Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Remain calm. All is well. Really

Pork producers have to be feeling a little bit like Kevin Bacon's character in "Animal House." This swine flu hysteria is getting out of control.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My dinner last night

Teriyaki pork with rice.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Well, on second thought ...

When it comes to wanting to rename the swine flu, Israel may have an ally in the National Pork Board.

The organization posted the following on its website:

Swine Flu or North American Flu?

The international organization that manages the fight against animal diseases globally said Monday that the flu virus now spreading around the world would more accurately be called “North American influenza” rather than “swine flu.”

The Office International des Epizooties, commonly known by the acronym OIE or World Organization for Animal Health, said the current influenza, because it contains avian and human components and because no pig has been found ill, would more accurately be called the North American influenza, based on its geographic origin.

OIE compared it preference for the geographic naming of this influenza to the Spanish influenza, a human flu pandemic with animal origin that killed more than 50 million people in 1918-1919. The current flu has not reached pandemic proportions.

“The virus has not been isolated in animals to date. Therefore, it is not justified to name this disease swine influenza,” the Paris-based organization said in a statement.

But wouldn't 'Mexican flu' be offensive, too?

You gotta love political correctness in a time of crisis.

From the AP:

JERUSALEM (AP) — The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.

Hey, far be it from me to knock anyone's religious beliefs. But I think a disease that has killed nearly 150 people and sickened thousands could appropriately be named after something that is "unclean." Look at it this way -- it's not the person who's unclean, it's the disease.

Analysis: Flu could spread government intervention

Reuters Poliltical Risk Correspondent Peter Apps observes:

The spread of a possible flu pandemic could see an increase in already heightened levels of government intervention in economies and financial markets as a result of the global financial crisis.

In the short term, it might serve to give governments an easy justification to impose protectionist measures that could further stifle slumping trade flows. [...]

"At the moment, markets are still making the assumption this will not be that serious," said Dresdner Kleinwort emerging foreign exchange strategist Jon Harrison. "But if it were to turn out much worse you would see a rise in government spending and government intervention. This sort of crisis would be too big for anything other than governments."

What was that we heard about not wanting to let a crisis go to waste?

USDA answers FAQ's about swine flu

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Frequently Asked Questions Swine and Human Cases of Swine Influenza A (H1N1)

Do any swine have the virus that has infected humans?
There is no evidence at this time that swine in the United States are infected with this virus strain.

Can I get this new strain of virus from eating pork or pork products?
According to USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food so you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills all viruses.
The USDA suggests, as it has in the past, cooking pork and pork products to the proper internal temperature and preventing cross-contamination between raw and cooked food is the key to safety. You should:
Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw pork;
Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw pork away from other foods;
After cutting raw meat, wash cutting board, knife, and countertops with hot, soapy water;
Sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water; and
Use a food thermometer to ensure pork has reached the safe internal temperature of at least 160 °F to kill foodborne germs that might be present.

Can I get this flu by touching pork that is not yet cooked?
There is no evidence at this time that the virus is in swine or that touching uncooked pork could infect someone with the virus.

What is this flu that people are talking about in the news?
It is a new strain of flu that consists of a mixture of genetic material from swine, avian and human influenza viruses.

Is USDA testing and monitoring to make sure swine are not infected with the virus and if so, how?
A network of Federal veterinarians, state animal health officials and private practitioners are regularly involved with monitoring U.S. swine for signs of significant disease.
To date, there have been no reports that the influenza virus currently causing illness in humans is circulating anywhere in the U.S. swine herd.
As a proactive measure, USDA is reaching out to all state animal health officials to affirm they have no signs of this virus type in their state.
USDA has put U.S. pork producers on a high alert for safety.

How will the public be notified if the government finds that people should not eat swine?
Delivering factual, timely information is a priority for USDA. Should there be a detection of influenza in the U.S. swine herd, those results would be shared with the public in a timely fashion.

Can you get this flu from being around or touching swine?
The CDC says that the spread of swine flu can occur in two ways:
Through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine flu viruses.
Through contact with a person with swine flu. Human-to-human spread of swine flu has been documented also and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Is my potbelly pig in danger? Can I get it from my pet?
There is no evidence at this time that the virus is in U.S. swine.
Swine owners should learn the warning signs of swine influenza. Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. If your pig is showing any of these signs, call your veterinarian.
Buy your animals from reputable sources and ensure that you have documentation of your new pet's origin. Be sure that you get your new animals checked by a veterinarian.
Keep your pigs and areas around them clean. If you have been around other animals, make sure that you clean your shoes, clothing, and other items. And don't forget to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling your pet.

How do we ensure that we take the appropriate measures to protect our swine?
We encourage commercial pork producers to intensify the bio-security practices they've long had in place. They should not loan equipment or vehicles to or borrow them from other farms. Swine from outside sources, such as live bird markets should not be brought back to the farm.
They should permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm. Swine workers should disinfect their shoes, clothes and hands. They should thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and vehicles entering and leaving the farm and avoid visiting other poultry farms without proper cleaning and disinfection.
Also, they should report sick animals immediately. The industry understands the importance of eradicating the virus as quickly as possible to protect the industry.

Is there a vaccine for humans for this new strain?
The CDC should answer any questions about a vaccine. According to the CDC, there is no vaccine to protect humans from this new variant swine flu. Go to for more information.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pork Board: Despite flu outbreak, pork is safe

From the National Pork Board:

Amid public concern about the reports of swine influenza in humans, the National Pork Board wishes to reassure the public that pork is safe and will continue to be safe to consume. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted this statement on its Web site (

"Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe."

The CDC and other health organizations continue to caution that the virus is contagious and is spreading from humans to humans. The CDC has said it has not found any evidence to indicate that any of the illnesses resulted from contact with pigs.

Nonetheless, the National Pork Board is encouraging pork producers to maintain strict biosecurity procedures on their farms.

"We share the concern of the global health community regarding the spread of this disease," said Steve Weaver, a California pork producer and president of the National Pork Board. "To ensure the good health of our animals and for all those who provide care for the animals, we are urging pork producers to be vigilant in taking measures to prevent the spread of this disease."

The National Pork Board also has offered its extensive resources about swine to assist public health officials as they address treatment and prevention strategies.

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-PORK or check the Internet at

And also this:

Swine flu heightens emphasis on biosecurity

Media reports on a new strain of the swine influenza virus type H1N1 different from any other ever reported in U.S. swine herds serve as a reminder of the need for strict and enforceable biosecurity measured on U.S. pork production operations.

The virus has not been reported to cause illness in pigs in the United States, but it has been associated with illness in eight people in the states of California and Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has reported that the same virus may be responsible for outbreaks of influenza in humans in Mexico.

The Pork Checkoff is recommending that pork producers implement biosecurity practices on their farms to prevent that this new strain of swine influenza does not enter the U.S. swine herd and to protect the health and safety of our industry’s workers.

Consider including the following biosecurity practices for your farm:

  • Limit the access of people to essential personnel (farm employees, veterinarians and essential service people);
  • Implement policies that prevent employees presenting signs of flu-like illness from having contact with the pigs or other people on the operation;
  • Prevent access of international visitors or people who have recently returned from international travel, particularly from travel to Mexico, into your operation;
  • Implement a shower in-shower out procedure and the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear for employees entering the barns. At minimum, employees should don farm footwear and completely wash hands and arms before having contact with the pigs;
  • Enforce heightened personal hygiene practices including frequent hand washing for all people in contact with pigs;
  • Establish contact with the herd veterinarian to discuss other biosecurity practices that are merited by this event.

The importance of keen observation of the health and behavior of your animals cannot be understated and the Pork Checkoff recommends that you establish immediate contact with a swine veterinarian if you suspect that a disease may be present on your farm.

More information on influenza can be found in the fact sheet Influenza: Pigs, people and public health. And, additional information on swine influenza and an update on the outbreak reported by the CDC can be found at

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fair and balanced, like they say on Fox News

My story this week on the growing popularity of almond butter drew the attention of the National Peanut Board, whose communications coordinator, Lindsay Spencer, e-mailed:

Dear Tim Hearden,

I am writing in response to your article I read on Capital Press online entitled “Almonds replace peanuts for better butter.” In the article you mention almond butter is an alternative to peanut butter for those with a peanut allergy. With this statement, I am concerned that you may not have the most current information showing significant cross-reactivity with peanuts and tree nuts.

Most immunologists recommend people with a peanut allergy to also avoid tree nuts because of the possible cross-reactivity. In two different studies peanut-allergy patients showed positive reactions to tree nuts. In Moneret-Vautrin’s study 50% showed reactive symptoms to almonds during an allergen skin test. Similarly, in Bock and Atkins’ study 63% showed reactive symptoms to one or more various tree nuts during an allergen skin test. Therefore, offering almonds as a solution to peanut allergy patients isnot be a solution and could possibly endanger those with multiple food allergies. There has also been debate over whether seeds (like sunflower seeds) should be avoided as well due to the potential cross-reactivity.

In fact, tree nuts are just a likely as peanuts to cause a fatal food allergic reaction and patients with tree nut allergy are more likely to experience severe pharyngeal edema (throat swelling) than those with a peanut allergy.

Another point I would like to mention is peanut butter has many nutritional values as well including eight grams of protein and is an excellent source of niacin and manganese and is a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus.

America’s peanut farmers care deeply about peanut allergies. Since 2001, the National Peanut Board has invested more than $6 million in food allergy research. The National Peanut Board knows that even if one person gets sick resulting from peanut allergy its one too many. Farmers want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

I certainly have nothing against the peanut farmers. I was an avid peanut butter eater for years, enjoying it on toast, crackers, etc. But when my wife developed a severe allergy to peanuts, we started eating almond butter. We really enjoy the taste, and she hasn't had any hint of a reaction from it. I suppose it may happen, but it hasn't yet.

Obviously a food allergy isn't anybody's fault. It's just how a body's metabolism reacts to certain inputs, or it could be how some medications interact with certain foods. I'm just glad when there are alternatives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hard times bring Softer Prices in Silverton, Oregon

Don Sellway has been a barber for forty years. For 16 of them he's had a barber shop in the rural community of Silverton, Oregon at 201 Oak Street.

"If I believe the customer is on rough times,"said Sellway, "on fixed income or out of work, the price is 7 dollars. It's as simple as that. That's not true for everybody, you gotta remember the average home in Silverton goes for $400,000. So if you pull up in a fancy car our standard rate applies."

Street parking in Silverton is still also a terrific value. One penny still gives you twelve minutes in a downtown Silverton parking meter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Has the global-warming hysteria begun to subside?

Some interesting polling from Rasmussen:

Just one-out-of-three voters (34%) now believe global warming is caused by human activity, the lowest finding yet in Rasmussen Reports national surveying. However, a plurality (48%) of the Political Class believes humans are to blame.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of all likely voters attribute climate change to long-term planetary trends, while seven percent (7%) blame some other reason. Eleven percent (11%) aren’t sure.

These numbers reflect a reversal from a year ago when 47% blamed human activity while 34% said long-term planetary trends.

Granted, this is just one poll. But it's interesting indeed, considering the fact that in the last year there have been no shortage of messages for public consumption about how climate change is becoming a catastrophe and we need to take steps to stop it or slow it down -- steps such as cap-and-trade, for instance. What gives?

Friday, April 17, 2009

A cowboy hat area?

Last night I attended the mixer for this weekend's Red Bluff Round-Up rodeo, cosponsored by the Tehama County cattleman's and cattlewomen's organizations. It was a rockin' party with a couple hundred people, and the steak fajitas that the cattlewomen cooked for the crowd were awesome. I managed to pass around a few business cards, too.

There seems to be a bit of a controversy over media coverage at this year's rodeo. After a bull charged into the stands and injured a bunch of people last year -- a story of which I took part in the initial coverage -- the Round-Up organizers have imposed a bunch of rules and restrictions for reporters covering the rodeo. The new rules haven't gone over too well with some of the local press.

Go to an NFL or Major League Baseball game, and you have to have the proper credentials to get on the field, into the press box or into the dressing room, and it's been my experience (from earlier in my career) that the handling of access to athletes can be very intense. But one of the Round-Up's rules struck me as particularly funny: I've heard that in order to get into the area behind the bucking chutes, one has to wear a cowboy hat.

Now I've heard of hard-hat areas, but cowboy hat areas? Shoot, do many reporters at city papers or TV stations even own a cowboy hat? (I own about five, but that's beside the point.)

Stimulus and tea

Chip Thompson, editor of the Red Bluff Daily News, noticed the irony of one of our local politicians taking part in an anti-tax-and-spending "tea party" on the day that $109 million in stimulus funds was devoted to replacing the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In his weekly column, he writes:

Head scratcher of the week:
Talking to Assemblyman Jim Nielsen Wednesday, I was able to break the news to him about the $109 million in stimulus money that had been dedicated to the pumping plant in Red Bluff to fill canals for farms. He was delighted.

It's going to benefit communities like ours, Nielsen said.

Only problem?

Nielsen was in his car on the way to Redding to participate in a Tea Party protest of the stimulus package.

To be fair, while he did praise the pumping project, he said he had deep concerns about the amount of money included in the stimulus overall. Eventually, the bill will come.

(Chip also says a few words about the aforementioned Tehama Today publication.)

I just have to wonder if somebody didn't plan this big tax-day giveaway on purpose, to blunt the impact of the protest. Somebody in the White House.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Notice: California drought assistance available

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

Rancher and farmers in designated counties with extreme or severe drought conditions may apply for assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California until May 8, 2009. During the special 30-day sign up, NRCS will take applications for $2 million available for practices designed to protect soil and air quality in areas of fallowed fields, keep orchard trees alive, and protect natural resources on ranch and pasture land. Practices being offered through the program for ranchers include irrigation water management, livestock watering facilities, and more. Due to the extraordinary conditions NRCS will pay a higher-than-normal 75 percent cost share rate.

The $2 million is being made available in the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.

More information on the drought, conservation practices that may mitigate drought-related problems, and payment rates for the current drought initiative are available by clicking here or by contacting your local NRCS office, listed in the government section of the phone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After the tea party

Columnist Jane Chastain has a few suggestions for how to keep the pressure on politicians in both parties now that the tea parties are over.

A sampling:

Don't listen to what your representatives say. Monitor what they do. It's easy. Each year the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation releases a report card on Congress. One came out just last week. It is the only one to utilize EVERY roll call vote that affects tax, spending and regulatory issues. If you can read down and across, you will know immediately if your representatives should be retained. Most should not!

And another:

To be absolutely fair, since 1996, there have been few opportunities to vote on anything that would reduce federal spending. To put that another way, our presidents (both Republican and Democrat) have failed us, our congressional leaders (both Republican and Democrat) have failed us, and most of the people we sent to Washington to represent us have failed us.

And still another:

Don't put your faith in a political party. Do not make donations directly to a political party. Do not give to a party's congressional or senatorial committee. The only purpose of these committees is to keep their members in power, no matter how bad they are or how they vote.

Do support worthy candidates, but make your donations directly to those candidates who pledge to abide by the principles in which you believe. Also, make donations to political action committees that back candidates (without regard to party) who support these principles.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax day tea parties

Out of curiosity and not for a story for the paper, I spent part of my lunch hour checking out one of today's three scheduled tax day "tea parties" in Redding, Calif., near where I live.

It was no doubt much like the hundreds of other rallies in small- to mid-sized towns across the country. A couple hundred people lined the street in front of Redding's city hall, which has been derisively called the "Taj Majal" because of its ostentatious design and presence. Some of the demonstrators carried signs in a silent march around the building.

Because of the date, these gatherings have frequently been described today as "tax protests," and there was certainly no shortage of that at the Redding rally. One participant told people that the tax code would take you about 300 hours to read, but by the time you were done reading it, it would have changed.

The conversations I heard among the demonstrators covered a plethora of subjects, not just taxes. One person mentioned something he'd seen on Glenn Beck's program; another said he loved Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who asserted his support yesterday for state "sovereignty" under the 10th Amendment; and a woman talked about an argument she had with President Obama supporters about the concept of "Democratic socialism."

Several people were passing out leaflets for another protest planned for tonight at the Sundial Bridge, a recently built Redding landmark that has also been the object of some government-spending angst. They're going to dump tea into the Sacramento River; what strikes me as funny is that the packages will be sealed so as not to irk environmentalists or the government, according to a local newspaper report. Somebody's going to dump fish feed into the river, though. (What was that purported John Adams quote about having to offend somebody?)

"We just want to make a point. We don't want to hurt the fish," one organizer told me.

I saw signs that opposed abortion, illegal immigration and big government. Other signs read, "Taxed Enough Already," "Stop spending," and "Tea'd off."

What I didn't see, however, was any sign that today's tea party protests will have a lasting effect. There were no petitions going around, nobody was signing people up for this organization or that, etc. That was my curiosity -- whether these protests were a one-day flash-in-the-pan opportunity to vent, or whether they were the start of a larger movement.

Granted this was Redding, and there may have been more signs of activism at some of the big-city rallies. I heard on the radio that some politician was drumming up support at a Sacramento rally to recall a legislator that had sponsored tax increases.

Wall Street Journal columnist Glenn Harlan Reynolds believes there is a budding movement. He writes:

Will these flash crowds be a flash in the pan? It's possible that people who demonstrate today will find that experience cathartic enough -- or exhausting enough -- that that will be it. But it's more likely that the tea-party movement will have an impact on the 2010 and 2012 elections, and perhaps beyond.

What's most striking about the tea-party movement is that most of the organizers haven't ever organized, or even participated, in a protest rally before. General disgust has drawn a lot of people off the sidelines and into the political arena, and they are already planning for political action after today.

I didn't see much of that in Redding, though, at least at the first of its rallies. And you would figure smallish towns like Redding would be the hotbed of the kind of populist uprising that the organizers of these tea parties want.

Only time will tell if this movement has any legs. But most movements increase their supporters by working within the political system with meaningful proposals for change, not through wistful talk of secession or storming the halls of Congress.

Do Oregon's land-use laws protect agriculture?

Glenn Archambault, of Phoenix, Ore., sent a link to this video to Capital Press reporter Mitch Lies. Archambault is one of the people interviewed in this three-part series, on Oregon's land-use laws and their impact on farmers and ranchers.

The video is produced by the organization Americans for Prosperity in Josephine County, Ore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

That was brave

I'm working on a story on the California Climate Action Team's latest report and its implications for agriculture.

The report was released April 1.

No fooling.

Hoax ad for milk from cloned cows is clever, but foolish

I saw a link on Twitter around April Fool's Day for the website for CyClone Dairy. It has since been revealed that the folks at Ben and Jerry's are behind the phony dairy . Today I found this video and one more on YouTube, so I thought I would share.

This is just one more reason farmers, ranchers and agribusiness folks need to know what's being posted online and ag folks need to cooperate in telling their story using modern tools media tools.

So, with milk prices going down the tubes, does anyone think dairy farmers would be wanted to even explore cloning?

Interesting marketing technique for a company that depends on dairy products to scare consumers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The end of an era, however short it was

The Tehama Today section, whose content I produced for the last year that I was at the Redding Record Searchlight, is going defunct after a little more than two years of publication.

Sure glad I knew about Capital Press.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Best Showpigs Sale in Rickreall, Oregon

Karen & Mike Wendte brought in 64 head this year from Cornelius.

Greg & Bryson Peters, Nick and Marv Vanaken are members of the Verboort Livestock 4H Club out of Forrest Grove.

The Polk County Fairgrounds this Saturday featured the Ninth Annual Oregon's Best Showpig Sale.

The Wendte Farm among others, brought in 64 of 150 head of pigs to Rickreall this year. In a morning seminar Mike Wendte explained how to pick a good pig, and to value each one according to it's health.

Wendte explained, "The main reason we do these events is it really does help with the bio-security of the animals. Anybody can buy a pig, but they are especially popular with the FFA and 4H kids. One only needs 4 to 6 months to get them up to show weight, around 250 pounds. Most are shown at the Washington County Fair at that time."

The auction was held today at noon by John Walton.

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