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Friday, July 18,2008

U.S. will likely never achieve bacteria-free packing environment

by WLJ
U.S. will likely never achieve bacteria-free packing environment The U.S. agriculture secretary recently expressed confidence in the nation’s food safety system, but said the meat processing industry will always face challenges because the bacteria that animals carry evolves. "I don’t think we’ll ever see a totally bacteria-free environment in the United States," Ed Schafer said during a recent visit of several Nebraska meat processing plants. His tour didn’t include the Nebraska Beef Ltd. plant in Omaha which recalled 5.3 million pounds of meat that has been linked to 41 E. coli infections in Michigan and Ohio. Schafer said he thinks the company, not the USDA inspectors at the plant, should be held responsible for the tainted meat. He said the inspectors are only there to make sure the plant follows USDA rules. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has concluded that Nebraska Beef’s production practices were insufficient to effectively control E. coli bacteria. Now the focus is on determining exactly how the meat was contaminated at Nebraska Beef, he said, and making sure steps are taken to prevent future problems. Schafer’s tour was designed to showcase innovative ways companies are working to keep meat safe. He visited a Hormel pork plant in Fremont where the processed, canned meat Spam is made, a Cargill Meat Solutions beef plant in Schuyler, and an Omaha Steaks processing plant in Omaha. Schafer said he’s amazed at the relatively small number of people who get sick from eating meat each year when the number is compared to the millions of pounds of meat produced. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that E. coli sickens about 73,000 people and kills 61 each year in the U.S. Most of those who die have weak immune systems, such as the elderly or very young. E. coli Industry critics say staff shortages are compounded by a change in USDA regulations in the late 1990s that gave slaughterhouses more responsibility for devising their own safety checklists. That policy, critics say, places slaughterhouses on an honor system that can lead to abuse. But meat companies say they are developing new strategies to control bacteria. At the Cargill plant, cattle carcasses are washed down with chemical solutions before and after the hides are removed to help reduce E. coli. Later in the process, sides of beef are examined under ultraviolet light that reveals any hint of chlorophyll. The presence of that plant chemical on the beef suggests contact with feces and possible E. coli contamination. The beef is pulled aside so any contaminated areas can be removed. The hide-washing system and UV scanners Cargill uses are examples of the kind of measures the meat industry has developed to control E. coli since a 1993 outbreak in which four children died and hundreds of people became ill after eating undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants. "Most of this equipment you had to invent, and test and test," said Vaughn Blum, general manager of the Cargill plant. At Omaha Steaks, all of the ground beef is irradiated after it has been packaged to kill any bacteria that is present. Hormel uses a high-pressure pasteurization process to ensure that its pork is safe. That step also takes place after packaging. But Schafer doesn’t think innovative food safety measures like the ones he saw in Nebraska should necessarily be required for all plants because each company chooses what works for them. Schafer said the plants he visited all appeared well run and safety was a priority. "I wish everybody would have a chance to see the process," Schafer said. Then they could see the cleanliness of the plant and all the effort that goes into producing a safe product, he said. — WLJ bacteria was discovered in the late 1970s and is present in the intestines of most cattle. It also can be found in deer, goats and sheep. It doesn’t cause problems for the livestock, but the E. coli 0157:H7 variant can cause severe illness in humans.

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Friday, June 27,2008

Cattle markets lower on surging corn futures

by WLJ
Cattle markets lower on surging corn futures Skyrocketing grain futures put a damper on fed cattle futures last week, which through Wednesday had traded mostly steady for near-term contracts. The futures are still well ahead of the current cash trade, which has been enough to encourage yards to keep their pens full. All near-term fed cattle futures were down late in Thursday’s trade, with June contracts dropping 5 cents lower to $98, August losing 55 cents to $103.85, and October contracts moving 60 cents lower to $111.27. The reopening of beef trade with South Korea, along with expectations for higher protein prices in coming months has helped maintain confidence in cattle markets as the year moves forward, though the decline in the Choice-Select spread still remains as a cause for concern. The situation negatively impacts feeders, who are already operating in the red as a result of high grain prices. "Market analysts and cattlemen will likely point to various reasons for the counter seasonal decline in the spread during the first five months of the year," noted market consultant Steve Meyer. "In our opinion, the main culprit is the deterioration in food service demand at the same time when feedlot inventories were larger than a year ago." Meyer also lays partial blame on the attitude of feeders and their tendency to keep cattle on feed for longer. "It did not help that feedlots were holding on to cattle as long as they could in hopes of getting a better deal and, in the process, putting a bit more fat on their animals, thus boosting the choice beef supply," he explained. "Currently the spread is back to more ‘normal’ levels and we suspect that the spread will get a bit larger going forward as feedlots have fewer head on feed and as they try to turn them a bit faster..." As evidenced by the latest cattle on feed report, cattle supplies are not expected to grow anytime soon, and analysts say that when looking at current feeder cattle price premiums to fed cattle, a significant herd reduction is doubtful anytime soon. Wachovia Capital Markets analyst Dan Vaught explained in a conference call last week that cattle markets typically hold up well during recessions, as consumers buy more retail meat for eating at home rather than dining out. Though a severe cutback in cattle supplies are unlikely, says Vaught, these consumer trends should help keep prices strong going forward. "In my opinion, we are not going to see a big cutback in cattle supplies this year. Any decrease will be demand-driven, not supply-driven," he said. Packers were reluctant to do cash business early in the week, preferring to hold off until later rather than meet early asking prices, though there were signs on Thursday that significant trade could develop if packers showed interest in bidding higher. DTN analyst John Harrington noted that, "buying interest does seem to be improving with early bids around $94-95 in the South and $150-153 in the North. Asking prices are holding at $98-99 in the South and $155-158 in the North. We could see trade develop today if packers are willing to show enough money, though aggressive cash business may be more likely on Friday." Indeed, while trade volume remained at a standstill at midday Thursday, buying interest seemed to be slowly improving. At least one regional buyer in the North who offered to "call in" at $155, with the best bid from a major packer in the North being $152. The South remained at a virtual standstill with buyers waiting until Friday before showing serious interest. Beef cutouts jumped significantly higher, with Choice gaining 92 cents to go to $164.62, and Select going $1.41 higher to $159.60. Light to moderate box movement was seen early, with 56.08 loads of choice cuts, 57.57 loads of select cuts, 22.55 loads of trim, and 37.82 loads of grind. Thursday’s slaughter total of 127,000 brought the week-to-date total to 508,000, which was 5,000 head above one year ago. Feeder cattle Luckily for most producers, last week’s cash trade for feeder cattle didn’t suffer the same blow that the futures market did, as near-term feeder cattle futures all lost as a result of higher corn futures. June corn contracts finished Wednesday up 17.4 cents, which was enough to scare August feeder cattle futures down 92 cents, closing at $112.55. A bullish cattle on feed report and a shrinking supply of quality feeder cattle has motivated feedlots to keep their pens full, and prices have started rebounding from the corn price scare of previous weeks. Feeders continued last week to seek out those cattle which are heavier and will spend fewer days on feed, especially those quality cattle with good preconditioning programs and health records. "The best demand was noted for the heaviest feeders (which were responsible for most of the steady trends) as feedlots search for ways to limit expensive days on feed," explained USDA market reporter Corbitt Wall. "Feeder cattle prices are on the verge of inverting as cost-of-gains surpass the value of the cattle. This could change the way we view feeder markets if heavier cattle yield a higher price/cwt than lighter weights and fleshy cattle have more value than those in thin condition, which could be hard for buyers to swallow." Some demand exists for lighter-weight feeders to turn out on grass, but due to the increased attention on heavy cattle, prices for light feeder calves have been suffering, with demand slowing for these cattle where prices remain steady. "Calf demand is suffering as backgrounders have lost interest in feeding commodity feed to calves and those that exclusively graze calves have already turned their cattle out," said Wall. "Midwestern farmer-feeders usually pick up the calf market this time of year, as they mostly have their crops planted and are looking for a summer project. But, these producers are banking on selling corn this year and many in the flooded regions are not sure how much corn they’ll have anyway." Fed cattle contracts, which have reached near their historic highs, have helped to re-boost the confidence of those seeking feeder cattle for cash, but Wall says that it may not matter how much live cattle are worth if feedyards can’t find some way to cut their cost of gain. "These lofty price levels look promising to cattle feeders but a profit will still be very difficult to obtain if they have to grind $7.50 per bushel corn," he notes. "Most commercial feedlots have been implementing at least some level of by-product feeds in their ration to cut costs. Increased competition for these feedstuffs has caused prices to escalate as Distiller’s Dried Grains increased by as much as $25 per ton this week alone." Last week’s sale at the Oklahoma National Stockyards saw receipts of 8,556, and compared to the week previous, feeder steers and heifers sold $2-3 higher. Steer and heifer calves were not well tested, but the few weaned calves available sold near steady. Demand was good for all classes except unweaned new crop calves, which found narrow outlets. The run continued to include significant numbers of plainer cattle from outside of the area, and also included were several shipments of light, No. 2, thin-weaned calves that found fairly good acceptance. Steers weighing an average of 723 lbs. sold for $111.17, while 725 lb. heifers brought $102.96. The Joplin Regional Stockyards near Joplin, MO, received 5,973 head last week, where steers were $1-3 higher. Heifers under 650 lbs. were steady, with weights over 650 lbs. steady to $2 higher. Demand was moderate to good for the moderate supply. Several load lots of yearlings were in the offering. Steers weighing 722 lbs. sold for $111.77, while heifers weighing 732 lbs. sold at $102.26. A total of 1,862 head were received at last week’s Winter Livestock Feeder Cattle Auction in Dodge City, KS, where compared with the last week, steers weighing 800-900 lbs. went $3-5 higher. Heifers weighing from 500-700 lbs. were steady to firm. There were not enough cattle in other classes and weights for an adequate market test, though a steady to firm undertone was noted. Feeder steers weighing 722 lbs. sold at $113, while heifers weighing 680 lbs. were good for $105.27. There were 3,200 head received last week at the Bassett Livestock Auction in Bassett, NE, where good quality weaned fall calves and yearlings coming off of grass made up the bulk of the consignments. Due to no sale the previous week, a market trend was not established. Demand was strongest for 800-900 weight cattle. Steers weighing 716 lbs. sold for $119.15, while 733 lb. heifers brought $109.41. Last week’s sale at the La Junta Livestock Commission Company in La Junta, CO, saw 1,032 reported receipts, with feeder steers and heifers steady to $1 higher. Demand was noted as good for the cattle offered, with 793 lb. steers selling for $104, and 713 lb. heifers going for $101.50. The Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, received 540 head last week, not enough for an accurate trend. However, a firm undertone was noted. Buyer demand was noted as moderate to good for most classes of feeder cattle. Buyers paid $99.48 for 718 lb. steers, while heifers weighing an average of 728 lbs. sold for $94.71. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Tenderness may soon have test Depending on the outcome of research being conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), claims of "tender" beef may soon have to be verifiable, according to AMS Livestock and Meat Marketing Specialist Kerry Smith. The agency is busy working on the feasibility of setting objective standards of tenderness, and has had four subcommittees working on key elements of the issue since March 2007. Several universities, representatives from industry, other government organizations, trade groups and retail professionals have all been included in the process. By July, AMS plans to have an updated Web site where interested parties can follow the progress of the initiative at www.ams.usda.gov/sat. Carl’s Jr. shifts menu, will open in China Carpinteria, CA-based Carl’s Jr. restaurants will soon have stores opening in China, after CKE Restaurants announced that it is partnering with BreadTalk Group Limited and Aspac F&B International to open 100 franchised Carl’s Jr. restaurants in the country over the next eight years. Beijing and Shanghai will see the openings of the first stores sometime before March of 2009, with locations in the municipality of Tianjin and the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu to follow. The plan comes on the heels of Carl’s Jr.’s announcement that it will be placing the Prime Rib Six Dollar Burger on its menu in a move which goes against the fast food industry’s recent reliance on value menu items. The new premium burger is a part of the chain’s line of "meat-as-a-condiment" offerings. Hallmark supervisor takes plea deal Daniel Ugarte Navarro recently pleaded no contest to charges of animal cruelty stemming from an undercover investigation which showed Navarro and another employee abusing non-ambulatory cattle at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing plant in Chino, CA. The case ultimately led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Another worker pleaded guilty in March to three misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to six months in jail. Navarro faced five felony and three misdemeanor counts and up to eight years in prison, but pleaded no contest to two felony counts of animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts related to illegal moving of crippled cows. Under the terms of his plea deal, he will face a sentence of 210 to 365 days in jail when he returns to court in August. Cold storage report sets record USDA’s cold storage report for May 2008 set a record for the decline in total pork stocks: the draw-down of 85 million pounds topped the previous record of 52 million pounds set in 2005. Total pork stocks, at 567 million pounds, still is 15 percent above stores from May 2007, but 13 percent below the level of just a month earlier. Meanwhile, total beef in cold storage is about flat with levels of a year ago and a month ago. Overall, total meat of all types in cold storage is 10 percent above levels of a year ago, but 8 percent lower than a month ago. Poultry, meanwhile, is stacking up more quickly. Chicken stores in May, at 754 million pounds, were 23 percent above levels of a year ago, and even with the month earlier. Shoppers trading down beef grades, cuts As food shoppers "trade down" to cope with higher food prices, they will likely purchase cheaper cuts of meat and lower beef grades, a retail food consultant said on recently. These cut and grade trade downs can be expected in addition to some shoppers choosing cheaper proteins pork and chicken over beef, Willard Bishop Managing Partner Jim Hertel said during a Webinar on the future of food retailing. Hertel predicted food inflation as high as 7 percent to 11 percent annually for at least the next two years, as increased global protein demand, reduced global grain production and biofuels competition for feed inputs such as corn continue. Red meat production at record high for May U.S. commercial red meat production totaled 4.22 billion pounds in May, up 4 percent from the 4.08 billion pounds produced in May 2007, USDA said in its monthly Livestock Slaughter report. Beef production, at 2.38 billion pounds, was 4 percent above the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 3.14 million head, up 3 percent from May 2007. The average live weight was up 19 pounds from the previous year, at 1,251 pounds. Pork production totaled 1.82 billion pounds, up 3 percent from the previous year. January to May 2008 commercial red meat production was 21.0 billion pounds, up 7 percent from 2007. Accumulated beef production was up 4 percent from last year, pork was up 11 percent from last year, veal was down 11 percent and lamb and mutton production was down 4 percent.

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Friday, June 27,2008

Grant extended to eradicate scrapie in Colorado sheep and goat herds

by WLJ
Grant extended to eradicate scrapie in Colorado sheep and goat herds The Colorado Department of Agriculture has received a grant extension by USDA to help sheep producers with the cost of testing their herds for scrapie susceptibility. "The Department began this program in September 2003 and it has been extremely successful," said assistant state veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr. "A genetic test can detect resistance to scrapie so we are very happy to have this grant to help protect Colorado’s sheep industry." Scrapie is an infectious, and fatal, disease of sheep and goats, which causes a degeneration of the central nervous system resulting in a variety of behavioral and locomotive changes. The disease is a member of a family called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). In 1947, the first case of scrapie was diagnosed in the U.S. in sheep originating from Britain via Canada. Scrapie costs the sheep industry between $20-25 million per year, but resistance to the disease in sheep can be determined by a genetic test. The grant funds will pay for half of the testing costs on a total of 500 rams and 200 ewe lambs. The Rocky Mountain Regional Animal Health Lab performs this test for $13.75 for the first 10 samples and $11 per additional animal. Through the cost share program within the federal grant, the cost is reduced for the producer by half. Producers who want to participate in the program must have all sheep tagged with an official premises identification tag. Premises identification tags are available by calling toll free 866/USDA-TAG. "Producers are required to tag goats due to Colorado’s loss of commercial goat status," continued Roehr. "If Colorado is to receive that status again, we must remain vigilant in protecting our herds from this disease." Educational outreach to sheep and goat industries is another important factor for the grant; meetings are being planned across the state to help educate livestock owners about scrapie and how to protect their herds. Additional details on the meetings will be sent at a later date. To register for genetic testing or to set up a meeting, contact Ed Kline at 303/249-0685. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Watch for blue-green algae

by WLJ
Watch for blue-green algae Producers should be on the lookout for green to blue-green scum or a gelatinous mass on the surface of their livestock’s fresh water supplies. "Algae blooms cause major disruptions not only because of their offensive odor and appearance; they can be potentially fatal to livestock," says Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service water quality associate. "Not all algae blooms are toxic, but without laboratory analysis, it is impossible to identify poisonous species." This scum actually is not an algae, but photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria that rely on sunlight for energy. As they store energy, they create a tiny cavity of air that allows them to move up and down in the water to areas with more nutrients. As environmental conditions improve with warm weather, calm winds and abundant nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen), the bacteria numbers increase. A "bloom" of green or blue-green algae on the surface of the water may appear overnight, accompanied by an unmistakable musty, earthy or putrid odor. "As cyanobacteria break down, they release toxins that can be an irritant to human skin and potentially lethal to animals," Johnson says. Concentrations of algae develop as wind moves the toxin to the leeward, or downward, shore, where producers may find evidence of toxicity, such as dead mice, snakes and other animals near the water's edge. Toxicity is dependent on the species consuming the water, and the concentration and the amount of water ingested. Blue-green algae produce two toxins, each with different symptoms. Signs of neurotoxin poisoning usually appear within 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion. In animals, symptoms include weakness, staggering, difficulty in breathing, convulsions and ultimately death. In humans, symptoms may include numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness. Signs of liver poisoning may take hours or days to appear. Liver toxins can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting in humans and death in animals. Most blooms are obvious to the naked eye; however, blue-green algae can be present in water without a visible bloom, Johnson says. She advises producers to treat their water if they've previously had blooms. Treatments include using an aeration/mixing device to create turbulence in the water or minimizing nutrient levels by establishing vegetated buffer strips around the water to intercept nutrients before they reach the water. Another long-term strategy is limiting livestock’s pond or dugout access to areas that have been stabilized to prevent damage from trampling. Producers also may choose to pump water to a tank or trough after fencing the water source to keep livestock out. Johnson advises producers to clean stock tanks on an annual basis to keep algae growth to a minimum. Some producers are adding dyes, such as Aquashade, Blue Lagoon and Admiral, to nonflowing pond water to filter out ultraviolet rays. According to the products’ labels, this treatment is most effective when used early in the season for water intended for livestock consumption. It is not recommended for human drinking water. Algaecides, such as copper sulfate, are effective in killing algae blooms. However, these algaecides also can kill fish and damage the ecosystem of inland waters, Johnson says. Lethal levels of toxins may result as a consequence of algae cell walls rupturing when copper sulfate is used. For procedures on treating water, check out NDSU Extension Service publication AS-954, "Livestock and Water." It’s available online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/livestoc/as954w.htm. Other treatments include suspending barley straw loosely in a mesh bag in the affected pond. A study from the Center for Aquatic Plant Management in Berkshire, England, says the most effective time to apply straw is before algae growth begins because the anti-algae agents released by the straw are more effective in preventing algae growth than in killing algae already present. The straw becomes active within a month and will continue to inhibit algae growth up to six months. "While there are no quick fixes to control blue-green algae once they appear, reducing the amount of nutrients washed into ponds may eventually lessen the intensity of the bloom," Johnson says. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Cattle producers of Washington hear USCA update

by WLJ
Cattle producers of Washington hear USCA update Nearly 70 cattle producers gathered in Moses Lake, WA to hear an industry update from Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) Immediate Past President Lee Engelhardt and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) Director of Government Affairs Jess Peterson. "Today is a great day. We stand united in our work and success in getting Congress to pass mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL)," Engelhardt told the crowd. "Some said it couldn’t be done and that we were wasting our time, but we pulled together, worked with our congressional delegations and made it happen. We can’t back down from these issues in the face of adversity. We have to work the process and the system and recognize that it takes time to make things happen. It took us nearly ten years to get COOL passed, but it’s a law now. Let’s take that winning game plan and implement it with other issues. We can, and will, keep winning if we maintain our focus and unity," said Engelhardt. During his Capitol Hill update, Peterson congratulated producers for their hard work on COOL passage. "Now we must go to work promoting our new label," he noted. "USCA is working at all levels to enhance the mandatory beef checkoff program to enable a portion of checkoff funds to promote U.S. beef. Meetings with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with potential contractors for checkoff funds, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture demonstrate USCA’s commitment to making this happen. While it may take time, USCA will not stop working towards this goal until it becomes reality." Peterson also updated the crowd on USCA’s work to address the USDA’s problematic rule to increase meat imports from Argentina. "It’s unfathomable to cattle producers as to why the Administration would trust a country like Argentina that has defaulted on billions of dollars in loans and constantly fights U.S. farmers and ranchers in the World Trade Organization. Instead of addressing these issues, the Administration is intent on rewarding Argentina with a categorization that would permit the country to create an imaginary boundary to manage an airborne disease. USDA has yet to remove this proposed rule, and USCA hopes Congress will stand up for cattle producers and introduce legislation to prevent this rule from being implemented." Engelhardt concluded the evening’s event by encouraging producers to stay engaged and unify with CPoW and USCA to keep winning on the issues. "I am proud of these associations and what is being accomplished. Let’s keep it up," stated Engelhardt. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Ranch symposium geared toward 'living the legacy'

by WLJ
Ranch symposium geared toward ‘living the legacy’ What happens when it is time to pass the family ranch onto my children? When I take over the ranch, will I be as good a manager as Dad? These questions and many others will be answered during the Fifth Annual HOLT CAT Symposium on Excellence in Ranch Management. This year’s symposium, Living the Legacy: Transitioning Ranch Ownership and Management to the Next Generation, will be held Thursday and Friday, Oct. 30-31, at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The annual symposium is hosted each year by the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, part of the university’s Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences. This year’s topic stresses the importance of a smooth transition and consistent operation between generations. Early registration is $150 through Friday, Oct. 17, and $200 thereafter. "There is no topic more important to rural America than this one," said Dr. Fred Bryant, director of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at A&M-Kingsville. "Major issues such as maintaining open space as wildlife habitat and view sheds, enhancing functional watersheds and preserving our ranching and hunting heritage are at stake. We must make sure this generational transition happens on a landscape scale, or we lose something precious and dear to all of us, city dweller and rural citizen alike." This year, the keynote speaker is R.L. "Dick" Wittman of Wittman Consulting in Culdesac, Idaho. He manages an 18,000-acre family farm partnership in Idaho that involves crops, cattle and timber. He also provides consulting services and seminars in family farm business and financial management. Wittman received a degree in agricultural economics from University of Idaho and an MBA from University of Utah. He worked for the Farm Credit System and concluded his banking career with the Farm Credit Administration in Washington, D.C. where he supervised Farm Credit operations in several Eastern, Midwest and Southern U.S. districts. He has worked with numerous farm clients and professional practitioners, conducted seminars, facilitated strategic planning, taught college classes and developed videotape training modules on a variety of topics throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. He specializes in financial management and developing management systems and solutions for business relationship/transition problems. His guidebook, Building Effective Farm Management Systems, is a toolkit for commercial-size family farm businesses to define their ultimate vision and put in place a professional management and transition process that will lead them to that goal. Entertainment for Thursday evening’s dinner will be provided by Red Steagall, who is best known for his Texas swing dance music. In his 35-year career in entertainment, Steagall has spanned the globe from Australia to the Middle East, to South America and to the Far East. He has performed for heads of state including a special party for President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1983. Other speakers include Dr. Wayne A. Hayenga, Professor Emeritus from Texas A&M University, extension economist and attorney; Dr. Don J. Jonovic, Family Business Management Services; and Dr. Danny Klinefelter, professor with Texas A&M and extension economist. A pre-symposium training on livestock handling will be held Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 29-30, also at Texas A&M-Kingsville. "The workshop couldn’t be held at a better time than now, with the current media attention on animal handling in packing plants and auction barns," said Dr. Barry Dunn, executive director of the King Ranch Institute. "We actually chose this topic prior to the recent national publicity, because we believe that all beef producers should raise and treat animals as humanely as possible in order to maintain high levels of consumer confidence in the healthfulness of beef. There will be something for everyone to learn at this workshop." The pre-symposium, Stockmanship and Stewardship: Forgotten Skills of Cattle Handling…And More, is being conducted in collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Texas Beef Council and King Ranch Inc. The speakers are Curt Pate, effective stockmanship and instructor livestock handling expert; Ron Gill, Texas A&M livestock specialist; and Todd McCartney, cattleman, cowboy and RFD-TV host. The cost for the pre-symposium is $50. Participants may register for both events at krirm.tamuk.edu and may get more information by calling 361/593-5401 or e-mailing krirm@tamuk.edu. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

DHS issues draft EIS on agro-defense facility

by WLJ
DHS issues Draft Environmental Impact Statement on proposed agro-defense facility The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate recently issued the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Draft Environmental Impact Statement (NBAF Draft EIS) for public review and comment. "The proposed NBAF would enable us to meet the challenges posed by the intentional or unintentional introduction of a foreign animal or zoonotic disease that could threaten the U.S. livestock industry, food supply and public health," said Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen. "By expanding and modernizing our ability to develop advanced test and evaluation capabilities and vaccine countermeasures for these types of diseases, we protect not only our nation’s security, but also the vibrancy of our agriculture system." The proposed NBAF is a joint effort with USDA that would establish a state-of the-art, high-security laboratory facility to study both foreign animal and zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans). The NBAF would be designed to replace the existing facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York. PIADC is currently the only facility in the U.S. that studies the live virus that causes Foot-and-Mouth disease. The current facility is too small to meet new research needs and has an outdated physical structure that makes it unsuitable for zoonotic disease research that must be conducted at the highest level of biosafety, BSL-4. There is no laboratory facility in the U.S. for BSL-4 research on livestock. No decision has been made yet on where, or even if, the facility would be built. The Science and Technology Directorate is undergoing this extensive review process to thoroughly evaluate each option, with the feedback of all interested parties, before any decision is made. The Draft EIS analyzes the proposal to design, construct and operate the NBAF, including risk assessments, for each of the six proposed NBAF locations: Athens, GA; Manhattan, KS; Madison County, MS; Granville County, NC; San Antonio, TX and Plum Island, NY. The Draft EIS also analyzes a no-action alternative, in which a new facility is not built. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Domestic energy producers to Congress: 'Let us produce!'

by WLJ
Domestic energy producers to Congress: ‘Let us produce!’ The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS) warned today that passage of H.R. 6251 would make energy development on federal lands even more difficult and costly for domestic natural gas producers. According to industry experts, passage of H.R. 6251 would limit the ability of domestic producers to meet future energy demands. "We understand the frustration with OPEC and the political motivation to ‘punish’ someone for high oil prices, but Congress needs to be reminded not to strike with blunt force. Vengeful policies may actually be most harmful to the small, independent businesses that produce 82 percent of U.S. natural gas and 68 percent of U.S. oil. These independent producers are a driving force behind our domestic energy supply and should not fall victim to the misdirected wrath of Congress," said Marc Smith, IPAMS Executive Director. "Some in Congress are ignoring important facts about the nature of energy development. Those of us who work in this industry understand that there are regulatory, business, and technological reasons why we must keep an inventory of land under lease, even if those lands are not currently producing. "With the regulatory hurdles that are already in place, most companies are in an all-out sprint to develop the energy on a lease within a 10 year period. If H.R. 6251 were to become law, the resulting burden on domestic energy producers would make it difficult for them to meet our nation’s long term energy needs," said Smith. "Most Americans understand that the current symbolic measures proposed by a few in Congress will do nothing to address the energy challenges we now face. If our leaders in Washington are serious about solving our current energy crisis, they need to begin thinking beyond sound bites and enact policies to encourage development of our vast energy resources, especially those found beneath the public lands of the Intermountain West. Making it more expensive for companies to develop energy will only serve to further constrict supply and drive prices even higher," concluded Smith. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

High school students to benefit from agricultural class via Internet

by WLJ
High school students to benefit from agricultural class via Internet Thirteen high school students will be getting a head start on earning an agriculture degree from New Mexico State University (NMSU) when school starts in August. Students from San Jon, Roy and Des Moines school districts will participate in a unique partnership between NMSU’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics and Clovis Community College where students will be enrolled in dual credit classes and participate in the college class via interactive television (ITV) from their high school. This will be the first time concurrent classes in agriculture are offered to high school students. "We’ve established this unique partnership to give high schools a broader selection of concurrent classes to encourage them to continue their education after graduation," said Jim Libbin, College of Agriculture and Home Economics’ interim assistant dean of academics. San Jon High School has offered ITV duel credit classes since the 1990s where students earn high school and college credit for select classes. This is the first year college course work has been available in agriculture. "This is a great opportunity for the students," said Stacy Kent, administrative assistant for the school district that has 173 total students from kindergarten through high school, who helped the districts eight students enroll in the class. "We have a strong agriculture program and this makes it even better." The high schools have arranged the students’ classes so they will take Ag Econ 236-agribusiness management principles from NMSU professor Jerry Hawkes. "This class is a basic introduction into agricultural economics. It will give the students an orientation to agricultural supply businesses, farm and ranch production, food markets, food processing and distribution, and food consumption," Hawkes said. "It will be as good as sitting in a Gerald Hall classroom as the students at both ends of the Internet link interact in the class discussion." NMSU is offering the classes through an Internet bridge established by Clovis Community College’s extended learning department that offers duel credit enrollment classes to students in Clayton, Corona, Des Moines, Elida, Ft. Sumner, Grady, House, Logan, Mosquero, Roy, San Jon, Santa Rosa and Vaughn. Jean Morrow, director of the extended learning program, said while six students are needed to make an ITV class, not all have to be from the same school district. Also, "because we informed the school districts of the NMSU class offering during the spring, the schools were able to adjust the school’s schedules so students will attend the NMSU class on Monday and Wednesday and their high school ag class on Tuesday and Thursday," Morrow said. While the students fulfill their high school course requirements, they will also be earning college credit for the course and may apply it to their degree work when they attend NMSU. Spring 2009, students will be able to enroll in an animal science class taught by Tim Ross, NMSU’s animal science interim department head. For more information about the program, students in the school districts served by Clovis Community College’s extended learning department should contact their counselors. — WLJ

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