In Our Opinion...
Days of ignoring issues are over
By Andy Vance
Exactly 52 weeks ago, I wrote my first column for Feedstuffs. In it, I described my frustration with the incumbent Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack relative to the ongoing negotiations over the free trade agreement with South Korea.
In my parting shot, I offered this observation:
"The role of mainstream production agriculture at (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and in the next farm bill is of significant concern to farmers and ranchers, particularly in light of the bill's presumed budgetary challenges. Having a secretary of agriculture notorious for his ambivalence toward USDA's traditional mission and constituency during a farm bill debate is concerning enough. Observing an erosion of that secretary's clout and the importance of his department within the Administration is downright alarming."
More than a few ounces of digital ink have been spilled discussing the delicate balance USDA keeps in serving the traditional production agriculture constituency while at the same time attempting to integrate others within the food and nutrition sphere.
My thoughts today turn to the opposite extreme: the role of the regulatory agency in modern society.
To the casual observer reading agricultural trade publications, it might appear that agriculture is a well-regulated industry. To the farmer, rancher or processer, however, it more likely feels like agriculture is overregulated.
Ag students speak out for ag
By Mark Klaus
It has been a few years now since I was in college, but my brain holds many memories of the lessons learned and of the time spent with friends.
Coming from the farm life and a community with a small population had kept me quite sheltered from the outside world. One of the most important lessons I learned while in college was how to interact with people with a wide variety of life experiences. That helped me tremendously after college, when I went to work in the meat industry and was exposed to many different cultures and to people who were originally from all points across the globe.
I do not remember any protests while I was in school. Neither do I recall any makeshift "camps" set up across campus where people passed out leaflets promoting some cause with which I might have been unfamiliar.
I do recall being in a debate class with other students from the College of Agriculture. Debating with students who were mostly my friends prevented issues from escalating and proceeding into the parking lot.
FSIS inspection data - 'Too much information?'
By Dr. Richard Raymond
On Nov. 30, 2011, the National Research Council released a report that analyzed the potential benefits and pitfalls of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) publicly releasing raw inspection data for meat, poultry and egg products plants under their regulatory authority.
The report was requested by FSIS as part of the current Administration's desire to be "more open and transparent".
The release has provided much fodder for blogs and following discussions, and also prompted a conference call with industry and reporters. The response from industry and former industry members has been as expected, all the way to predicting plants will close and we will end up importing most of our food.
I do agree with most who say the public will only be more confused if all non-proprietary inspection data is released in raw form. Plus, this information would be so massive as to be almost useless as no one has the time to sift through all this information. Even FSIS would tell you it struggles to analyze this much data to make constructive changes.
I also agree that the release of raw Non-compliance Reports (NRs) would be confusing at best, and most likely worthless. There is just too much individual variation between districts and even between inspectors within a district.