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.