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The Maschhoffs Respond to Manure Spill Lawsuit

The Maschhoffs Respond to Manure Spill Lawsuit

A lawsuit alleging a history of manure spills at a hog operation located near Keosauaqua in southeast Iowa has been filed against one of the largest family-owned pork farming networks in the United States.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has joined forces with the Environmental Integrity Project and the Humane Society of the United States in filing suit against The Maschhoffs, headquartered in Caryle, IL.

At issue is an alleged manure spill of thousands of gallons into a creek near the Des Moines River. The suit indicates the farm houses nearly 7,500 sows producing about 11 million gallons of manure a year. The manure is retained in a lagoon and spread onto about 600 acres of adjoining farmland.

In response, The Maschhoffs issued the following statement:

“The Maschhoffs is in full compliance with the state of Iowa’s environmental protection laws.

“We believe this notice of potential legal action from the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Humane Society of the United States is frivolous and totally without merit.

“Contrary to the notice’s inaccurate claims, The Maschhoffs has an excellent track record of taking swift action to protect the local environment.

“For example, in the Van Buren County incident, The Maschhoffs personnel discovered the broken pipe during regular monitoring activities at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 4 and immediately implemented The Maschhoffs’ established environmental protocols and practices and contained the spill by 9:30 a.m. The spill did not reach any standing water of any kind. The creek referenced in the notice is actually a dry drainage ditch that only contains water during heavy rainy periods.

“Our cleanup operation, which was in full compliance with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) rules and regulations, was successfully completed by Nov. 14.

“Furthermore, the 2007 incident referred to in the notice happened before The Maschhoffs took over operation of that facility. In July 2008, when we took over operations, we converted to direct injection technology for land application.

“At The Maschhoffs, we design our operations to be non-discharging to eliminate environmental impact through continuous improvement.”


Companies Boost Investments in Animal Health


Investments in product discovery and maintenance of existing products by animal health companies rose by 4.6% to $747 million in 2012, according to the Animal Health Institute’s (AHI’s) latest Research and Development Survey.   

“Innovation is essential to keeping a pipeline of new products that are needed by veterinarians, livestock producers and pet owners to keep animals healthy,” says AHI President and CEO Alexander S. Mathews.  “This level of investment by our members demonstrates their commitment to innovation and to a steady supply of safe and effective medicines.” 

Data were collected and compiled by the Animal Health Institute.  Research and development spending is calculated according to the type of product manufactured by AHI’s member firms: pharmaceuticals, biologics, feed additives, insecticides and diagnostics.

A compilation of surveys from the past three years showing trends in animal health products sales and research and development expenditures is available from AHI.  The report includes combined sales figures of AHI members for ruminant, swine, poultry, small animals and equine products. 

Sales totals for these species are broken down as feed additives, biologics and insecticides and pharmaceuticals.  No further breakdown or tabulations are provided, although the report does track trends for the reported categories for 2010, 2011 and 2012.  The report is $150 USD: copies can be ordered by contacting Marie Gilmore at the Animal Health Institute, or (202) 637-2440.






After 70 Years, Antibiotics Still Work!

After 70 Years, Antibiotics Still Work!

Following is an official statement from the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) board of directors authored by animal scientist R.L. Preston.

Yes, we can be thankful that antibiotics are still effective in humans and animals since they were discovered over 80 years ago. The availability of antibiotics to treat infectious diseases is a medical miracle that has radically improved the health and well-being of both humans and animals, including pets.

Antibiotics are as important to animal health, well-being and productivity as they are in human health and well-being. Bacteria have been exposed to antibiotics long before they were discovered in 1929. They develop resistance to antibiotics as a defense mechanism. This resistance has been shown in bacteria isolated from eons ago. Antibiotic- resistant strains of bacteria can be found in most anything in the environment. All uses of antibiotics in humans and food animals create selective pressure that favors antibiotic resistance among bacteria.

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Some say we are closer than most of us realize to the time when bacterial infections can no longer be treated with antibiotics because of antibiotic resistance (“superbugs”).

Remember, however, that antibiotics have been used to treat infectious diseases for almost 70 years. “Catastrophic” and “crisis” are words often applied to this and other issues and that evokes emotional, sensational, and oftentimes inflammatory reactions that distract the focus from the scientific goal of factual assessment and hypothesis testing by those responsible for public health.

The perception of increasing antibiotic resistance in humans from antibiotic use in food animals appears to be more related to the large number of opinions and statements dealing with the subject rather than documented statistical evidence that resistance is increasing due to antibiotic use in food animals. Concern about antibiotic resistance is not equivalent to actual risk.

Denmark banned the use of antibiotics in food animals in 1997, except by veterinary prescription. In the five years following the ban, the total use of antibiotics in food- producing animals decreased by only 30%, because there was a 41% increase in prescription use. By 2012, veterinary prescription use in pigs increased about 115% and total antibiotic use in pigs was 80% of what it was before the ban.

During the five-year period, there was increased mortality in baby pigs and antibiotic resistance in isolates from ill humans increased from 18% to 46%. This is a real-time result following a ban of health (growth) promoting antibiotics in food-producing animals.

Modern food animal production facilities have improved the environment in which animals are raised and are much cleaner and healthier than in former times. The debate over whether antibiotic use should be restricted in animals centers on the demonstrated risk antibiotics pose to human health relative to their benefits in animals. Antibiotics improve the health and well-being of animals that enhances their growth efficiency because antibiotics reduce nutrients required to combat subclinical diseases and bolster immune defense mechanisms.

The net health benefit of antibiotic use in food-producing animals was, and still is, measurable. The economics of antibiotic use in food-animal production also facilitate an affordable and plentiful supply of meat, milk and eggs, providing the quality, nutrition and safety that consumers desire. Because antibiotics are costly, this helps to prevent their overuse in food animals.

Scientific advances are and will be the primary way that food production can keep pace with the increasing population in the United States and the world. After adequate risk evaluation and regulatory approval, their application must be based on the benefits to be gained, including economic benefits, relative to any risk, real or perceived.

Learn more about ASAS at

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The Maschhoffs, LLC, Acquire GNP Company


The Maschhoffs, LLC to Acquire GNP Company

The Maschhoffs, LLC, the largest family-owned pork production company in North America, and GNP Company, the Midwest’s leading provider of premium quality chicken under the Gold’n Plump®, Just BARE® and Sunny Roost® brand labels, announced today they have signed a definitive agreement whereby The Maschhoffs will acquire GNP Company and its subsidiaries.

GNP Company and The Maschhoffs’ pork production business will operate as separate business units following the closing of the transaction. The transaction will have no immediate impact on GNP Company’s chicken business or The Maschhoffs’ pork production business.

GNP Company’s headquarters will remain in St. Cloud, MN, and its nearly 1,700 team members and 350 family farm partners will be retained. Based in Carlyle, IL, The Maschhoffs is owned by fifth-generation family members Dave Maschhoff and his wife Karen, and Ken Maschhoff and his wife Julie. The Maschhoffs partner with more than 450 family farmers across the Midwest to produce enough pork to feed more than 16 million consumers annually.

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“No changes in business operations or company commitments are planned as a result of this acquisition,” stated Mike Helgeson, GNP Company Chief Executive Officer and third-generation leader. “GNP Company will continue to build on its reputation as the Midwest’s leading provider of premium quality chicken brands and products.”

Meanwhile, The Maschhoffs’ pork production business unit will continue to dedicate its energies to maintaining and enhancing its position as North America’s leading pork production company. “Our intent is to manage GNP Company as a separate business unit next to our current pork production business,” said Jason Logsdon, The Maschhoffs chief executive officer. “GNP Company will continue to be led by its present management team, with the support of its current team members and contract growers.”

The transaction provides the capital and long-term resources that GNP Company needs to grow to meet increasing sales demand for its products and brands. GNP Company sales are expected to be about $400 million in 2013. “For the past year, our facilities have been running at capacity with more demand on the horizon,” Helgeson said.

“By joining forces, we can leverage our core strengths, capitalize on growth opportunities, and create new value in the marketplace—thus making the combined company stronger than each would be separately,” said Logsdon, adding that the transaction makes new resources available to both companies. “This gives each business unit the opportunity to take advantage of growth opportunities that will help make us all more successful,” he said. “Over time, the companies will share best practices, leverage select strategic shared resources, and benefit from the balance sheet strength of an organization that is diversified across multiple proteins.”

“Our overall goal is to continue to grow both the pork and chicken businesses while enhancing our ability to meet the needs of our valued customers and of a growing population,” Logsdon said.

Helgeson added it was important to him to find a partner with like-minded values and culture as well as a strong commitment to growth. “This is a win-win from both the business and organizational standpoints,” he explained, “one that provides the critical resources for growth and secures a strong future for all of our team members and growers,” he said.

The Maschhoffs and GNP Company share a deep commitment to family values, quality, market innovation and customer service excellence. Other values the companies share are their stewardship efforts to minimize their environmental footprints; dedication to the well-being and safety of animals; and a commitment to people and the communities where they live, work and raise their families.

 Additional information can be found at

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AMI: More Work Needed on the Corn Ethanol Mandate

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to reduce the corn ethanol mandate of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is appreciated as it acknowledges a problem exists with the current policy, according to the American Meat Institute (AMI). But more needs to be done to fix the RFS, which continues to have a detrimental impact on food prices.

“EPA’s decision to reduce the ethanol mandate is long overdue,” says AMI Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp on a call with reporters last week. “While this is a positive step, the fact remains the RFS is a flawed policy that requires congressional action. Even with a record corn crop expected this year, the damaging ripple effect of this defective policy has moved through the meat and poultry complex for the past several years. The time for congressional action is now.”

Recently released USDA data demonstrates the need for RFS reform. Food costs have outpaced other staple items during the past year, climbing 1.4% according to the consumer price index released Oct. 30. However, meat prices --which include beef, pork, poultry and eggs – rose 2.9% since September 2012. According to USDA’s September Livestock Outlook, monthly retail beef prices set successive new records in July and August with Choice beef prices reaching $5.39 per pound, while all-fresh beef reached $4.97 per pound.

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These price increases have occurred over the same time frame that ethanol use has skyrocketed. Ethanol use accounted for approximately 14% of total corn use in 2005-2006 and in 2012-2013 that percentage is projected to be more than 43% of U.S. production.

“The problems created by the RFS will persist without Congress finding a lasting solution to this rigid, inflexible policy,” Dopp says.

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Science in Practice Award Presented to Yeske

Science in Practice Award Presented to Yeske

The Science in Practice Award presented during Iowa State University’s Swine Disease Conference for Swine Practitioners was awarded to Paul Yeske, DVM, partner in the Swine Vet Center at St. Peter, MN.

The honor was bestowed during the 21st annual conference held in Ames, IA, in mid-November.

Yeske is a 1985 graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the same year he joined the Nicollet-New Ulm (MN) veterinary clinic, which became the Swine Vet Center in 1990.

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In 1996, he gave the Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture at the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

In 1998, Yeske was named the American Association of Swine Veterinarians swine practitioner of the year.

In 2012, Yeske was named one of National Hog Farmer’s Masters of the Pork Industry.

He received his master’s degree in 1998, studying  personality profiles of swine farm managers.

He also completed the Executive Veterinary Program at the University of Illinois in 2009 focusing on personality profiles of producers.

Yeske grew up on a small cattle and pig operation at Vollasca, IA.

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New Pork Task Force Tackles Hot Topics

To define a future vision of the Pork Checkoff and the entire pork industry, the National Pork Board has named a new task force, which will examine consumer needs, animal care, sustainable pork production and other current challenges.

Beginning December 2013 the yearlong planning process will review research, market data and opinions of industry leaders to set a strategic vision that will carry the organization from 2015 through 2020. The primary goal is to assess the Pork Checkoff's role in an ever-changing world and set the priorities that can help pork producers better meet customer needs.

The current five-year strategic plan was unveiled in 2009 and will be complete next year. Through that process, the Pork Checkoff defined three critical issues, including: protecting a producer's freedom to operate, enhancing U.S. and international consumer demand for pork and making U.S. pork producers more competitive in the global marketplace.   

To Pork Checkoff Chief Executive Officer Chris Novak, it comes down to asking the industry's key players a simple question - what if? - and then charting a course that can help pork farmers achieve the opportunities that single question may identify.

“In the hands of pork producers who have a vision for how we can better serve consumers, 'what if?' is an incredibly powerful tool to explore what we can attain as an industry,” Novak says. “The last time we asked that question, we articulated an industry vision to become more responsible, sustainable, professional and profitable. We've made great progress these past four years, but we know we can achieve more through a focused planning effort that unites producers, processors and customers.

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“Today, the agricultural industry faces many challenges that will define our next five years - and that is especially true for the pork industry. So it is very fitting that we begin our journey now to chart our vision through 2020 - collecting new thoughts, while improving upon what we have accomplished in the last five years,” Novak says.

For the first time, the planning process will bring together pork producers, animal health experts, packers, processors and food distributors, and foodservice and retail experts. By involving key leaders from both pork production and its allied industries, the National Pork Board expects diverse opinions to inform its deliberations.

“Only through sharing information with each other and truly looking at our industry through the eyes of its key partners can we fully assess the challenges and opportunities that are ahead,” Novak says. “For me, strategic planning comes down to analyzing three fundamental questions:- Where are we today? Where do we want to be? How do we get there together?

“For example, we need to further our commitment to transparency and make all consumers aware of the ethical principles that guide our actions and business. We are committed to responsible and ethical animal agriculture that extends from animal care to environmental stewardship to food and worker safety programs. But what if - and how can - we improve? Together we will take that input and turn it into a plan of action.”

The process will use a variety of tools to engage stakeholders in the planning process, including providing an opportunity for each of the more than 60,000 U.S. pork producers to participate by answering surveys and submitting opinions. The task force will collect valuable information from farmers, customers and supply chain partners. To facilitate a dialogue on the future of the pork industry, pork producers can email comments to - WhatIf? - on how the Pork Checkoff can best strengthen tomorrow's industry. 

The participants in the National Pork Board's strategic planning task force include:

• Board president Karen Richter and board vice president Dale Norton
• Board members Jan Archer and Glen Walters
• Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director, Oklahoma Pork Council
• Randy Spronk, president, National Pork Producers Council
• Jay Akridge, dean of agriculture, Purdue University
• Pork producers Robert Dykhuis, James Heimerl and  Craig Rowles, DVM
• Rich Gallant, vice president, Cargill Meat Solutions
• Joe Jordon, vice president, Domino's Pizza
• Joe Swedberg, vice president, Hormel Foods
• Leann Saunders, president, Where Food Comes From, Inc.
• Rick Parker, director, JBS USA
• Michael Skahill, vice president, Smithfield Foods

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Farm Policy Foes Overestimate Crop Drought Costs

Farm Policy Foes Overestimate Crop Drought Costs

As the worst drought in three decades unfolded last year, opponents of farm programs almost gleefully predicted that taxpayers would be on the hook for $40 billion in crop insurance claims this past fiscal year, according to a report from Farm Policy Facts (

Those “experts” grossly overestimated crop insurance costs by about $26 billion. And while crop insurance indemnities in fiscal year 2013 were understandably higher due to the epic drought, overall farm safety net spending was not higher.

Data recently presented by National Crop Insurance Services President Tom Zacharias and former USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins shows that, corrected for inflation in crop prices, total farm safety net expenditures were higher in fiscal years ’82, ’83, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’93, ’99, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’05, ’06, and ’09 than in ’13.

The reason that overall costs last year were kept down in the face of unparalleled weather disaster, according to Collins, is the combination of strong commodity prices and a policy evolution.

“The insurance system currently in place was specifically designed by Congress to displace costly ad hoc disaster payments,” he said. The rationale for the system is to provide farmers with more effective and predictable aid while shifting risk exposure away from taxpayers.

Unlike the old system of disaster payments, which are 100% taxpayer funded and drove up past farm policy costs, farmers now must buy crop insurance protection by paying premiums out of their own pockets. Farmers currently spend about $4 billion a year on premiums, and the accumulation of those premium dollars over the years is used to help offset claims in disastrous years.

In addition, farmers must absorb losses through an insurance deductible before receiving any assistance. These unreimbursed losses totaled $12.4 billion nationwide after the drought.

Go to the website to read the rest of the report:,bvks4mLP.


Tyson Drops Pork Supplier Caught in Video

Tyson Drops Pork Supplier Caught in Video

Tyson Foods has dropped an Oklahoma pork supplier caught in an undercover hog video showing workers abusing animals.

Their statement released today says: “We’re extremely disappointed by the mistreatment shown in the video and will not tolerate this kind of animal mishandling.

“We are immediately terminating our contract with this farmer and will take possession of the animals remaining on the farm.”

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The Tyson statement went on to say: “We’re serious about proper animal handling and expect the farmers who supply us to treat animals with care and to be trained and certified in responsible animal care practices. It’s consistent with our core values ‘to serve as stewards of the animals…entrusted to us.’”

The National Pork Producers Council in a news release issued earlier this week called on Oklahoma authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and to bring criminal charges against workers who abused animals.

The video was shot by Mercy for Animals.

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Iowa Ag Secretary Condemns Vilsack’s Comments on ‘King Amendment’

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today released the following statement responding to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s comments about the “King amendment” that is part of the ongoing farm bill negotiations.

“It is very troublesome that Secretary Vilsack appears to be siding with California and the Humane Society of the United States rather than standing up for all farmers producing legal and safe agriculture products. If the secretary truly has concerns about the King amendment, then he should work to address those concerns while the bill is in conference committee rather than speaking out against it.

“I would hope and expect Secretary Vilsack to be supportive of laws that ensure consumers have access to legal and safe products. USDA inspectors approve the sale of egg products. If eggs are safe to be sold in Iowa and around the country, then they should be able to be sold in California; that is all this amendment is trying to assure.

“California should not be allowed to dictate production methods to the rest of the country. This has the makings of an internal U.S. trade war. If it starts with eggs, you can be sure it won't end with eggs.”

In a report in Monday’s Politico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed concerns about the “King amendment” in the House farm bill during a conference call with reporters.

“That’s an amendment that’s frankly a bit troublesome in that it would create legal challenges and confusion in the market place,” Vilsack said. “It’s one that we have a lot of concerns about.”

Vilsack commented on the amendment, which was offered by Rep. Steve King of Iowa, in response to a question during a call about veterans transitioning to agriculture. The amendment, which appears aimed at California’s gestation crate laws, would prohibit states from regulating other states’ means of agricultural production.

Consumer advocacy and animal welfare groups have said that the amendment would preempt nearly 200 state laws, but King has maintained that his amendment has been mischaracterized. He said that it would affect only one or two laws.