'Contagion' Movie Makes the Case for Modern Livestock Farming PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Laurie Johns   
Monday, 19 September 2011 09:06

I saw the movie, “Contagion,” this weekend with my daughter.  I have to say, it’s a good flick, good actors, fast-paced and slickly shot.  Without realizing it, the film makers may have inadvertently endorsed America’s modern hog farms.  For one thing, raising hogs indoors protects them from disease-carrying wildlife, the very kind that caused the cross-species viral contamination featured in the movie.

(Spoiler alert!)

In “Contagion”, Gwyneth Paltrow (‘Patient Zero’) inadvertently acquires a deadly (spreads by touch) viral infection in Hong Kong by shaking the unwashed hands of a chef  (note to all movie-goers: always wash hands before eating).  She didn’t realize this chef had just prepared a dish from a hog that was exposed to a sick bat.  This pig was apparently raised in an open-air pen, where a sick bat flew overhead, then dropped a piece of fruit it just grabbed from a banana tree.  Pigs, true to nature, eat anything.  And so the story goes…

But, what I find interesting is that the Humane Society of United States’ Wayne Pacelle is claiming “Contagion” actually makes a case for raising animals in the very conditions that put them at risk for contracting contagions from other species (  I’m wondering if he saw the same movie.

I grew up on a Century farm in Iowa and have many fond memories.  But, after seeing “Contagion,” I think Hollywood’s screenwriters could use a little ‘chore time’ on an actual, working farm to gain some perspective.

I saw birds, wild cats, stray dogs, raccoons and mice scrambling through our hog feedlot and roaming in the moonlight across our cattle pastures.  I remember the year wild dogs got our rooster (so much for my dad’s egg-laying chicken farm idea), the year rabid skunks got into the hog lot (28 shots in the stomach for us, but the hogs were vaccinated, of course), and the daily roaming of a horde of much-loved, but unvaccinated feral cats.

Things were different back then.  Today, it’s not just rabies vaccinations (three shots!)  that have improved, so has hog farming (,AAAACMzGNIE~,z fiweksx8NKGXiTGxVmXug1yWfMOUJx&bclid=69776058001&bctid=918490352001).  Farmers who choose to raise their hogs in modern livestock barns say doing so protects them from exposure to wildlife, harsh weather and viruses that can be carried by any stranger who happens to wander onto the farm.

It’s a choice.  Responsible farmers across Iowa work hard to give them to you.  There are many options for raising animals, both indoors and out.  But clearly, progress in American agriculture (versus overseas?) keeps our animals safer, our food safer and our families safer from the kind of Hollywood hysteria portrayed in “Contagion,” and the kind of ‘one size fits all’ food production model Pacelle and the HSUS hype machine condones.

--- Laurie Johns

Grassley Requests Agriculture Disaster Declaration for 27 Additional Iowa Counties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 16 September 2011 13:46

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today asked U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to grant a request by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for 27 additional counties be designated as disaster areas.  The counties sustained substantial damage from several weather events over the summer, including a major hail and wind storm in July.

“Farmers across the state have faced about every kind of challenge that summer weather can bring.  People along the Missouri River haven’t been able to assess the damage to their fields because they are still under water.  And, farmers stretching from Fremont County to Linn County have dealt with hail, wind, and drought damage,” Grassley said.  “I’ve seen this damage firsthand as I’ve traveled Iowa during the month of August.  I hope Secretary Vilsack acts on Iowa’s request as soon as possible.”

If granted, farmers in the counties of Adams, Clarke, Davis, Decatur, Fremont, Henry, Jefferson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Louisa, Lucas, Marshall, Mills, Monona, Monroe, Montgomery, Page, Polk, Tama, Taylor, Van Buren, Wapello, Washington, Wayne and Woodbury, and in the counties adjacent to each of those counties, would be eligible for FSA emergency loans, the Livestock Indemnity Program, and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program.

Here is a copy of Grassley’s letter to Vilsack.  Branstad’s letter can be found by clicking here.

September 13, 2011

The Honorable Thomas Vilsack


U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I respectfully ask that you grant the request made by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for a disaster designation for 27 counties in the State of Iowa as a result of severe weather including hail, drought conditions, and strong winds that were supposedly measured in some areas at over 100 miles per hour.  Not only did the strong winds damage crops, but it also caused significant damage to buildings and equipment.  The 27 Iowa counties which have been severely impacted by these weather events are Adams, Clarke, Davis, Decatur, Fremont, Henry, Jefferson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Louisa, Lucas, Marshall, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Polk, Tama, Taylor, Van Buren, Wapello, Washington, Wayne, and Woodbury.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.


Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

U.S. Soybeans Take the Field for Football Season PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by United Soybean Board   
Friday, 16 September 2011 13:36


U.S. soybeans can be used to make food, feed, fiber, fuel and, now, fields. Kansas State University recently installed AstroTurf® GameDay Grass™ on its football field. The turf’s backing includes soy-based BioCel®, from Universal Textile Technologies. BioCel uses soy-based-polyol technology developed with support from the soybean checkoff.

Checkoff farmer-director Bob Haselwood can tell you more about the new, sustainable turf, as well as other uses for U.S. soy that may surprise you.

Haselwood will be in the Kansas Soybean Commission’s tent before the Wildcats’ game against Kent State. Come by and join him!

Try some barbecue, play a round on a miniature golf course made with soy-based turf and other soy-based products and even take home a turf sample!

You can also find ample material for further stories. Manufacturers of industrial products increasingly use more and more soy as a replacement for petroleum-based products. You might be surprised.

DATES Saturday, Sept. 17, 3-6 p.m. Central Time
LOCATION Kansas Soybean Commission tent
Outside the southwest corner of Bill Snyder Family Stadium
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.

Q&A: Agriculture and Washington with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Sen. Charles Grassley   
Thursday, 08 September 2011 07:51

Q:        What is the farm bill?

A:        About every five years, Congress passes a comprehensive farm and food policy bill, covering a range of programs and provisions.  The last farm bill, in 2008, contained 15 titles for commodity price and income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, energy, and foreign and domestic food programs including food stamps and other food programs.  Most of the federal spending for programs in the 2008 farm bill went to four of those titles.  Nutrition accounted for 76 percent of the spending.  Crop insurance was nine percent.  Farm commodity support was seven percent.  And, conservation was seven percent of spending in the farm bill, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.


Q:        What about the next farm bill?

A:        Debate over the 2012 farm bill is underway.  I’m a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where several hearings have been held this year to prepare for new legislation.  In August, I held three town meetings that focused on priorities for the new farm bill.  Iowa farmers told me that they want crop insurance to be maintained even if other programs need to be reduced, given the federal budget crisis, because crop insurance is a necessary tool for managing risk.  Farmers also are concerned about disproportionate cuts to the agriculture budget.  As I’ve said, everything’s got to be on the table in the effort to reduce deficits and control spending, but the agriculture budget should be treated fairly.


Q:        How can farm commodity support be justified to taxpayers?

A:        The safety net for American agriculture is a way to make sure the United States has continued access to the most abundant and affordable food supply in the world.  Without a reliable food supply, nothing less than social cohesion and survival is in jeopardy.  The food safety net needs to be effective, efficient and responsible.  I hope the upcoming farm bill will include a farm-program reform that I’ve sought for a long time.  My farm program payment limits initiative would put a hard cap and other safeguards on payments farmers can receive from the federal farm program, including requirements to make sure those who receive payments are actively engaged in the farming operation.  The farm program was not designed to help big farmers get bigger but, today, 10 percent of the biggest farmers collect nearly 70 percent of total farm payments.  That runs counter to the goal of the farm program, which is intended to help small and medium-sized farmers – who play an important role in producing America’s food supply – weather the downturns in the agricultural economy.  The farm program needs to focus on these farmers because when a farming operation gets larger, it’s in a position to withstand tough years on its own.  The trend in farm program payments going to big farmers also has a negative impact on the next generation of farmers.  When 70 percent of farm payments go to 10 percent of farmers, it puts upward pressure on land prices and makes it a lot harder for smaller and beginning farmers to buy ground or afford to cash rent, which helps them get a foothold in farming.


Q:        How else does Washington impact the family farm?

A:        Just like other businesses and employers nationwide, farmers face headwind from heavy-handed regulations out of Washington.  During my meetings with Iowans, I hear time and again from farmers fed up with the lack of common sense behind too many of those regulations, whether it’s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) trying to regulate the dust kicked up by the combine at harvest time or the U.S. Department of Transportation trying to treat locally-used farm vehicles like over-the-road semi-trailer trucks when it comes to licensing, permits and fees.


Farmers also need access the new market opportunities created by international trade agreements.  Congress is still waiting for a chance to pass long-readied trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.  Lawmakers can't act until the President submits the agreements.  There's no doubt that Washington needs to open new doors for agriculture to overseas exports, to generate new economic activity and opportunity.


Iowa has a lot at stake in all of these areas.  Our state is the number one producer of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs.  Cow-calf operations in Iowa produce some of the finest beef cattle in the world.  Iowa dairy farms are integral to communities statewide.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Yard and Garden: Lawn Weed Control PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 09:11

The overall appearance of a lawn is directly related to the maintenance provided. September is an ideal time for many lawn maintenance practices—such as weed control. To have additional questions answered, contact the horticulturists at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 515-294-3108.

When is the best time to apply a herbicide to the lawn to control dandelions and other broadleaf weeds?

Fall (mid-September through October) is the best time to control perennial broadleaf weeds in the lawn with broadleaf herbicides. In fall, perennial broadleaf weeds are transporting food (carbohydrates) from their foliage to their roots in preparation for winter. Broadleaf herbicides applied in fall will be absorbed by the broadleaf weed’s foliage and transported to the roots along with the carbohydrates, resulting in the destruction of the broadleaf weeds.

Broadleaf herbicides can be applied as liquids or granules. Before applying any herbicide, carefully read and follow label directions.

What is the proper way to apply broadleaf herbicides to the lawn?

Broadleaf herbicides can be applied as liquids or granules. Before applying any herbicide, carefully read and follow label directions. When applying liquid formulations, potential spray drift problems can be avoided by following simple precautions. Don’t spray when winds exceed five miles per hour. Also, don’t spray when temperatures are forecast to exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit within 24 hours of the application. Since coarse droplets are less likely to drift than fine sprays, select nozzles that produce coarse droplets and use low sprayer pressure when applying liquid broadleaf herbicides. When spraying, keep the nozzle close to the ground. If only a few areas in the lawn have broadleaf weed problems, spot treat these areas rather than spraying the entire lawn. Apply just enough material to wet the leaf surfaces.

Granular broadleaf herbicides are often combined with fertilizers. Apply granular broadleaf herbicides and fertilizer/broadleaf herbicide combinations when the weed foliage is wet. Broadleaf herbicides are absorbed by the weed’s foliage, not its roots. To be effective, the granules must stick to the weeds and the herbicide must be absorbed by the weed’s foliage. Apply granular products in the early morning when the foliage is wet with dew or irrigate the lawn prior to the application.

To ensure adequate leaf surface and herbicide absorption, don’t mow the lawn two to three days before treatment. After treatment, allow three or four days to pass before mowing. This allows sufficient time for the broadleaf weeds to absorb the herbicide and translocate it to their roots. To prevent the broadleaf herbicide from being washed off the plant’s foliage, apply these materials when no rain is forecast for 24 hours. Also, don’t irrigate treated lawns within 24 hours of the application.

How do I control creeping Charlie in my lawn?

Ground ivy (“creeping Charlie”) in lawns can be controlled with broadleaf herbicides. Products that contain 2,4-D or triclopyr are most effective. 2,4-D is an active ingredient in many broadleaf herbicide products. Triclopyr can be found in Ortho Weed-B-Gon Chickweed, Clover, and Oxalis Killer for Lawns and a few other products. In Iowa, herbicide applications should be made between mid-September and Nov. 1. Two applications are necessary to effectively control ground ivy. The first application should be made in mid to late September, the second a month later.

How do I control violets in my lawn?

Violets are very difficult to control. Digging up the plants is an option for home gardeners with a small infestation of violets. Broadleaf herbicides are the most practical solution when dealing with large numbers of violets. Broadleaf herbicides containing triclopyr usually provide good control of violets. Applications can be made in spring (during bloom) or fall. Two applications, two to three weeks apart, are usually necessary to achieve good control.


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