There were so many stories, ranging from the trivial to the amusing to those things that really created a moment when we had to ask "WTF" (Where's the Farmer). I'm sure this year's top stories were no different in their impact on our lives than last year's biggies. We've been chasing a lot of the same issues for years.
The leaders of this infamous group are best described as alphabet soup issues: LFTB, GMO, MCOOL, ACA, HSUS. The rest need more descriptive terms. All of them can be called nothing new. They were hot issues in the past and most of them will stay with us through the new year and the next.
Here they are in no particular order:
ACA: How's your health, my friend? The feds want to know, at least the feds on the left side of the aisle. Those that sit on the other side? Not so much. No other program has created such a controversy since the 1960's war on poverty begat Medicare and Medicaid. The Republican party tried unsuccessfully over 40 times to roll it back, a huge waste of congressional time. The Supremes OK'd it by one vote. Obama's vaunted technical team dropped the ball on the web site when the program rolled out in October. No matter, it is the law of the land and the controversy will continue ad nauseum.
GMO: Are they the golden bullet that will save us from world starvation or an evil product of the villainous Monsantoian tribe of St. Louis that will ruin our genetics and eventually kill anyone who consumes anything made from them? Must products containing GMO's be labeled so consumers can make informed decisions as some special interest groups insist or is labeling a waste of time and money as other groups claim?
LFTB: BPI's lean, finely textured beef (LFTB), commonly known by the ill-informed as 'pink slime,' was repeatedly assailed by ABC News. The production crew that created the news report grabbed the sensationalism generated by some obscure British short order cook who poured a bottle of household ammonia into an ancient washing machine filled with meat to falsely demonstrate how the product was made. Bettina Elias Segal, a woman with no scientific background, jumped on the same washing machine band wagon and created a nation-wide incident. Science be damned. Plants shut down, hundreds of jobs were lost, and BPI filed a billion dollar law suit against ABC. The trial has just begun.
MCOOL: To label or not to label, that is the question that's driving a toxic wedge between two great trading partners. Should meat from Canada be labeled as such so American consumers will know that they are not 'buying American" thereby protecting them from heinous infections from foreign goods? Does the U.S. have to abide by WTO decisions even though we have gone to their 'court of appeals' asking for relief as often as others have taken us to task? One thing is certain; the WTO said no to our original labeling requirements and the USDA remedied the situation by issuing essentially the same regs. Will they say no again? Will the Canadian government make good on their threat to issue retaliatory tariffs? First answer might come from a possible farm bill.
Farm Bill: Will it finally happen? Or will milk prices skyrocket, creating a painful blowback from the enraged mothers of America? The recent budget agreement shows the warring political factions of both the House and Senate can work together when all else fails so will they be able to make nice long enough to put together a grossly overdue farm bill? Or will it come in bits and pieces? Will it solve the MCOOL issue before the WTO gets to it?
Super Bugs: Agriculture is being asked to stop or greatly reduce the use of antibiotics to solve a problem that seems to be caused by the overuse of human antibiotics. My friend Dr. Richard Raymond says "Two major classes of antibiotics used in human medicine, Macrolides and Cephalosporins, comprise lesss than 0.3 percent of antibiotics used in animals – because of FDA actions taken in the last decade. 83 percent of antibiotics used in animal health are either not allowed in human medicine, or ancient antibiotics for which the aforementioned macrolides would be a much better drug of first choice." The chances of the human medical profession cleaning its own house first? Not good.
Chipotle (and Panera): How do you like those award winning cartoons that depict American agriculture as something practiced in the deepest depths of hell? Those floppy Chipotle scare crows sure are cute, aren't they? As long as these two chains (big food?) keep attacking the hand that feeds them (big ag?) and claiming they only use the purest of foods grown by the most natural and organic small farms (as long as the supply is adequate and competitively priced, let's not get ahead of the bottom line) we will be treated to more emotional brow-beating in 2014. Commercials, you gotta love 'em!
HSUS: We can add PETA, MFA and the usual animal rights suspects to this list. They were all very active this year. We can expect more 'hidden cam' work, cleverly edited after weeks or months of undercover work and revealed to a horrified group of reporters for maximum impact. Forget that some of that footage might actually contain real instances of animal abuse that was allowed to continue for weeks or months. Forget also that some of the footage purportedly showing animal abuse might just be a clever angle on a free range chicken doing a little sun bathing or a downed cow bleeding after a difficult birth. The goal here is to do a hearts and flowers appeal to win converts and donations. Reality need not be recognized.
Climate change: Are we really getting warmer or is it just some plot by evil lefties to scare people? This past November was the 37th consecutive month that was warmer than the same month a year ago. Those mild summer days and cool summer nights that made southern France a great place to grow wine grapes and made British wine not so good? British vineyards are now making some top quality wines. Ice packs at both poles are still shrinking. The numbers are starting to show a definite trend toward much more warmth but is it man made or just the usual and ancient weather patterns repeating themselves? We will debate it until sun and fun cruises through the North Passageway are regularly scheduled Princess Cruises or newly expanding Alaskan glaciers start to threaten Juneau.