DEAR RACHAEL RAY

Sarah Hubbart, the communications director for the Animal Agricultural Alliance shared a letter on Meatingplace.com (a membership is required to view the site, but it is free, it’s definitely a site worth checking out) about a recent Rachael Ray appearance on The View. During the segment, Rachael provided viewers with some misinformation about food safety. The following is the letter from Sarah’s addressing these misconceptions.

Dear Rachael Ray,

First off, let me just say that I am a big fan of yours from way back. I have to admit that I often find myself watching your 30 Minute Meals at the gym. (Maybe it’s just me, but the Food Network is my first choice while on the treadmill.)

So, I was understandably shocked by some of the food safety “tips” that you offered during the June 6 episode of The View. You were on the show promoting your new burger cookbook, but some of the food handling advice that you gave was more than a little troubling.

Whoopi Goldberg was just about to bite into one of your new Cuban Patty Melts (which look fabulous, by the way), when she asked if it is okay to eat burgers with a red center. The patty melt looked rather pink, and Whoopi was concerned if it could make her sick.

You answered that as long as the beef is “organic or grass fed”, then it is safe from E. coli. You said that the recent food recalls were due “mass-produced” meat. You also encouraged folks to grind their own hamburger because it is safer than buying hamburger from the store.

But, that’s just not true at all. All ground beef must be cooked to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees in order to kill bacteria. (The color of the hamburger doesn’t really matter – use a thermometer!)  That is because bacteria like E. coli are found naturally in the environment and the intestinal tracts of healthy cattle whether they live in a feedlot or on a pasture. Research hasn’t shown a significant difference in the likelihood of E. coli between the two.

I like how this beef producer put it: “Whether the beef is fed grass, hay, corn, soybean meal, or Krispy Kreme donuts also has nothing to do with the safety of the hamburger. Whether the beef is processed in a large facility, local butcher shop, or at home the same rules apply.”

There are quite a few myths out there about the differences between organic and conventional foods. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the fact from the fiction. But misinformation can be dangerous.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility. The farmer, processor, and retailer need to provide healthy, safe products to the consumer. But the consumer (even if he or she is a celebrity chef!) needs to follow critical food safety practices, like hand washing, separating raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat products, proper storage and refrigeration, and cooking meat to the required temperature.

I hope you keep these facts in mind during your next stop on the book tour. (And here is some more good information about modern beef production, in case you are interested!)

Sincerely,

A Burger Fan

PRESIDENTIAL RACE 2012: WHO’S AHEAD? WHO WILL WIN? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Many political pundits have assumed that President Barack Obama will be reelected and that Mitt Romney’s defeat is a foregone conclusion.  History suggests that Obama is in a strong position given that 78 percent of incumbents have been reelected.  In fact, the only presidents in recent memory who have lost had strong primary challenges: President Gerald Ford (R-MI) was challenged by California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1976, President Carter was challenged by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in 1980 and President George H.W. Bush was challenged by former Nixon Aide Pat Buchanan in 1992.  All three incumbents lost their reelection bid in part because the primary challenge weakened them significantly.

United States President, Mr. PresidentConventional wisdom suggests that an incumbent who is not challenged will easily be reelected.  In modern history, Presidents’ George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are good examples of this.  But there is a contradicting fact that is troublesome for President Obama.  No president in modern times has won reelection unless his approval rating was at least 50 percent at the beginning of his reelection year.  President Obama’s has hovered in the 46-48 percentage range and he has not been able to move it to the 50 percent range. To put this in better perspective, Obama is in slightly better shape than President Carter but not quite as good as President George W. Bush at this point in the cycle. This factor alone means we will likely have a close presidential contest.  If Mitt Romney picks a strong vice presidential candidate like Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) or Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), he will produce a ticket that will be very competitive.  There are other good choices but these three seem to be getting a great deal of attention.

Romney must prove he is not George Bush, that he does have a plan for economic growth, and that he is not simply a big business oriented blue-blooded American that is out of touch with working America.  He also has to work harder on his likeability and accessibility.  Oddly, President Obama is also seen as aloof and less accessible than his original candidacy would suggest.  Neither one of these candidates have the Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan touch.  They are both intellectuals who don’t enjoy small talk or endless campaigning.  They both have strong families, a close tight knit group of loyal friends and strong wives that are liked better than they are.  But they both lack that back slapping pal quality that produces a greater likeability with the average voter.

Obama clearly has some advantages since the public respects him, basically trusts him and thinks he is on the side of the average person.  Obama polls well on foreign policy which helps him with independents and takes away a traditionally strong Republican issue.  Obama also has a very powerful reelect organization that understands how to use social media, understands how to mobilize voters, is well-funded and very well-organized.  The Obama team was vastly superior to the McCain team in 2008, when it came to money, organizational strength and the ability to get out the vote.  Romney will be much better than McCain on this score, but his long primary fight and the many attacks waged by members of his own party have wounded him some and have him behind in the fundraising arena as well.  Many think that the advent of Super PAC’s (individuals who can put an unlimited amount of money into political advertising) will help him even the score.  Republican fundraisers will insure that Romney is not outspent.  McCain was badly outspent by Obama in 2008.

A weak economy, the failure by unions and a well-organized Democratic effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and tepid support after the mesmerizing “hope and change” campaign of 2008, will hurt Obama.  Even his most ardent supporters think he over-promised on social issues and under-delivered on the economy.  Obama’s best argument is that he wants to make sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes, that he is working for middle class growth and that George W. Bush left him with two wars and the worst economy since the height of the great depression.  Obama needs to say that it will take at least four more years to get rid of these wars and get rid of the economic damage done by Bush and the Republicans.  His push for the so-called Buffett rule on wealthy Americans shows he supports the “ninety nine percent versus the one percent.”  He can also run against a Congress that has blocked him at every turn and been an active opponent in preventing his style of tax and fiscal reform.

There will be two Supreme Court decisions that may make a difference in this election.  The Supreme Court could either strike down the entire health care law (not likely), uphold the entire health care law (not too likely) or leave the law intact while striking down the mandate based on the 10th Amendment to the constitution.  The third option is most likely because it deals with mandating a mandatory product, then taxes people for its use, which many believe is far beyond the power of the federal government.  Other experts believe the tax system, the requirement for participation in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA), (Social Security), Medicare and Medicaid are all examples of mandatory products that Americans must purchase.  Also, the Supreme Court will decide the Arizona Immigration case, regarding whether states have the right to have police check the immigration status of the people they stop for other reasons.  Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Utah and Arizona have laws that allow the police to make this check.  The Obama Administration filed against these states and most experts think Arizona will win.

Various polls including Gallup, New York Times, Rasmussen and other reputable ones predict that this presidential race will be very close.  Obama holds a small edge in each poll but all are within the “margin of error,” meaning the president’s lead is very small.  With five months to go, many things can happen, but all indicators show seven swing states (perhaps Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin) will likely decide this race.  Perhaps more importantly, about eight percent of the voters are truly undecided.  This small, highly educated and influential group will almost certainly pick the next president.  This race will be a lot more like the Bush-Gore race in 2000 than the Obama-McCain race of 2008.

The last, but not least, important part of this election involves Congress.  In 2010, House Democrats lost 63 members (costing them the majority), the biggest loss since the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt in 1938.  Most pundits feel that Republicans will lose five to 10 seats but hold on to their majority.  The Senate math favors the Republicans since twenty three of the thirty three seats up for reelection are held by Democrats.  Today, Democrats have a 51 to 49 lead, a margin of only two seats.  But so far it appears that Democrats are doing better than expected and may hold the Senate by a small margin, approximately the same as it is now.

This election will decide many issues, as they all do.  But the over $3 trillion a year Bush tax cuts expire on the last day of this year, and it is unclear if they will be partly or wholly extended, or simply allowed to expire. If they expire, this would be a tremendous shock to our economy. Today, the US government is borrowing forty two cents on every dollar that it spends.  If interest rates go up at all, and if the rate of spending increases based on current law, the U.S. government will spend almost $1 dollar in interest for every dollar that is borrowed.  This is a rate of spending that could cripple our economy beyond repair.  Both political parties are in fervent disagreement on the tax versus spend issues and today there is virtually no common ground.  This impasse cannot continue without dire consequences.

Today, the election is almost a toss-up, but the stakes have not been this large since the great depression.  If our government does not respond to this “fiscal cliff,” now, it may be too late by the time of the 2016 election.

David Crow
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services

 

 

David Beaudreau
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services

LEARN MORE ABOUT DAIRY DURING DAIRY MONTH

DAIRY grows Healthy Communities in Illinois

The dairy industry is a vital part of our nation’s food system. Dairy is essential to the health of communities across the country because it contributes jobs, income and economic vitality.

  • Dairy farms support rural communities in all 50 states.
  • There are 51,481 dairy farms in the United States.
  • An economic analysis of the direct and indirect economic impact (also known as the multiplier effect) of U.S. dairy (farming through processing) was estimated to be $140 billion in economic output and $29 billion in household earnings.
  • Dairies support the economic well-being of rural America; every dollar spent locally by a dairy farmer creates a multiplier effect of more than two and a half times the original dollar spent.

black and white, holstein, cattleWhere milk goes, jobs follow. From farm to processor to distribution and retail, dairy creates jobs that support the economic well-being of rural America.

  • Dairy farms sustain rural America. Even under the nation’s current economic challenges, dairy farmers and companies are a lifeline to 900,000 jobs in the United States.
  • Dairy processing alone provides over 130,000 jobs in the U.S.
  • Around 178,000 retail outlets in the U.S. sell dairy foods.

Dairy is local. Dairy farm families are small business owners. Every glass of milk and each dairy product produced by these family businesses bring vitality to local economies and to the state.

  • In the state of Illinois, there are 810 licensed dairy herds.
  • Illinois dairy farms produce 223 million gallons of milk.
  • Illinois farms generate $394 million in milk sales annually.
  • Illinois is the 20th largest milk-producing state in the U.S.
  • In Illinois, the average dairy cow produces 6 gallons of milk per day. That’s more than 2,277 gallons of milk over the course of a typical year.
  • Illinois has 36 plants that process one or more dairy products.
  • It takes just 48 hours for milk to travel from the farm to a retail outlet.
Hoard’s Dairyman, February 12, 2012
R. Cryan, “The Economic Impact of the Dairy Industry,” U.S. Dairy Markets and Outlook 10, No. 1 (May 2004). Multipliers show how much output, household earnings and employment are increased by an additional dollar of sales from the industry.
Pennsylvania Dairy Task Force Economic Development Committee, “Dairy in Pennsylvania: A Vital Element for Economic Development,” Center for Dairy Excellence.
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; http://www.bls.gov/cew/,accessed Nov. 30, 2011.
U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment Dairy Stability Report 2011, http://www.usdairy.com
Progressive Dairyman, 2012 U.S. dairy statistics
National Agricultural Statistic Service USDA; www.quickstats.nass.usda.gov (only fluid milk and not other dairy products)
USDA Economic Research Service; www.ers.usda.gov
Hoard’s Dairyman, February 27, 2012
USDA; http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/nass/DairProdSu//2012s/2012/DairProdSu-04-27-2012

BOARD MEETINGS

Illinois corn farmers discussing issues
Today is the final day of a joint meeting of the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Together, these two groups of Illinois farmers invest in forward thinking solutions that will help family farmers in Illinois continue to farm for generations.

Each group meets six times per year for formal meetings and many other times each year for learning opportunities, lobbying and promoting Illinois corn, relationship building opportunities within the industry, and a host of other activities.

CORNBELTERS HOSTING AG WEEK NEXT WEEK, JUNE 11-15!

The Normal CornBelters, brought to you by Illinois Corn Farmers, are bring agriculture to the citizens of central Illinois next week through a series of special events at the CornCrib.  It’s going to be an exciting week of good food, good conversation, and educational opportunities that you and your family won’t want to miss.

June 11 is Illinois Corn Growers Association Membership Appreciation night.  While many Central Illinois citizens aren’t likely members of Illinois Corn, this will be a great opportunity to meet a real farmer growing corn in Illinois.  (And by the way, these corn farmers are growing field corn, not sweet corn that you eat on your table.  Learn this and more when you chat with them Monday night!)

June 12 is Illinois Pork Producers night.  Would you like to chat with a hog farmer about how he’s raising your pork chops?  Would you like to enjoy a yummy pork burger at the ball field?  June 12 is your night!

June 13 is Illinois Beef Producers night.  Again – farmers raising cattle will be there to answer your questions about their farming practices.  Local beef will be served.  You won’t want to miss it.

June 14 is Prairie Farms night!  Prairie Farms will be giving free ice cream bars to the first 500 fans arriving at the stadium and they will be able to share their philosophies on dairing in Illinois.  Did you know that Prairie Farms is a cooperative of over 700 families that raise dairy cattle and produce milk throughout the midwest?

June 15 is Salute to 4H night.  Are you interested in 4H for your kids?  Don’t even know what it’s all about?  Come and find out more from people who are actually involved on June 15 at the CornCrib!

Communication and connection with the non-farm public is a priority for Illinois agriculture.  Come and experience it next week at the CornCrib!

Jim Tarmann, Illinois Corn membershipJim Tarmann
ICGA/ICMB Field Services Director

BBQ IS FOR MORE THAN JUST BEEF

One of the greatest joys of summertime is the act of barbecuing (at least for my family), and most everyone has a favorite grilled food that they look forward to indulging in.  This summer think beyond the standard burgers and chicken when you fire up the grill.  With a cornucopia of in-season fruits and vegetables, you can cook a table-full of excellent entrees, side dishes and desserts right on your grill!

Vegetables like summer squash, Portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers and asparagus are naturals on the grill. You can do something as simple as slicing, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill until softened slightly and grill marks form.  Or wow your barbeque guests by wrapping asparagus in prosciutto and then grilling.  Those babies never disappoint.

Same goes for fruit like pineapple rings, peach halves and bananas. Grilling intensifies the flavors in produce, and softens it just enough to transform it into a real treat.  Who says you can’t have a healthy, indulgent dessert?

Here are some more easy produce grilling tips.

Corn: Peel back husks without removing them and pull off silks. Replace husks and soak corn in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Shake off excess water before placing corn on a grill rack set over medium heat. Grill, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Unwrap corn and brush with garlic butter, squeeze with lime and sprinkle with chopped chives and cotija cheese.  Corn is a good source of vitamin B, folic acid and the antioxidant lutein. It is also high in soluble fiber.

Nectarine: Choose firm, but ripe, nectarines. Halve and pit them. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Brush nectarines with melted butter. Place fruit cut side down on oiled grill and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 3 minutes. Brush with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Nectarines contain a fair amount of vitamins A and C.

Photo credit to http://www.dessertfortwo.com/2011/07/grilled-peaches-with-cinnamon-ice-cream/Peach: Choose firm, but ripe, peaches. Halve and pit them. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Place fruit cut side down on oiled grill and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 3 minutes. Remove from grill and top with a scoop of ice cream. Peaches contain both vitamins A and C.

Sweet Onion: Cut sweet onions, such as Vidalia, into 1-inch thick slices. Brush slices with olive oil then salt and pepper. Grill for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally and brushing with oil. Sweet onions are cholesterol-free, fat-free, a source of fiber, high in vitamin C and very low in sodium.

Portobello Mushrooms: Marinate mushroom caps in a mixture of vinegar, oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper for 15 minutes.  Place on oiled grill and cook for 5 to 8 minutes on each side over medium-high heat.  Brush with marinade after flipping.  Top with provolone cheese during the last 2 minutes of grilling and serve on buns with your favorite garnishes.  Portobello mushrooms are low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.  It is also a good source of protein and vitamin B.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

THE STATE OF LOCKS AND DAMS

Mississippi River, farmersIllinois Corn brought leadership of the US Grains Council out to Lock 15 on the Mississippi River to see the deteriorated state of our river infrastructure.  Our take home message was that it is counterproductive to work on eliminating trade barriers and trying to increase exports as a whole if we can’t move U.S. products out of the country.

Want to learn more about river transporation in the Mississippi River Basin, read these great articles!

Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River Needs Reevaluation

Government Inefficiency Plagues Locks and Dam Upgrades