January 1, 2009

Producer shares beef with proposed organic rules

The drought, which lasted the better part of the last three years, hammered agricultural producers across Mercer County. Dugouts went dry while hay and commodity crops crumbled into dust.

It was no different at Jim Kusler’s farm and ranch operation south of Beulah.

To cope, Kusler drilled a 300-foot well in one pasture, while hauling water to several others. And on approximately 1,000 acres of hay land that usually yielded around 2,000-3,000 bales – he got just 468. Those harsh realities forced his hand into significantly reducing his herd.

"There were just too many mouths to feed," he said.

The abundance of snow received this winter should ease the drought burden, but as a certified organic crop and beef producer, Kusler has a new set of worries.

‘Collateral damage’

He believes a set of rules recently proposed by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture may put North Dakota organic beef production in jeopardy. According to a press release from North Dakota Agricultural Commissioner Roger Johnson’s office, the rules were developed by the USDA in response to complaints that the National Organic Program was being misused by large feedlot and confined animal feeding operations.

In a letter Kusler sent to USDA Program Director Richard Matthews in opposition to the proposed rules, he stated, "I understand the purpose of the proposed rules is to eliminate abuses on giant factory farms … Like many others, I also oppose and condemn the unethical and inhumane treatment of the milk cows at these factory farms."

"The blind pursuit of the bad guys carries with it collateral damages that reaches far beyond the giant factory farms," Kusler noted. "It reaches into my farm yard – a small certified organic beef producer."

The Weather Network