Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Rancher's Perspective On Health Care

Why am I writing about Health Care? How does it relate to agriculture? Easy, farmers and ranchers need insurance, we pay into the existing system through taxes, our commodities are consumed and in some corners of the media, blamed for current health issues. Plus, I was listening to Bill Crystal on XM this morning while coming home from working cows. He gave and interesting analogy that I would like to expand upon in reference to our country’s current economic situation.

If you have a $250,000 mortgage on your home, only one wage earner, two children, payments on a car, and all of your water pipes beneath your home break what do you do? You tighten your belt, call a plumber and get your pipes fixed. Do you also remodel the living room, kitchen, master bath and garage? No. You wait on those other projects, and reduce your monthly expenses.

Now, the US deficit is projected to reach over $9 TRILLION in ten years. Why is there a rush to pass the Health Care Bill and Cap and Trade, or remodel the living room, kitchen, master bath and garage? Let us just fix the broken pipes, please, and reduce our spending.

Meaningful reform can certainly be accomplished in Health Care, and without adding to the National Debt. Here are five suggestions this farmer/rancher has for the folks in D.C. that could be dealt with one at a time and each under 10 pages in length. Heck, even Senator Conyers could handle that without staff and lawyers. Call me crazy, but to me it seems like Common Sense.


Collect all copies and shred them. Erase all electronic copies. Start over.

Cost: None, in fact paper is recyclable and money could be made. Also, think of the memory that would be freed up in servers, computers and memory sticks.


A state-regulated national market for health insurance would increase competition, offer more choices, and lower costs. People should be able to purchase policies across state lines, not be limited to buying within their own state. Additionally, eliminate denial of coverage to people that have preexisting medical conditions and/or have reached a “coverage cap.”

Cost: None


People should be able to invest in Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). These MSAs should be allowed to roll over from year to year and grow over time, just like and IRA. MSAs should also be added as a permanent part of tax law, and offered to all employees without restriction. Further, all deposits into MSAs should be tax deductable and all withdrawals from these accounts, for medical expenses, should be tax free.

Cost: None


A reasonable cap must be placed on medical malpractice lawsuits. Limitless damage awards increase insurance costs for doctors, who then pass them on to the patients. Today, physicians are practicing “defensive medicine,” which drives up health care costs through unnecessary treatments and in some cases, tests.

Cost: None


Modernizing hospital recordkeeping will lead to quicker, more accurate treatments, a reduction in medical errors, and lower overall costs. Eliminating patient information gaps would reduce “under-utilization” and “over-utilization.” For example, the patient who patient who forgets to refill a prescription in order to stay on treatment (“under-utilization”) and the patient who goes from doctor to doctor to get the same prescription for devious intent or the patient who has retest after retest due to lack of doctor communication (“over-utilization”).

Cost: None


The demand for medical care can be greatly reduced by promoting personal responsibility and education within a culture of wellness. All school districts should implement a tiered course of study beginning in the elementary and culminating at the high school level that includes child development, health, nutrition, food safety, and budgeting. Furthermore, in order to reduce the incidence of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, all students, throughout their school career, should be required to take a physical education class that includes regular physical exercise. Physical education classes should not be optional. Additionally, access to preventive services, including improved nutrition and breakthrough medications that keep people healthy must be increased to keep people out of the clinics and hospitals.

Cost: None

These five reforms would not cost a trillion dollars. They would increase competition, and lower cost of coverage. They would improve the wellness of our youth and reduce medical needs. Granted, I am just a farmer growing hay and pasture and a rancher raising cows and horses, but it seems pretty obvious to me.

MESSAGE TO WASHINGTON: Put your politics aside, wake up and start running the government like a business. Fix the broken pipes and get your finances in order. You do not have the option of declaring bankruptcy, or is that bill in committee?

I guess the way I see it can be summed up like this. If I have to haul my horse to a neighbor’s ranch to help move cows, and the trailer has a flat tire……I put on the spare. I do not go out and buy a new trailer.

So if you agree with what I have said, feel free to pass this on to your elected representatives.

Time is running short, the “Cash For Clunkers” has expired and we can no longer get $4,500 for the trailer on trade in….oh that’s right, trailers weren’t included. Guess the neighbor is just going to have to move those cows without me this time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Personal Comments on the Klamath TMDL

2824 South Highway 3

Etna, CA 96027

Katharine Carter
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd, Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

RE: Comments Klamath River Total Maximum Daily Loads and Action Plan


Having worked on fish and water issues, plans and permits since 1992 I can honestly say this is the poorest compilation of relevant science, lacks clear objectives with purpose and has timelines that are unreasonable. There are too many individual areas of concern to address them all, so I shall limit this response to five general points.

First, the Klamath TMDL has gone from river specific to watershed. The Scott & Shasta already have working and approved TMDLs in place. Attributing additional limiting factors to these watersheds and incorporating them into the Klamath TMDL is simply wrong. We do not need another layer of permits, regulations and restrictions.

Second, the entire Klamath TMDL is unreasonable in nature. Per the North Coast Water Quality Control Boards own policy, you are to evaluate ALL beneficial uses and develop a plan than assesses and meets the needs of all uses, with out negatively impacting others. The Klamath TMDL clearly places its emphasis on cold water fisheries and ignores the impacts to agriculture and other beneficial uses.

Third, a full assessment on the economic impact of the Klamath TMDL was missing. In this case, it should be a cumulative economic impact, including the effect of all TMDLs and the Department of Fish and Games ITP. This will be the third and in some cases, the fourth or fifth permit or plan than private landowners will have to endure. Especially in the current economic situation, it must be noted that agriculture and timber can not sustain any more additional cost, whether it be in capital or in time.

Fourth, as written, the Klamath TMDL assumes that the dams will remain in place. However, the tone of the TMDL lends credence to removal. Therefore, the Klamath TMDL must also include the potential scenario of the dams being removed.

Fifth, the Boards additions to what qualifies as an acceptable Ranch Management Plan are unacceptable. Farmers and ranchers do not have the resources, or the time to meet the new criteria. The surveys, studies and monitoring described are unreasonable.

Overall, the Klamath TMDL presents the tone that the farmers, ranchers and timber managers are guilty before proven innocent. We are good stewards of the land and are benefiting the environment for both aquatic and terrestrial species. We have implemented conservation practices and are efficiently utilizing our resources in order to provide healthy and productive farms and ranches for future generations. Local agriculture and business cannot endure any more regulations, restrictions or limitations.

In conclusion, I have three suggestions.

1. The NCWQCB needs to remove all portions of the plan that involve any tributary that already has an approved TMDL in place.

2. The NCWQCB needs to sit down at the table with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors and discuss in earnest, the entire Klamath TMDL, until the county is satisfied.

3. The NCWQCB must meet with the CDFG and come up with the desired ratio of spawners to out migrants that will indicate a healthy fishery.

The bottom line is that we all want a healthy fishery. Farmers and ranchers are experts at growing things. Tell us the ratio you want for the system we manage. We can directly effect what happens inland and we have over the past 15+ years, in a positive way. We cannot be held responsible for low numbers returning when we have spawned them and sent them out alive. Adding regulation upon permit upon restriction on the private land owner will not bring back more fish. Instead it will lead to more economic hardship, higher unemployment and more conversion of valuable habitat.

Thank you for the opportunity to present comments on this document.


Jeffrey N. Fowle

Rancher, Farmer, Agriculturist, Environmentalist

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Letter to Time Magazine on Bryan Walsh Food Article

The following was sent to the editor of Time Magazine at:

To Time Magazine,

The recent article by Bryan Walsh, “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food,” August 20th, was a poor choice to serve as the cover article. Covers should be objective, factually based and lead to an educated and productive discussion to solve an issue or simply inform in an unbiased manner. Bryan Walsh’s article was none of these.

His attempt at journalism was obviously slanted, utilized biased science, and lacked truthful, well researched information. If he was attempting to mislead the public through misinformation and scare tactics, he was successful.

As it was written, it served no productive purpose in aiding in the growing and successful dialogue between family farmers and ranchers and the consumers, taking place in social media. Attempts by Walsh and others sharing his agenda and motives to paint American Agriculture with wide brush strokes of assumptions and accusations only hinder a productive outcome.

Family farmers and ranchers across the country encourage honest dialogue to educate the public and have them share in the process of solving challenges with an end objective being able to continue to provide the world with the safest and healthiest food supply.

I look forward to seeing another article by Mr. Walsh that points out, item by item, the misinformation that was printed and enlightens the public as to the facts and returns responsibility to the individual. If he needs help locating unbiased, real-life, real farm & ranch conditions and information, I would encourage him to contact one of the family famers and ranchers from across the nation on this list: We will tell it as it is, what works and what does not. We utilize science and modern technology every day to provide you with an affordable, safe and wholesome product. Our only motive is to keep the environment clean and healthy, enhance wildlife habitat, encourage conservation, provide for future generations and feed people.


Jeffrey N. Fowle
Family Farmer & Rancher from CA

Time Article Gets It Wrong.....Again!

The recent Time article titled “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food” should have been called “More Mis-Information About American Agriculture,” by a one sided writer who was either too lazy to research his information or is another activist masquerading as a so-called journalist.

Here are 13 quick points to reflect on as they were inaccurate in the article at best.

Antibiotics are no longer fed as a mainstay of rations. Antibiotics are used to treat sick animals and maintain their health and welfare.

In 95% of cases, the farms and ranches were built before communities. Farm and ranch “aromas” are far from being “air pollution.” If you don’t like the smell, don’t build or move near a farm or ranch. Personally, when I smell a swine farm, dairy or beef feedlot, I am thankful that there is a business that is employing workers and feeding the world. Also, be forewarned, farms and ranches operate machinery at all hours of the day and night and might interupt your precious sleep.

Typical liberal journalism blaming agriculture for America’s obesity problem. Stop already! People are free to choose. People choose to eat what they do and choose to not exercise. Take personal responsibility for your own situation, stop passing the blame.

Farmers and ranchers apply the amount of fertilizer that will be utilized by the crop. Excess fertilizer application is not common practice. First it is not economically beneficial, and second, it is not environmentally friendly. Farmers and ranchers work very hard to manage the soil health so that future generations are able to utilize the land.

Modern technology and management practices implemented by American Agriculture have reduced erosion across the country. In fact, public policy that has removed livestock grazing from public lands has actually led to more catastrophic wildfires, leading to sterile ground and massive erosion events.

The attempt to link disease resistant bacteria in humans to antibiotic use in livestock is unfounded. No studies have directly linked this accusation.

Doug Gurian-Sherman’s quote is either out of context, or he shows that he needs to get back in the field. Modern farming techniques are more water and power efficient, reduce erosion, and are increasing the fertility. Farmers and ranchers are soil builders.

Back to fertilizer: Farmers and ranchers regularly test the soil for nutrient balance. It would be unethical to not replenish the soil with the necessary nutrients to maintain its health.

Government subsidies do need to be addressed. Once again, an example of government involvement resulting in inefficiency. However, those that are so adamantly against farm subsidies should also be just a strongly opposed to the current administrations involvement in banking, insurance, car companies and proposed health care program. Is it not ironic that Time / CNN support these other subsidies?

Saying that livestock production is “dependent” upon “cheap grain” is also inaccurate. Livestock production depends on affordable commodities. If consumers were willing and able to pay more for their food, producers could afford to pay more for commodities. It’s basic economics.

“It simply costs too much to be thin.” A grossly exaggerated statement at best. How much does it cost to get off your bottom side, put on a pair of shoes or boots and go for a run, bicycle ride or hike? How much does it cost to NOT buy junk food? Answer? NOTHING…..ITS FREE, HEALTHY and COMMON SENSE!!

News Flash to Robert Martin of the Pew Commission, antibiotics are not the “cornerstone” to production. They are not “widespread” or “overused.” Commonsense would indicate that humans need to stop over using antibiotics. It is ok to get sick once in while and recover WITHOUT the use of drugs. Your immune system will be stronger and you will be healthier.

“Sustainable” should NOT be confused with “Organic.” Sustainability encompasses many factors of production. Conventional and organic farms and ranches can be sustainable. Likewise, they can also both be unsustainable. Going “natural” or “organic” is not a magic bullet to instantly be “sustainable.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Siskiyou County Continues Williamson Act

By Dale Andreasen
Daily News
Thu Aug 13, 2009, 09:45 AM PDT

Yreka, Calif. -

Followed by resounding applause from the crowded chambers, board chair Michael Kobseff said. “As long as I’m a board member in Siskiyou County, I’m going to support the Williamson Act.”The remark was made during a spirited discussion at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. Supervisors and others discussed what the county should do in face of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto last month of $28 million to fund the act that has helped preserve agricultural lands and open spaces in California since 1965.

Land owners who sign a Williamson Act contract get substantial breaks on their property taxes by agreeing to keep the land in agricultural production or as open space. The state has been subsidizing the counties for the loss in property tax through a subvention program.Siskiyou County had been receiving about $780,000 per year in subvention payments.

Last year it was cut to $700,000. This budget year it will be zero unless the program is restored by a lawsuit, by the Legislature, or by the governor. Farmers, ranchers and environmental groups support the program. Public Health and Community Development Department Director Terry Barber pointed out that seven contract applications are currently “in the pipeline” and she needed guidance as to how to move forward. Two of the applications are for amendments to existing contracts and five are new applications for an additional 1,446 acres to be put into the program.She informed the board that there are currently 419,000 acres, over 10 percent of the county, involved with Williamson Act contracts.

The supervisors unanimously voted to accept the new applications and give the applicants the option to withdraw or continue at a later date pending what happens to the Williamson Act funding. If an application were withdrawn, the unused portion of their $600 fee would be returned.After much discussion, the supervisors also voted unanimously to continue with the Williamson Act program whether it is funded or not.

The vote was remarkable since both Barber and county counsel Tom Guarino pointed out that the current contracts are self-renewing and that a vote was not necessary.The only way the existing contracts would not be renewed would be if a vote were taken to discontinue the program, explained Barber.Senior county assessor Lauri Foster said there are about 400 Williamson Act contracts currently in effect.“In a nutshell, if we are looking at non-renewal, the tax liability of these property owners could double. Some would quadruple and some could be 10 times as much. It’s not simple, each parcel would have to be assessed separately,” she said.Planning Director Greg Plucker spoke during the discussion also.During a public comment period, Jim Morris of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau asked the supervisors to honor the existing Williamson Act contracts. Otherwise, he said, the increased taxes would be burdensome.“But if these people were forced to subdivide their land, it could be worse for the county,” he added.

Lifelong Scott Valley property owner Mike Bryan also spoke in favor of honoring the contracts. Otherwise, he said he could make more money by subdividing his land. He asked the board to “do everything in your power to preserve open space.”

Jack Cowley, of the Siskiyou County and California Cattlemen’s Association, said he’s been involved with the Williamson Act for years. He said California is expecting a population increase of one million people.“Agricultural land is necessary to feed the people,” he said. “We have to have land to produce food.”

Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said it is important to recognize that Siskiyou County’s economy is agricultural, which, she said, generates twice as much revenue as tourism.“It’s really important that we support agriculture,” she said in an emotional statement.“I would like to believe that the funding will come back,” said Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, “but if it doesn’t, where do we get the $700,000 that we will miss out on?”All five supervisors voted to support agriculture and open spaces in the county and continue with the Williamson Act contracts whether the subvention money comes in from the state or not.

County Administrative Officer Brian McDermott had lunch with Assemblyman Jim Nielson Wednesday. McDermott said Nielson understands the position of the county and said “he will do everything he can to help restore [Williamson Act] funding.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Wooden Bowl

The following was sent to me today, Sunday, by Barbara Saville and I felt it was appropriate to share. It is especially relevant to me with an observant and watchful 2 1/2 year old son.

I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about father," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?"

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I've learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as making a 'life..'

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.You nee d to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Williamson Act, What Is The Future?

The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, commonly referred to as the Williamson Act, allows local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are lower than normal because they are based upon farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value. Local governments have received annual subvention of forgone property tax revenues from the state via the Open Space Subvention Act of 1971, until now.

The Williamson Act was named for John Williamson, a 1960s-era assemblyman from Kern County that gives farmers a property tax subsidy if they pledge to keep their land in agriculture for periods of 10 to 20 years. It currently protects 16.4 million acres of farm and ranch land from development, or 17% of the total acreage of California.

Now it will now be up to cash-strapped counties to decide whether to continue Williamson Act contracts or cancel them. Many rural counties depend on the subvention funds for 10% or more of their annual budgets.

Cancellation would not mean immediate subdivision of farm and ranch lands, because current contracts would have to run their course before farmers could sell land to developers or do it themselves. On the sixth year of the contract, landowners may begin the paper filing process at their respective counties, with ground breaking and subdivision sales occurring in year nine.

Many farmers and ranchers have said the Williamson Act subsidy is the only thing that prevented them from subdividing and developing long ago, and with the current economic situation, with a particularly soft commodity market, it is likely many will sell out and either move to another state or keep their home with a couple acres to live out their lives.

If counties choose to non-renew, land owners may file a protest to lock in their current tax rate for at least three additional years. After that, taxes will be increased each year, based on an incremental scale, until the final year, at which time the taxes will be based on potential use value.

The governors actions could result in a devastating change to the agricultural landscape of the state, destroy the worlds 5th largest provider of food and agricultural commodities, and virtually eliminate an environmentally friendly industry….turning green into brown or black top.

While the governor did leave $1000 in the account for subventions, it is paramount that the California legislators restore funding to the program when they return to session. California agriculture and rural counties are facing literal collapse without immediate action.

About Me

My photo
Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.