The Truth About EPA’s Water of the United States Rule

In 1972 the EPA created the Clean Water Act to protect Americans and their water supply. In 60 days, if Congress doesn’t intervene, an update will take effect that will hinder the farmers that grow our food, fiber, and fuel.

Why will the new Water of the United States Rule (WOTUS) hinder farmers? Because under the new expansion any standing water in a field, pasture, or ditch is considered “navigable waters” and a permit is required to conduct business near them.

Corn, rain, WOTUSWith the amount of rain that has hit parts of this nation, it is not uncommon to drive down the road and see fields and pastures with large puddles in them. Because of the ambiquity of the new Clean Water Act expansion, the federal government could argue that this water belongs to the United States and a permit will be required to work around it. The EPA says that exemptions exist for agriculture, but industry leaders are nervous that that might not be the case once the rule is enacted.

“This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable,” said President Barack Obama. This comment from President Obama seems hopeful, except the rule offers no clarity, only more confusion.

“Let’s be clear – everyone wants clean water,” said Steve Foglesong, past president of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Farmers and ranchers rely on clean water to be successful in business. But, expanding the federal regulatory reach of the EPA and Army Corp does not equal clean water. After reading the proposed rule, I can say that only one thing is clear, the proposed rule and its definitions are ambiguous.”

Farmer, Rain, EPA, WOTUSA farmer recently tweeted this picture of a field in his area that will have to be replanted after all of the rain. If Congress does not stop the new rule the farmer would likely have to apply for a permit to be able to replant his own land, because the water would belong to the United States government.

Opponents of the rule question if there will be any measurable environemental gains to show for the work done by farmers and landowners to jump through the new regulatory hoops. During the drafting of the rule, the EPA collected over one million comments in the comment period, which ended six months ago. Those opposed to the rule do not believe this was enough time to process all of the comments and adequately address the concerns in them.

Farmers are not angry that the EPA wants to help provide Americans with clean water, they are nervous about how the new rule, which can be read here, will affect production because of its ambiquity. Farm groups are nervous because the terminology used in the rule opens up possibilites for the EPA to regulate anywhere water occurs, or has occured in the past. The truth is this new rule could greatly affect all Americans, whether it be through water on their land or place of business, or by an increase in food prices.


The Truth About Free Range Chickens

If you have not seen the Geico Commercial about the free range chicken going on an adventure, here ya go.

It’s pretty cute and worth the 30 seconds, especially because this post addresses it.

Let me preface the post with this: while I am a strong advocate for commercial agriculture, I also believe in consumer choice. But I believe the choice should be made after educated research, which means the consumer should research both sides of the argument, not just one.

The Misconception

Free Range ChickensA lot of consumers like to think that free range means that the chickens have the unlimited access to do what our chicken friend in the commercial did. Travel as they wish, on a whim, to anywhere. But that is not quite the case.

The Truth

The USDA says, FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” The animal does not have to live its entire life outdoors, it just has to have the access to it at some point and time, whether it utilizes it or not.

A study in the United Kingdom found that out of a flock of 800,000 birds only 15% were observed outside during the daylight hours. This is because the open pasture makes them nervous since it provides no protection from sun, wind, or predators.

The Issue

The issue is that less than 1% of chickens are raised as free range, and in the future it will be almost impossible to raise enough chickens to feed the growing world population.

Poultry is the second most consumed meat in the world, not too far behind pork. Poultry is usually the cheapest meat for all the different countries. If all of agriculture switched over to free range chickens it would raise the price of chicken so exponentially, that very few people in developing countries would be able to afford it.

cage raised chicken. Free range chickens. Are cages humane for chickensConventionally raised chicken is often described in a negative way, but it is described that way mostly by people who have never been to a poultry farm. While I will admit that all areas of agriculture, have something they could improve on (because no one or nothing is perfect) I also believe that conventionally raised poultry at the majority of U.S. farms are treated humanely. I believe that because I have seen it with my own eyes.

In conventional laying houses most chickens live in cages that provide them with room to move around and spread their wings. An interesting fact about chickens is they will not produce eggs if they are stressed out! That means the chickens are comfortable and not stressed in these cages, or they wouldn’t produce any eggs.

If you want your chickens to be free range, that is perfectly fine because it is still a part of agriculture. But I want consumers to know the truth about what “Free Range” means for the chicken and for labeling purposes.

The Truth About Antibiotics in Chickens

Consumers are worried about what goes into the food they eat. And rightfully so, if you’re putting it into your body you should know what goes into its body and why. After my post about the truth about hormones in poultry I was asked multiple times to write a post about antibiotics in chickens, so after a good bit of time (sorry!) and research from trusted sources I hope that this blog will help answer your questions about the antibiotics used in the poultry industry.

The different antibiotics used in humans and beef cattleIn a previous post about antibiotics and hormones in beef I discussed how the antibiotics used in animal agriculture medicine are usually not the same ones used in human medicine. This remains true for the poultry industry as well. A few of the antibiotics for humans and livestock are in the same drug class, but the FDA regulates these and establishes proper use levels along with withdrawal times. When used as directed by the FDA they pose no health issues. So there is very little possibility for antibiotic resistance because of being fed to livestock.

Antibiotics are used in the poultry industry to prevent and treat diseases. One common misunderstanding is that antibiotics act as growth promotants, but they do not. In poultry antibiotics simply dramatically reduce the amount of harmful and wasteful bacteria in the gut of a chicken. Antibiotics keep chickens healthy which therefore makes them more efficient in converting feed to energy.

ucm378110Ray Abner Director of US Poultry Business Unit and Global Strategic Accounts for Phibro explains why antibiotics are helpful, “When poultry encounter harmful pathogens, not only do these bacteria rob nutrients, but much of the chickens’ protein and energy intake must go towards defense mechanisms. This inhibits growth.” By using antibiotics to keep chickens healthy we are aiding in producing more of one of the worlds favorite sources of meat. Also by using antibiotics we are helping keep the poultry industry more sustainable. The University of Georgia did a study to see the impacts of going antibiotic free, ABF, in producing chickens Continue Reading

The Truth About a Farmer’s Fight

Todays blog post is going to be a little different from my others. Today I’m going to share why I am thankful for the fight of a farmer.

I am thankful for the work ethic and fight instilled into me by agriculture and my father. I recently found a “pledge” from Mike Rowe that, in my opinion, accurately sums up the agricultural industry’s view on work ethic. Here are some of my favorite points from the pledge, for which I am most grateful.

(Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo)

3. I believe there is no such thing as a “bad job.” I believe that all jobs are opportunities, and it’s up to me to make the best of them.

7. I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late, and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is.

11. I understand the world is not fair, and I’m OK with that. I do not resent the success of others.

12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

A picture from Gilmer Dairy Farm's Facebook page.

A picture from Gilmer Dairy Farm’s Facebook page.

I love these points from the pledge because I find them applicable to myself and the agriculture industry; The 1st point I listed is one thing I am extremely grateful for, people that step up and do the “dirty jobs” that others do not want. Most people like drinking milk, but most do not want to dedicate the amount of time it takes to produce the milk. Dairy farmers essentially donate their entire life, give up vacations, and hours of sleep so that we can have that delicious drink that we love. If you are ever curious about what the life of a dairy farmer looks like check out, Will Gilmer on Twitter or Facebook.

I am grateful for the people that go above and beyond for our food production (I am not saying that other people do not show up early, work late and work their butt off, I am sure people of other professions do this as well.) But I am especially grateful for the agriculture workers that do this so that we can eat delicious meals, like the Thanksgiving Dinner we will have soon.

My father and I at an Ag in the Classroom Event recently teaching elementary kids about beef cattle.

My father and I at an Ag in the Classroom Event recently teaching elementary kids about beef cattle.

I am also grateful for the fight that is instilled in every farmer, no matter the circumstance. I have rarely known farmers to give up, they will keep working until they find a solution and solve the problem at hand. This can be anything from loading 12 foot panels in the 8 foot bed of a truck (personal experience), working to solve the world’s hunger problem, or fighting leukemia. My father recently got diagnosed with leukemia and he is already on chemo to fight it. I am extremely grateful because as a farmer he had strong work ethic and fight instilled into him from day one. I am so grateful for his work ethic and fight because without he might give up, but with it I know how strong he is and how hard he can and will work to fight this circumstance. Just as strong and as hard as the farmers and scientists that are working to solve world hunger, and feeding a growing population. Both of these are wars that are only going to be won by people with high work ethic and fight.