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National Ag Week: Stay involved and keep up the good work!

National Ag Week is coming to a close, but what a great week it was!! With educational events held across the United States to promote agriculture; Facebook and Twitter swarming with ag fun facts; and pictures of farmers and ranchers at the Capital talking with legislators about the importance of agriculture. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the ag community coming together. But ag day, or ag week isn’t enough—we need to keep up that enthusiasm and continue to educate the public about everything agriculture. We did a great job during ag week but we need to get people excited about agriculture every day.

Before I came to DC last year for an internship, I didn’t think about how legislation really affected farmers and ranchers. I was raised on a small cattle farm and I wasn’t really into discussing politics. But I quickly learned how important it is to have representation on Capitol Hill. Pretty much every commodity you can think of whether it is beef, pork, sugar or rice is represented in D.C. and is involved in key discussions to help their producers. Some of the issues discussed in meetings with Hill staffers really surprised me. For example, death tax was one crucial issue, and though we don’t like to think about that word, “death,” we have to, especially as farmers. Who will that farm go to when the farmer passes away? Hopefully the farm will stay in the family and continue to be passed down from generation to generation. But not if it isn’t financially sustainable to hand that farm down to ones children or grandchildren! Another example is transportation, specifically trucking. Why would animal agriculture be involved in discussions surrounding trucking? Well, we need to get our product to the market. It is so important to have representation in D.C., especially since most of the men and women making these decisions for you as producers have been removed from the farm for 3-4 generations. Legislators need to hear your stories so that they can have insight into the farm and farm life.

I challenge you to get involved on both the state and national levels. Get to know the issues that will affect your way of life and speak up so that your congressmen and senators know what you need to succeed. All it takes is a letter, email, or phone call to your representatives’ office to express your concern. You can even connect with them on Twitter and Facebook! You are one of their constituents; you have pull because you vote them in or out of office. There is agriculture in every state and it brings money and jobs which both have huge ranking in political decision-making. So tell your elected officials that you are a farmer or rancher in their district and that you help feed the rest of their constituency, and that you need them to stand up for agriculture.

Make sure you’re staying up to date my fellow farm folks! Know what is going on around you so you can help agriculture succeed. Follow the Alliance on social media and check out our interactive Legislative Map (updated every Thursday) to see if there’s any pending legislation in your state that will affect animal agriculture. Your elected officials are important because they are making the rules but you are important too, because you’re putting food in their bellies!

Here’s to #agday 24/7/365!!


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California, Here is Your Lawsuit Served Sunny-Side-Up!

You might remember the heated 2008 debate surrounding California Proposition 2. Even though this law was to set California standards, it could have a major implications for farmers and ranchers across the country. So what happened? The agriculture community spoke up and opposed Proposition 2 legislation. Unfortunately Proposition 2 passed, requiring specific cage sizes for laying hens to take effect in 2015. The requirements include “…sufficient room for each hen to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs.”   Another law passed in 2009 that extended these same requirements to any state that sells eggs in California. As you can imagine, this extension caused great turmoil, especially to the states that export eggs to California.

The controversy re-ignited last month when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against California. Koster claimed that California is violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution by forcing other states to comply with California’s cage size standards. Koster stated, “This case is not just about farming practices. At stake is whether elected officials in one state may regulate the practices of another state’s citizens, who cannot vote them out of office.” One-third of all eggs produced in Missouri are exported to California which would mean Missouri’s egg farmers would lose access to their largest market. Other states have joined in the lawsuit, including Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma. State leaders realize that the California laws affect their farmers and ranchers. Any state that wishes to sell eggs in California has to meet the cage size requirements. But changing cage sizes is not cheap and could put farmers in these states out of business.

But does the conversation only reach egg producers? For now it may seem that way, but those involved in the agriculture industry know that this could be a slippery slope involving many other types of livestock. One main concern for agriculture is that there is now legislation in place regulating how farmers run their operations.

Even though Nebraska is not a top ranking state in egg production, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman understands how important agriculture is to his state and is willing to stand up for farmers. “It’s not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers.” Heineman says, “We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska” “That includes their attempts at creating overreaching, arbitrary, unconstitutional policy.”

Is the Nebraska Governor correct? Does this legislation pose a significant threat to all animal agriculture?  If you think so, then encourage your state officials to look into this situation and take a stand on behalf of the farmers and ranchers in your community. Do you want your eggs sunny-side-up or non-existent?


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Don’t Send Your Selfie Donation to the Dark Side

The hot topic in animal agriculture legislation for the past few weeks has been farm protection or “ag gag” bills. But my past two blogs have been on those bills so I wanted to change it up a bit!  I am going to dive into a completely new something…or rather someone: Ellen Degeneres.

You might ask “What does Ellen have to do with animal agriculture?” Well, if you watched the Oscars on Sunday night, you probably saw Ellen’s star-studded “selfie” featuring Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Bradley CooperKevin SpaceyLupita Nyong’o, her brother and others. You might have also noted that this picture was taken with a Samsung phone that Ellen was sporting throughout the evening. This “selfie” was retweeted over 3 million times causing Twitter to temporarily break down—it was also the most re-tweeted tweet in the HISTORY of Twitter (surpassing a 2012 tweet from President Obama). But most crucially, the Tweet got so much attention that Samsung agreed to donate 3 million dollars to two charities of Ellen’s choice. Ellen’s choices, each receiving $1.5 million, were St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Humane Society of the United States. DING, DING, DING! See I told you I’d connect Ellen to animal agriculture!

Ellen Pic Stitch

Now personally, I want to like her, I really do! I think Ellen has a great sense of humor and I agree with a lot of her other “pet” (no pun intended) causes like St. Jude’s and natural disaster relief. But she has a big voice and she is constantly speaking out against animal agriculture and donating to organizations that are trying to end our industry and our livelihoods. According to his own blog, Wayne Pacelle has been a guest on the Ellen show half a dozen times and she has made many donations to HSUS throughout the years. She also played a large role during the 2008 campaign in California for Proposition 2; running advertisements and giving updates on her talk show. If you go to her charity page it features advertisement after advertisement for animal rights groups. She might be a great dancer but these donations don’t jive well with me—or with most farmers and ranchers. Personally, I think Ellen should consider donating to local pet shelters, not HSUS, so the money will be going to help pets who need homes. Think about what a difference even a fraction of that 1.5 million could make to dogs and cats in need in your state.

Now, following the Oscars, Samsung is involved in Ellen’s personal fight against animal agriculture by donating $1.5 million to HSUS. Today, the Animal Agriculture Alliance sent a letter to Samsung telling them about HSUS’ true agenda, and encouraging them to earmark their donation for local shelters. Samsung needs to know that only 20 percent of HSUS’s efforts involve pets and only 1 percent of its annual budget is donated to shelters. All of those sad TV commercials are leading people astray.

And I would like to send just a brief message to the celebrities of the star-studded “selfie”. Did you enjoy your cheese pizza at the Oscars? I find it a bit ironic that Ellen was handing out a product (cheese made by dairy cows aka animal agriculture) yet her charity will currently go to an organization fighting to demolish that same industry on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure I even heard Brad Pitt ask for Pepperoni!

HSUS has spoken out against the so-called “ag gag” legislation and there is talk about proposed HSUS tail docking legislation in both Wisconsin and Colorado. That “selfie” might be worth $1.5 million to HSUS but it will cause a much greater amount of grief for farmers and ranchers. HSUS uses donations like these every day for their legislative efforts and smear campaigns. So come on, Ellen—use that “selfie” to donate to local pet shelters and not the selfish HSUS. Your furry feline friends (and dogs too!) are counting on you!!