Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Update on the Ethanol Cafo Connection

Herb Bucholtz, a Michigan State University professor, spoke at a regional meeting of the Purdue Dairy Extension Team and the Indiana Professional Dairy Producers held for dairy farmers in Decatur yesterday. The Fort Wayne Journal picked up the story (link):
Distillers’ grain contains less starch and a higher concentration of fat than corn. Ethanol production removes much of the starch from corn, but that nutrient helps cows make glucose, which increases their milk production, Bucholtz said. Farmers who want to increase their milk production may be better off feeding more corn to their herd, he said.

“It’s not just a simple substitution” of replacing corn with distillers’ grain, Bucholtz said. The two feeds contain different amounts of nutrients, he said.
What is his recommendation?
Bucholtz advised area farmers to use distillers’ grain for about 10 percent of a cow’s dry feed. Some farmers may be able to gradually increase that amount to as much as 20 percent, depending on what else the cow eats. Distillers’ grain tends to work best when farmers combine it with a diet containing lots of alfalfa, he said.
In an earlier post on the subject, I neglected to include a reference to the USDA website on the subject of adding distillers grain (aka CDG) to livestock feed. The USDA site indicated:
"Our research has shown that distiller's grains can be used for as much as 60 percent of the diet in beef cattle," said Berger. "We've achieved smaller levels with dairy cattle. It is clear, however, that we can greatly expand the use of distiller's grains in growing and finishing rations for beef cattle."
Now I'm left with a question in my mind... Is this the reason the Jasper County BZA (or at least 4 out of 5 members of the BZA) are so eager to see the Poultry-to-Veal Calf operation go through?

The new IBEC ethanol plant is no secret. They even state on their website, "...the wet cake by-product of fermentation, will be marketed to livestock producers."

Since beef cattle seems to be the only livestock where you can "beef up" the volume of distiller grains used in feed (pun intended), then I'm guessing there just might be a few more veal operations coming to Indiana.

As I've mentioned before, I'm all for finding alternative fuels and energy sources. The recent U.S. Treasury statistics are scary enough to convince most anyone:
The U.S. imports two-thirds of its oil, and the strategic oil reserves have declined from 120 days in 1985 (i.e., we had enough oil to go 120 days without imports then). It is now down to 60 days. A hike or embargo could pinch the U.S. economy hard.
But corn based ethanol? I'm still skeptical. A lot of people indicated it would not impact the price of corn much. Well, that prediction appears to have been blown out of the water very early this year. (link)
The price of corn rose steadily throughout 2006. Corn prices have averaged around $2.50 a bushel for the past decade, but increased to than $3.00 a bushel in 2006, and then in January 2007, the benchmark price of corn reached an exchange-imposed limit of $3.96 a bushel shortly after trading began Friday, January 11 at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Another problem many ethanol plants may be facing is where will they be getting all that corn?
Nationwide in the U.S. , supplies of corn are expected to drop to 752 million bushels this year, a drop from last month's forecast of 935 million bushels and a steep decline from last year's supply of 1.967 billion.
As food processors and biofuel producers increasingly compete in the same commodity markets, I'm wondering how many of them will still be in operation in the next 3 to 5 years.

Back to the calf operation planned next to those subdivisions. I've heard the proposed calf operation has changed it's IDEM application, dropping from 10,000-head to 3,500-head CAFO. In my humble opinion, it's the wrong spot to have ANY CAFO, regardless if it's an illegitimate poultry operation or a calving operation. And if the ethanol-plant-distilled-grains-by-product problem factored into the BZA's decision, based on the news coming out... I'm wondering how many of their recent CAFO approvals will survive the next 3 to 5 years. (You heard about the bottom dropping out of pork again?)

Oh... did I tell you? In Europe another interesting prediction has been made. "The days of industrial farming and food production are coming to an end..." (link) Now, I do like the sound of that!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Food Safety Notes and Comments

The Safe Food Act is back on the table... just as news comes out that, QUOTE:
A Federal Court has ruled that the USDA failed to abide by federal environmental laws when it approved a genetically engineered crop without conducting a full Environment Impact Statement (EIS).
The Safe Food Act "...aims to help protect consumers from food-borne illness by consolidating the current fragmented and overlapping food-safety system." Currently, food safety monitoring, inspection and labeling responsibilities are spread across 15 agencies in the federal government. Here are a few examples:
Eggs still in the shell are under the jurisdiction of USDA, while FDA takes over once the eggs are broken.

The FDA has jurisdiction over frozen cheese pizza, and inspects cheese pizza processors once every 10 years on average. On the other hand, USDA has responsibility over frozen pepperoni pizza, and inspects such processors daily.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the use of pesticides and maximum allowable residue levels on food commodities and animal feed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service in the Department of Commerce conducts voluntary, fee-for-service inspections of seafood safety and quality.

Sandwiches depend on whether there is one slice of bread, or two. The USDA inspects manufacturers of packaged open-face meat or poultry sandwiches while the FDA inspects manufacturers of packaged closed-face meat or poultry sandwiches. "...the USDA inspects wholesale manufacturers of open-face sandwiches sold in interstate commerce daily, while FDA inspects closed-face sandwiches an average of once every five years," according to the General Accounting Office (GAO), which recently called for massive reform in Food Safety.
And what about overlap?

Both the USDA and FDA inspect shipments of imported food at 18 US ports-of-entry ... BUT ... the two agencies do not share inspection resources at the ports. According to the GAO, this means FDA-regulated products are occassionally sent to USDA-approved import inspection facilities and may remain in storage for some time awaiting FDA inspection.

Interestingly enough, in fiscal year 2003, USDA spent about $16 million on imported food inspections, while the FDA spent about $115 million. Could some of those millions$ have been saved using unified facilities and a single inspection agency responsible for all food imports?

Meanwhile, back to the egg. Who is working on eliminating the salmonella in eggs?
Federal and state governments, the egg industry, and the scientific community are working together to solve the problem. Involved government agencies include: USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and State departments of agriculture.
The conundrum, as I see it, is that without enough power over the entire "farm-to-fork" process, a new agency overseeing Food Safety in the USA might only result in crisis management instead of actual prevention and protection. And what about overlap? Most everyone will agree, we're paying a ton of taxes already and the last thing we need is yet another Govt. Agency that gives us a false sense of security.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in FAVOR of a new Food Safety Agency.

With the recent outbreaks due to lettuce, spinach, peanut butter ...and the Gold Star Sausage Co. recall of more than 15,500 pounds of hot dogs and sausages distributed in Idaho and other states last month because the meats might be contaminated with illness-causing bacteria... there's little doubt, in my mind at least, that our current system/agencies are dropping the ball on food safety.

I'm just saying a new Agency makes sense if/when the other agencies are streamlined and stripped of their powers (and downsized accordingly) in the areas of food safety, and this power and related resources are passed on to the new agency.

And with the long shadow of factory-style farming in the background, I have a feeling the food safety issue is only going to get worse if nothing is done soon.

Just my humble opinion.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bio-Hazardous Materials Hauled Through Wheatfield

Just after dropping off the kids at Kindergarten today, my husband saw the most horrific site. A truck (looked like a garbage truck with no top) was heading north on Hwy. 49 nearing the corner of 49 and 10... and it was jam packed with dead dairy cows.

How packed? Heads and legs hanging over the top, legs reaching up so high from the top that they almost touched the flashing red light at the 4-way stop intersection inside Wheatfield city limits...

It's hard to say if there were other dead animals stuffed underneath, but if they were all cows, it looked like there were more than 30 dead cows jammed into that truck!!

There were bits of dried grass (or straw/hay?), sticks and other debris frozen to the dead animals.

Several alarming questions come to mind, such as:
  1. How did the cows die?
  2. Were they carrying any potentially contagious diseases?
  3. Where did the cows come from?
  4. Why were they being transported in an open-top truck and not safely contained?
  5. Did they die recently?
  6. Or were they stored for some time near one of our rural communities?
  7. Has there been an outbreak on one of the dairy farms?
  8. What if an accident happened and all those dead bodies came tumbling out?
Thankfully, the children didn't have to see this horrific sight. It's not something you want 6-year-olds talking about in school.

But just imagine what the children living in the beautiful subdivisions surrounding the proposed calf operation will be witnessing if the owner gets his IDEM certificate. I ask you, "WHAT in the WORLD was the Jasper County BZA thinking when they approved this special exception permit? Are they plumb nuts???" The pathetic conditions they attached to the permit will not, in my humble opinion, protect our children.

When I think about Gutwein's rediculous statements regarding perceptions of modern agriculture... then hear of such large quantities of dead animals being carted in open trucks inside city limits's enough to make any parent shudder.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Have you HERD the word?

Yes, an appeal has been filed against the Jasper County BZA. You can read more about it here. (and don't forget to leave a comment on their site)

Not sure if my post went through on the above site.

Here's another place you might want to leave a comment for Senator Gutwein. For the record, here's what I posted:
Rep. Gutwein, yes there is a gap, but in my humble opinion, the gap exists between the politicians and government officials who have been placed in positions to wield the power that has allowed CAFOs to swallow up our family farms and trash our rural communities. The lack of truth being dished out by pro-CAFO politicians and their Big AG financial supporters astounds me. It reminds me of the days when so many "officials" declared for the record that smoking can't harm you. This industrialization of Agriculture is steadily damaging more and more of our water, soil and air ...and yet, you stand idly by while you give them special "nuisance law" protections that strip rural citizens of their rights to defend their families and their homes. Shame on you.
You know, the more I hear and see and learn about this CAFO issue, the more I'm reminded of the DVD/Video documentary -- Who Killed The Electric Car -- there are some striking similarities in what is being done to rural Indiana, and to the smaller, traditional farmers here in Indiana.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Colts Serve Up Some Hoosier Pride for Super Bowl

Yahoo Colts!! Awesome game, guys! To be honest, after the first 2 minutes of the game, I had some serious doubts... But then you guys turned things around, tightened up, and found your rhythm.

I think the part I liked best was that intercept-turned-touchdown in the second half. Wow! And Manning did a terrific job -- strong and steady.

Our little boy wore a Manning jersey for Team Spirit day at school on Friday. I don't think he quite understood everything that was going on in the game. He kept saying "Why do those guys run in so close to those other guys all the time. They're just gonna get hurt that way." (hehe)

Bottom Line: Excellent game, COLTS!

These past 14 months have been tough on people up here in northern Jasper County. Mitch Daniels' CAFO offence has put a lot of us Hoosiers on the defence. We haven't had much to cheer about these past couple years since he started messing with rural Indiana.

But tonight, thanks to the Colts, we're going to savor the moment. They've brought back some Hoosier pride to this household tonight.

On a sidenote, something stranged happened just west of our house about 7:55 pm tonight during the game. That's when my husband saw the trail of fire falling from the sky. I saw it too, just before the second flare (explosion?) ...whatever it was, it looked like it vaporised before hitting the ground, just before it vanished beyond the treeline. Did anyone else catch that? Not sure if it was a meteorite, or what... ?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

CAFO Hault in Indiana

Seth Slabaugh from The Star Press published this article following up on the recent Bill 447 which calls for a 3 year HALT on new CAFOs for Indiana. QUOTE:
Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, who chairs the Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee, called the proposal “extreme.”
Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing Ms. Gard has never had a CAFO land in her backyard (or on her doorstep)?

The news article cites: "Air and water pollution from manure are the main concerns of CAFO critics."

Although I agree, these seem to be the main concerns for most people on the issues -- for me, as I've mentioned before, public health and wildlife/animal health are the issues at the top of my list, followed closely by food safety/security -- and of course, the pollution issues.

Yes, both air and water pollution ties directly into health issues... but I feel the pathogens/drugs/hormones/etc. side of the manure disposal part of CAFO operations has been downplayed at every turn. You see, when I look at the sheer volume of highly concentrated manure generated DAILY by each CAFO me, it's bio-hazardous waste -- not manure, not "fertilizer" as Big AG likes it to be seen in the eyes of the public -- it's bio-hazardous materials.

As such, I sincerely believe this bio-hazardous material should be handled and/or disposed of with all the same safety and precautions in place as other "like" hazardous wastes. Dumping it freely, year after year, onto open land -- and pretending it's just "fertilizer" -- is asinine, in my humble opinion.

And don't even get me started on the subject of disposing the carcasses of the poor animals that die on these CAFO farms! As for food quality/safety issues... you'll be reading more on that soon, too.

Don't get me wrong. I love our farms and farmers... and my heart goes out to each and every one of them being squeezed by the buyers of their produce and Ag industry reps alike, being told to "Get big or Get out." (I'll be bringing more on this, too, in future.) Our real farmers are being squashed beneath the heals of Big AG as it steamrolls its way ahead, changing the face of farming forever.

But Big AG didn't take time (in my humble opinion) to take a serious look at the whole picture.

Ever since "global trading" came on strong in the Ag industry, well... let's not go there, yet. Like I said, I'll have more on that coming to you soon.

For those who still have their heads stuck in the sand, believing that CAFOs are the same as "farms" ...I say it's time you start researching the differences. Frankly, we do need the BREAKS put on -- halt new CAFOs until all sides to the issue can be addressed. There are more dangers lurking in the issue than you might think. Calling a CAFO a "farm" is an insult to real farms and farmers everywhere (again, my humble opinion).

Write Senator Gard and let her know you support Bill 447. It's time to call a HALT to more CAFOs in Indiana, and address the many issues pertaining to them that have been overlooked (and/or ignored) in our State laws... to better protect; our health, our environment (including air, water and wildlife) and our food supply.