Monday, November 28, 2011

Want Salt On Those Fries?

The government’s updated diet advice—unveiled with great fanfare early this year—urged Americans to limit salt to 2,300 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if they are in a high-risk group.

That’s a tall order for many of us, given that average salt consumption for Americans is about 3,400 milligrams a day.

Not to worry, though. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that following the government’s advice could be … wait for it! ... dangerous to your health.

The study, made public last week, found the lowest risk of hospitalization and death from strokes or heart attacks was associated with a daily sodium intake of 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Those who consumed more than 7,000 milligrams daily were more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event, but so were those who consumed less than 3,000 milligrams per day.
In a news story, the lead author said he hoped the study would clear up confusion over the role of sodium in the diet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Need A Solution To 'Global Warming'? Try Intensive Farming

Researchers at the universities of Minnesota and California have provided fresh evidence that modern farming practices are good for the environment.

In a study published November 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers concluded that less-intensive farming in poor countries could combine with rising world food demand to double agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Their solution? Teach those in developing countries to farm more like we do—the high-yield, more intensive way.

The researchers said the problem is land clearing for food production—up to 2.5 billion acres by 2050—combined with inefficient fertilizer use. The result is the release of two harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Adopting nitrogen-efficient, intensive farming practices, the researchers said, can meet demand for food with much lower environmental impacts.

Now, who’s going to explain that to those bastions of anti-modern agriculture Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The Agriculture Department’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration spent most of 2011 pushing a controversial draft regulation curtailing livestock producers’ ability to sign long-term contacts with meat packers.

So, HOTH was a bit surprised to see analysts from another USDA agency extol the virtues of those same contracts in a new article.

In the article in the December issue of USDA’s Amber Waves magazine, four researchers from the Economic Research Service conclude that producers enjoy “multiple benefits” from packer contracts. Among them are reduced risk, better access to capital and the ability to increase the size of their farms—all benefits cited by pork producers and others in consistently opposing the draft GIPSA regulation.
But perhaps the article wasn’t that untimely, since it surfaced after the regulation suffered two serious setbacks in as many weeks. First, USDA jettisoned some of the regulation’s key provisions. Then Congress limited the department’s ability to implement the regulation in the annual USDA spending bill.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rising From The Supercommittee Rubble

The congressional "Super Committee" appears deadlocked in its effort to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions. (In reality, it's only being asked to "cut" from the projected increases in future federal spending.) Nonetheless, draft reductions in farm programs prepared for the committee by the House and Senate agriculture panels include some good news for pork producers.

Under the draft, made public Friday by the Environmental Working Group, the acreage cap on the Conservation Reserve Program would be reduced over time from 32 million to 25 million. Reducing the cap would free land for crop production and ease pressure on feed prices, something livestock producers have long been pushing

In the energy area, the draft recommends several cutbacks in government subsidies for ethanol, including elimination of subsidies for installing fuel pumps that can dispense a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. Livestock producers have been seeking a level playing field with subsidized ethanol producers as they compete for corn.

With the supercommittee’s work in limbo, the farm program recommendations seem moot in the short run. However, Congress still must write a new farm bill next year. And Friday’s recommendations are a logical place for the agriculture committees to start.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reacting To A Congressional Circus Act

Some call Washington the epicenter of inaction. But a scathing indictment last week of the animal rights movement from former Texas congressman and friend-of-agriculture Charlie Stenholm prompted anything but inactivity in the capital.

Stenholm was responding to the Nov. 2 introduction of the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act by Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, a Democratic darling of the animal welfare folks.

In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Stenholm called Moran’s bill “the latest example of animal rights extremists pushing their radical agenda under the guise of helping animals.” The goal of these groups, he said, is not just an end to animal agriculture but “complete abolishment of animal ownership … they do not even want you to own pets.”  

Almost more interesting than the article, however, was the reaction from readers. Over the next three days, the article generated upward of 80 Website comments, the overwhelming majority of them favorable. A typical example: “Thank you Mr. Stenholm for a wonderful accurate depiction of the situation with regard to animal rights activities in the U.S. … ”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Remember those tough new nutrition requirements the Agriculture Department unveiled for school meals in January? They were supposed to keep our kids from getting too fat.

But, apparently, USDA forgot to figure Congress into its planning. First the Senate voted to block the department from putting limits on servings of potatoes—that is, French fries—and other starchy vegetables in school meals. And now a House-Senate conference committee has rolled back three more USDA provisions. The conference reportedly delayed requirements for more whole grains in school meals and tough proposed limits on salt, scheduled to be phased in over time. In addition, the conference report keeps pizza on school lunch menus by continuing to allow tomato paste to be counted as a vegetable.  

The conference committee said its actions “prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of (school) meals.”

No word yet from the Agriculture Department, which was set to give final approval to its version of the nutrition standards before the end of the year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dissed at the Supreme Court

Apparently, the Humane Society of the United States didn’t fare well in its Wednesday showdown with the meat industry at the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post reported that, at oral arguments before the court, “a clear majority of the justices seemed to agree with the National Meat Association” that an HSUS-backed law in California barring meatpackers from slaughtering non-ambulatory livestock violates the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

The law was enacted in the wake of a HSUS hidden video of downer cows being mistreated at slaughter plant. However, the law also affects pigs that arrive at packing plants healthy but temporarily unable to stand. There is nothing wrong with these animals that can’t be corrected by simply letting them rest for a short period. Yet the California law requires these “fatigued” hogs to be euthanized.

The Post said the state official trying to defend the California law “had a much harder time with the justices” than the NMA lawyer. NPPC joined in a brief in support of the NMA, arguing that euthanizing fatigued pigs prevents proper testing of the animals for disease and that the California law would cause serious income losses to the pork industry.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Physicians Committee for Reprehensible Misinformation

Here’s a classic example of biting off more than you can chew.

The anti-meat group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine  announced Tuesday it will put up a huge billboard in Des Moines warning of colon cancer risks from eating bacon. Timed to correspond with a November meeting of the National Pork Board, the billboard features bacon strips sticking out of a pack of cigarettes.

PCRM—notorious for distorting science and misstating facts—picked the wrong place to take a stand against bacon. Not only is Iowa the largest pork-producing state and home to the largest pork trade show, but it has an officially declared Bacon Day and an annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival.

According to the Des Moines Register, the man behind the festival responded to the billboard by inviting the animal right group to next year’s gathering.