The beaches near Atlanta GA are polluted

When you think of Florida and Georgia in the southern United States, you probably don't think primarily of agriculture, but rather of sunshine and the beach. The members of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Forests of the Bavarian State Parliament had set out during the information week before the Christmas holidays to find out more about agriculture in these two states. Georgia is also the partner region of Bavaria and has, for example, through the BMW plant in Spartanburg and the AGCO headquarters near Atlanta, technical-industrial relationships that are well known.

 

Old-fashioned cattle ranch with cowboy

The visits and meetings in the two states were tightly packed, giving the members of parliament a good insight into the way Americans thought and lived. Henry Kempfer, who runs a cattle farm near Orlando with his twin brother George in the sixth generation, welcomed the Bavarian guests in proper style with jeans and a cowboy hat. Bales of straw were erected on an agricultural trailer and sitting on it, the tour over the 10,000 hectare site could begin.

There Brahman cattle - a type of zebu - and Angus as well as crossbreeds of both breeds are kept on the pasture. With around 2,000 cattle, the Kempfer Ranch is significantly smaller than that of its neighboring farm: “Cattle and Citrus” has an area of ​​around 100,000 hectares, around 44,000 cattle are kept there and are “old-fashioned” - still with the horses, like the president of cattle breeders stressed. In Florida, young cattle are bred for the entire Midwest and in some years agriculture makes more revenue than tourism in Florida, the Bavarian MPs learned.

Problems are caused by the sandy soils, the increasing drought and the cultivation for ethanol production. As a result, land was lost for cattle breeding. In addition, the alligators native to Florida repeatedly tear the young cattle and the shepherd dogs. Other mainstays of the farm are timber production, fishing and hunting. During the year around seven people work the farm, only in the summer months do the children and women - both twins are married to teachers - also work on the farm. Incidentally, children are also given responsibility for the animals from an early age: every child has their flock and their own brand. Life far from the hustle and bustle in Orlando and on the holiday beaches has been everyday life for the Kempfers for generations: “Our way of life is standing up in the morning at work,” the cowboy summed it up.

 

Technology from Neutraubling in Florida

At “Florida´s Natural”, the third largest bottler in the USA after Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, an interview with the 41-year-old Agriculture Minister Adam Putnam (Republican) took place. Around 1,000 farms cultivate 25,000 hectares with orange and grapefruit plantations, which are processed into juice there. 1 million gallons of juice is stored in each of the 16 tanks and then bottled - otherwise with "Krones technology" from Neutraubling, as was shown on the tour. Work takes place in two 12-hour shifts, from six to six each time. A new worker receives two weeks of vacation a year, not a single one of the approximately 800 employees is unionized.

 

 

Discussion with Florida's Agriculture Minister Adam Putnam

"With citrus fruits, we have around 9 billion dollars in sales in Florida," reported Agriculture Minister Putnam. Over 300 different agricultural products are grown in Florida. "We are the nation's winter salad bowl," he proclaimed confidently. 90 percent of the farms are family-owned, with many Latinos now also working in agriculture. He sees his political priorities in food safety, consumer protection, opening up new sales markets and healthy eating. He made sure that the area of ​​"nutrition" is in the future in the Ministry of Agriculture and no longer in the Ministry of Education. A discussion on the planned TTIP free trade agreement ensued with the Agriculture Minister. The young Minister of Agriculture could not understand that agrogene technology is viewed critically in Germany and that a discussion is being held about the harmonization of standards. He assured that there were high standards at the national and local levels and that he was open to new technologies given the challenge that nine billion people will have to be fed by 2050. "The agricultural land is becoming less, there are fewer farmers and competition from Brazil is growing," said Putnam. From his point of view, science is responsible for ensuring the standards and not the consumer. At the moment, the focus of the negotiations is on the trans-Pacific trade agreement, but then one wants to move forward with the transatlantic trade agreement, Putnam explained the further course of action. Too much food is thrown away in America too - up to 50 percent, the Secretary of Agriculture said, a shockingly high number. There are now “food banks” that are run by charity organizations and pass this food on to those in need.

 

Hormones are a matter of course in cattle breeding

 

A lively discussion ensued on animal fattening in the United States with animal scientist Professor Todd Thrift of the University of Florida. There are one million suckler cows in Florida alone, and 35 million in the USA. The average size of a herd is 40 cows, since there are also very many part-time farmers. The largest animal fattening companies have up to 500,000 animals. The rearing and fattening takes place in different states of America, such as in Kansas, Texas or Illionois. "An animal has up to five owners until the meat arrives back in Florida," said Thrift vividly explaining the transport routes. Beef consumption has steadily declined in recent years, while it is common for poultry. Currently around 75 lbs (1 lbs = 0.453 kg) of poultry are consumed and only 55 lbs of beef. 95 percent of the animals are treated with hormones, explained Thrift and also had a vaccination pistol ready, from which he let the “three little globules” - as he called it, click onto the table. After weaning and in the fattening period, the hormones are given. The costs for this are around 1 dollar, cause around 25 pounds of weight gain and bring about 45 dollars in profit at the end of the animal fattening, Thrift calculated. "The estrogens that are given here are also contained in milk, eggs or peas", which is why the Americans do not understand the "emotional debate" as it is being carried out in Germany.

 

Climate and environmental protection from a different point of view

 

A dinner with members of an American “think tank” took place under the heading “Security policy in the name of climate and environmental protection”. US General Claudia Kennedy was the speaker of the evening and she explained that this think tank, which is organized in a non-partisan way, aims to take a different look at current security policy. Urbanization, agricultural and food policy, water supply and climate change are challenges that have to be met. The American military is observing these changes worldwide in order to always be prepared. Given the headline of the evening, anyone who expected food for thought or measures to protect the environment and the climate to be addressed was disappointed. "That is also an important question, but not the task of the military," Ruth Müller learned when she asked. In the discussion with the attending lawyers, the basics of the American legal system were also explained. Honorary Consul Norma Henning pointed out that there is no constitution in the USA. That is why the contracts in America are correspondingly extensive, since everything must be regulated in writing. There is also no pending version of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) and when buying real estate, the purchase contract is valid when the purchase deed has been handed over. "Contracts are interpreted against whoever drafted the contract," informed the honorary consul, who lives in Naples and specializes in immigration and international corporate law. Given the uncertain outcome of a process, which is usually very lengthy, arbitration tribunals are preferred in order to avoid imponderable judgments. The role of American lawyers is also different, Henning made the difference clear: The focus is on litigation prevention.

 

Chilled chickens are safe and inexpensive

In Georgia, the tour group was stationed in Atlanta and visited, among other things, the "Georgia Tech University". The Technical University of Munich and the LMU Munich are partner universities and currently nine Bavarian students are on an exchange in Atlanta to study. One focus of the university is food safety policy, informed Dr. Kaye Husbands-Fealing. There are 3,000 deaths and 48 million cases of food disease in the US annually, which would have cost $ 14.1 billion in 2010. It is therefore important to stabilize the process chain, from production to processing, transport and consumption. 900 professors work at Georgia Tech University and 21,500 young people study there. The state of Georgia is the leader in poultry production in the United States and that is why a lot of poultry research is done here. Robots are currently being developed for cutting, chopping and packing the chicken parts. "We have to guarantee that the number of Salmonella infections remains stable," explained Professor Scott M. Russel. Compared to chicken production in Europe, the values ​​are significantly better. These are guaranteed by the two “chilling” (chlorination) and cannot be surpassed in terms of efficiency. In addition, this would ensure that the many inexperienced workers in the fast food restaurants can work with poultry meat without the spread of salmonella diseases. “In America, too, the use of chlorine for cleaning is sometimes viewed critically,” admitted Professor Russel. "Parasydenic acid is a substitute, but not nearly as fast and efficient as chlorine". The price at which chicken meat is produced in the USA speaks a clear language, said the scientist: In the USA chicken breasts can be sold for 1.98 dollars / lbs, while the price for it in France is 5.34 Dollars / lbs and in Germany at 4.16 dollars / lbs. And the number of Salmonella diseases has been reduced from 20 percent to five percent.

Trade relations between Bavaria and Georgia

During a visit to AGCO-Fendt, a discussion took place with representatives of the consulate, the Chamber of Foreign Trade and Martin Richenhagen, President of AGCO-Fendt. Five brands are united under the company logo AGCO: Challenger, Fendt, GSI, Massey-Fergusson and Valtra. Over the past ten years, growth has grown from $ 3.5 billion to $ 10.8 billion. The construction of cabs for the tractors is to take place in Bavaria in the future, which is one of the reasons why Richenhagen is in favor of the free trade agreement. The same standards can simplify trade relationships. "A tractor that is approved by the TÜV in Germany should also be approved in the USA in the future," said Richenhagen. In the auto industry, crash tests are currently being carried out twice - once with German dummies and then again with American dummies. The dismantling of tariffs through the TTIP is important, Consul General Sander also made clear.

Pellets from Georgia's forests for Europe

The Georgia Forestry Comission's visit to Atlanta was about the parallels to Bavarian forestry and forestry. The Bavarian MPs learned that forestry is the second largest industry in Georgia. Annually a turnover of around 29 billion dollars is made and around 55,000 employees work in forestry. Two thirds of the country are overgrown with pine trees. To their surprise, the members of the Agriculture Committee learned that the “Asian Longhorn Beetle” - the Asian longhorn beetle - is on the rise in America. Georgia is not yet affected, but he has already appeared in New York and New Jersey and, due to the proximity to the port of Savannah, it is only a matter of time before the first cases are reported in Georgia. As in Bavaria, it is currently only fought with "felling and burning", but they are alarmed and the container ships are being checked very carefully. The rapidly growing pine forests are processed into pellets and around 1.5 million tons of pellets are shipped to Europe every year, that is 100 percent of the pellets produced. An increase to 6 million tons is to take place by 2020. Incidentally, the RWE Group is a large shareholder in the forests in Georgia.

 

Peach plantations as far as the eye can see

In Atlanta, the word "peach" can be found in many street, place and hotel names and this is due to the many peach plantations around Atlanta. So it was only natural that the Agriculture Committee visited one of these plantations. The "Dickey Peach Plantation" has been a family business since the end of the 19th century. Georgia State Representative Robert Dickey explained the high season peach harvest with around 125 seasonal workers on the legal minimum wage of $ 10 an hour. Around 100,000 peach trees are on his plantation, which - as in the classic film "Gone with the Wind" has red soil. Ten million pounds of peaches are harvested, packaged and processed in the farm shop every year on his 150-year-old farm.

Promote regional agriculture

The six-day fact-finding tour concluded with a meeting with the Georgia Secretary of Agriculture, Gary W. Black (Republican). With 262 frost-free days, the climate is ideal for agriculture and cotton production is still the second most important pillar of agriculture. "Unfortunately, the citizens no longer have a clue about agriculture", Black described the current situation. That is why the brand "Georgia grown" was developed to promote regional marketing.

Conclusion

"With this trip and the many people we talked to, we got an interesting insight into agriculture, production and research in the USA," said Ruth Müller, who has been on the Agriculture, Food and Forests committee for a year. What was also remarkable was the openness with which, for example, the attitude of American scientists, politicians and business people to TTIP, environmental and climate protection was conveyed to us, although I cannot share them. ”In the further negotiations on TTIP we really have to make sure that Our social and ecological standards are not shaken. “Merely labeling hormone meat or chlorinated chicken cannot be the solution, because the discussions have made it clear that price plays an important role. These foods are not even allowed to come to us across the pond, ”says Müller. The fact that the economy has an interest in harmonizing technical standards, such as in the automotive industry, is understandable and understandable. But especially in the field of agriculture, this trip has shown where the journey for our farms in Bavaria should not go if the quality of our food and the preservation of our cultural landscape are important to us ”.