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A while back, the U.S. Department of Defense, listing climate change as the reason, encouraged the military to support and enact meatless Mondays, much to the dismay of thousands of livestock producers and organizations across our nation.

Our President is using climate change to list the wolverine and jump-start a whole list of other executive decisions, most without sound science. Now they are targeting what our service men and women put on their plates three times a day. The Administration is intruding into the lives of our military personnel, and most of them really don’t have much of a choice in what they eat every day.

This misguided movement keeps rising up all the time across the nation. In 2012, it started with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in an e-newsletter, encouraging employees to participate in meatless Mondays. Between the livestock organizations’ and livestock producers’ quick action, USDA quickly removed the offending post, claiming it was for the good of the environment and personal health.

This time, some members of Congress quickly got involved, one being Sen. Joni Ernst from Iowa. She quickly introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, citing the federal government’s dietary guidelines as reason to ensure that members of the armed forces get enough meat to satisfy their protein requirements. In an emailed statement, Ernst described meatless Mondays as “misguided at best” and in conflict with dietary standards.

“Our men and women in uniform should have the option to consume the protein they need, including meat, on a daily basis,” she said.

Freshman Sen. Ernst, who was born and raised on a farm, received national attention during her 2014 Senate election with a television ad called, “Squeal.” In the spot, she promised to make lawmakers in Washington squeal the same way as she did castrating pigs. It must have been effective. She got elected, but you know, Iowa is the national leader in pork production and the second largest producer of red meat overall. I respect her support, and you should, too.

And again, our ol' buddies the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are supporting the effort. The animal welfare group provides training and recipes to help facilities reduce their meat consumption. The group has helped the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut to cut meat consumption by 10 percent in three years. I guess eating bugs and nuts will help them float. I could go without meat at times, but it would take a good bowl of macaroni and cheese to do it.

So far the U.S. military does not currently participate in meatless Mondays, nor has there been any evidence that any branch intends to enforce it anytime soon. But I imagine someone, some group or even our President will bring it back.

As a big part of our meat industry, we need to strongly support our way of life with a positive voice of one instead of bickering among ourselves and organizations. The quality and healthy attributes of the meat we raise speak for themselves. That’s a given, but we have to combat those groups against us by getting good information out to consumers and others. Only by working together, we will prevail. Get off your duff and get to it.

The studies and other research about the benefits of not eating meat or the benefits of eating meat will most likely never cease. And for those who raise livestock, the battle to promote these products will always be there.

I’ve never been too concerned about meatless diets out there. That is the people’s choice, but we do need to be concerned about the false and misleading statements that people and some companies are making to promote the meatless way of life and make money.

Thank God we have our beef and lamb checkoffs to help get the true message out to the public – a public today that is very gullible. Many believe everything they see and read in social media and other information avenues. We have to support the good news and battle the misinformation.

There are some new meatless products out there hitting the grocery shelves, even in Wyoming, from a company in, believe it or not, California. The company, Beyond Meat, is a privately held company that makes single-serve meals of burgers and chicken using plant-based products. They are working with another company, Chef’s, where people can order these single-serve meals over the internet. As you can see, these meals will appeal to many, especially the millennials. I can see where it fits right in with some lifestyles. So here is a company making and selling a product to replace beef and chicken, but I imagine the main goal is to just make money, and they are using all the misinformation out there to promote these products.

Two new studies have surfaced lately about not eating meat. One was from the University of Graz in Austria, and it found that vegetarians are unhealthier and more mentally disturbed than meat eaters.

The study states that vegetarians are more often ill and have a lower quality of life than meat eaters. It also states that vegetarians are more likely to have heart attacks, some types of cancer and psychological disorders than those who eat meat.

In the study, they evaluated findings from the Austrian Health Interview Survey and the European Health Interview Survey evaluating some 1,320 people divided into four groups: vegetarians, big meat eaters, little meat eaters and meat eaters who included lots of fruits and vegetables in their diets.

Another study that just came out, the Netherlands Cohort Study by the Meat Investigation Cohort, which is an analytical cohort of 11,082 individuals including 1,133 self-reported vegetarians, aged 55 to 69 years at baseline. At baseline in 1986, subjects completed a questionnaire on dietary habits and other risk factors for cancer and were classified into vegetarians, pescetarian, those who ate meat once a week, those who ate meat two to five days per week and those who ate meat six to seven days per week.

The results showed, after 20.3 years of follow up, 279 lung, 312 postmenopausal breast and 399 prostate cancer cases, including 136 advanced, were available for analysis. After adjustment for confounding variables, they found no statistically significant association between meat consumption groups and the risk of lung cancer, and no significant associations were observed for postmenopausal breast and overall prostate cancer, while vegetarians and those who ate meat up to once a week did not have a reduced risk for the same types of cancer. They also had reported a non-significantly reduced risk of vegetarian and low meat diets on colorectal and especially rectal cancer.

That’s a lot to think about, but meat came out a winner.

      Reading through some recent articles on farming in the corn belt, I soon realized that while those of us in the Northern Plains Region think we have it tough with dropping cattle prices, it is nothing to what the farmers are experiencing back in the Midwest – or any place there is farming for that matter.

We’ll focus on Iowa, as it seems to be the hardest hit. When corn was at its peak, land for sale and rent was out of sight, literally. Good farmers were really looking for farmland, so much so that investors headed to the Corn Belt and bought farmlands as an investment to rent out. Good farmland rented for up to $270 an acre per year in 2013, a 53 percent spike over the previous five years and more than double the cost over 10 years ago, according to an Iowa State annual survey. In the last two years, farmland rents have declined nearly nine percent. But that isn’t enough to save the farmers.

With farm real estate debt across the nation at its highest levels since the farm crisis years of the early 1980, farmers are increasingly nervous about trying to turn a profit while paying sky-high rents. As a result, more and more farmers are dropping leases that they have rented for years, even though they may be next to their farm or in close proximity.

Farmers are telling land managers and landowners that bankers are tightening credit, with growing losses and dwindling reserves built up during farming’s boom driving lending decisions. Some farmers went in to renew their line of credit and found out that the bank wouldn’t extend credit to them, and other farmers are coming back saying the cash flows just don’t work.

They say U.S. farm income in 2016 is projected to fall for the third year in a row, with farmers squeezed between tumbling corn and soybean prices and stubbornly high costs for land, seed, fertilizer and other inputs needed to grow a crop. Grain prices have sunk 50 percent or more since 2012, when drought drove prices to record highs. Last year was a tough year, and this year looks to be another tough one. They say if you have the ability to withstand losing money, the banks will work with you. Man, those are tough words to have to do business by.

The drop in prices is also causing some farmers who have fully depreciated farm machinery to lease machinery. In this situation, the farmer trades in their machinery and then leases new machinery. Depending on the type of lease, this practice can result in unintended tax consequences to the farmer. The farmers traded owned farm machinery for what turned out to be “operating leases” – essentially tax language for lease rentals with no bargain purchase price at the end of their lease term. These farmers thought they were trading machinery as a down payment on a lease. In reality, it wasn’t a trade, it was a sale, and they owed the IRS for all of their depreciation recapture in the year of the trade.

So, if you do something like this, be very careful of what type of lease you have. I realize this column is not very positive this week, but I hope it keeps you from doing what others have done and ended up paying a heck of a lot of taxes.

Last week I wrote about the National Park System and its centennial anniversary this year. First off, national parks are easy to pick on because each of us has a different idea on how to manage or how not to manage them. Those who live next or close to them and are most likely impacted the most should have a say in management of both the human element and wildlife.

So do we have enough national parks, or do we need a better way of establishing a national park? Our national park centennial this year gives an opportunity to reflect on our system’s enormous growth and change since its inception. From a mere handful of national parks scattered across the West in 1916, the system now exceeds over 401 parks, stretching across all 50 states and covering around 84 million acres. That is right – 84 million acres. It contains, of course, national parks, monuments, preserves, recreation areas, seashores, battlefields and heritage areas, along with nearly a dozen other specific designations, all deemed nationally significant enough to merit a place in the system. In the last several years, both Congress and the President have added several more national monuments, and the President is planning to add some more before he leaves office.

This rapid growth in the national park system presents the question of how the additions come about. Is the process for new additions proper and detailed enough? Under existing law, Congress and the President are each empowered to add new areas to the national park system. Congress adds new parks through the legislative process. They pass a bill, and the President signs it. The President does the same through the Antiquities Act, which gives him the authority to proclaim new national monuments on public lands, except in Wyoming and Alaska where Congress also has to pass it.

Several factors help to explain the lack of extensive recent growth in the national park system, especially in the absent of new, large “national parks.” Since the 1960s, the option of alternative protective designations – wilderness areas, primitive areas, national conservation areas and other designations, have been available to protect deemed sensitive lands, rather than creating a new national park. Ironically, these alternative protective designations were developed in part as a reaction to the Park Service’s early practices for overbuilding in the national parks. It seems intense government agency turf battles, particularly between the Park Service and the Forest Service, have frequently blocked proposals to transfer national forest lands to the park service, while the new National Landscape Conservation System gives the Bureau of Land Management a much more prominent role in land conservation.

Also because many new park designation proposals involve lower elevation lands with intermingled private lands and conflicting uses, such as livestock grazing or energy development, there is more potential for conflict over proposed new additions today than was present in the past. Moreover, public lands preservation efforts in any form have become a political lightning rod across much of the West, often serving as a wedge issue between economic development advocates, such as ranchers, and land conservation organizations or green-minded people.

I do think is is time to review and change the process for designating all lands to these conservation designations. I also believe it should take more than just a president’s signature to establish a monument designation for public lands. There should be input from local government and citizens along with congressional approval.