Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mexican Trucking Dispute Hurting U.S. Pork

U.S. pork exports to Mexico have fallen by a whopping 20 percent since the Mexican government added pork to the list of U.S. products against which it is retaliating for the failure of the United States to live up to a trade obligation, said the National Pork Producers Council in a press release.

In August, Mexico put a 5 percent tariff on most U.S. pork imports, as well as tariffs on other U.S. products, in reprisal for the United States not complying with a provision of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that allows Mexican trucks to haul goods into America. The provision was supposed to become effective in December 1995.

The National Pork Producers Council has been urging the Obama administration to resolve as quickly as possible the trucking dispute, which first erupted in March 2009 when Mexico placed higher tariffs on an estimated $2.4 billion of U.S. goods after the U.S. Congress failed to renew a pilot program that let a limited number of Mexican trucking companies to haul freight beyond a 25-mile U.S. commercial zone.

Mexico in August added products, including pork, dairy and apples, to its initial retaliation list of 89 products after the Obama administration failed to present a proposal for resolving the trucking issue.

According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Canadian government, U.S. pork exports to Mexico dropped by nearly 5,000 metric tons from August to September – a loss of about $9 million – while Canadian pork exports increased by almost 2,000 metric tons.

“The trucking issue needs to be resolved now, before the U.S. pork industry loses even more of its market share in Mexico,” said NPPC President Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “We’re talking about the livelihoods of American hog farmers; we’re talking about lost U.S. jobs. And it isn’t just the pork industry; this is happening to the producers of the other 98 products on the retaliation list.”

Mexico is the second largest market for the U.S. pork industry, which shipped $762 million of pork south of the border in 2009. Since 1993 – the year before NAFTA was implemented – U.S. pork exports to Mexico have increased by 580 percent.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NPPC Ethanol Task Force Chairman On EPA’s Decision To Increase The Ethanol Blend Rate To 15 Percent

“The National Pork Producers Council is very concerned with the effect on America’s pork producers of raising to 15 percent the amount of corn ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, a decision the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

“NPPC is withholding comment on raising the blend rate to E15 from its current E10 until we can consult with our economists. But any upward pressure on corn prices will have a negative effect on producers.

“Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 8 crop report revised down the expected yield and ending stocks of corn, we’re already seeing corn prices and the cost of raising a hog heading up.

[Corn for December delivery yesterday was up 4.2 percent from the day before, settling at $5.79 a bushel and has risen by 17 percent in the past three days. In trading this morning, prices reached a high of $5.88 a bushel. Corn was under $4 a bushel in August.

[The higher corn prices have dropped projected pork profits for 2011 to just an average of $1.19 per head, down more than $5 per head from a week ago, according to economist Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics in Adel, Iowa.]

“We don’t want a repeat of a couple of years ago when, due mostly to high feed-grain prices, pork producers lost an average of almost $24 a hog from October 2007 through March 2010, and the industry lost nearly $6 billion. Family hog farms went out of business during that time, and many producers reduced the size of their herds.”

[Spronk, who serves on NPPC’s board of directors and is chairman of its Environment Committee, is a hog and crop farmer from Edgerton, Minn.]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

House Lawmakers Want GIPSA Rule Economic Analysis

House lawmakers in a letter sent late yesterday to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked that an economic analysis of the agency’s proposed rule on buying and selling livestock and poultry be completed before the regulation becomes final.

The request was applauded by the National Pork Producers Council, which noted when the rule first was issued in mid-June the lack of such an analysis and which in its public comments on the regulation will demand that one be done.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promulgate regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act related to livestock and poultry contracts and marketing practices. The rule would be administered by USDA’s Grain
Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

Signed by 115 members – 68 Republicans and 47 Democrats – the House letter pointed out that the rule “is sweeping in its scope and would have major consequences in the marketing of livestock and poultry for producers and processors of all sizes. In order for Congress and the public to evaluate this rule and its implications with full transparency, a thorough economic analysis is necessary.”

“It is imperative that producers know how much the GIPSA rule will cost them,” said NPPC President Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “Frankly, it’s unfathomable that a major regulation like this doesn’t have an analysis of its impact on the economy and jobs.”

NPPC has pointed out that the proposed rule goes well beyond the Farm Bill mandates and includes some provisions that were considered and dropped or rejected by Congress. The regulation is a “bureaucratic overreach,” the organization has said.

In a July hearing, a number of House Agriculture Committee members said USDA “overstepped its boundaries.” The majority of the panel’s lawmakers signed the Oct. 4 letter to Vilsack, which was championed by Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Livestock Subcommittee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas. [Click here to read the letter.]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Important Pork Industry Bills Approved

The U.S. pork industry scored a couple of legislative victories today as the House of Representatives approved legislation reauthorizing a law that requires meat packers to report the prices they pay for animals and a bill that will address a shortage of veterinarians.

The National Pork Producers Council issued a press release on the measures, which the organization supports.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All The 'News' It Fits It Prints

The New York Times, long regarded as the U.S. paper of record, has had plenty to write about recently. Two Middle East wars, immigration, the slumping economy and the fifth anniversary of Katrina, to name just a few currently hot topics.

So it’s curious that, amid all that weightier news, the Gray Lady found space on its editorial page to support a draft USDA regulation on livestock sales out of the obscure Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. (Read the editorial here if you must.)

True, the regulation gave the Times another opportunity to rail against many of its favorite farm-related evils, including big ag, modern ag, ag-related water pollution and even antibiotics given to livestock to keep them from getting sick. And, yes, the disastrous GIPSA rule is a hot topic in farm states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.

But still … the New York Times editorializing on the GIPSA rule? On its face, it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

On the other hand, the rule appears to be in serious trouble after the recent hearing in Fort Collins, Colo., where dozens of real pork producers from around the country -- California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah -- explained just how it would affect them. Could someone on Independence Avenue have appealed to the Times for help on the besieged regulation?

We’ll never know for sure, of course. But, if true, it would be hard to miss the irony: media colluding with government over a regulation aimed at ending (alledged) collusion in livestock sales!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Asses, Elbows And Eggs

HOTH's favorite saying these days is: He doesn't know his ass from his elbow! (HOTH could use "she" and "her," but women aren't that dumb.) The quip applies well to N.Y. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof when it comes to his diatribes on animal agriculture.

He proves us right in his latest offering (read it here if you must), which is on the recent salmonella outbreak in eggs. Kristof, as is his wont, blames it all on "industrial" farming and in this case, keeping hens in cages. (He began his column with a boyhood reminiscence of chickens wandering freely on the family farm. HOTH almost cried.) He even touts organic food.

Kristof may want to read this piece that ran (unbelievably) in Time magazine. Besides, it looks as though the culprit in the current case is salmonella in the feed given to the chickens. So even Kristof's free-range birds could have produced tainted eggs.

In his column, the Times writer, of course, blames lots of other ills -- water pollution, antibiotic resistance, cancer -- on "industrial" farming.

Suffice it to say, Kristof doesn't know his ... you know the rest.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Our teacher asked us what our favorite animal was, and I said, "Fried chicken." She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, everyone else in the class laughed.

My parents told me to always be truthful and honest, and I am. Fried chicken is my favorite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said they love animals very much. I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef.

Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office. I told him what happened, and he laughed too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was. I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, just like she'd asked the other children. So I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken. She sent me back to the principal's office again. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.

I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am. Today, my teacher asked us to tell her what famous person we admire most.

I told her, "Colonel Sanders."

Guess where I am now ...

Monday, August 23, 2010

GIPSA 'Competition' Rule Bad For Farmers

Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa, and president of the National Pork Producers Council, has an op-ed critical of the proposed GIPSA livestock "competition" rule in today's Omaha World-Herald.

Carney also spoke with AgWired reporter Cindy Zimmerman about the potential effects on pork producers of the regulation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We're Better Than You Are

No doubt you've heard of the locavore movement -- not to be confused with the animal rights movement or a bowel movement -- which preaches buying locally raised fruits, vegetables and food animals and rails against "industrial" farming, claiming it uses massive amounts of energy to grow, fertilize and transport goods across the country.

An op-ed in today's New York Times calls out locavores for peddling, well, pig poop!

Conclude's the op-ed's author, Stephen Budiansky: "The relative pittance of our energy budget that we spend on modern farming is one of the wisest energy investments we can make, when we honestly look at what it returns to our land, our economy, our environment and our well-being."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Animal Rights Groups' Not-So-Hidden Agenda

There's an interesting commentary on the animal rights movement and its ultimate goal on The Pork Network site.

The author of the commentary, Pork magazine editor Marlys Miller, lays out the not-so-hidden agenda of animal rights groups. Miller notes that at a recent animal rights conference in Washington, D.C., Carrie Packwood Freeman, an assistant professor of communications at Georgia State University, told the audience, "We should distinguish a message from less meat, because we want no meat.”

Packwood's agenda clearly isn't covert. From the abstract of her graduate thesis on press coverage of, what she calls, the "industrialization of animal farming": "Findings show news discourse largely supports the speciesist status quo by representing farmed animals primarily as resources for human use through commodifying them, failing to acknowledge their emotions and perspectives, and failing to describe them as inherently-valuable individuals. ... Social change for animals is more likely if the media begin to construct stories which respect both human and animal interests."

We guess this means that, after they free all the animals, groups such as the Human Society of the United States and the Animal Liberation Front will champion for their right to vote.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

U.S. Pork Exports Looking Good

Data released last week by USDA showed U.S. pork exports on pace to set a new record this year, surpassing 2008's all-time high. Through June, pork exports totaled $2.35 billion, up 10 percent over the same period last year and about $30 million higher than the same six-month period in 2008.

This is great news for the U.S. pork industry, which earlier this year came out of 28 months of losses.

The data showed pork exports to Mexico up 31 percent over the January through June 2009 period. Canada imported 23 percent more U.S. pork, while Japan, the No. 1 market for U.S. pork, took 3 percent more. While exports to China and Russia were down 34 and 32 percent, respectively, the United States recently resolved with the countries issues that were limiting U.S. pork exports to those markets.

If the United States really wants to boost pork -- and other -- exports and create thousands of jobs, it will pass the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Groups Opposed To Government Intervention Call On Feds To 'Fix' Things

Several so-called grassroots farmer groups are holding a series of rallies in support of a proposed rule from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) on the selling and buying of livestock and poultry.

The groups want the federal government to impose tighter regulations on transactions, contracts and other aspects of the livestock and poultry industries as a way, they say, to bring about "fairness" and "competition." (Actually, the rhetoric from some of the organizations makes it clear they want equal outcomes, not equal opportunities.)

But how ironic. It's these same groups that disdain government involvement in their businesses. They adamantly oppose, for example, a federal animal identification system, which simply would make it easier to locate, control and eradicate diseased animals and keep export markets open to U.S. meat and poultry. They don't want the federal government getting a hold of all that public information about individual farms and ranches. Whatever.

The proposed GIPSA rule would be a disaster for farmers, ranchers, consumers and jobs in rural America. Those supporting this monstrosity clearly don't understand Economics 101.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coming To A College Campus Near You

In a few weeks, young people will head to university campuses around the country. While there, they may run into Bruce Friedrich, PETA's v.p. of policy and government affairs, who has been peddling PETA's pap about the indefensibility of "eating animals."

Friedrich will visit Boston College, Cornell, Princeton, the University of Minnesota and six other schools this fall to debate the ethics of eating animals, arguing that "vegetarianism is an ethical imperative for all members of the student body." He's also set to lie to all those impressionable, young minds, claiming that eating meat pollutes the land, air and water and drives up grain prices, which leads to starvation and food riots! But mostly, he'll tell them that eating meat supports animal cruelty.

Friedrich, of course, is a protege of PETA co-founder and President Ingrid Newkirk, who (in)famously once said, "Animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal, so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

In a recent Huffington Post piece bragging about his college campus crusades, Friedrich says he tells college kids "there is no ethical difference between eating a dog, cat, chicken, pig or fish." He even cites evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who denounces "speciesist arrogance" -- the idea that we are better than, and can do whatever we want to, other species.

It should be noted that Dawkins is not only an atheist but an anti-theist who has called religion a "primitive superstition." Friedrich, it should be noted, contributed to Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, a book about the animal liberation movement. In it, he argues in support of the activities and tactics of the Animal Liberation Front, which the FBI considers a terrorist group. (The book's forward was written by former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who essentially said America -- and the "little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers" -- deserved the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter

Man smart, woman smarter, crooned the late Robert Palmer. Well it appears our vegetarian ancestors were smart enough to discover protein rich meat, which, as it turns out, made them smarter -- and slimmer.

From National Public Radio:

"Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries. It wasn't a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. ... 'What we think is that this dietary change [to meat] around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species,' Aiello says." Read the story here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Only Thing 'Bizzare' Is Grist

Leave it to Grist, a rather left-leaning online environmental/"sustainable" agriculture magazine, to describe as "bizarre" the near-unanimous opposition from members of the House Agriculture livestock subcommittee to the USDA proposed rule on the buying and selling of livestock and poultry. (See yesterday's post about that opposition.)

Article author Tom Laskawy, who like other Grist writers opposes anything big, says the USDA rule is "simple" and would be effective. He says it "mostly consists of requirements to use standard definitions in contracts."

In fact, the proposed rule would dictate the terms of contracts, restrict the pricing of animals and limit producers’ marketing options. No wonder livestock subcommittee Democrats and Republicans admonished USDA for writing a rule that goes well beyond what Congress asked it to do. But in Grist's world, congressional oversight apparently is "bizarre."

By the way -- and for us conspiracy theorists -- Grist's founder has ties to the Tides Foundation, which has given funds to, among other organizations, Earthjustice, PETA, Union of Concerned Scientists, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Ruckus Society, described as a group of environmental anarchists.

The pork industry and modern agriculture production are favorite targets of Grist, which seems to play a little loose with the truth. The publication continues to maintain, for example, that the H1N1 flu, which it insists on calling swine flu, came from a hog farm in Mexico even though U.S. and international health experts ruled that out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

USDA 'Overstepped Its Boundaries'

USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos and USDA GIPSA Administrator J. Dudley Butler must have been squirming in their seats at yesterday's House Agriculture Committee hearing. That's because almost to a man members of the committee's Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee castigated them for overstepping their boundaries in writing regulations on the buying and selling of livestock and poultry.

Subcommittee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., pointed out to the bureaucrats that several of the provisions included in the proposed rule "were soundly rejected in the legislative process in the House and the Senate" during debate on the 2008 Farm Bill. (A Des Moines Register blog captured some of the panel members' pique about the rule.)

Nearly all of the subcommittee members, including full committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who attended the hearing, requested that USDA at "least" extend the current 60-day public comment period by 60 to 120 days.

Monday, July 19, 2010

USDA Rule Falls Short Of Goals

Please excuse HOTH's recent absence from the blogosphere. We've been waiting for an analysis of a USDA rule that purportedly will promote competition and fairness in the livestock and poultry industries. An initial review of the regulation finds it falls well short of that mark.

The rule would dictate how hogs -- and other livestock and poultry -- are bought and sold in this country and would prompt nearly all livestock and poultry contract disputes to be resolved through litigation in federal court.

NPPC will be weighing in on the rule before the comment period ends -- now scheduled for Aug. 23. (That is just four days before a scheduled USDA-Department of Justice "workshop" on competition in the livestock industry to be held in Ft. Collins, Colo.) The organization has asked for an extension of the comment period, citing the weak economic and business impact analyses conducted by USDA.

Over the coming weeks, HOTH will provide details on the effects on pork producers of various provisions of the proposed GIPSA rule. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So Much For The First Amendment … Sort Of

It looks like the folks at Youtube have removed the “18+” requirement to view the video “Truth About Modern Hog Production” on their Website after the Pork Network wrote a column bringing the issue to light.

The video, labeled as “inappropriate” for viewers under the age of 18, gives a virtual tour of a Missouri hog farm, showing an inside look at modern hog production. While Chris and Kevin Chinn (the owners of the farm and producers of the video) never received an explanation from Youtube for why their video was labeled inappropriate for minors, they speculate that anti-agriculture activists organized the stunt. (Shocking!)

Let's share the Chinns' story and the story of thousands of other hog farmers by sending their Youtube to friends, family, neighbors and organizations to better tell the story of modern hog production.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bigger Really Is Better

The anti-meat, anti-farming crowd like to say that large-scale livestock production hurts the quality of life of rural communities. Of course, no evidence is offered. Well, we have proof that crowd is full of ... pig poop.

A study conducted by Iowa State University of Iowa towns situated near large livestock operations found that residents' quality of life improved over a 10-year period, with incomes rising and poverty rates, infant mortality, crime rates and unemployment all declining.

In looking specifically at hog operations, the ISU researchers concluded that the greater the scale of hog production in [a] county, the higher quality of life ratings from the community.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

O, Canada; Oh, U.S. Pork Producers

Many U.S. products, including pork, imported by Colombia will cost that country's citizens more than similar Canadian imports now that Canada and Colombia have finalized a free trade agreement. The FTA lowers tariffs on Canadian goods.

In a press release issued today, the National Pork Producers Council cautioned that the U.S. pork industry, because of the new Canada-Colombia trade pact, could be completely out of the Colombian market in 10 years unless the United States approves its FTA with the South American nation.

The U.S.-Colombia FTA, which the Colombian Congress already has approved, and trade deals with Panama and South Korea are pending passage by the U.S. Congress.

NPPC is urging action now on all three FTAs, which combined would add more than $11 to the price producers receive for each hog marketed.

Proof That Idiots Exist

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) -- a misnamed organization if there ever were one -- has threatened to sue McDonald's for making kids fat by enticing them with toys. The organization on Tuesday sent a letter to the fast-food firm expressing its intent to sue if toys are not removed from "Happy Meals."

In a shocking display of sanity and reason, McDonald's urged parents to take responsibility for what their children eat.

The CSPI action came less than two months after Santa Clara County, Calif., (where else?!) supervisors approved an ordinance that bans restaurants in unincoporated parts of the county from offering toys or other incentive items with certain foods.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Are More Equal Than Others

The House of Representatives is set to take up H.R. 5175, the "Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, or DISCLOSE, Act." Its main goal is to ensure that individuals and groups spending more than $10,000 to campaign for or against a candidate for federal elective office report all such expenditures in a timely and accurate manner.

That's all well and good, but the measure would exempt groups that have more than 500,000 members, raise no more than 15 percent of their funds from corporations and have existed for more than 10 years. It just so happens that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) falls under that exemption.

While HSUS is a 501(c)(3) charity and can't legally make political expenditures related to federal elections, it's Humane Society Legislative Fund can, and under the DISCLOSE Act, it won't have to report those expenditures.

NPPC and other animal agriculture groups, which have been targeted by HSUS, sent to lawmakers a letter urging opposition to the legislation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trouble Down Under

Australia is considering a ban on sow stalls, with that country's pork industry conducting a review of the potential costs to producers.

Australian Pork Limited says, without stalls, pork production would decrease but labor needs would increase, meaning production costs would go up. Still, APL would consider phasing out stalls if the government and retailers support such action.

Last week, the Australian state of Tasmania decided to phase out stalls over a three-year period, beginning in 2014.

The U.S. pork industry believes -- as does the American Veterinary Medical Association -- that the husbandry skills of caregivers, not the type of housing, is the most important factor in ensuring the well-being of pigs.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bigger Is Better

When it comes to regulating greenhouse gases, EPA should keep its hands off of agriculture, which is doing the job on its own, according to a new study out of Stanford University.

Crop yield improvements have reduced the need to convert forests to farmland, a process that typically involves burning of trees and other plants, which generates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, say two Stanford Earth scientists.

"Our results dispel the notion that modern intensive agriculture is inherently worse for the environment than a more 'old-fashioned' way of doing things," said Jennifer Burney, lead author of a paper describing the study that will be published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

EPA Has 'Green' Light To Regulate Your Gas

An effort to prevent the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases failed yesterday when Senate supporters of a resolution of disapproval couldn't muster the necessary votes.

EPA last December issued an "endangerment finding" on greenhouse gases, determining that they are a threat to public health. Such gases purportedly are causing global warming. (The most abundant greenhouse gas: water vapor.)

It was a clever move because if the agency decides to issue draconian regulations on businesses, including pork operations, it cannot consider the costs on the public of implementing them. Generally, agencies must weigh the costs against the benefits of their proposed rules.

The problem is, EPA based its finding, in part, on information on the effects of greenhouse gases taken from a report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC has been accused of using less-than-credible data to prove the theory of global warming.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, offered a resolution -- supported by the National Pork Producers Council -- that would have prevented EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. It was defeated when only 47 senators voted in favor of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Of Hermaphrodites And Sausage Kings

"Corporate" farming is causing an outbreak of hermaphrodites! That's what a self-described "fearless branding rebel" and essayist says in a post in the Dedham, Mass., Daily News Transcript.

Julie Nardone claims that "pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides and hormones pumped into the animals and food we eat" have lead to a rise in animals and fish that are both male and female. (Wouldn't this make reproduction easier? Just asking.)

She also apparently supports starving much of the world population, believing that small, local farms are going to feed the globe's 6.7 billion people, and she's quite ignorant of U.S. food production. Nardone repeats many of the lies spewed out by groups opposed to modern food production, including this one: "over 50 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States end up in the feed of factory-farmed animals to bulk them up and to treat sickness brought on by that feed." (You can comment on her screed by clicking on the link above.)

She urges "food-conscious citizens" to "stop patronizing supermarkets that sell food containing harmful substances" and to "ask legislators to ban chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides on corporate farms."

The facts are that modern technologies and science have allowed the U.S. to produce the safest food in the world. They have allowed farmers to precisely use animal health products, fertilizers and pesticides -- all of which are strictly regulated and many of which are safer than the naturally occuring varieties.

On a sad note for the pork industry, sausage king Jimmy Dean died yesterday.

Dean, who also was a country singer, founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in 1969. Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp. bought the company in 1984.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Celebrate American Agriculture

From the World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, today HOTH read in the Des Moines Register an op-ed by Iowa pork producer Sam Carney, president of the National Pork Producers Council, on promoting U.S. agriculture and not attacking it.

Carney decries the attacks on American farmers and ranchers that seem be coming from all quarters and argues for policies and programs that will promote and protect U.S. agriculture, encourage people to get into farming and ensure that our food is produced in the good ol' U.S. of A., where we know it's the safest and best in the world.

Monday, June 7, 2010

World Pork Expo

Beginning tomorrow and for the rest of the week, HOTH will be blogging from the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines at the 22nd World Pork Expo -- out with the real people, where pork is food not funds for bridges to nowhere, fish management or peanut research.

World Pork Expo is the largest pork industry trade show and exhibition in the world.

Friday, June 4, 2010

WHO Says It's Not Credible?

Yesterday, HOTH reported on a U.N. agency report that calls for less meat consumption as a way to protect the environment, pointing out that the same agency established a global warming panel that used falsified data to "prove" the earth is getting warmer. Now comes word that the World Health Organization -- another U.N. body -- exaggerated the threat posed by H1N1.

Two recent reports on the WHO's handling of the H1N1 pandemic, which last May sent U.S. pork prices plummeting and caused some U.S. trading partners to ban pork imports because the media misnamed the virus "swine flu," say the agency was influenced by drug companies that make antiviral drugs and vaccines. One report says WHO's response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars.

Indeed, during the height of the flu outbreak last summer, one WHO director claimed that H1N1 could be contracted from eating pork if it had blood in it even though the virus isn't systemic in pigs or humans. (WHO had to issue a retraction of that statement in early May 2009, saying pork is safe to eat.) Turns out, that same WHO official has been lobbying Congress, with groups opposed to modern livestock production, to ban animal health products from use in swine production because he says antibiotic use in food animals is causing antibiotic resistance in people.

As HOTH noted in an earlier post, the top scientists with NIH and CDC recently testified before a congressional committee that there is no study linking antibiotic use in animals with resistance.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

U.N. Report Says Eat Less Meat; HOTH Says Throw Another Chop On The Barbie!

The United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP), which established the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the group whose 2007 report on "global warming" used falsified data -- wants us to eat less meat to help stop the earth's temperature from rising.

In a new report to be released soon, the UNEP says that animals are fed more than half of all the world's crops and that food production overall accounts for 19 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, 70 percent of global freshwater consumption and 38 percent of total land use.

The U.N.'s percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from animals has been challenged by a number of scientists, including UC Davis Associate Professor and Air Quality Specialist Frank Mitloehner.

A UNEP press release, with this subheadline: Fossil fuel use and feeding world cause greatest environmental impacts (Yes, let's stop feeding people. That will solve that pesky global warming problem!), says the report "calls for a significant shift in diets away from animal-based proteins toward more vegetable-based foods in order to dramatically reduce pressures on the environment."

Cynics -- and HOTH certainly is one -- would say the UNEP is trying to hold back developing countries from, well, developing. (The UNEP report also criticizes fossil fuel users.) Nations such as China and India have growing middle classes that, with more disposable income, are turning more and more to meat-based diets from grain-based ones.

HOTH thinks the UNEP report is a lot of hot air. It will ignore the UNEP's suggestion and keep grilling those efficiently produced chops.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Green Ways Of 'Eco-Consumers' Damaging Our Environment

The Green Lantern, a weekly environmental column of the online publication Slate, grudgingly reported yesterday that conventionally raised laying hens produce eggs more efficiently -- and, therefore, environmentally friendlier -- than cage-free or "organic" chickens.

(HOTH supposes this means all those who streadfastly profess to be at the forefront of the "eco-consumer" movement -- locavores driving their electric cars to the local farmer's market to purchase "green" eggs -- actually are harming our environment.)

The column noted that, compared with conventionally raised chickens, free-range chickens need 18 percent more feed, and organic ones require 20 percent more; mortality rates are higher among chickens running all over God's green earth; and it's harder to regulate ammonia emissions from their poop.

The column also compared the land needed to conventionally produce eggs with the land required to produce chicken meat, pork and milk. What it didn't compare was the space needed to produce eggs conventionally with that needed for cage-free and organic eggs. That's because it takes a lot more land for the latter two.

But, alas, The Green Lantern justified buying those more expensive -- and apparently more environmentally damaging -- cage-free and organic eggs, saying "uncaged" hens have "the freedom to exercise and engage in natural behaviors such as nesting and dust-bathing."

Ah, yes, there's nothing like a good dust bath.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cost of Raising Hogs Keeping Expansion In Check

Hog producers have been enjoying some decent profits the past couple of months, with margins in the $40 per head range. While that's great news after more than two years of losses, it's costing those producers a lot of money to raise a hog, and that's keeping expansion in check. Market hogs once could be produced for around $100 but now require $130-$140, and about 70 percent of that is feed.

Today's CME Group Daily Livestock Report looks at information in USDA's Agricultural Prices report -- released Friday -- on the ratios for food animals of output prices to feed costs. It notes that May's hog:corn ratio of 18.3:1 (live weight price of $62.40 per 100 pounds to $3.41 for a bushel of corn) is still below the level that usually drives expansion. Generally, a ratio of 20:1 prompts expansion of the breeding herd and, within a year, an increase in hog production.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Response To North Korean Attack: Pass U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has a suggestion in today's Wall Street Journal for a U.S. response to North Korea's unprovoked attack in late March on a South Korean navy ship: pass the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

He says the trade pact, which has been languishing in Congress for three years, not only would create jobs but would "send a much-needed signal of solidarity with an ally at a time of true need."

The U.S. pork industry doesn't play in geopolitics but, nevertheless, couldn't agree more. South Korea is a top export destination for American pork products, and an FTA with that country could make it our No. 1 market, surpassing Japan and adding more than $10 to the price U.S. producers receive for each hog sold.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

EPA Settlement On Issue Still Subject To Litigation

There's a little more to EPA's guidance on CAFO discharge permits on which HOTH (Hogs on the Hill) commented Tuesday. The guidance is part of a lawsuit settlement that not only was negotiated "quietly" between EPA and environmental groups and without input from farmers but also done while the agency is still involved in litigation over the discharge permit issue.

Livestock groups, including NPPC, have an ongoing lawsuit in federal court, challenging a 2008 CAFO Rule provision that would require large livestock operations that are presumed to be discharging to obtain Clean Water Act permits. That's contrary to a 2005 federal court ruling that such permits are required only for operations that actually discharge. (The environmental groups also were part of the ongoing suit but dropped out once they got the settlement.)

In the settlement, EPA agreed to:

• Issue guidance by May 28, 2010, for what constitutes a “proposal to discharge” by a CAFO. Operations presumed to be discharging would need to get permits.
• Issue regulations requiring all CAFOs – even if there is no evidence they are not properly managing their manure – to submit the kind of detailed information that would normally be included in a Clean Water Act CAFO permit.
• Make available to the public all the information that CAFOs are required to submit.

NPPC issued a press release on the matter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PETA Attempts To Buy Its Influence

The people who brought you lettuce leaf-wearing models serving tofu hot dogs in front of the U.S. Capitol are becoming shareholders in the companies they are trying to put out of business. For years now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been purchasing shares in, and now owns a piece of, at least 80 mostly food companies, including McDonald’s and Kraft, according to an Associated Press story.

Despite its foray into the corporate world, PETA isn't giving up its outrageous attacks against the companies in which it owns stock, even going as far as making mock Web sites of some of them.

While PETA's aim is to influence companies' animal welfare policies -- possibly through proposing shareholder resolutions -- its ultimate goal remains unchanged: stop the production of meat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Rules Could Restrict Manure Use

The U.S. EPA has developed guidance for when livestock and poultry farmers have a "duty" to obtain discharge permits under the year-old Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule, which sets a zero-discharge standard for manure getting into waterways. The problem is a federal court ruled in 2005 that only operations that actually discharge must get permits.

The guidance, which is expected to be approved by the White House this week, was developed "quietly," accordig to Inside EPA, between EPA and environmental groups and without input from the agriculture community. In fact, when asked, EPA claimed it couldn't discuss the guidance with those to whom it will apply! (The U.S. pork industry is understandably disappointed since it worked with EPA for more than 10 years to craft a workable CAFO Rule.)

In a related matter, after reaching a settlement May 11, EPA will set stringent pollution rules for the Chesapeake Bay that could restrict manure use in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, which covers parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The agency will establish for nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals Total Maximum Daily Limits that can go into waters that end up in the 200-mile-long bay. The rules and TMDLs are expected to serve as models for other waterways, including the Mississippi River.

The new TMDLs, coupled with the CAFO Rule guidance, could be used to limit the size of farms and restrict the application of manure to cropland.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays'

Add one more reason to the Boomtown Rats' list for not liking Mondays. Now famous, pork-loving chef Mario Batali supports "Meatless Mondays." (By the way, the Boomtown Rats were an Irish rock band lead by "Live Aid" promoter Bob Geldof. The group had a No. 1 hit in 1979 with the song "I Don't Like Mondays.")

We don't believe consumers need to go as far as giving up meat for a day. Remember, lots of pork cuts are lean sources of needed protein, vitamins and minerals.

We hope Chef Batali will reconsider and maybe think of adding a pork smorgasbord to his Monday menus.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Open Letter to the President & Congress

As Mexican President Felipe Calderon visits the White House today, it is important to note that Mexico is the No. 2 value market for U.S. pork (it was also the U.S. pork industry’s top volume market in 2009).

On page 5 of Capitol Hill newspaper Politico today there is an open letter to the U.S. Congress and President Obama, urging them to strengthen ties – including trade - with Mexico.

The letter, signed by NPPC along with 78 organizations and businesses, stresses the importance of integrating U.S. and Mexican potential as a way to create a more efficient production chain that will enhance our competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'll Have Ham, And Hold The Mayo

Following the lead of the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future's "Meatless Mondays," the Mayo Clinic is promoting meatless diets.

The famous clinic put out a press release on the issue, suggesting that as an alternative to meat women can eat beans and legumes, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, seitan, quinoa and nuts and seeds. (We're still trying to find out what "tempeh, textured vegetable protein, seitan and quinoa" are.) This is Mayo's prescription for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and dealing with obesity and diabetes.

We easily found one critic of the clinic's cure for diabetes. And we previously pointed out that meat is a valuable source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to healthful diets.

As for the Center for a Livable Future, it's director is Prof. Robert Lawrence, a "co-principal investigator" for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's report on antibiotic resistance, which essentially blames animal agriculture for the rise in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans.

That's contrary to top scientists at the CDC and NIH, who recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that there is no definitive study linking the use of antibiotics in animals to changes in resistance in humans.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How About Equal Time -- Or Any Time?

Ellen DeGeneres twice has given a forum -- her television show -- to one of the uninformed critics of modern livestock production, Jonathan Safran Foer. (He was hawking his anti-meat book, Eating Animals.) Foer claims, among other things, that livestock farming is the No. 1 cause of global warming and air and water pollution.

Despite two requests to set the record straight, Ellen has refused to give the U.S. livestock industry a chance to respond to Foer's fomenting. In fact, after the first show on which Foer appeared, Ellen expressed surprise about the lack of pushback from the livestock indusry about his claims. A letter to her from the NPPC president apparently didn't count.

So now we're urging readers to comment on Ellen's unfair treatment of America's farmers and ranchers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Official: China Accepting U.S. Pork

China today gave official notice that it is accepting shipments of U.S. pork, a move that should prove a boon to the U.S. pork industry. Pork produced on or after May 1 now can be exported to China.

The Asian nation closed its market to U.S. pork in late April 2009 in the wake of an outbreak in humans of novel H1N1 influenza, which the media misnamed “swine” flu. While in March it agreed to reopen its market to U.S. pork imports, China took until now to begin accepting product.

The U.S. pork industry exported nearly 400,000 metric tons of pork worth nearly $690 million to China/Hong Kong in 2008, making it the No. 3 destination for U.S. pork. Last year, U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down by 38 percent, falling to just under $427 million.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kerry-Lieberman Recognizes Concerns Over Replacing Crop Land With Trees

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Wednesday introduced their version of a cap-and-trade energy bill. The "American Power Act" would require cuts in carbon emissions -- 83 percent by 2050 -- from certain sectors and set up a system for buying and selling carbon credits, a system similar to one included in the House-approved Waxman-Markey measure.

That bill was criticized by agriculture for including incentives for converting crop land to forests, which more inexpensively can sequester carbon dioxide. Studies, including one conducted by USDA, found that from 36 million to 50 million acres of crop and grazing lands would be planted to trees so landowners could collect carbon credits that could be sold to sectors, such as utilities, that exceed their carbon caps. Of course, with fewer crop acres there would be fewer crops and higher feed costs for livestock farmers.

Kerry-Lieberman does acknowledge agriculture's concerns with the Waxman-Markey bill by requiring the agriculture secretary to conduct periodic analyses of land removed from crop production to determine the impact on food, feed, commodity prices, livestock prices, food prices and the environment.

NPPC, which raised the issue of crop land conversion with Kerry's and Lieberman's staffs, says the legislation still needs a lot of work.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pork Industry Needs U.S. To Approve Pending Free Trade Agreements

A number of agriculture groups, including the National Pork Producers Council, last week detailed the consequences of the United States' failure to approve free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea -- lost economic growth and lost jobs.

According to an analysis conducted by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, without FTAs with the three countries, the U.S. pork industry will be out of those markets within 10 years at a cost to producers of more than $11.50 per pig and to the U.S. economy of thousands of jobs.

NPPC Immediate Past President Don Butler today talked with SwineCast's Ned Arthur about the importance of passing the pending FTAs.

Eat More Pork

First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday made public her plan to address childhood obesity, including a recommendation to provide healthier foods in the federal School Breakfast and School Lunch programs.

We hope consideration will be given to adding more cuts of pork to the menus. A 2006 USDA study found that six common cuts of pork contain 16 percent less total fat and 27 percent less saturated fat than they did 20 years ago. It also found that pork contains no artery-clogging trans fats, and it includes essential vitamins and minerals. A serving of roast pork tenderloin, for example, is an excellent source of protein, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorous and niacin and a good source of riboflavin, potassium and zinc. Pork is a lean, low-calorie, relatively low-cost source of high-quality protein – a 3-ounce tenderloin has 2.98 grams of fat compared to 3.03 grams for the same-sized serving of skinless chicken breast.

Of course, we might also recommend that kids put down the X-Box and Wii controllers and get a little exercise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HSUS Pushes Initiatives On Raising Animals

The Humane Society of the United States -- which doesn't operate one animal shelter and contributes only 1/2 of 1 percent of its funds to such shelters -- apparently has collected enough voter signatures in Missouri to get an initiative on this November's ballot to tell the state's dog breeders how many dogs they can breed and how to care for them. The livestock and poultry industries in that state are worried they're next on HSUS's target list.

In fact, HSUS is now trying to tell farmers in Ohio how to raise their animals. The organization, according to Feedstuffs magazine, has run into some trouble collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would direct the less-than-1-year-old Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to prohibit the use of sow stalls and veal crates and to adopt housing standards for laying hens.

To learn more about HSUS's ... er ... activities, visit

Monday, May 10, 2010


Welcome to Hogs on the Hill, a blog that will offer commentary on issues of importance to the U.S. pork industry. We hope you'll visit often, and feel free to comment on any of our posts.

After more than two years of losses, pork producers have seen profits the past few months -- here's a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story on one such producer -- but actions (even inactions) in Washington could jeopardize all that. From stalled trade deals, efforts to ban animal antibiotics and federal biofuels policy to new environmental rules and livestock "competition" workshops, the U.S. pork industry has its hands full in dealing with issues other than providing safe, wholesome pork to consumers worldwide. Hogs on the Hill will be commenting on all those matters in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

One topic on which we've wanted to weigh in is the "organic/free-range" debate. For whatever reason, there are those, including those opposed to modern livestock production, who take as gospel that organic and free-range mean better and safer. Here's a contrary view that appeared in The Atlantic about meat from free-range livestock.