Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Trust and Less Regulation

Yesterday I drove through my little corner of the Flinthills and observed Fall in all her glory. The sun shone bright in the clean, blue sky and the earthy colors of the trees cascaded up and down the valleys. The open native grass pastures were covered in a golden brown sea. I took just a second to pause and remember why I love my little part of the world.

My family has called the Flint Hills home for five generations and our roots run deep. I am no different than most of my counterparts in agriculture. I truly love the land and it is part of who I am. This moment of reflection also caused me to return to a deep-seated concern that has been growing daily.

More and more each day this corner of the world that I love so much is coming under more and more regulation by people who are thousands of miles away. While most of them are well-meaning (although many have under-lying more sinister motives), I truly believe that they do not understand the situation and they will do more harm than good. They do not know the land like the farmers and ranchers who live on it.

Each day agriculture becomes more regulated. These regulations are meant to preserve the natural resources around us, but in many cases they do just the opposite. They are imposed on us by bureaucrats and activists hundreds of miles away and take away the ability of the farmer and rancher to do what is best for their land and make a living for their family. Advances in technology have allowed us to do a better job of preserving the world around us. I know this is not what is portrayed by various media outlets and governmental organizations, but it is the truth.

My family has been on the same land for over 100 years and we strive to preserve the land for another 100 years. We would never do anything to harm the land, water, animals or our neighbors. We simply utilize the resources entrusted to us feed the world and to preserve our way of life. The bottom line is that farmers and ranchers produce more food, while preserving and even improving the land, air and water around us.

However, each day we are faced with unrealistic benchmarks sought after by so-called environmental groups and imposed upon us by government agencies with a political agendas. Yes, air quality is affected by agricultural activities such as dust from field work and burning of native range. However, these events are part of natural life cycles and are very small when compared to the smog manufactured in more populated areas. Herbicides critical to modern farming and soil saving technology are falsely vilified by groups using biased research data.

I do not mean to go on a rant, but the natural beauty I saw yesterday reminded me of how great farmers and ranchers are in protecting the environment around them. My friends and neighbors work in the fields, pastures and timbers each and every day. They are rooted in the land know how to preserve and improve it better than those who do not live here. What I am saying is we need to entrust the farmers and ranches with the land that is their lifeblood. They are the true environmentalists.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Miracle of Agriculture

What is a miracle? That was the topic of my Sunday school class yesterday. The definition we all came up with was an unexplained happening created by God. We discussed various miracles and decided that miracles are very personal things. What is a miracle to you might not be seen as such by someone else. As the discussion progressed my thoughts went to agriculture.

Modern agriculture is the biggest miracle I know of. It is overwhelming to think that I produce enough for myself and over 150 other souls. That is a number that has grow exponentially over the past years. From genetically modified crops, to modern fertilzers and chemicals to modern vetrinary medicines, have all allowed me to produce more food for a growing world population. All of advances in modern technology can only be described as a miracle or a gift from God.

Increasingly I have heard the anti-agriculture groups and those who take shots at modern agriculture say that we are playing God by developing and utilizing modern technology. I have a little different take on that thought. I truly believe that God is the one giving us the ability to unlock the secrets of his creation to help us produce more food with our limited agricultural lands.

Think about it. At the root of every scientific advance is the unexplained miracle of life that God gives us. We can do unbelievable things when in comes to genetically modifying plants to increase their production of food, but we cannot create life in its most basic form. God is the one who allows us to make the modifications.

Then there is the issue of the wonderful medicines we have available to us to treat our livestock. Misinformed individuals would have you believe they are a risk to our health. That is just not true. The truth is that through the advances in modern veterinary medicine, God has allowed us the miracle of producing animals that grow faster with less stress, are healthier and ultimately produce safer more wholesome food because of the medicines He has given us.

All of this does not even get into the most basic of miracles such as the timing of the temperature changes, rainfall and sunlight. Miracles like plants being able to produce their own food with sunlight and nutrients. Everything in agriculture is a miracle.

Speaking personally that is why I farm and ranch. I love being on the front row of a daily miracle. God has chosen me to help produce enough food for the ever growing population of the world. He has allowed me to produce more food, with fewer inputs and provide it at a reasonable price. That allows me to provide you with the miracle of a safe, wholesome, nutritious and most importantly abundant food supply.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Healthy from My Ranch to Your Plate

The calendar and the trees tell me it is fall and that means one thing to a cattle rancher. It is weaning time. This is the time of the year when the calves born this spring have grown and matured to the point that they no-longer need their mother's milk. They are eating grass and can easily function on their own.

However, we, ranchers, realize that weaning can be stressful on the calves and cows and do all that we can to minimize this stress. Quite a bit of research has been done on this subject and weaning methods have been developed to reduce the stress on the calves and the cows. The most common method is called fence-line weaning. The cows are placed on one side of the fence and the calves on the other side. This allows the calf to get used to being on it's own while still having nose to nose contact with the cow.

I assure you that a good fence is a must in this method and can require repeated separating of the calves and cows. However, after a couple of days the calves and cows gradually settle down and can be separated to more distant pens.

Why do we go through these measures? The biggest reason is to lessen the stress on the calves and cows. This ultimately improves the calves immune system and reduces the chances that the calves will require treatment for illnesses later. We really care about the animals we spend our lives raising. Kind of a different story than you here from the so called watch-groups who would have you believe all beef animals are constantly medicated.

The truth is that as a beef producer, I want to reduce or even eliminate the use of anti-biotics on my ranch. I want my cattle to be healthy, stress-free and grow to their full potential. They cannot do this if they are stressed and/or sick. Extension and industry researchers are constantly looking for ways to produce beef stress-free thus reducing the number of animals requiring treatment.

Let me also assure you that the few we treat on our farm are safe for consumption. We follow all withdrawal periods to insure the medicine is out of their system before they end up on your dinner table. We feed our families the same meat you feed your family. It is our mission to care for our animals from birth until they reach your freezer to provide wholesome, healthy, safe food. That is why I will spend my day preparing fences and pens to provide my calves a low stress weaning experience.