Archive for the ‘Western DairyBusiness’ Category

Dairy helps San Joaquin Valley air quality improve

Dairy Cares Report:  April 21 deadline to apply for revised dairy permits

There’s no question that air quality regulators have a tough job to do in the San Joaquin Valley. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the valley is almost perfectly designed to block out prevailing winds and trap pollution. Long, hot summers make the problem worse, “cooking” the basic ingredients of smog until they can form ozone, which irritates lung tissue and threatens our health.

So even though far less pollution is created in the valley per square mile than in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas, the valley has to work as hard or even harder to meet federal air quality goals.

In this tough situation, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has a remarkable record of success. According to the District’s 2010 “Report to the Community” (www.valleyair.org), the summer and fall season of 2009 was “one of the cleanest of recent years” for meeting federal standards for ozone, and “the summer of 2010 was the cleanest on record in the Valley, continuing the 20-year trend.”

The air district is quick to share the credit for improved air with those who are making it happen: “As a result of the extraordinary investments by businesses and municipalities in the San Joaquin Valley, and the efficient and effective public policy established by the Valley Air District Governing Board, air quality continues to improve in the Valley,” the report states.

How dairy families are working for cleaner air

Much like other valley businesses, California dairy families are doing their part to clean the air. Most air emissions from dairies are entirely natural and consist of small amounts of alcohols and similar compounds that evaporate from animal feed (silage), which can be corn, wheat, oats or other similar materials. While these compounds are essentially harmless at ground level and emitted in relatively small amounts on the dairies, the cumulative effect of 1,400 dairies in the valley is thought to contribute slightly to ozone formation in the atmosphere, especially on very hot summer days.

Because of this, the air district has taken the extraordinary step of requiring dairies to obtain operating permits that include requirements to adopt management measures to reduce emissions.

Importantly, California dairies are the only dairies in the world to be regulated to reduce these types of smog-forming emissions. The regulations, first adopted in 2006 and known collectively as “Rule 4570,” have since resulted in more than a 25 percent reduction of emissions from valley dairies, helping to support the valley’s trend toward cleaner air.

New regulations mean smaller dairies must seek permits by April 21

Although its regulations were already the toughest in the nation, the air district last year adopted additional measures to change Rule 4570. The biggest changes were:

• Requiring permits for dairies with more than 500 cows (previously only dairies with 1,000 or more cows were required to seek Rule 4570 permits), and

• Applying additional regulations related to storing and handling feed, because of new information identifying these as the most important source of dairy emissions.

Last-chance workshops April 12 and 13

Working in cooperation with the air district, the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program has been holding workshops around the valley over the last several weeks to assist dairy producers in applying for the new or revised permits. All dairies with more than 500 cows are required to apply for permits by April 21 (because of the revisions to the rule, even those who currently hold air permits under Rule 4570 must submit new applications). Producers who missed the March workshops have a “last chance” to attend these free workshops April just before the deadline:

• Tulare County Ag Center Auditorium, Tuesday, April 12, 2 to 4 p.m.

• Stanislaus County Ag Center, Harvest Hall, April 13, 10 a.m. to noon

Further reductions expected

The new air quality regulations are expected to further reduce emissions from California dairies. The cost to implement the improved management practices has been estimated at more than $60 million annually, representing yet another significant investment in cleaner air. While air quality is likely to be a challenge in the valley for decades to come, dairy families are doing their part, today to continue the trend toward cleaner air, while producing a safe, sustainable, nutritious and affordable food supply for millions of Americans.

Dairy Cares is a statewide coalition supporting economic and environmental sustainability and responsible animal care. Members include the Alliance of Western Milk Producers, Bank of the West, Bar 20 Dairy Farms, California Dairies Inc., California Dairy Campaign, California Farm Bureau Federation, Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, Dairy Farmers of America-Western Area Council, Dairy Institute of California, Hilmar Cheese Co., HP Hood, Joseph Gallo Farms, Land O’Lakes, Milk Producers Council, Ruan Transport Corp., Western United Dairymen, and others. For information, visit www.dairycares.com or call 916-441-3318.


 

 

WUD secures $500,000 in water quality funding

Western United Dairymen has secured $500,000 for water quality projects on dairies in California’s Central Valley. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), part of the 2008 Farm Bill conservation title, and is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Paul Martin, WUD’s Director of Environmental Services, says that despite the difficult economic climate, dairy producers in the Central Valley have worked hard to put in place all the required professional planning for manure management required by water quality regulations.  “With this new funding we will begin to implement those plans and actually lay the pipeline and build the infrastructure to handle water and manage manure in a very environmentally protective way,” said Martin.

“AWEP is a voluntary conservation initiative that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions and conserve valuable water resources on their agricultural land,” said Ed Burton, NRCS State Conservationist for California.

AWEP is a subpart of the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  AWEP differs from traditional EQIP in that proposals for funding are made directly to USDA by organizations on behalf of a group of agricultural producers. In this case Western United Dairymen applied for the funding and will help coordinate activities, although all the funding will go directly to the dairy producers.

NRCS California has 24 other AWEP projects from funds received in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The projects are aimed at improving irrigation efficiency, nutrient management, groundwater quality and other conservation goals.  NRCS will announce sign-up information, for dairy producers located in the Central Valley from Redding to Bakersfield, in the coming weeks.  For a listing of NRCS offices statewide seehttp://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=CA

 

Labor: Develop middle managers; train the trainers

By Ron Goble

Many dairymen struggle with developing good middle managers. So, the Western Dairy Management Conference brought a couple management and training experts together to share some of their techniques and successes with dairy producers from across the nation.

Mary Kraft, owner, chief financial officer, and human resources director at Quail Ridge/Badger Creek Dairy Farms in Fort Morgan, Colo., has done everything possible to make to make Quail Ridge Dairy as efficient as possible. It only figures that she and husband/partner Chris, also studied management techniques under the tutelage of veteran mentor Tom Fuhrman to cover all the bases.

She made it clear from the beginning of her presentation that the systems they’ve put in place at Quail Ridge are not all their own ideas, but the best they were able to find during extensive “R&D trips” to good dairy operations in their region. “That not research and development,” she said, “but rather, rob and duplicate.”

Often called the “Flow Dairy” in trade publications, Quail Ridge was designed and constructed by Chris and Mary with the flow of everything in mind. She shared their journey with hundreds of dairy producers and herdsmen attending the 10th annual Western Dairy Management Conference held earlier this year in Reno, Nev.

The Kraft’s 4,000 cow dairy in Northeast Colorado opened Jan. 2007, even though construction on the facility wasn’t complete until July. The ramp-up began with extensive training at Badger Creek Farm (the home dairy, milking 1,500 head with a double 22 parallel) to set up new managers before Quail Ridge opened.

Traffic patterns for moving cows, milk trucks, feed trucks, air, commodities and people make the five 800-cow freestall barns and double-50 parallel parlor highly efficient.

Mary Kraft began by asking herself about her goals, and her dedication to accomplish them. Some of the essential questions were: Are you a cow manager or a people manager? Can you live with someone else making a serious, perhaps a financial decision? Are you willing to relinquish the actual cow handling activities and let others be responsible? Do you feel you have to win every point, or can you get excited about the successes of your people? Are you interested in other people’s growth, and how much are you willing to put into their development?

“It’s important to start with the right ingredients,” she stressed. “And it’s important to start with the very best people, before you spend a lot of time and energy developing and training this person.”

She learned early not to settle for the first warm body that walked through the door, but choosing every new employee based on the following criteria:

• Are they motivated. “If they show up in a new pickup that they are going to have to make payments on – Motivated! Is their wife expecting? Motivated!”

• Did they take care of themselves – if they don’t take care of that, what do you think they will do with your things.

• Did they show up on time for the interview, and with the proper documents already in hand?

• Did they pay attention during the hiring process, and behave respectfully? “I walk them through every single step: what day is payday; what their responsibilities are; how much I’m paying them; how do we handle accidents; what things will get them terminated. If they are sitting up and attentive and not slouched in their seat, I know they are someone I can deal with.”

• Did they really understand what you said about their role in the job, and if they didn’t, did they ask respectful questions? “Most of them will begin in entry level position in he milking barn. I don’t expect them to have a huge amount of education or a certain skill set. But I am looking for somebody who seems to be grasping the things I’m telling them.”

• Do they have an attitude – a good one or a bad one? “If you have a person with a bad attitude, stop the interview right then and be done with it. You will save yourself so much time and energy it’s not even funny.”

Kraft found that it was important to put people in the right place. “One thing Tom Fuhrman helped us do was to design the hierarchy for our dairy,:” said Kraft. “Knowing where each person belongs in the chain of command and responsibility simplified the training and oversight process. No one manages more than six people directly. More than that and the system stalls. He taught us how to set people up for success.”

The next step is to begin your employees in the shaker box program, she said. “I’m particularly looking for the person who heard the information and practically applied it. And recognize too that most of those I’m dealing with probably have about a sixth grade education, but don’t confuse the lack of formal education with a lack of intelligence. We just need to give them the skill set to succeed.”

Many of their employees have had a mentor back home. Maybe a father who made them do the whole job, and made them understand the families economic consequence when the job wasn’t done well, Kraft explained. They have become people who take charge of their own destiny. We assign a mentor to our up and coming employees too, she said.

The Krafts have weekly meetings with all their department heads, who are expected to present about their area, issues, concerns and triumphs. It helps them keep the pulse on a large operation, but is also a means of teaching responsibility, preparation, communication and problem solving, according to Kraft.

 

Training the trainers

Dr. Noa Roman-Muniz, assistant professor, department of animal sciences, Colorado State University, was the other panel member speaking on labor issues. Her focus: training the trainers!

She received her DVM at the University of Wisconsin, and Master’s degree in clinical sciences with an emphasis in adult education at CSU. Noa grew up on a dairy farm in Puerto Rico, so she has understands the challenges dairy employees and dairy producers encounter.

“Being best at milking cows does not necessarily make you great at teaching new milkers how to do their job,” she said.

“Good trainers are passionate about what they teach. Good trainers are good storytellers, and stories are a good way to teach and learn, because stories help put facts into context, which makes them easier to remember.

“Good teachers will motivate people and make them believe that what I’m teaching them right now, is really cool to learn, and they have the ability to learn it. Good teachers should exhibit patience, respect and fairness to all.”

Once a potential trainer has been identified, that person should be trained properly. Training seminars and conferences offered by universities and private entities are great opportunities to provide trainers-to-be with background knowledge, Ramon-Muniz explained.

“One critical aspect of properly training the trainers is to explain to them the ‘why’ behind decisions made on the dairy,” she said. “For example, if we ask them to train others about forestripping, but neglect to explain why forestripping is important to cow health, milk quality and parlor efficiency, the trainer will lose the argument if confronted with the question, ‘why should I add one more step to the milking routine, if we already do so much in the parlor?’ A trainer should always be able to answer ‘why.’”

So, why is why important?

• Greater engagement on the learning process • Greater motivation • Understand the importance of their work (accountability) • Helps with problem solving (decision making) • Critical to know your audience and decide how much detail to share or leave out.

Ramon-Muniz said something as simple as impressing the importance of washing their hands and arms will save them many days or weeks of treating a sick, non-productive cow. Understanding the “why” allows workers to grasp the magnitude of what they do as part of their job.

After Ramon-Muniz’ first presentation the day before, she said a conference attendee told her they train their employees by “show, tell and do” protocols. “Show them what to do; tell them how to do it; and then let them do it,” she said. “I’m going to use that from now on in my own training of trainers. You can always be open to new ways to teach.”

She stressed it is important to ask the student if they understand what you’ve just explained. If they say “yes,” ask them to show you. “That’s the only way you will really know if they actually got what you were trying to teach them,” she said.

One advantage of having on-farm trainers is that following a training session they could provide feedback to the employees in their area. Immediate, constructive feedback is a critical and often neglected step in the training process, she said. Timely feedback is very important, if we desire to keep workers motivated and engaged. No feedback is worse than negative feedback. It gives the impression that doing a good job is just taken for granted and not important. They may be improving in their job, but not hearing any feedback from their manager that he sees the positive change.

Follow-up meetings should be held after training sessions to talk about worker progress and performance. The management team must choose parameters ahead of time, to measure worker and area performance.

“My father told me that if he ever wanted to take a vacation and not worry about the dairy, he had to teach his managers the ‘why’ of the job. He needs to know that they would make the same decision as he would, in his absence,” she said.

“Have your students demonstrate how they would do various tasks. Sometimes have them teach each other,” she said.

 

Recalculating: A new look at ‘THI’ and cost effective ways to manage heat stress in dairy herds

Cows and conditions have changed since the Temperature Humidity Index (THI) was created. Researchers are looking at earlier starting points for management intervention, and new cost-effective cow-cooling methods.

By Ron Goble

One of the top cow comfort experts in the world, University of Arizona animal scientist Robert Collier points out the Temperature Humidity Index (THI) was originally developed for humans, not cows. The research,  conducted at the William J. Parker Research Complex at the University of Arizona in 1958, was extended to cattle using research conducted by I.L. Berry, at the University of Missouri, in the 1960s.

The data was placed into the familiar THI chart by the University of Arizona’s Frank Wiersma and Dennis Armstrong, in the 1980s, becoming a popular tool to estimate dairy cow cooling requirements and develop heat stress management strategies on dairies.

Since that early research, things have changed, according to Collier, speaking at the 2011 Western Dairy Management Conference, in Reno, Nev.

For example, the Missouri THI research was based on data from 56 cows with an average milk yield of about 34 lbs./day. Additionally, heat stress was applied for two weeks before milk yield was recorded, and the temperature was constant. During the original studies, there was also no wind speed or infrared heat load consideration.

Collier pointed out today’s typical milk production level is 70 lbs. or more/cow/day, impacting heat stress tolerance. Research in Israeli has demonstrated a milk yield of 99 lbs./day lowers the THI threshold  by 9° Fahrenheit  (5° C).

The time interval producers expect in today’s environment is next-day information. They want to know what impact today’s environmental heat load has on their cows’ production level tomorrow – not in two weeks. And, heat loads recorded from a metal roof during the summer are known to add approximately 6° F (3° C) to a cow’s heat load.

Finally, cows themselves have changed. “Since 1950, heat production per cow has increased an average of 28,000 Btu/day in the Holstein breed,” said Collier. “So the cow is more sensitive to heat stress, since she is producing more heat internally than cows from the 1960s. This requires re-evaluating the relationship between ambient temperature, milk yield and thermal stress level in cattle.”

 

Underestimated thresholds

Collier contends there’s still no better index to use for heat stress management. However, the current THI threshold is underestimated for today’s high-producing dairy cows.

The original THI chart had a stress threshold starting at 72, a point many used to trigger cooling management strategies. However, analyses conducted at the University of Arizona shows milk yield losses are detectable beginning at a THI of 68. Waiting until THI hits 72 is too late: Cooling methods on commercial dairies should be implemented earlier to prevent effects.

Collier stressed management strategies must focus on minimizing heat gain, while maximizing heat loss. University research showed the summer-to-winter milk production ratio in Arizona confirmed dairy cows are giving up 8.8 lbs of milk per cow/per day during summer compared to winter months.

 

By the numbers

“If we use an example employing 100 dairy cows cooled by a Korral Kool cooler, we should expect a milk yield gain of 4.8 lbs. of milk per day beginning cooling at 68 vs. 72,” he said. “For 100 dairy cows, that would equate to a milk yield gain of 4.84 hundredweights. Using a milk price of $17/cwt., and a feed price of $14/cwt. milk produced, the income above feed costs would be $14.52.”

Researchers used a variable cost of 14¢/cwt. of milk produced, and assuming each cooler would cool 10 cows, the total cooler variable cost would be $6.80, producing an income of $7.09/100 cows, or 7.1¢/cow/day. In a Western herd of 3,000 lactating dairy cows, the potential income would equate to $213/day, or $1,491/week. Collier pointed out that does not take into account any beneficial effects on reproductive performance in these cows.

 

Economic efficiency

With increasing focus on economic efficiency,  the objective of a 2009 research project, conducted at Caballero Dairy and Red River Dairy in Arizona, was to determine if lowering the threshold for cooling systems improved milk production and reproductive performance in lactating dairy cows under dairy farm conditions.

Collier concluded additional cooling – using oscillating fans or Korral Kool Coolers – did not improve lactation or reproductive performance when cooling was initiated at THI of 68 instead of 72, and was not considered cost effective.

Conventional cooling of dairy cows during the summer months consumes large amounts of electricity during the peak hours of the power demand and large quantities of water for various cow soaking and misting systems.

Energy costs on dairies continues to increase. Numbers supplied by Agriaire Industries shows a 9,500-cow dairy in Casa Grande, Ariz., spent $700,000 to cool their cows between April through October.

Collier shared a graph showing the historic increase in California’s electric rates from the years 1970 through 2006 for residential and commercial users. Rates climbed steadily, from 2¢ per kilowatt-hour to near 14¢ per kilowatt-hour during the period.

While electrical prices have been going up on an annual basis, prices can be much higher during summer months, too, Collier said.

Electricity futures prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange peak in July and August each year. A review of U.S. Energy Information Administration data on monthly electricity prices shows highest prices for end users peaks in June-September (www.eia.doe.gov/ftproot/electricity/epm/02261101.pdf).

Also, the average price of water increased last year by 3.8% worldwide, according to a survey conducted by NUS Consulting Group, and an official of the firm says the survey also provides evidence to indicate even higher water price increases in the future.

 

Seeking a more effective way

With rising electricity and water costs to cool cows conventionally – and if heat stress management intervention is to start at a THI of 68 vs. 72 – Collier raises the question: “Would alternative ‘passive’ forms of cooling provide a more cost-effective method to reduce milk yield losses?”

One method being researched is a thermal conductive cooling system, a heat exchanger “system” installed beneath the cows’ bedding area in dairy barns. This application utilizes flexible plastic-based heat exchangers.

In the warm southern climate, well water temperatures range from mid-60s°F to low 70s°F. There is approximately a 30-35° F differential between the cow’s internal temperature and the temperature of earth-cooled well water.

The colder temperature of the water cools the cows naturally via conduction, by transferring heat from a warm source (the cow) to a colder source (the heat exchanger with the colder water), explained Collier.

Recently, collaborative work by Agriaire Industries and the University of Arizona demonstrated heat exchangers could be buried 12 inches below the surface of a freestall bed and still provide significant conductive cooling to dairy cows.

“Geothermal cooling would represent significant cost reduction in reducing heat stress on dairy cows and offers the additional opportunity of using the same approach to warm cows during cold winter months in northern dairy locations. Field testing of this concept is currently underway,” he said.

If thermal conduction cooling is proven to effectively cool cows within “profitable physiological parameters” (101° F -103° F) and implemented on dairies, researchers said the potential exists to significantly shift/reduce peak loads of energy required to cool dairy cows, providing huge savings in summer energy costs for dairy producers.

 

‘Proof of concept’

Phase 1, the “proof of concept” testing, was conducted June 14-23, 2009 at the University of Arizona Agricultural Research Complex in Tucson, under the supervision of the University of Arizona Animal Science Department. This study supported continued development of the concept at a commercial scale.

A commercial scale test was then conducted at 3,600-cow Rancho Teresita Dairy, Tulare, Calif., from Sept. 1-30, 2009. For this test herd,  the 52-stall test section of the freestall barn had no fans and no soaker line system operating, only conduction cooling to cool the cows. Those cows were compared to traditional cooling methods (fans and soakers), which kicked in at 72° F.

With the water supply to the heat exchanger system averaging in the low 70s° F, the control test maintained an average bed temperature of 78.57° F. The test herd with the heat exchanger system averaged 76.31° F.

Rectal temperatures recorded during the 30-day trial showed temperatures at 101.96° F in control cows and 101.98° F in test cows. A 30-day average of skin surface temperatures were reported at 99.0° F in the control group  and 98.9° F in test cows.

Researchers reported 30-day average milk weights of 97.83 lbs/day for control cows and 93.6 lbs./day for test cows, a difference of 4.23 lbs/day.

During the week of Sept. 25 through Oct. 1, temperatures soared to peaks of 99° F, with sustained high humidity. Average loss for all 3,600 cows during this particular week was 5 lbs./cow/day. Supply water to the heat exchanger averaged in the mid-70°s F during this particular week.

Despite the milk output decline in the initial study, cost-effectiveness of the alternative cooling method convinced researchers the data generated from the “proof of concept” and field studies support further development of conductive cooling of dairy cows to reduce water and electrical use. The results supported use of refrigerated water, or implementing additional cooling above air temperatures of 90° F.

Additional studies are planned in 2011-12 at dairies in California, Texas and Arizona.

By modifying management, using conduction cooling alone to cool cows – and holding off turning on fans until temperatures reached 90° F – Collier estimated this same 3,600-cow dairy, using 180 fans at 1.2 kW/hr per fan and paying 9¢/kW/hr, would save close to $26,500 for the summer in energy costs to cool cows – a savings of more than 75% in electricity costs.

 

Idaho Legislature recognizes importance of dairy

Source: Idaho Dairymen’s Association

Idaho dairy producers working to recover from a national depression in their industry have become a shining example of the economic recovery under way in rural Idaho. The dairy industry’s resiliency has added billions to the state’s economy during a tough recession.

Over the last few weeks the Idaho Legislature showed that they recognized that success, and passed four measures to help guarantee a strong future for the industry.

“The is one of the best legislative sessions the Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA)  has ever seen,” Jerome dairy producer and IDA President Mike Roth said. “We are deeply appreciative of how hard these public servants worked to understand our issues and support one of Idaho’s most important industries.”

All four bills passed out of both the House and Senate Agricultural Committees with unanimous support. The three out of the four bills passed the floors of both bodies with an excess of 90% support, and House Bill 270 received a unanimous vote of support from both the House and the Senate. Both Republicans and Democrats supported the measures.

The bills were part of an overall strategy by the Association to make it easier for dairy farmers to succeed in business. Working in close conjunction with key legislative leaders and representatives from supporting organizations, the Dairymen’s Association crafted four measures to support the industry:

  • The pay price received by milk producers is driven in part by labs that test the components of milk. Those labs will be under closer scrutiny with the passage of House Bill 152. The bill will put into place a negotiated rule-making process at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture so that both producers and processors will determine the most effective and fair way to monitor the labs’ performances. This corrects a flaw dating back to 2004, when state dairy producers lost their seat at the oversight table with the repeal of the Federal Milk Marketing Order.
  • Crucial business information will remain private thanks to House Bill 269, which clarifies how information currently on file with the Idaho Department of Agriculture can be deemed “trade secrets.” The states required Nutrient Management Plans and information derived by the producer because of the plan will no longer be available to the public.
  • There will be more certainty in the crafting and implementation of rules governing the industry thanks to House Bill 270. The measure clarifies how the state Department of Agriculture can – and cannot – regulate the industry when federal rules are less stringent than those proposed by state or local agencies. Most importantly it sets a high standard in requiring the use of peer-reviewed science in the development of the rules.
  • Groups and individuals will no longer be able to harass the state and the industry thanks to House Bill 328. The closes a loophole in existing public records law, which allows anti-dairy activists to force the disclosure of thousands of pages of information without the state being able to seek reimbursement for significant labor costs associated with fulfilling the request.

“The Idaho Dairymen’s Association is fortunate to have such strong allies in the Idaho Legislature,” Executive Director Bob Naerebout said. “We are pleased that they took the time to understand our issues, recognized the critical role our members play in boosting the state’s economy, and were so willing to support these four important pieces of legislation.”

 

Guest editorial: Our window of opportunity – Support ‘three rights’ every consumer deserves

Technology is key to a safe, abundant and affordable food supply, unrestricted consumer choice and environmental sustainability.

By Jeff Simmons

As the U.S. growing season gets underway, a wave of food insecurity threatens more than 1 billion people around the world. Global food costs are rising to dangerous levels and projected to continue increasing. In the past two years, a global economic recession has decreased consumers’ buying power while increasing the number of chronically hungry and food insecure people. After decades of decline, the number of hungry people in the world is increasing.

Jeff Simmons

A few years ago I wrote a paper about the urgent need to produce more food. While time has passed, the urgency of the situation has accelerated. Between 2008 and 2010, more than 18 million people died from hunger. That’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet falling out of the sky each and every day.

Will the world allow the devastation of hunger to continue, or will we tackle this problem with solutions that already exist? Since the Green Revolution, producers have been using technology to increase production and make food more affordable. But consumers don’t want technology used in food production. Right?

In 2010, Elanco commissioned a review of consumer food buying attitudes and behaviors from around the world. The researchers looked at studies that only used unaided questions or actual consumer spending data to minimize bias. The International Consumer Attitudes Survey (ICAS) evaluated 27 studies that met the researchers’ criteria. The Nielsen Company validated these findings in late 2010. All told, the research reflected the attitudes and buying behaviors of more than 97,000 consumers in 26 countries.

 

ICAS findings revealed:

• 95% of consumers are Food Buyers who purchase foods based on taste, cost and nutrition. They are neutral or supportive of using efficiency-enhancing technologies to grow food.

• 4% of consumers are Lifestyle Buyers who purchase foods largely based on lifestyle factors such as luxury, gourmet, organic, locally grown or other types of products.

Food Buyers and Lifestyle Buyers overlap in many areas and are not distinct segments. In 2010, barcode scanner data showed 75% of the conventional food buyers also made lifestyle purchases, specifically organic foods. Few, however, purchase only organic products.

Despite consumers’ acceptance of modern agricultural technology, a small fringe group continues to perpetuate the modern myth. They participate in protests to “protect” consumers from modern food production. To put it simply, 99% of consumers care about what they eat; 1% care about what I eat.

 

It’s time to end the debate. Ensuring access to safe, proven, efficiency-enhancing technologies ensures “three rights” for all consumers:

1) Food is a human right. Every child born on this Earth has the right to be fed. Technology creates a more abundant, more affordable food supply.

2) Choice is a consumer right. As ICAS revealed, 99% of consumers want unrestricted choice in the food chain. Technology supports choice.

3) Sustainability is an environmental right. We will not be able to feed future generations if we neglect today’s environmental resources. Technology allows farmers to feed more people, while consuming fewer natural resources and generating less animal waste.

 

As a producer, how can you support the three rights?

• Make it personal. Step out of your bubble and examine what hunger looks like in your own community.

• Engage. Inform your network that the majority of consumers are comfortable with technology use in food production.

• Support. Support the 99% of the world’s citizens who want unconstrained choice. Ask fringe groups looking to eliminate choice to prove their assertions using sound scientific data, which they can share with regulatory bodies.

Today, producers stand at a crossroads. With food supplies tight and input prices increasing, now is our window of opportunity to expose the myth and support access and choice.

 

FYI

Jeff Simmons is president of Elanco. Access  a copy of his new white paper, “Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality,” at www.plentytothinkabout.org/threerights.

 

Opinions & Sacred Cows: Feeding the world with technology

By Ron Goble, Editor, Western DairyBusiness

The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050! That’s up from 6.5 billion people by today’s count. “We are going to become a more hungry world for animal protein and feed grains,” says Brian Rittgers, director of Global Field Management Development for Elanco. Rittgers was a keynote speaker at Dairy Profit Seminars during World Ag Expo recently. His message was focused on food economics and consumer choice.

He stressed how the world would need to depend on technology in order to be able to feed the world safely, sustainably and economically. The word “choice” is critical. And if we are going to have the choice around the kinds of foods we are able to consume and the technology we are able to use in production agriculture, we’ve got to fight for, and recognize that “choice” is important.

The 50 / 100 / 70 phenomenon

By the year 2050, the world will require 100% more food, and 70% of this food must come from our efficiency-improving technology, Rittgers said. “We don’t have more land. We don’t have more natural resources. We don’t have more land or water. So we will have to have available safe technology if we expect to feed the world.

The developed world (North America, Europe and Japan) has a very small proportion of its total population is made up of young people. The demographics are just the opposite in developing nations. And as their economies expand the people get more hungry for more protein (meat, milk and eggs) – not more rice or wheat.

Rittgers emphasized that as the population grows in these countries, access to safe, proven technologies will protect the basic moral right of people to have enough food, enough choices, and do it sustainably.

He talked about food insecurity. One in six people in the world goes hungry in 2010. Between 2008-2010, an estimated 18.2 million people around the world died from malnutrition. In America, food insecurity reaches 14.6% of U.S. families in 2008 (highest number since record-keeping began). In 2008-09, food assistance in Indiana increased by 38%. One in six Indiana families in ‘09 relied on a food bank.

In China, the Premier, Wen Jiabao, said he “had a dream to provide every Chinese, especially children, sufficient milk each day.” He wanted to increase the daily intake of milk from 100 grms per day to 300 grms per day. Compare that to 706 grms per day for those in the U.S. That means in a country like China, they would have to go from 18 million to 36 million dairy cows.

In India, they currently spend 50% of their income on food; about the same ad the U.S. 100 years ago. Secretary of Agriculture for India said that was not acceptable going forward. And they didn’t want to be dependent on countries like the U.S. to feed them. They see a big part of the answer as being technology.

In 27 studies in 26 countries, from 2001-2010, some 97,000 consumers were surveyed. A solid 95% of food buyers said their top three requirements were affordability, nutrition and taste. Lifestyle buyers at 4%, wanted luxury/gourmet foods, organic, local, grow food in their own gardens, or make choices based on their religious preferences. A 1% fringe who made decisions based on food bans, restrictions, political proposition, or overall activism. So you have 99% of consumers out there open to the use of technology.

The late Norman Borlaug said the world has the safe technology either available or well advanced in the research pipeline to feed a population of 10 billion people. However, the more pertinent question is, will farmers and ranchers be allowed to use this new technology? Will regulators, will people who have an impact on the food system, give you the opportunity to use the technology available today and available in the future?

Rittgers cited the United Kingdom decision in the 1990s to restrict how animal agriculture was implemented and executed and what tools were available. “There is a law of unintended consequences that comes with these types of decisions to not allow technology. For the first time in their history, the U.K. was a net importer of food. They could no longer produce enough food to feed themselves,” said Rittgers. “You talk about global security and I don’t think any country wants to be in that situation – relying on other countries to feed them.

Since U.K. restrictions enacted in 1990s:

• U.K. is now a net food importer

-Value of U.K. food imports (2007): 133% higher vs. exports

-Meat imports: 389% higher vs. exports

-Dairy imports: 132% higher vs. exports

-Farm incomes down 71% (‘95-’01)

• Without government subsidies:

-Incomes negative in 7 of 11 years

• U.K. lost 60,000 farmers/farm workers (’98-’01)

• Lost 10’s of millions of lbs. of meat due to animal disease

Rittgers pointed out that “consumers are fed a steady stream of information by the popular press that most often doesn’t accurately tell our story about what we do, and how we do it, in agriculture as it relates to producing food.”

“We must refine our story, tell our story and collectively get the story right,” Rittgers said. “Decisions about agriculture are driven often by misinformation, opinion, emotion, and even nostalgia about what production agriculture used to be. We need to counter that with accurate information to ensure decisions are made about ag practices based on sound science and accurate data.”

Rittgers stressed that U.S. agriculture has a tremendous story to tell about sustainability. Efficiency-enhancing technologies can greatly reduce resource usage on the farm. “If you look at water use, we’ve reduced water use in beef production by 14% per pound since 1977. If you look at dairy, a gallon of milk uses 65% less water today than it did in 1944 to produce a gallon of milk. How about land use? We are using 34% less land per lb. of beef than in 1977 and 90% less land per gallon of milk than in 1944. That’s a tremendous sustainability message to tell,” Rittgers declared.

“It’s a time for action as it relates to the three moral choices mentioned earlier – basic moral right to have enough food, consumer choice and sustainability.”

Rittgers 7 reasons to be hopeful:

• We see the global 50-100-70% phenomena is playing out in the world today. We see it happening.

• The 99% that want: nutrition, affordability, taste, some luxury choices! We cannot let the 1%, who do it based on activism, restrict the use of technology for the rest of consumers.

• Food Chain 500 influence: identifying reachable and influential leaders who have the power to shape consumer choices.

• Retailers’ positive decisions (in more than 20 instances in the last 12 months) to allow technologies used in production agriculture to be used and those products marketed through their retail stores.

• Recessionary effect – increasing need for affordability in food, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

• Sustainability/Environmental movements are real. Retailers all want to make sustainability part of their message.

• Regulatory body – FDA – consistency, record innovation, alignment on such things as antibiotics, that we believe will make sure that we have access to antibiotic technology in the future. and that we have the public’s confidence that we are using those technologies properly.

“The good news is, there is a lot more technology coming.

Safe, affordable, abundant food…Making it a reality:

~ Personalize the issue – find your voice and talk about who you do. Tell your story.

~ Engage the food chain – talk to your local grocery store owner/manager about why they don’t allow certain technologies

~ Support the 99% – go to www.plentyto thinkabout.org and share your thoughts, opinions and concerns.

Rittgers’ message is something we need to take seriously and then take action.

Have an opinion or response? E-mail Ron Goble, associate publisher/editor, Western DairyBusiness at: rgoble@dairybusiness.com

 

 

Real estate investor pleads guilty to bid rigging, fraud in San Joaquin County

WASHINGTON — A real estate investor pleaded guilty, March 18, in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Calif., to conspiring to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions held in San Joaquin County, Calif., Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, and Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, announced.

Gregory L. Jackson pleaded guilty to conspiring with a group of real estate speculators who agreed not to bid against each other at certain public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County. The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition and to obtain selected real estate offered at San Joaquin County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices, the department said in court papers.

According to the court documents, after the conspirators’ designated bidder bought a property at a public auction, they would hold a second, private auction, at which each participating conspirator would bid the amount above the public auction price he or she was willing to pay. The conspirator who bid the highest amount at the end of the private auction won the property. The difference between the price at the public auction and that at the second auction was the group’s illicit profit, and it was divided among the conspirators in payoffs. According to his plea agreement, Jackson participated in the scheme beginning in or about March 2009 until in or about October 2009.

To date, six individuals, including Jackson, have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in connection with this investigation: Anthony B. Ghio, John R. Vanzetti, Theodore B. Hutz, Richard W. Northcutt and Yama Marifat.

Jackson pleaded guilty to bid rigging, a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. Jackson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

These charges arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation of fraud and bidding irregularities in certain real estate auctions in San Joaquin County. The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, the FBI’s Sacramento Division and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Trial attorneys Barbara Nelson and Tai Milder from the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg are prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-436-6660, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California at 916-554-2700 or the FBI’s Sacramento Division at 916-481-9110.

 

EPA administrator visiting California

WASHINGTON – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will make a long-planned visit to California this week, where she will meet with state and local agriculture and business leaders. Jackson’s two-and-half-day California trip will include stops in Los Angeles and Fresno.

In Los Angeles, Jackson will hold a roundtable discussion with LA business leaders from the energy sector and the African-American community and will be joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass to visit one of Los Angeles’ top performing schools, which serves predominantly minority and low-income students. Administrator Jackson will also spend a full day in Fresno, where she will visit farms, meet with agricultural leaders, hold discussions with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and meet with local environmental justice activists.

TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2011

2:45 p.m. Tour of Stella Middle Charter Academy

2636 South Mansfield Ave.
Los Angeles, Calif.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23, 2011

9:45 a.m. Visit to Terranova Ranch

16729 W. Floral Ave
Helm, Calif.

11:00 a.m. Meeting with growers at J and L Vineyards
7455 W. Lincoln, Ave.
Fresno, Calif.

For more information on EPA’s work with the agricultural community, visit: http://www.epa.gov/agriculture.

FDA seeking dairy drug residue testing input

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a discussion session with dairy industry officials regarding dairy drug residue sampling options. The session is set for March 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Sacramento, Calif.

FDA sent discussion session invitations to milk regulatory agencies and industry organizations in neighboring westem states. Meeting room space is limited, and location was not specified.

FDA is attempting to determine if there is a correlation between illegal drug residues found in meat tissue samples  from some culled dairy cows and the milk supply from those farms. The agency is seeking practical recommendations to replace a testing plan introduced previously, but subsequently postponed due to controversy among dairy producer and industry organizations.

 

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