This MAA feature looks at different news stories and signals whether they are good (Feast) or bad (Famine) for the agriculture industry. With many issues going on in the ag industry, this is a great way to throw a spotlight on a few of them and weigh in with our own two cents. 
By MAA
FAMINE: Whole Foods — perhaps best known as the pioneers behind high-priced “asparagus water” — has found itself catching flak from progressives. “Mother Jones” lambasted the organic superstore in an expose’ headlined, “‘Employees Are Bitter’ as Whole Foods Chops Jobs and Wages.”
In the wake of a series of overcharging scandals, the natural-foods mega-giant has seen its stock plunge 40 percent in value. The company has responded by taking the costs out of their work force, including cutting 1,500 jobs. In addition, the story exposed previously unreported wage, benefit and hour cuts impacting everyone from managers to part-time staff.
While these strategies are not entirely uncommon in corporate America, Whole Foods opens itself up to allegations of hypocrisy based on its long history of claiming to be something different, something sparkly in the food industry. Furthermore, Whole Foods has a long, pointed history of spreading fear and misinformation about the products produced by the vast majority of American farmers. 
According to Mother Jones, “Whole Foods claims ‘to support team member happiness and excellence.’” The truth? Perhaps not so much, unless you’re the co-CEOS, who earn 19 times the average employee’s salary. 
FEAST: If you want to know the meaning of “One for all, and all for one,” talk to the farmers of Galva, Ill.
When one of their own — a grain farmer named Carl Bates — was diagnosed with terminal cancer over the summer, his family reached out looking for a little help from their neighbors.
The response they got was amazing: On Sept. 25, 40 volunteers harvested 450 acres of Bates’ corn in just 10 hours. “Everybody kind of came running” said Carl’s son, Jason Bates. 
A total of 16 trucks and 10 combines showed up to help harvest 100,000 bushels of corn in a single day.
Aerial photos of that harvest are breathtaking to view. But they can’t hold a candle to the awesomeness of what was happening on the ground: Farmers helping farmers. Families helping families.
FAMINE: It’s interesting to see how the shoe fits when it’s on the other foot.
Apparently, a Wisconsin couple — self-styled “anti-CAFO” crusaders — found themselves facing allegations of manure pollution. According to documents acquired via the Freedom of Information Act, the State Department of Natural Resources investigated Lynn and Nancy Utesch of Kewaunee County for “multiple complaints” they allowed their cattle to contaminate a wetland in April 2015.
State investigators met heavy resistance when they suggested they would need to examine other parts of the 150-acre farm that might contribute to manure running into the wetland. It took 10 days before the DNR was allowed to examine the property, at which point they were left to say only they “did not identify direct discharge.”
The Uteschs may have learned a lesson from the experience: Accusations are easier to level than reputations are to protect. 
And we might add: We all know what they say about people who live in glass houses …
FEAST: Voluntary efforts by Michigan farmers are being credited for a drop in the phosphorus level of Lake Erie.
The phosphorus going into the lake from the River Raisin, a tributary in southeastern Michigan, has been cut in half over the last seven years, said Jamie Clover-Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“I think that shows voluntary practices work,” she said. 
Buffer strips and drainage controls were among the strategies farmers have pursued that are making a significant difference.
It’s a nice reminder that farmers remain the original environmentalists. 
FAMINE: Sadly, Subway becomes the latest restaurant chain that is turning to fear-based marketing ploys at the expense of the very animals they claim to be protecting. In October, the company announced that it would be sourcing all of its turkey and chicken raised without antibiotics, with the intent of eventually going antibiotic free for pork and beef as well.
Sounds great, right? Except for the fact that all meat that hits the market today is — and will continue to be — antibiotic free. It’s tested at multiple levels before ever reaching the consumer level.
Simply stated: Like humans, antibiotics are used to treat sick animals. Like humans, those medications are applied under the consult of a medical (veterinary) professional. Like humans, antibiotics cannot only bring a sick animal back to health, but ease their suffering in the process.
The disturbing truth is that while “antibiotic free” meat already is the norm, Subway’s move essentially endorses animal cruelty. Meat producers who want to work with the deli chain will have to choose between profits tied to animal suffering or a loss of business in order to protect the animals in their care. It’s a no-win proposition.
FEAST: A quick tip of the hat to all the farmers who face the weather, race the clock and bring their autumn harvest in year after year. If you enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast, if you are looking forward to the family table at Christmas, if you enjoy a party at New Year’s … heck, if you enjoy EATING, period, it’s because of the hard work that the men and women of agriculture put in year round.
 


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