Letter to the Editor
Habitual violators, incompetence, opportunists, not welcome in Iowa agriculture
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The recent recall of nearly 600 million eggs originating from a north Iowa producer caused consumers to question the integrity and honor of our farm families and the continued reliability of safe food.
I understand because I share these heartfelt concerns. Iowans do not tolerate incompetence and those that habitually violate the law, consumer trust and proper food production procedures. Those that do discredit the integrity of Iowa's 98,000 farm families and tarnish our state's brand as a respected leader in food and fiber production. Those responsible should be held accountable.
The ISA and many other agriculture groups in Iowa resisted rushing to judgment when news about the egg recall and salmonella illnesses was reported in August. Federal and state food safety inspectors implemented an investigation of the Galt-area egg farms owned by Wright County Egg, part of the DeCoster family's agribusiness operations. It was important that these audits be conducted absent of social and political grandstanding. Consumers expect and deserve the truth, not contrived indignation and wild speculation.
Investigations now completed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration find that DeCoster's operations violated numerous sanitary safeguards linked to the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,600 people. Those responsible for this immense breach of public safety will be held accountable and rightly so.
While harshly critical of Wright County Egg management, we also denounce those selfishly manipulating this crisis for personal and professional gain. They include out-of-state pro-vegan organizations masquerading as animal welfare proponents and community activist groups seeking to fundamentally alter food production by arguing for a one-size-fits-all approach to how farm families can grow crops and raise livestock.
Ironically, so-called "solutions" offered by these opportunists in response to the egg recall are disingenuous at best and, at worst, dangerous to consumer health.
Outlawing the use of individual housing for hens would increase contact between the animals and their bacteria-laden feces. Trumpeting only free range production in place of conventional egg laying facilities would increase the commingling of livestock and disease-carrying rodents and birds. Rushing to pass still more regulations would further consolidate agriculture while increasing the cost of a dozen eggs at your preferred food vendor.
In light of efforts by some to not let a crisis go to waste, it's important to note that Salmonella's presence is not confined to just one size of farm or livestock. It can contaminate any animal- or plant-based food from any kind or size of farm. Recently, lettuce and tomatoes were recalled after testing positive for Salmonella. The last major incident in which eggs and salmonella were linked was two years ago in eggs from a cage-free, organic production system. Interestingly, agenda-driven activist groups, including those now taking to the airwaves -- remained silent when these incidences became public.
Also, the conditions found at Wright County Egg are an exception. Hongwei Xin, a specialist in poultry housing at Iowa State University, has visited more than 50 egg farms in Iowa (including ones operated by major producers) and has never seen the combination of conditions described in the FDA reports citing Wright County Egg. He also has never observed mice or wild birds in hen houses.
Food provided by responsible Iowa farmers to consumers here at home and around the globe is safe, nutritious and affordable. Organizations such as the Iowa Soybean Association are working diligently with farmers, state and federal regulators, elected leaders and food safety experts to keep it so. That's a commitment from Iowa farmers to you and your family.
Chief Executive Officer
Iowa Soybean Association