.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Agriculture and the Future: It's Later Than You Think!

This is more than a blog....this is a plea. I'm sharing a letter from a rancher in CA. Since our governor has recently vetoed the Williamson Act, farmers and ranchers all over the state are STUNNED. The Act was created to preserve farmland and to preserve agricultural freedom. Without it, farmers and ranchers have to pay taxes at the same rate as homeowners, etc., rather than based on what the land produces.....which means farmland all over the state may well fall to development and apportionment. That would be a loss to agriculture, but also to wildlife and Californians in general.

Please, please forward this letter to everyone you can.......I cannot tell you what abolishing the Williamson Act will do to everyone in agriculture in is too devastating to even imagine. If you think food quality has been compromised before, this is the door that will open the floodgates to importing MORE and more and driving more and more farmers/ranchers out of the business.

Right now, it's nearly impossible to make ends meet and yet, people STILL do not understand that agriculture is the PRIMARY contributor to ANY positive TRADE balance in the U.S. economy and CALIFORNIA cannot survive without its agriculture. So much negative press has impacted us that people don't really give a sh--- anymore, but this is an ominous turn of events. Beware....and NO MATTER what your political leanings at the moment, this crisis is LOOMING and it's HUGE......but the truth is, NO ONE is paying attention to the outcome of the recent activities and its impact on agriculture, which, for the uninformed, DOES NOT BLEED this country; it provides products and goods that bring wealth and success to everyone else, from the GROUND of the few industries that does so......and we are not asking for a handout, but merely the opportunity to keep working.

Subject: "Here in the real world, Arnold's shuttin' agriculture down"
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 11:47:05 -0700

To whoever will listen:

We all know that the Governor of my home state of California, Arnold Swartzenegger has finally signed a budget for this year. What is getting no attention in the press is what he is doing to agriculture in our state.
California is the 7th largest economy in the world, and agriculture makes up the greatest GDP in the state. Detroit has been hit hard in recent months as the media often points out (of course, they have the unions and the ear of Washington), but thanks to so many blind liberals and ignorant consumers in San Francisco and Los Angeles regions (the largest voting block in the state), as well as corrupt politicians, California could be the next to fall. When it goes, believe me, it's going to up-end the nation.

I am from "far" Northern California outside of Redding and married into a cattle ranching family. My wife and her family have been running cows since the late 1800's. Over the past several years California has become a place that is very Ag unfriendly (unless of course you grow wine grapes). Taxes, fees, and regulations make it next to impossible to make a living, while the price of everything else has sky-rocketed -- and certainly no 'stimulus' help for people like us to try and hang in there.
Property taxes in California have always been difficult to pay, but last night Arnold line-item-vetoed a section of the budget that will make them impossble to pay for ranchers and farmers. In the early 20th century the Williamson Act was instituted which protected ranch and farm lands from being taxed at the same rate that commercial or residential property would be taxed at. Generally ranchers and farmers need larger pieces of land in order to produce the food the entire nation eats, and in order to keep food costs down and open land from readily being developed this Act has always been in place. Not anymore! It signals the beginning of the END for ranchers and farmers all over this state. Believe me, people need to hear this and respond, but do most consumers/Californians REALLY care about agriculture??? Believe it or not, they do not and their callous disregard for the industry will ultimately affect everyone as 1 out of every 4 jobs in CA is related to agriculture. No, people in this state care far more about more liberal projects than about people like us.

The end result will likely be hundreds of farms and ranches going out of business, and since the real estate market is in the tank, many of them may just be seized by the governement for back taxes. We have always known that our way of life is politically incorrect and under attack by Washington and Sacramento, but it goes deeper than that. Once the economy of California collapses and we are no longer the largest food producer in the nation, where will the food come from? Mexico, Argentina, even China? Once prices of food skyrocket and quality and safety plummet people may start to pay attention, but it will then be too late. By the way, that also means that wildlife and protecting open spaces in CA will be next to impossible as well, since landowners protect more than 75% of the migrating wildlife in this state.

And by the way, as I mentioned I married into ranching. When I'm not helping my wife and two daughters on the ranch, I teach high school science in the California Public School system. We need people all over to sit up and listen.
Thank you,

Matt Fowler
Ono, CA

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fascinating Facts that Shatter the Beef is Bad Bunch.....

Scanning the latest news clips about nutrition in this country, I found an article that gave some interesting history about WHY this country moved in the direction it did some 30 years ago, that is, to begin to throw out beef and meat and substitute the all-powerful carbs diets! I am including a couple paragraphs from the article, but recommend that people read the entire article, including the video clip provided by author Carol Bardelli. Just click on the title above and it will take you to the full article......I commend Bardelli for her research.

And I quote:
"The US government's recommendations to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates is based on a 1970s panel on nutrition chaired by then Senator George McGovern. McGovern was a fan of the Pritikin diet and believed vegetarianism was healthy. An aid to McGovern, who wrote the guidelines our government ultimately adopted, was a vegan with no nutrition or medical background. Although nearly all of the nutrition scientists who testified before this panel disagreed with McGovern's dietary guidelines, McGovern prevailed. See video below.

We were told as a nation to eat less meat and animal fat, and to eat more carbohydrates. This included eating plenty of government subsidized crops like corn, wheat, soy, beet and cane sugars . Unfortunately, most Americans eat too many processed, high calorie carbohydrates, and not enough unrefined low calorie carbohydrates. We also don't eat enough proteins and fats. We choose potato chips, French fries, and pasta, over beef, bacon, and broccoli. The first group is high in carbohydrates and raises blood sugar and insulin. The second group that we tend to avoid does not. These two eating habits have driven the current obesity epidemic. Dr. Al Sears says this trend, which started around 1957, also precipitated the steep rise in heart disease. Foods that raise blood sugar are a guilty culprit in heart disease, not cholesterol. Read Nutrition 101: What is cholesterol?

While animal fats are essential for human health, and are vital to our bodies abilities to make hormones, repair, and fuel our bodies, our government told us to avoid them. Simply put, junk science gave us a fear of eating fat, and government backed agricultural subsidies of carbohydrate crops like corn, soy, and wheat caused an overabundance of high carb foods. Changing our diets from the animal based diet of our ancestors and eating a lot of carbohydrates caused sharp rises in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome."


In truth, we should RETURN to our grandparents' notions of what constitutes a good diet, namely "eating real food," for one, along with eating appropriate amounts vs. over-eating (a trap Americans fall into easily). Avoiding processed foods and "non" or "low-fat" choices that actually contain far more carbs than basic, real food, only aggravates our weight problems in this country. In addition, people shouldn't skip meals as that often leads us to overeat later when our hunger flies off the charts. We all need to read food labels to figure out what's really IN our food. Again, eating real food, including lean beef, is far superior to throwing hamburger into "hamburger helper" boxed food. Of course, we all do it occasionally, but patterning our daily diet in this manner is deadly.

If we would only pursue these 3 simple ideas, perhaps we'd begin to get a handle on this battle of the bulge. Beef is NOT the culprit. Beef is nutrition dense and provides all manner of minerals, in addition to protein and iron, zinc and potassium -- all elements children and adults need for good health. The fear that has been poured out over this country about fat has led us down the wrong path, unfortunately.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

California Agriculture Ranks First in the NATION.....

It's quite interesting to study statistics. They reveal a lot about what is going on in an industry or population, and in agriculture, this is especially true.

Most Americans have no idea about the world of agriculture or what farmers face in terms of challenges or obstacles. Nor does the average American understand or appreciate the contribution agriculture makes to balanced trade (one of the few industries to post a POSITIVE net affect on trade in the U.S.). Yet many agriculturalists make hardly a minimum wage, while working as independents and trying to combat the rising costs of everything -- including the cost of increased regulations and fees, taxes and prices for all supplies, etc.

In addition, farmers and ranchers have little control over their income as their products have only a narrow window during which they can be sold. Their livelihood is entirely dependent on the market and fluctuates dramatically.

Here are some statistics that come from two separate reports on agriculture in California:

California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.

More than half the nation's fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from California.

California is the nation's number one dairy state. California's leading commodity is milk and cream. California produced 22 percent of the milk in the U.S., with most of it used to make cheese and butter.

Grapes are California's second leading agricultural commodity. There are more than 300,000 tons of grapes grown in California annually which in turn produces 17 million gallons of wine each year.

California's leading export crop is almonds. The world's largest almond processing plant, doing twelve million pounds per day in high season, is the Blue Diamond in Sacramento.

Nationally, products grown EXCLUSIVELY or up to 99% or more in California include: almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.

From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California.

California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. In 1997 enough strawberries were grown in California to circle the earth 15 times. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.

California produces 25% of the nation's onions and 43% of the nation's green onions.

Gilroy, California, "Garlic Capitol of the World," has hosted 2 million at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

More turkeys are raised in California than in any other state in America.

Here are some other intriguing statistics about California's agriculture:

  • The Central Valley, a flat plain 75 miles (120 km) wide and 430 miles (688 km) long has become the richest farming region in the history of the world.
  • California is the largest producer of goods of all the states and the largest agricultural state in America.
  • In 2002 cattle and calves ranked as the state's No. 4 crop or commodity in terms of value, behind only milk, grapes and nursery products.
  • California 's 22,000 beef producers care for more than 5 million head of cattle and about 37 million acres of rangeland. Many California cattle ranches have been owned by the same family for four or five generations and most ranches are family-owned and operated.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gail Jenner, novelist and educator

What's the Beef? From soup to nuts.....: Getting Up to Speed.....

Getting Up to Speed.....

It's been a long spring and now already summer......and I've been so busy with a new book and family, including grandchildren, and the ranch and the work that I've neglected keeping up with any of my journaling or blogging.....

So, for today, perhaps just a reference to what makes summer a busy time for ranchers and farmers. The old adage, "gotta make hay while the sun shines" is an apt description of life during this incredibly important time of year. The summer is what makes the rest of the year possible. So, while so many people think of summer as relaxing and a vacation time, a time for barbeques and friends, traveling and kicking back, for us it is a harried and hopefully profitable time of year. It starts EARLY and goes LATE, each day, every day. No real Sundays off.....even holidays like the Fourth of July are just days with perhaps a late afternoon picnic or barbeque, fireworks and maybe some homemade ice cream and a potluck with family or friends.

Which is a great time, but certainly not one that is cloaked in a sense of summer haze! But still, the warmth and the beauty surround us and time spent in the garden in early morning, or with my husband and kids or grandkids, and even a little time spent with the horses or moving through the cows is a gift.

The cows graze and move about. The grain fields and the hay fields move slightly in late afternoon breezes and when lightning strikes, the sky crackles and pops, sending shivers down the dogs' backs and across the kids' faces!

Ah, summer........