Covering Ag since 1981. The faces, places, markets and issues of dairy and livestock production. Hard-hitting topics, market updates and inspirational stories from the notebook of a veteran ag journalist. Contributing reporter for Farmshine since 1987; Editor of former Livestock Reporter 1981-1998; Before that I milked cows. @Agmoos on Twitter, @AgmoosInsight on FB #MilkMarketMoos
By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, November 18, 2022
These cows are wondering what’s going on. Five days ago, they enjoyed balmy 70-degree temps. This morning, they could see their own breath freezing in mid-air.
They’ve been listening to their farmer’s radio this week and heard that President Biden pledged to give $11.4 billion ANNUALLY to other countries for a climate transition. They heard that climate pledges were being made at COP27 that could make what is happening to some of their friends in Europe happen here in the U.S. to them too.
This got their attention because they’ve also been hearing how the methane in their burps is being overblown by a whopping 3 to 4 times its actual warming potential over 20 years.
(They could have told you that if they could talk).
Yep, they know they are getting a raw deal here. Even the world’s foremost authorities on what units of measure to use for methane agree that the GWP100 is overblowing the cow problem, whereas the GWP* they hear Dr. Frank Mitloehner talk about when their farmer has a zoom webinar airing within earshot is more accurate and gives them a chance to be the SOLUTION they know they are instead of the PROBLEM they know they are not.
But cows can’t talk, so they can’t stick up for themselves. Are we sticking up for them?
Bessie and her friends have heard that their farmer must pay 15 cents for every 100 pounds of milk they make to an organization in Chicago that is content to use the inflated unit, content to keep driving their net-zero talking points even though net-zero GHG is impossible because, well, because cows continue to breathe and burp, so getting the unit of measure correct may literally save their lives some day.
Even their tiny cow-sized brains are smart enough to know that inflating a problem to make a buck is not a good idea.
What is a good idea for the cows and their farmers, and for the world, is for the 15-cent-takers to change their narrative and talk about true warming potential and climate neutrality instead of net-zero, ad-nauseum.
One can sense these cows wish they could speak up to say: “Stop overblowing our burps please! It’s impolite!”
They might even say something like this: “Our ‘hot air’ is nothing compared to the steam rising off the loads of bull coming out of Washington, D.C. and COP27 in Egypt!”
These cows have also heard on their farmer’s radio station that the mid-term elections are still undecided as to what party will be in leadership of the People’s House. And yes, they’ll admit that over the past eight days, they’ve placed a few bets on the outcomes between mouthfuls of TMR at the feedbunk where they discuss current events.
They’ve even wondered if they should start a new political party of their own: the COW-MP party, which stands for Commonsense Organization of Whole Milk Producers. After all, some people think skim milk is their product. That one really gets them mooing.
This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for our dairy farm families and the people of this industry who work hard every day to feed the world. But this year, we’re giving a special ode of gratitude to the bovine beauties, themselves, that make it all possible. Where would we be without the cows?
While the climate policy wonks, activists, even industry organizations perpetuate or allow this verbal abuse of our cows to continue, we’re thanking God for providing the essential irreplaceable cow.
We’re pretty sure He knew what He was doing a whole lot better than those in the ivory towers making policy, devising hoops for cows to jump through in order to exist and funding startups to make fake protein from fermentation vats in labs and factories under the mantra of saving the planet from the inflated overblown warming potential of our burping cows.
Even those of us with tiny cow-sized brains are smart enough to realize it’s really all about making money and controlling food.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and let’s think more about how we should be standing up for our cows.
A girl and her heifer in the full-circle of a cow-loving community
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sometimes you hear something that strikes a chord and you want to know more… As we start this season of thanksgiving, there are young people all over the country who are thankful for the love of cows. They may have parents and grandparents who feel this way too. Some may operate dairy farms, others may rely on the older generation and a tight-knit cow-loving rural community, like the one in Susquehanna County, to make it possible. Such is the story of Delaney Curley and her Red and White winter yearling Curlydell Warrior Summer-Red — each with her own tale that would not be possible except for the love of cows.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, November 4, 2022
IRISH HILL, Pa. – The past three years have been a dream come true for Delaney Curley as her family moved to Irish Hill just a mile or so from her grandparent’s farm outside of Montrose.
Growing up, she would stay with Bob and Mary Curley for weeks at a time in the summer. Laura, her mother, recalls the crying the entire hour and a half drive home to Mountain Top. The Susquehanna County farm is where Delaney had her 4-H club, her cousins and friends with similar interests and the wide open spaces of the mountains, hunting and fishing, all of it calling her to pursue conservation science after she graduates from Elk Lake High School this year.
“We didn’t always live here. When we lived in Mountain Top, grandma and grandpa’s farm was a magical place for me. I love every part of it – working with the animals especially,” Delaney reflects. “Here, in this tight knit rural community, I found people like me.”
Bob sold his 60-cow milking herd in 2001. He is the fifth generation with 540 acres of crop, hay and pasture land. The main farm has been in his family since the Curleys came to America from Ireland in 1840. Today, he rents corn acres to a nearby farm and he and son Bill, Delaney’s father, manage the hay and pasture land with 20 to 30 heifers on hand, additional progeny of earlier purchases by the sixth generation for the seventh generation to show over the years, and some dry cows.
If not for Bob’s love of cows, this story would not be unfolding. It began when Delaney’s cousin Cali was the first of Bob’s grandchildren wanting show calves but having no home herd to draw from.
While the Jersey, Holstein and Red and White heifers start out at Bob’s farm until they become milk cows, breeding for Red Holsteins has special significance. Bill recalls his dad breeding for Reds before it was cool, but as a youth, Bill never won a class in all of his show years. Back then, Red and White Holsteins showed with Black and Whites, but the industry’s breeding focus for Reds came later.
When his niece Cali started showing, “that’s when our quest to be an owner-breeder began,” Bill reflects. They got her started with a calf purchased at the Nittany Lion Fall Classic, and she raised her to be grand champion Holstein of the State Junior Show. Bill’s son Patrick and later his sister Delaney got started with a purchase of bred Jersey heifers from Luchsingers in New York, and a Jersey calf out of that developed into a champion.
Those heifers calved and the 20 to 30 milk cows they became went to Joe Vanderfeltz’s 400-cow freestall herd for milking, so the Curleys could keep working toward that owner-bred herd, which today includes the Holsteins. Heifers are pasture bred by genomic bulls, and the milk cows at Vanderfeltz’s are AI-bred. Those calves come back to Curlydell.
For the love of cows, they didn’t want to just buy and show, but rather to breed for show. That was especially important to Delaney.
“We’ve always viewed the show animals as 4-H projects to go through to states and have the kids working with them and making those decisions… to take out to show what you are proud of,” says Bill.
Even for Patrick, who gravitates to the technology side of dairy data working for Ever.Ag, showing cows was fun, he says.
In Delaney’s case, however, it’s for the love of cows.
It’s a foggy, drizzly morning on Irish Hill and the family reflects over breakfast on the move here and the owner-breeder herd that’s been developed over the decade of youth shows. For example, Delaney’s first Jersey ‘Ricki’ was purchased as a two-month-old calf and won banners as a 4-year-old in 2018. Today, she is 10 years old in the retired cow meadow.
Yes, for the love of cows they have a meadow for special retirees.
Throughout the mountains of Susquehanna County in Northeast Pennsylvania, there are families who still milk cows, but even more families who still love them, breed them, show them and care for them.
The county show at the Harford Fair in New Milford is always quite competitive.
“Our county show is small, but the quality is always amazing,” Bill relates. “If we do well locally, we know we can be competitive to do well in Harrisburg. The competition is deep with so many top breeder herds right here in our county.”
In fact, three of the animals in the pull for junior champion at the 2022 Premier National Junior Show (PNJS) during the All American in Harrisburg in September came from Susquehanna County.
“That’s a nice meter stick,” Bill affirms, noting that Delaney’s Summer was one of them. Her first-place winter yearling Curlydell Warrior Summer lived up to her name and gave Delaney a perfect undefeated summer from county to districts to states and nationals.
Further testament to the owner breeder herds of the area, when Delaney’s heifer earned bred and owned junior champion, all but two of the breeds had owner-breeder champions from Susquehanna County.
“They are all friends. To have that competition and friendship starting out in your home county, it really pushes you to up your game,” says Laura.
Summer was taken off pasture just 10 days before the county show, where she won her class and was reserve junior champion. Her dam Scarlet had done okay before her — winning districts and doing well in the state show against 30 other animals.
But then she had this polled Warrior heifer.
“There’s something about when your animal that you own has her calf, it’s just more special,” says Delaney.
Summer did well as a winter calf last year. She started out small, born at 70 pounds as the offspring of a first-calf heifer, but nice and solid with show type. She had placings of 4th and 5th in her class and onlookers told Delaney she’d be one to beat the following year.
And so she was, this year winning her classes against Reds and Blacks.
“She’s the kind of heifer that the more you look at her, the more you like her, not a lot of flaws,” says Bob, knowingly.
With Scarlet’s second calf Sage, Delaney was excited to show produce of dam. The best feeling, she says, “is to win when you’re not expecting it.”
When Delaney and Summer entered the PNJS showring in Harrisburg, the judge took one look and moved right on. She recalls positioning Summer for another look, but figured she was written off. Then, halfway around the ring, “he pointed to me for the pull, and I thought he wasn’t interested.”
That’s a thrill that is hard to describe, she recalls with a smile.
For Bill, the win was a full-circle of emotion involving Summer’s story that goes back to Bill’s longtime friend.
“We did the easy thing, breeding Scarlet to Warrior. You would have to go back to Starbuck for a bull that stamps them like that,” he says.
“But David Mattocks bred her mother. He did the hard work,” Bill recalls his good friend who lost his battle with cancer four years ago this month. Summer’s granddam was purchased from the Da-Vue dispersal.
It was Dave’s love of cows, his commitment to four decades of breeding until those last several months of his life, that also live on in this heifer, a heifer that Bill’s father has also bonded with.
Bill had intended to buy her as a bred heifer at the Da-Vue dispersal in 2018. He and Joe had picked two heifers on conformation.
“Then I looked at the pedigrees and saw one traced back to Dave’s first Excellent cow. That cow was all he talked about on our trips back and forth to Penn State,” Bill recalls their college years in the late 1980s.
“Dave had big dreams, we lost him way too soon,” says Bill. While they were in college, Dave was in partnership with his uncle, and he always talked about this cow Scenic-Vue Stewart Starr. She was Good Plus at the time and became his first Excellent cow.
When Bill got to the dispersal at Fisher’s, he ended up missing the heifer that went back six generations to that cow, but he bought three or four others, “just not the one I wanted.”
A couple weeks later Bill got a call from Dave Lentz, that a few animals were left over from the sale, and by some miracle Starr was one of them.
“Dave (Mattocks) and I went down together to pick her up. His health was failing,” Bill recalls, explaining that the heifer represents so many ties – family, friendship, dreams, memories, past, future, all for the love of cows.
It was definitely for the love of cows that Dave knew at age 10 he wanted to be a dairy farmer. He learned from his uncle before him and credited the dairy community around him in his welcome letter for the dispersal, writing: “There is no other industry that so abounds in people that would do anything for you,” thanking those by name who helped when he was down.
The sale was in February 2018 and in November that year, Dave was called to his heavenly home.
That bred heifer Bill bought — Da-Vue Reality Spirit-Red, granddam to Delaney’s Summer — now represents a blending of seven generations of Very Good and Excellent cows from Dave’s herd, his dreams and vision, now part of the owner-breeder herd at Curlydell with Summer and Sage from Spirit’s daughter Da-Vue Fusion Scarlet-Red.
“Her name was Spirit, and she was surely spirited,” Bob recalls the chase when she came off the truck the day Bill and Dave brought her to Irish Hill. Her first few weeks there in the tiestall and pasture, not quite a springer yet, were not without challenges.
“I try not to let any of her calves see an open barn door,” Bob laughs, remembering the time Spirit managed to get into the hay mow through the hay drop, and the devil of a time getting her out. He and Delaney baby the calves that have come from her. Today, Spirit is part of the flow of the freestall herd that suits her as a milking cow, making 40,000 pounds of milk at Vanderfeltz’s.
“He takes care of our milk cows like they are his own, and we consult on the breeding decisions,” says Bill, getting the calves back and returning them as milk cows.
Making the move three years ago to Irish Hill was Delaney’s idea to be where her cows are, along with her 4-H club, her cousins and friends, her grandparents and the hunting and fishing.
“If we were going to do it, that was the time, before she started high school,” says Bill. Leaving Mountain Top, where Laura grew up, was hard, but her parents had passed away and Bill’s parents are like her own.
The entire family moved, first renting a place, then buying a home just down the road from the farm.
For the love of cows, Delaney is where she wanted to be, where she could double-down on her 4-H projects – her Jerseys and Holsteins, especially the Red and Whites.
“We’re glad we’re here on Irish Hill. It’s a place where life really hasn’t changed much. There is a good core of families and kids here all engaged in showing cows, a place where we can wake up and take the 4-wheeler to the barn. It’s hard to describe what that means,” Bill explains.
For the love of cows, they are home and the outdoors from the cow pastures to the mountain wilderness are what steer this Elk Lake High School senior to take her basketball skills and interest in conservation to Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks next fall.
While some cattle from the heifer meadow will be sold, Delaney wants to keep a core herd of pedigreed Jerseys and Red and Whites, to keep showing as an owner-breeder – even after 4-H.
“My grandfather did it all before we moved up here,” says Delaney.
“None of this would work without Dad. We could only do this with him. Some would call that elder-abuse,” Bill laughs, adding that living here gives him time he’s glad to have, even if it’s just 45 minutes a day doing chores with his dad and hearing stories… for the love of cows.
Laura relates how her father-in-law loves the baby calves, “even after they are weaned and two months old, he’s bringing warm water to them twice a day.”
Quietly listening, Bob puts it all into perspective.
“I’d be lost if I didn’t have it to do,” he said.
For the love of cows, adds Bill, “this is how we end up with retired cows living in a pasture.”
But more to the point, he says as the rest of the family nods in agreement: “Every single thing that we have here, or that the farm has, is owed to the cows. Period. I can’t imagine not having at least one, and so we do things that might not make sense but that we feel good about.”
If only the generations removed from farms could have this shared experience, to get in touch with this feeling… For the love of cows, they might not believe the cow blame-game regarding climate and the environment.
With her eye toward a future in the open spaces and conservation science, maybe this young lady — and others of her generation like her — can bring that love of cows to others and keep it going.
MADISON, Wis. — “The cows bring us together, but it’s always the people that make it impactful. This industry is great because we do it together,” said Shelly Mayer, executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, based in Juneau as she accepted the 2022 World Dairy Expo Industry Person of the Year award at the Dinner with the Stars, October 5.
“Friendships and trust, so needed in today’s world, come in heaping portions here at World Dairy Expo. I’m just one piece of a much larger team,” said Mark Comfort, co-founder of Udder Comfort, Cardinal, Ontario, Canada, as he was awarded 2022 International Person of the Year.
Grateful for “the privilege of being able to represent dairy farmers in Wisconsin, the U.S. and around the world,” 2022 Dairy Producer of the Year, John Ruedinger of Ruedinger Dairy, Van Dyne, talked about the importance of the industry working together to move dairy forward.
The awards dinner was attended by over 200 people during the 55th World Dairy Expo last month in Madison. The annual event recognizes dairy trailblazers, mentors and those making longstanding impacts.
In industry service, Mayer has been with PDPW since its start in 2001. The organization has grown to become the nation’s largest professional dairy group with 1700 members from 32 states and an impact on the industry primarily through education.
Citing this leadership and development among the founding principles that Mayer puts to work on her own family’s dairy farm, award presenters highlighted the mark she has left on the Wisconsin dairy industry and beyond through her “unmatched passion and servant leadership.”
Her passion for dairy began growing up on a farm in southwest Wisconsin and continued through Mayer’s education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her degrees in ag journalism and dairy science and was recognized by National Dairy Shrine as an outstanding student.
Mayer was credited with the PDPW’s early work on animal well-being standards that later were incorporated in the FARM program as well as the ‘meat matters’ program on residue avoidance that later became an antimicrobial stewardship education for the dairy and livestock industries through the Food Armor Foundation.
Award presenters also noted Mayer’s influential part in the Dairy Innovation Hub, representing a $7.8 million investment by the state of Wisconsin in cutting edge research for the future of dairy. The ‘hub’ concept was born from a drawing she made in the office of Mystic Dairy when Mitch Breunig was PDPW’s president several years ago.
Breunig called Mayer’s work “truly inspirational,” helping dairy farmers learn to more professionally run their farms. “As we have fewer farms and fewer farmers, it’s going to take leadership from all of us,” he said.
Pointing out many of PDPW’s founders and her family in attendance, Mayer credited and thanked them, and especially the team of staff she works with for the organization’s far-reaching impact. In 2021 and 2022, alone, PDPW will have provided more than 220 days of education and outreach.
“Education is a powerful force that can change the world. It brings out the best in people and grows leaders who can ask the tough questions,” she said.
Mayer touched on the regenerative and sustainable agriculture story, telling attendees that, “this is the time to stand together, not at the sidelines, to tell that story. We’re so busy feeding the world, that we haven’t taken the time to share… to get out there and tell it.”
As Dairy Producer of the Year, Ruedinger was highlighted for his domestic and global contributions as a member of the board and former chairman of Genex, leading to the creation of Cooperative Resources International, the industry’s first combination of a dairy cattle breeding company and a dairy records provider and later URUS Group, the combination of both cooperative and private entities.
Ruedinger is a sought-after speaker at home and abroad on cooperative principles and industry leadership and was a founding board member of PDPW. Today he serves as vice chairman of URUS Group and on local boards for agribusiness leadership and Holstein breeders. He thanked the past and present members of the URUS Council who were present.
“The farmer spirit was never lost in the formation of URUS,” said Ruedinger, honored to have been part of the success, part of the process and part of the collaboration and humbled to receive the World Dairy Expo honor as a dairy producer who learned from his father the pride in his family, his dairy farm and his involvement in the cooperative system.
Also highlighted were Ruedinger’s accomplishments as the third generation at Ruedinger Dairy, which has transitioned to the fourth generation with 1500 cows milking over 90 pounds per day with somatic cell counts averaging 87,000.
A devastating fire in 1996 was a pivotal time, but the decision to move forward was made, and they’ve never looked back, with consistent growth every year since.
As International Person of the Year, Comfort’s four decades of impact in dairy genetics, market access, products and practices were recognized. Presenters highlighted his achievement of a dairy genetics-based crossborder relationship between Canada and the U.S., developing his former company Transfer Genetics in the 1980s, which later became part of Select Sires in 2000, as well as currently on the management side as co-founder of Udder Comfort and his continued work in genetics through Comfort Holsteins and Comfort Tunis sheep.
Award presenters traced Comfort’s early days showing dairy cattle and sheep with his grandfather by the time he was four, milking cows and raising livestock with his family, developing a keen interest in genetics and pursuing entrepreneurial ideas while studying at University of Guelph, where he revived the dairy cattle judging team and served as college Royal Show chairman.
Comfort’s brother Neil and wife Margaret operate Brookturn Holsteins at the Niagara County farm that has been in the family since 1797.
Combined with the elite genetics of Canadian Holstein cow families and their owner-breeders ‘armed’ with the power to breed their own cows, proved to be a nexus for what legends are made of, including top sires and legacies of the World Dairy Expo, such as Braedale Goldwyn, and the millionaire sires of Comestar — and further impacts from the showring to the commercial cow management side today.
Award presenters thanked Comfort for Udder Comfort’s generosity, giving away pallets of product for exhibitors throughout the cattle barns, a tradition that began in 2007 and was followed in 2008 by sponsorship of the grand champion cash awards for all seven breed shows, followed by initiating in 2009 the cash awards for all seven breed grand champions in the junior show as well.
Comfort was quick to credit the people around him through the years, including his longtime friend and mentor the late George Miller of Select Sires. “Without incredible friends, people who believed in me and shared these goals, this would not be possible. I am humbled,” he said, introducing his family, friends, colleagues and the Udder Comfort team in attendance and thanking those who nominated him.
Citing World Dairy Expo as “truly the place where the global dairy industry meets, it all began here for us,” Comfort said with appreciation for the hundreds of dairy farmers who have shared their stories over the years.
“Your stories move us,” he said. “Your competitiveness and cooperation together inspire us, your friendships encourage us, and your feedback and suggestions help us raise the bar to improve how we deliver tools of progress and cow comfort.”
By Sherry Bunting, updated from original publication in Farmshine, Sept. 30, 2022
WASHINGTON — Get ready for unscientific nutrition bullying. Announced more than a year ago, the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health Wednesday, September 28 was cloaked in secrecy until the eve of the event, when the 44-page “Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” was released Tuesday, September 27 around Noon.
By 5:00 p.m., the Conference agenda appeared in the inbox of registered participants, and during the overnight hours, the Biden Administration released a fact-sheet announcing $8 billion in “new commitments” from over 100 private businesses, local governments and philanthropies for what it calls a “transformational vision.”
Taking a page from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Davos-style approach to food transformation, the White House solicited pledges to address the five “pillars” in its playbook.
Of note among them are a $500 million investment by Sysco (foodservice vendor), nearly $50 million by Danone, $250 million from a collaboration of the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association on a ‘food as medicine’ initiative, and an undisclosed amount for a collaboration between Environmental Working Group, the James Beard Foundation, the Plant Based Foods Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition to prompt more plant-based alternative and vegan offerings in foodservice — to name a few.
Then, at 9:15 a.m., just 15 minutes before USDA Secretary Vilsack was set to open the Conference ahead of President Joe Biden’s remarks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its “proposed updated definition of a ‘Healthy’ claim on food packages to help improve diet and reduce chronic disease.”
Presto: FDA provided the ‘teeth,’ describing its proposal as aligning directly with the Dietary Guidelines. For the proposed rule, click here and to submit a comment by Dec. 28, 2022, (now updated as comment period ends Feb. 16, 2023): click here
The flurry of activity appeared in scripted fashion within the 24-hours prior to the start of the White House Nutrition Conference convening stakeholders. The first such conference was over 50 years ago and had served as the launch pad for what are known today as the infamous Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).
The Conference and follow up actions, said President Biden on Sept. 28, are being devoted to “nourishing the soul of America so that no child goes to bed hungry and no parent dies of a disease that can be prevented. We can do big things,” he said about the stated 2030 goals of ending hunger, increasing healthy eating and physical activity, and reducing diet-related illnesses and other nutrition-related health inequities.
The President continued: “We can use these advances to do more to be a stronger and healthier nation, to achieve ambitious goals. We must take advantage of these opportunities when we have these children in a whole of government, whole of society approach. We need to think in ways we never thought before.”
In his remarks ahead of the President, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that government programs feed 1 in 4 children. He and Biden both talked about expanding the child credit permanently. They talked about $2 billion in funding for food banks and schools, including $100 million for ‘incentives’ to make school meals healthier. They both noted funding to make free school meals available for 9 million additional children. A laundry-list of throwing money at a problem without re-evaluating the flawed guidelines that run the school meals and other USDA food programs despite preponderance of evidence that saturated fats are not the enemy.
There was talk of going “a new direction” but this is all process-based. There was no talk of reviewing the flawed Dietary Guidelines that helped get us here and that the Biden-Harris strategy puts so much emphasis on.
Parsing through the 44-page National Strategy, the bottom line is to expect more of the same drill-down on eliminating animal fats, only worse and with stiffer process, labeling and speech boundaries through FDA and the FTC.
We can expect nutrition bullying to commence — if we step outside of the still-vague but Dietary Guidelines-centered White House playbook. In fact, in addition to the FDA ‘Healthy’ label update, a small-print detail in the 44-page Strategy promises power and funding to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to scrutinize and penalize food marketing claims for being out-of-bounds on the Biden-Harris DGA-scripted nutrition field of play.
Vilsack noted the National Strategy’s approach is a “whole of government approach that involves the entire federal family.”
In preparation for the Conference, many have lamented the lack of transparency leading up to it. For months, the Conference website gave instructions on how to hold a ‘watch party,’ or a ‘satellite event,’ and how to rally support for nutrition and health ahead of time. But all of the necessary details were missing — until the day of the conference.
Emailed invitations were sent to those who registered just three days before — requesting that they visit a web-portal and record an interview to provide input. There, people respond to White House questions and their faces are added to a streaming screen full of moving mouths — giving the appearance of broad input flowing in from Americans.
Made nervous by the lack of a published agenda or framework, over a dozen agricultural organizations had sent a letter to President Biden on September 8th asking for a “seat at the table.” Those organizations included American Farm Bureau and commodity groups for wheat, beef, sorghum, peanuts, canola, soybeans, barley, corn, sunflower, eggs and rice.
Dairy organizations were conspicuously absent from any of the pre-Conference letter-writing or other such public statements. But then, the dairy industry has its man Vilsack in play, and its DGA 3-a-day – so case-closed – can’t be bothered on the milkfat and whole milk issue.
On the agenda provided the day of the Conference, we found former DMI vice president of sustainability, Erin Fitzgerald — who now serves as CEO of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and who represented USFRA and referenced her boss at the dairy checkoff during a WEF panel in Davos earlier this year — leading a plenary session on “access to affordable foods.” Also, Chuck Conners of the National Association of Farmer Cooperatives led the plenary discussion on “empowering consumers to make healthy choices.”
(We learned after the Sept. Conference that National Milk Producers Federation and the National Dairy Council, funded by the mandatory dairy farmer checkoff, were invited to attend. They were represented, and they brought “student leaders” from GENYOUth. To read NMPF’s statement after the Conference, click here).
Key questions around “what are those healthy choices” to be compassed in tools and identified in FDA labeling went repeatedly unanswered as the discussions focused on approaches and processes, perhaps deeming the unsettled dietary science on fats to be settled science with no need for discussion.
Nutrition Coalition founder, advocate, author and investigative journalist Nina Teicholz has been writing about the Conference for weeks before it began, noting the lack of a pre-conference agenda and the refusal of the Administration to review the science on saturated fats ahead of this ‘landmark’ event.
She points out that the White House delegated Conference planning to the Dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University Professor Dariush Mozaffarian — developer of the Food Compass, which is a new method for rating and ranking foods in categories to be consumed frequently, modestly, and occasionally.
To understand what the Food Compass looks like — sugary cereals rank far ahead of the milk that goes in the bowl with them. And, nearly 70 brand-named cereals from General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Post are ranked twice as high as eggs cooked in butter! Alternative fake milk beverages, such as almond juice, rank ahead of skim milk and far ahead of whole milk. Potato chips (yes, potato chips) are an example of a food that ranks ahead of a simple hard-boiled egg and light-years ahead of whole milk, most cheeses and real beef.
In fact, the only cattle-derived product to get top sector ranking is plain non-fat yogurt. (Surprise: Danone was one of the Food Compass development sponsors). Meanwhile, most cheeses, whole milk, and beef ranked near or at the very bottom of the lowest categories.
Teicholz laments the lack of consideration by the White House, USDA, HHS and FDA as they ignore many reviews including the most recent state-of-the-art review on saturated fats, whose authors include five former members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
“These are the people who wrote the guidelines saying: ‘We got it wrong,’” writes Teicholz.
Their paper was published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiologists, whose Editor in Chief named it as one of the top 5 papers of the year. Science like this appears to be off the menu of the White House nutrition playbook.
The entire playbook hinges upon the main tenets of the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans even though the DGAs are being questioned by the scientific community… Even though the DGAs have screened out sound science on dietary animal fats and proteins for at least the past three cycles (15 years)… Even though the rates of American obesity and diet-related illnesses were mostly stable pre-DGA but have risen steadily since the DGA cycles began… And even though these consequences have risen dramatically among children and teens during the past decade since school meals, school milk and a la carte competing foods and beverages were further restricted to the low-fat levels of the DGAs.
What does the White House blame for this poor performance? The playbook cites the Covid pandemic food choices of Americans — stuck at home — for the deteriorated statistics. Unbelievable! These statistics have been deteriorating for decades, especially since 2012.
Looking over the playbook, it closely follows the pattern of FDA’s Multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy proceedings that have been quietly underway after public hearings in 2018-19 until the ‘Healthy’ label proposal was announced Sept. 28, 2022.
Appearing in the White House playbook is the proclamation that food and beverage packaging will move toward simpler nutrition guidance under FDA, that an easily recognizable ‘healthy symbol’ will be reserved for front-of-package labeling on those foods the government deems Americans should eat, and a potential ranking system for symbols will be developed for packaging of foods and beverages the federal government deems unhealthy.
This is all coincidentally similar to the Tufts Food Compass, and the substance behind these simplified ‘healthy’ (or not) symbols is a doubling-down on the low-fat DGAs as a primary base metric. Here is a deep dive into the Tufts Food Compass that Mozaffarian, the White House Nutrition Conference Chairman, had a critical role in developing to now be the formation of future food policy. Read the comprehensive analysis here
The National Strategy calls for even more adherence to the flawed DGAs among every sector of the economy beyond government feeding programs, schools, hospitals, and military diets to include foodservice offerings, supermarket layouts, online shopping algorithms, even licensing for all daycare or childcare providers and nutrition certification for these licensed childcare providers – not just those receiving government subsidies for food.
This is so-called “stealth-health” at its best — or rather its worst.
The Biden Administration professes to be concerned about the 1 in 10 households experiencing food insecurity and the rise in diet-related diseases among the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. The White House cites data showing 19 states have obesity prevalence at 35% or higher with 1 in 10 citizens having diabetes, 1 in 3 with cancer in their lifetime, and nearly 5 in 10 with high blood pressure.
Yet, there is no pause for a comprehensive review of the very dietary guidance, the DGAs, that helped get us here.
The National Strategy reveals how the Administration is assembling executive orders, legislative prompts, calls for action among food organizations, companies, agencies, academia and state and local governments to get everyone on the same page making Davos-style pledges and to conform to the federal playbook.
In the executive summary, the President writes: “Everyone has an important role to play in addressing these challenges: local, State, territory and Tribal governments; Congress; the private sector; civil society; agricultural workers; philanthropists; academics; and of course, the Federal Government.”
(Note Biden’s only reference to farmers or food producers is as “agricultural workers.”)
The playbook’s five pillars talk about improvement, integration, empowerment, support and enhancement. It coins phrases like ‘food as medicine’ and ‘prescriptions for food.’ Reading deeper, we see a launch pad for a new method of nutrition ranking and labeling with the primary factors listed as low-sodium, low-fat and reduced added sugars.
The playbook’s diagrams show us the concerning impact of food insecurity and diet-related diseases in poor overall health, poor mental health, increased financial stress, decreased academic achievement, reduced workforce productivity, increased health care costs and reduced military readiness – but then doubles-down on the solution being more of the same low-fat / high-carb dietary path that got us here.
The White House playbook states that, “The vast majority of Americans do not eat enough vegetables, fruits or whole grains and eat too much saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.” But at the same time, on the saturated fat question, the data show per capita consumption of red meat has declined since the start of the DGAs, and milk consumption has substantially declined.
Americans are being called upon to “unify around a transformational vision,” said Biden.
This vision includes more federal control of diets and nutrition education after failing miserably with the control it already possesses. There is no talk of revisiting the path we are on, just doubling-down on how to get more Americans onto that DGA path, to tell them what to eat, and to put the FDA stamp on ‘approved’ foods and beverages while having the FTC investigate health and nutrition claims that fall outside of the flawed DGAs.
Translation: Let the ‘nutrition bullying’ from the White House bully-pulpit begin. Some of us are ready to rumble.
America is in turmoil with so many distractions in our public discourse. By the time you read this editorial, we’ll be a few days away from what could be the most important midterm election in recent memory.
Our nation has gone through tough times of both unity and division throughout its mere 246-year history. It seems that never has it been to this point where we have trouble debating the issues, the policies, the future in a productive way without malice. Some things just can’t be said in the current political environment, and those who do, pay a steep price.
What’s missing is we don’t have healthy journalistic skepticism probing the current government mouthpiece like we did for the previous. More media sources today show an obvious disdain for their common reader, viewer, listener. Instead of bringing the news, providing analysis, asking probing questions and keeping that healthy skepticism toward government edicts, we have media sources playing the role of justifying, of taking the government talking points and coaxing everyone to tacitly believe them.
There is a staleness in the air that is difficult to pinpoint, but it is there. It is the resumption of an interrupted agenda.
In Pennsylvania, the constant barrage of negative ads about Mehmet Oz are hard to take.
The debate last week between Oz and Fetterman, the two candidates for U.S. Senate, was enlightening. I was impressed with Oz, where before I was lukewarm having supported someone else for the Republican nomination. But after hearing his responses on education, social security, medicare, foreign policy, energy, labor and immigration and looking into his background and positions on specific items such as whole milk choice in schools (he supports it), I posted on social media that my lukewarm vote would now be a proud vote for Oz for Senator.
My post was promptly seized-upon by a few ‘friends’ from other states putting me down personally in a condescending manner, instead of continuing a discussion on the actual issues and policies. A tough thing to do when Fetterman could not answer or explain his positions, and could only put words in his opponent’s mouth that contradicted the answers Oz gave to questions in a clear, concise and comprehensive manner.
It got to the point where my simple response to the social media attacks was to tell said ‘friends’ to worry about who they are voting for in their states and I’ll worry about who I vote for as a Senator that I feel represents me in my state.
Not good enough, because they are incredulous at the prospect that the Democrats may lose seats.
You see, we are at an inflection point where a global, corporate, collusion is rapidly underway, a freedom-undermining agenda — that is tied up with pretty words about planet-saving policies.
The train left the station slowly over the past few years. Some of us saw it moving, most of us didn’t worry too much about it. Now it’s careening down the track at a high rate of speed. A derailment is coming. The question is: Can the train be slowed down by a change in Congressional leadership to where the track can be evaluated for pitfalls laid in its path?
Under the current regime, it’s not possible to hold a discussion about the traps and pitfalls being laid around our nation’s food and energy sourcing without being called a climate-denier, a racist, a sexist, a fascist, or worse.
The fabric of independent farms and businesses across this land — those producing the essentials of life that allow America to remain a free country — is being ripped apart by the Economic, Social and Governance (ESG) goals of the world’s largest money managers investing in the biggest global corporations that all pledge to collude – in the name of saving the planet of course – to not only push left-wing policies without healthy debate, but also to undermine the ability of any competitor to continue operating.
At the current rate of speed that this train is traveling, it won’t be long before companies – eventually even farms and food producers – will be effectively shut out of commerce or shut out of access to capital if not meeting ESG goals, which include the contentious implementation of Scope 3 emissions-tracking downstream and upstream through entire supply chains.
Such supply chain configurations are in fact what a billion dollars in USDA spending is going toward developing in pilot programs, aimed at carving out the winners and losers not on competition for what is being produced but on an ESG scoring system that most of us don’t understand except for the few large insiders that have been planning it years before now.
If we continue down this track, consumers won’t be doing the choosing. The former DMI executive who spoke at Davos came right out and said it. Farmers are no longer marketing to consumers. Their new consumer is the investment sector, the money managers, the people behind the people who buy their commodities and secure their mortgages.
We even heard DMI CEO Barb O’Brien mention in a state of dairy report before she was promoted to CEO that the Net Zero Initiative is looking to attract investors to dairy, not so much to attract consumers to drink more milk or eat more dairy products.
At some point, as the left-leaning ‘woke’ elites have admitted publicly at Davos, ESG scoring will ultimately mean tracking individuals. Oh, it will be voluntary at first, with monetary incentives – no doubt. But at the end of the day, Big Brother wants to know everything you and I do, what we eat, where we source it, where we travel, and how we get there.
Food and energy. That’s what this is about. Under the guise of saving the planet, we are poised to give centralized global control over food and energy.
If we can gas up a car, we can go. If we are reliant on a charger or an electricity grid, a centralized control mechanism can come into play. If we are able to access diverse local and regional food sources and supply chains, we remain strong and tied to the farms taking care of the land, but if a global ESG target controls revenue and access to credit, centralized control of food is eminent.
A handful of Republican states have already issued legal challenges to the ESG investing on the basis that it runs counter to antitrust laws and creates anticompetitive behavior — holding some businesses hostage while others are flooded with investment – all to steer our paths on how we source the necessities of our economy, commerce, and life itself.
If America cannot sustain itself, we become pawns in a global game played at the highest levels by the biggest money managers. Republicans are looking at this issue. Democrats are on the train telling the rest of us, find a seat now, before it’s too late.
We see it already in education of our children — first dietary-control, followed by word-control, followed by thought-control.
There is so much competing information flying around from the extremes on the left and right, that we lose sight of the middle where the essence of logic and common sense can be found.
In fact, we’re so busy trying to figure out what is truth and what is gaslighting that we don’t see the real crisis. We can talk about crime and guns, viruses and vaccines, justice and freedom, while missing the point that the unprecedented level of turmoil clouds the transformation that is taking place and will continue to take place quietly in our food supply chain – that which we cannot live without.
From imported food sources to franken-food replacements and from centralized supply chains and foreign ownership of American farmland to policies that will impact the future viability of our nation’s farmers, the very backbone of freedom and security is at risk.
I don’t have full faith and confidence in either party — knowing what lies beneath the surface in this global transformation of food and energy and understanding the way it is being driven by money managers.
But one thing is for sure. I am voting Republican, across the board, for what might be the first time in my life that I didn’t pick and choose more independently.
Why? Because the Democrats are all-in for global transformation, telling us what they are doing, where we are going, how our dissent might be handled in the future… and for me, it appears to be a dangerous seat on a high-speed train without a clue about the real track we are on.