Foresight on Food Politics

Foresight on Food Politics

Foresight on Food Politics: Don't Be Fooled by the 'Humane Society' Label

Note to consumers: This Humane Society is not your local pet shelter, and its agenda is bad for your food budget

The Humane Society of the United States is not about helping local pet shelters“If they want to come to Nebraska, we’re going to fight them and we’re going to beat them,” Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman said in December. Who was this group that attracted such atypically strong words from a politician? The Humane Society of the United States. So does that mean the governor hates puppies?

On the contrary. The Humane Society of the United States is a $160 million-plus per year Washington political organization that, at its root, aims to end much of animal-based food production as we know it. And some have accused the activist organization of purposely hiding behind confusion over the “humane society” name, in order to solicit charitable donations which it then uses to attack, even cripple, animal agriculture.

The governor has always been a strong supporter of all small business entities, including the food industry. He understands the importance of those involved in our industry, from the farm to the grocery store. “The Humane Society of the United States is not connected with our local humane societies, who do a good job,” Heineman told the Brownfield Radio Network. “The Humane Society of the United States is anti-agriculture and they’re out to destroy animal agriculture…. They’re making a mistake if they think they come to Nebraska and defeat us.”

A coalition of Nebraska livestock farmers’ groups expects HSUS to attempt to introduce a petition to place restrictions on animal agriculture on a statewide ballot, as the group has done recently other states, like Missouri. For your meat, dairy and egg customers expressing concern about the welfare of farm animals based on exposure to the HSUS messages, it’s important you remind them of a few facts about the organization:

  • Although most people mistakenly assume HSUS’ primary mission is to find homes and care for abandoned dogs and cats, HSUS is not an umbrella group for pet shelters. In 2008 and 2009, HSUS shared less than one percent of its budget with local pet shelters.
  • HSUS’ massive public relations machine gets great mileage from its message that it simply wants to improve the welfare of animals, including both pets and farm animals. However, HSUS has formally acknowledged in the past that part of its mission is to establish “the rights of all animals within the full range of American life and culture.” Animal rights doctrine is a radical agenda that is separate from the normal desire for animal welfare which Nebraska’s farmers pursue every day. It ultimately calls for the abolition of all animal uses for human purposes, including food. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle told the newsletter Animal People in 1994 that his aim for HSUS was to create “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement.”
  • Although the organization has held at arms’ length any official stand calling for abolition of use of animals for food, Pacelle is a strict vegan who has vowed to never eat meat, eggs, or dairy. In a June 2005 interview with Satya magazine, Pacelle boasted HSUS was working on a guide to vegetarian eating, in order to help build a case against meat eating. “Reducing meat consumption can be a tremendous benefit to animals,” he said. Meanwhile, the organization’s website urges consumers to cut back on meat and other animal-based foods, and to replace meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods.
  • In 2008, HSUS spent $4.1 million to pass a ballot proposition in California that within the next four years will make it against the law for California farmers to raise egg-laying hens in cages. If the measure goes into effect as passed, it is expected to drive up the cost of eggs by 50 percent due to increased labor demands and increased feed waste. That kind of cost jump will likely destroy the California egg industry, the nation’s fifth largest producer, by driving up costs so high that egg farming will migrate to other states or Mexico.

Have a question you’d like answered about the Humane Society of the United States or how Nebraska farmers care for their animals? Use the comment link to ask, and we’ll get an answer straight from the source…your Nebraska farmers.

Insight on Politics: Are Biofuels Causing Food Shortages?

A perspective for grocers on the link between biofuel production and commodity prices

With increasing food inflation comes the continual claim that using Nebraska farm crops to support domestic biofuel production is leading to crop shortages. You may find customers raising the old question: Does "diverting" crops to fuel production cause rising food costs? Some would even have you believe that using farm products to produce biofuels is depriving people of food.

Here's some background that might help explain the complex issue:

 

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1. Oil used to be only a byproduct of using soybeans for feed.

First off, remember, there is no food vs. fuel issue when it comes to biodiesel. Traditionally, (that is, before researchers discovered ways to use the oil that naturally results when soybeans are processed), soybean oil was for all intent and purpose a byproduct of that processing. Because the weight of every ton of soybeans was composed of only 20 percent oil--the rest being soy protein meal and hulls--the system made money off the solids, but struggled to find value for the remaining oil.

Now, with the development of the biodiesel industry boosting demand for soybeans to be crushed first and foremost for their oil value, it's actually put pressure downward on the value of the 80 percent solids left over from the process. Remember Econ 101: As supply goes up, price tends to go down (unfortunately for us farmers, but fortunately for you and your consumers.) Using soybeans for oil has not robbed from the overall supply of animal feeds (the largest use of soy solids)--it has actually contributed to the supply.

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2. Biofuel demand has encouraged soybean production, creating more animal feed, leading to more meat, milk and egg production.

Second, the decrease in feed prices that has resulted from higher supplies of soy protein has helped grow the supply of animals, which also helps keep the prices you pay for animal-based commodities relatively lower. The more demand we create for soybean oil, the greater the volume of beans that are crushed domestically and the more feed that enters the market for livestock producers. In order to use up the soy products left after crushing a ton of soybeans, Nebraska farmers need to add one hog to use up the meal resulting from every 4 gallons of biodiesel production. Likewise, we need two turkeys for every gallon of biodiesel, 10 chickens for every gallon, or one dairy cow for every 17 gallons of biodiesel produced. Again, our loss as farmers through the increasing supply of food animals is your gain as the grocer, through the decrease in price that results.

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3. Cheaper energy sources ultimately means cheaper food.

Third, we certainly don't have to tell grocers how higher energy prices have greatly added to the costs of transporting, processing, manufacturing, storing and distributing the food you sell. What you may not realize is that those higher energy prices also have dramatically increased the prices we farmers are paying for the inputs we need to plant, grow and harvest our crops. Compared to just two years ago, farmers today are paying twice as much for the diesel fuel they need to run their tractors, combines and grain trucks. That's not even the worst of it. Fertilizer, which requires a great deal of energy to produce, has quadrupled in price.

Biofuels, not only biodiesel from soybeans but ethanol from other grains, are making a contribution to the world’s fuel supply, helping hold gasoline and diesel prices lower at the pump for us all. According to International Energy Agency data, global biofuels production has cut consumption of crude oil by 1 million barrels a day, offering savings of $120 million dollars a day. That’s more than $43 billion in savings per year. And while these homegrown, renewable fuels are helping to reduce dependence on imported petroleum, the demand for biofuels is contributing to commodity prices well above government support levels, strengthening rural economies by creating jobs--without requiring an increase in the price of food commodities.

For more than 40 years, the United States has known that it needs to reduce its energy consumption and find alternative energy sources. As other voices call for increased public investments in mass transit, denser cities, mandatory efficiency standards and other fuel-saving schemes outside the free market, even as they attack support for biofuels, we believe investing in increased production of home-grown alternatives are the most innovative energy solutions. The use of biodiesel and other biofuels is only the beginning.

Use the comment window below to leave a question or comment for a Nebraska farmer.
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Partners

In patnership with the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association

The Nebraska Grocery Industry Association was formed in 1903 by a group of Omaha grocery store owners, wholesalers and vendors to allow them to promote independent food merchants and members of the food industry, and to promote education and cooperation among its membership. NGIA continues to represent grocery store owners and operators, along with wholesalers and vendors located throughout Nebraska, by promoting their success through proactive government relations, innovative solutions and quality services. NGIA offers efficient and economical programs. NGIA also lobbies on both a state and national level, ensuring that the voice of the food industry in Nebraska is heard by our representatives.


Supported by the Nebraska Corn Board

The Nebraska Corn Board, on behalf of 23,000 corn farmers in Nebraska, invests in market development, research, promotion and education of corn and value-added products. The board aims to work closely with the farmer-to-consumer food chain, to educate everyone about the role corn has in our everyday healthy lives. The Nebraska Corn Board is proud to sponsor the Farmer Goes to Market program to help bring its mission of expanding demand and value of Nebraska corn to the consumer, through the strongest touch point in that chain: the Nebraska retail grocer.


Supported by the Nebraska Farm Bureau

The farm and ranch families represented by Nebraska Farm Bureau are proud sponsors of the Farmer Goes to Market program. We take great pride in supporting Nebraska's agricultural foundation. A key part of that effort is to make sure we produce safe and affordable food. This newsletter is an important part of our effort to connect the two most important parts of the food chain -- the farmer and the grocer -- with the goal of increasing consumer awareness and information about how their food is raised in Nebraska.