poultry specialist, said he has been getting a lot of phone calls and emails requesting information about raising a small flock of chickens.

“One can’t help but wonder if the economy has anything to do with this renewed interest in poultry husbandry,” Beyer said.

He said he asked questions of the callers and emailers about their interest. And while he said the responses varied, he said, “The economy does seem to be a common thread.”

“When faced with difficult times,” Beyer added, “people seek efficiency and a return to simpler times.”

He said some of the queries came from people who were interested in supporting American products, while others wanted to reduce their carbon footprint and not purchase foods that travel long distances. Still others just wanted fresh foods grown locally, he said.

Beyer cautioned city-dwellers to check with local rules about the legality of raising chickens in town. In Wichita, it’s legal.

So perhaps raising chickens for their eggs or to fill a pot is right for you. But Beyer probably won’t be able to help you with the rest of Hoover’s campaign pledge:

“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

Come visit Kansas, Mr. Ag Secretary

Passing notes is apparently the way to go in Washington.

Kansas congressman Jerry Moran didn’t miss a chance this week to invite ex-Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Agriculture Secretary, to visit the Sunflower State.

Moran said during a meeting, “I extended a written invitation” to Vilsack “so he could discuss issues with our farmers and ranchers in the state.”

Of course, Moran could have had good reason for making it a written invitation.  Perhaps he included directions on how to get to Kansas.