Coalition working to derail ‘King amendment’

A coalition of more than 80 organizations, led by the Humane Society of the United States, is fighting to keep the so-called “King amendment” out of a final farm bill.

The amendment, which was introduced by Iowa Congressman Steve King, is part of the House farm bill.

The provision would prohibit states from regulating the sale of farm products from other states due to objections about how they were produced.  It is aimed at preventing farmers in other states from having to comply with measures such as California’s Prop 2 initiative that requires farms to provide more space to hens, hogs and other livestock.

The coalition has sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to block the provision. They warn it could nullify not only measures relating to animal welfare—like farm animal confinement and horse slaughter—but a wide range of other concerns including food safety, child labor and the environment.

Other groups that are part of the coalition include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Organic Consumers Association, Sierra Club and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Click here to see a copy of the letter on the Organic Consumers Association web site

Vandals go after Iowa’s butter cow

The iconic butter cow sculpture at the Iowa State Fair was doused in red paint by vandals sometime early Sunday.  But the damage was quickly scraped away and washed away, and Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey says visitors to the fair on Sunday never even knew the sculpture had been damaged.

“Everything was back to normal before the building even opened,” Northey says. “In fact, I don’t know that people would have realized it happened except that people tried to claim some credit for it.”

A group calling itself Iowans for Animal Liberation claimed responsibility for the vandalism in an email to the Des Moines Register.   They said the paint represented the blood of “animals murdered each year in slaughterhouses, egg farms and dairies”.

The email stated group members hid in the Agriculture Building until it closed on Saturday night.  One official called it “more of an inconvenience than anything else”.

“It’s not going to ruin anybody’s day here,” Northey says.  “I think people, in some ways, actually show their loyalty to agriculture even more after an event like that.”

AUDIO: Bill Northey (1:50 MP3)

Survey: Women don’t trust alarmist food messages

A national online survey of women finds most don’t trust alarmist warnings from the government or media about the nation’s food supply or health issues.

The Independent Women’s Forum conducted the poll and found that women are least swayed by warnings from the federal government and activist groups – instead, relying on their friends, families and doctors for reliable health and safety advice regarding food and health choices.

HSUS’ Pacelle returning to Nebraska

The controversial head of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Wayne Pacelle, will be in Lincoln Thursday for a forum on humane and sustainable farming.

Whenever Pacelle visits the state, it stirs up talk of a possible HSUS ballot initiative—but Pacelle says that’s not the purpose of his visit.

“We’ve been very, very clear that the issues that we’ve been concerned about are the extreme confinement of veal calves, of breeding sows, and of laying hens,” Pacelle says. “We’ve got plans in the works on all of those issues, and none of them require a ballot measure in Nebraska.

“I’ve never suggested that we’re going to do a ballot measure—and I won’t be announcing one this time either.”

Many in the livestock industry are convinced that HSUS’s ultimate goal is to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the consumption of meat.  But Pacelle says the only agenda HSUS has is to promote the humane treatment of animals.

“Animals are going to continue to be raised for food in our society—we know that that’s the reality of this world–and we simply insist that those animals are treated humanely on the farm, in transport and at slaughter,” he says.

“If there are folks who don’t like that view—then, you know, sorry that they don’t like it.  This is the exchange of ideas that we have in a civil society.”

Thursday night’s forum at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln is hosted by the Nebraska Agriculture Council of HSUS, the organization formed in cooperation with Nebraska Farmers Union in 2011.

Brent Martin of Nebraska Radio Network contributed to this story.

An update on the sow housing issue–part 2

In part 1 of our interview with Dallas Hockman, director of industry affairs with the National Pork Producers Council, we talked about his discussions with those restaurant, grocery and food service chains that have called for the elimination of sow gestation stalls from their supply chains—and how some of them are now realizing that the conversion to stall-free pork production is not as simple as it sounds.  

In part 2 of our visit, we ask Hockman whether some of those companies might consider modifying or retracting their earlier statements on gestation stalls.  We also discuss consumer attitudes about sow housing and where it ranks on their list of food concerns.

AUDIO: Dallas Hockman (8:35 MP3)

An update on the sow housing issue–part 1

Dallas Hockman is the director of industry affairs with the National Pork Producers Council.  For the past few months, Hockman has been meeting with various restaurant, grocery and food service chains that have called for the elimination of sow gestation stalls from their supply chains. 

At the recent World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Hockman gave us an update on how those discussions are going.  Here is part 1 of our two-part interview.

AUDIO: Dallas Hockman (7:22 MP3)

King hopes anti-HSUS amendment will survive

Iowa Representative Steve King was successful in attaching his “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” to the House Ag Committee’s farm bill.  And King says he will fight to keep that language in the bill once it hits the House floor, and eventually, a House-Senate conference committee.

The amendment would bar states from imposing their own animal welfare standards on eggs, meat and other ag products brought in from other states.

“This will put an end to, I think, the Humane Society of the United States—whom I refer to as the ‘vegan lobby’—trying to tell us how to take care of our livestock,” King says.  “We put an end to it and then HSUS can find another way to turn us all into vegans.  In the end, they really want to take meat off our plate.”

King’s amendment is aimed at preventing farmers in other states from having to comply with measures such as California’s Prop 2 initiative that requires farms to provide more space to hens, hogs and other livestock.

HSUS plans Nebraska events

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will hold an open forum in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 27th to discuss humane and sustainable farming.

The event, which will feature HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, will take place at the Cornhusker Hotel starting at 6:00 p.m.

The following day, Friday the 28th, HSUS will hold a tour of Branched Oak Farm, located north of Lincoln near Raymond.  Pacelle will also attend that event.

MO lawmakers pass Right to Farm measure

The Missouri legislature has approved the much-debated Right to Farm proposed constitutional amendment that will now go to voters next year. The Senate passed the measure Tuesday, after language* was added back in to protect the rights of local governments to govern farms and ranches as already granted them in the state constitution.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst says, on the whole, the measure sends an important message to animal rights activists in Missouri…

“We care about animals and we want to treat them humanely but don’t believe they have the same rights as you or I and I think it is an important step forward in that respect.”

Hurst tells Brownfield his group is pleased overall with the passage of the measure. He points out that counties have always had the right to zone, so in that sense, he says the added language is okay…

“We’re not, absolutely not putting county health ordinances IN the constitution and I don’t think that the language can be interpreted to mean that.”

But, there was another compromise that had to be made, Hurst tells Brownfield Ag News, “More importantly, we think, the original language had language to forbid the regulating of farms and ranches by initiative petition. That has been taken out, although we still feel that it does put some limits on what you can do by initiative petition.”

Hurst expects all in Missouri agriculture to get behind the ballot measure and expects voters to pass it next fall.

*[“To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state subject to duly authorized powers of any conferred by Article Six of the constitution of Missouri.”]

AUDIO: Blake Hurst (4:00 mp3)

‘Egg bill’ not part of Senate Farm Bill draft

The initial draft of the Senate Farm Bill, released on Thursday, does not include the so-called “egg bill” language dictating cage size for egg-laying hens. 

It confirms earlier speculation that Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow would drop her plan to include the controversial provision in the farm bill markup. But National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) vice president of government affairs Colin Woodall expects it to come up again during the farm bill process.

The president of the United Egg Producers (UEP), Chad Gregory, has been highly critical of NCBA and other ag groups who are fighting against the egg bill.  But NCBA’s Woodall maintains the legislation sets “a dangerous precedent”.

“And in Washington, D.C., precedent is everything,” Woodall says. “So even though this is a deal between UEP and HSUS, HSUS didn’t make any deals with us or the pork producers or anybody else in livestock—and they will use that precedent to eventually come after all of us.”

UEP’s Gregory says the egg bill is critical to the egg industry’s survival.  Woodall argues federal legislation is not UEP’s only option.

“If this is really what the egg industry wants, then there are other mechanisms that they can use to push for adoption among their members—other than making Congress do the dirty work and force it upon their members,” Woodall says.

UEP represents farmers who produce nearly 90 percent of the eggs in the U.S.

Link to earlier story and interview with Colin Woodall