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Friday, September 5,2008

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Beef growing globally Emphasizing the need to invest in foreign marketing aimed at the 95 percent of people who live outside the borders of the U.S., the Cattlemen’s Beef Board has chosen to increase the total dollars invested in marketing U.S. beef abroad. Export volumes of U.S. beef and beef variety meats worldwide advanced 30 percent year-on-year to 445,036 metric tons during the first half of 2008, while value jumped 39 percent to nearly $1.6 billion—compared to $1.8 billion during the same period in 2003. And while Mexico and Canada continued to be the top-performing export markets for the U.S. during the first half of 2008, export volumes of U.S. beef to Japan are rebuilding dramatically this year, thanks in part to a new beef cuts program funded by the Beef Checkoff. Beef Bucks Golf Tournament a success A good cause brought a large number of people together Aug. 22 for the sixth annual Beef Bucks Golf Tournament. Forty-six teams comprised of 184 golfers turned out at the Dells Rocky Run Golf Course in Dell Rapids, SD. "This was the largest tournament ever," says JoAnne Hillman, president of the South Dakota Beef Bucks, Inc. board of directors. "We had to turn people away. It’s wonderful to see how people in this industry come together for this event to have fun and raise money for an industry that means so much to South Dakota." South Dakota Beef Bucks is a non-profit organization that operates South Dakota Beef Bucks checks and VISA debit cards, both used for purchasing beef products or entrees at restaurants and retail stores throughout the U.S. 2008 Nebraska Beef Backer chosen Over the past couple of months, Nebraska restaurants have been competing for the title of the "Best Beef Restaurant in the State." The Nebraska Beef Council has recently named Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse the 2008 Nebraska Beef Backer Award winner. To compete in the Nebraska Beef Backer contest, restaurants first had to be nominated by a Nebraska beef producer or industry partner. After receiving nomination, the restaurants then completed an official application which was evaluated by a committee and results were based upon beef promotion programs, beef menu applications, and overall quality. Foodservice accounts for approximately half of the beef sold in this country, and commercial restaurants make up 61 percent for that sector. Agriprocessors appeals to Supreme Court Agriprocessors Inc., whose Postville, IA, plant was recently raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, is seeking to take its argument that workers have no right to unionize the company’s Brooklyn distribution center to the highest court in the land. A vote among employees in September 2005, who are mostly Mexican-born workers, sought to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which Agriprocessors has refused to recognize. The vote spawned a case in which the company claimed that most of the workers were undocumented immigrants and had no right to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board has ordered the company to recognize the union, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision which affirmed the right of illegal immigrants to join unions. Beef from clones may enter food supply Recent reports indicate that meat from the offspring of cloned livestock is indeed entering the U.S. food supply, which is a cause of alarm to some consumers and advocacy groups. Though only a tiny portion of the U.S. beef supply could come from clones, which number in the hundreds or thousands of the country’s nearly 100 million head of cattle, USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Bruce Knight recently admitted that he can’t rule out the presence of clone offspring in the food supply. Knight noted, however, that consumers are "highly unlikely" to receive beef from the offspring of clones. In January, the Food and Drug Administration deemed products from cloned cattle, pigs, goats and their offspring as safe to eat. Maximizing market cow and bull value Cattle producers have taken an active role in improved animal care, management practices and nutrition, but there’s always room for improvement. According to a checkoff-funded 2007 audit, cattle had fewer bruises as compared to 1999, less hide damage, and an overall improvement in animal welfare and handling practices. Nonetheless, the condemnation rate from down cattle, incidence of antibiotic residues, bruising, and lameness continue to warrant further attention. Producers can take the initiative to be proactive to ensure product safety and integrity, monitor herd health and market cull cattle in a timely manner, use appropriate management and handling practices to prevent quality defects, and recognize and optimize the value of market cows and bulls.

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Friday, September 5,2008

Plant identification important in range monitoring

by WLJ
Range monitoring requires a working knowledge of plant identification. But acquiring the knowledge can be a daunting challenge that often prevents producers from implementing important aspects of range monitoring. "However, one does not have to be a plant identification expert," says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter. "Simply knowing a few key species and monitoring their abundance can provide producers with valuable information." Accurate monitoring helps rangeland managers determine whether their grazing management strategy is working. Key species are species in a pasture that can serve as indicators of management effectiveness. They generally are species that are abundant, productive and palatable, and were dominant plants in the historical climax community of a particular ecological site. A historic climax community is a plant community that existed at the time of European immigration and settlement in North America and was best adapted to the unique combination of environmental factors associated with a particular site. Lura recommends rangeland managers select one to three key species for monitoring on a particular ecological site. For example, a key area in much of the Missouri Coteau in North Dakota is the loamy ecological site. The key species on this site likely would be some combination of western wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, green needlegrass and needle-and-thread. Collectively, these grasses may account for up to one-half of the total forage production. Monitoring the response of a few key species on key sites will help rangeland managers judge whether the management within a pasture has been successful. "Generally, when range management principles are properly used, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used," Lura says. The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has a program to assist producers in implementing and maintaining range monitoring procedures. The program is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

World Livestock Auctioneer Championship starts in Miles City, MT

by WLJ
The road to Livestock Marketing Association’s (LMA’s) 2009 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC) begins in Miles City, MT, Sept. 9 for 32 contestants. Miles City Livestock Commission LLP is hosting the first 2009 WLAC quarterfinal competition. Three titlists will be named at each contest, and the top eight scorers will qualify for next June’s WLAC, set to be at Fergus Falls Livestock Auction Market Inc., Fergus Falls, MN. The other WLAC quarterfinals will be Oct. 29 at Texhoma Livestock Auction LLC, Texhoma, OK; Nov. 18 at Muskingum Livestock Auction Co., Zanesville, OH, and Dec. 2 at Kingsville Livestock Auction, Kingsville, MO. LMA, the national trade association for livestock marketing businesses, created and conducts the annual WLAC. The championship in Minnesota will be the 46th annual. Miles City Livestock Commission co-owner Rob Fraser said, "September ninth will be a special day for all of us at the market. We’ll be welcoming some of America’s best livestock auctioneers who will be selling top-quality cattle from some of the best producers in this area." He expects about 4,000 head of cattle, mostly yearlings, for the sale. And, he said, he wanted to invite "anyone who enjoys listening to the sound of a good auctioneer to join us on the ninth." The sale will start at 9 a.m. (MT), with the contest getting under way at 10 a.m. This is the third year LMA has used the four-contest format to qualify contestants for the June championship. The annual WLAC, Fraser continued, brings two things into focus: that competitive livestock marketing is "the best way to get the best price for your livestock" and the "continuing importance" of the auctioneer in that process. Contestants must be at least 18 years old and employed and sponsored by a livestock market. Each contest is an actual sale, with buyers on the seats. The three titlists in the June WLAC—world champion, reserve and runner-up world champion—will receive thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. — WLJ  

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Friday, September 5,2008

Extended grazing can reduce feed costs

by WLJ
By extending the grazing season into the fall and winter, many producers can reduce their harvested feed costs, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) specialist. Although winter or dormant season grazing of pasture and feeding of a protein supplement is a common practice, several other strategies can work well for producers in other parts of the state, said Jerry Volesky, range and forage specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. Producers can start now to prepare for extending the season by planting annual forages such as oats and turnips to use later, he said. They can also stockpile perennial grasses. "We’ve done some research on stockpiling cool season perennial grasses," Volesky said. "We graze those grasses in the spring and early summer, then let them accumulate the rest of the season’s growth for the fall and winter." Volesky found that even into November and December, the stockpiled forage maintained its nutritional value with protein levels as high as 12 percent. It wasn’t until January and February that crude protein and digestibility decreased significantly. "But even at the end of February, nutrition was still relatively high and we were meeting the nutritional needs of most grazing animals," Volesky said. Producers have also used windrow, or swath grazing. It involves swathing forages in late summer or early fall, then leaving the windrows in the field to feed in late fall or winter. That allows the producer to capture the quality of forage at the time of harvest. Grazing the windrow is possible even with snow cover. That strategy saves money because it eliminates the cost of baling, hauling the bales off the field, and then feeding them. In addition, grazing the hay in the field returns nutrients back to the soil. There is an outside chance that there will be too much snow to use these feeds, Volesky said. Unless the snow is very deep, though, more than six to eight inches, it won’t matter. Ice is much more of a problem. Barring unusual weather, then, extending the grazing season can help cattle producers save money and increase their profits. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Distillers grains for grazing yearlings

by WLJ
Distillers grains for grazing yearlings Nebraska researchers wanted to know what use these products might have for growing cattle on pasture. They used yearling British-Continental crossbred steers initially weighing about 650 pounds. A treatment group (TRT) had free-choice access to dried distillers grains (DDG) on Sandhill pasture from early June to early August. Controls (CON) were not fed. Consumption of DDG averaged 11 pounds/day. TRT gained 2.8 pounds/day and CON gained 1.9 pounds/day. Forage consumption was estimated to be about 30 percent less by TRT. So, for every CON animal, about 1.4 TRT animals could be run on the same pasture area. After grazing, all animals went to a feed yard. TRT were harvested 14 days before CON. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in final weight, average daily gain, or carcass characteristics. There was a tendency for TRT to have more Choice (67 percent vs. 51 percent). The economic value of DDG was 17 percent over its cost for grazing and 11 percent over cost for finishing. The authors stressed that the use of DDG in this manner would depend on pasture cost, DDG cost, feeder cattle price, and fed cattle price. — Texas A&M University Ag Extension

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Friday, August 29,2008

Producer meetings addressing trich, COOL and high input costs

by WLJ
Producer meetings addressing trich, COOL and high input costs The series of issue update meetings for cattle producers, hosted by Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) and University of Nebraska Extension, that began Aug. 18 in Hebron will continue through Nov. 1 at Tecumseh (visit www.nebraskacattlemen.org to see NC’s master calendar). Priority topics addressed at the meetings include trich, Country of Original Labeling (COOL) and dealing with high input costs. Most ranchers are aware that they do not want trichomoniasis, or trich, in their herd. The greatest threat comes from across the fence, neighbor to neighbor. Cattle don’t just get trich; it must be introduced into a herd. Most likely, this will happen in one of these two ways. Either your bull jumps the fence and breeds a trich-positive cow, then is put back into the proper pasture where he infects your cows. Or, a positive bull will jump into your pasture with your cows and infect them prior to you putting him back where he belongs. Bulls don’t infect bulls and cows don’t infect cows; it’s transmitted by sexual contact. Trich causes significant economic loss. The interim final rule on COOL was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 1 and will become effective Sept. 30. NC will present information that answers questions such as who is covered, who is not, record keeping for producers, as well as questions which remain unanswered by USDA. Rising input costs for ranchers and feeders and price volatility has changed standard business practices. University of Nebraska specialists will address options cattle producers have for dealing with the economic challenges. Meetings are scheduled for: • Sept. 5—Trich, 7:00 p.m., Gordon Livestock Market. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760 6464. • Sept. 8—Trich, 7:00 p.m., Crawford Livestock Market. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760 6464. • Sept. 9—COOL and Beef Quality Assurance, 6:30 p.m., North Platte Livestock. Contact Drew Gaffney at 308/872-1105. Sponsored by Schering Plough/Intervet. • Sept. 15—NC Region 7 Roundup, Wonderlich’s in Columbus, 6:00 p.m. social, 7:00 p.m. dinner. Program: COOL and NC updates, market outlook, and dealing with the high input costs. RSVP for meal by noon Sept. 12. Contact Chad Settje at 402/285-9013 or 402/784-3153. • Sept. 16—COOL and dealing with the high input costs, Wisner Community Center. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 16—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, Neligh, Imperial Steakhouse, 7:00 p.m. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 17—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, noon, Elyeria, Country Neighbor. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 17—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, Box Bar in Lexington, 6:30 social. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 18—COOL, trich, dealing with the high input costs, noon at Chances "R" in York. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management Three additional meetings are being planned for Sept. 23 in Thedford, Oct. 2 in North Platte, and Nov. 1 in Tecumseh. Location and times for these meetings will be posted to www.nebraskacattlemen.org as soon as possible. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

AngusSource offers producers an opportunity for COOL

by WLJ
AngusSource offers producers an opportunity for COOL With mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) on the horizon, USDA has announced that producers who enroll cattle in AngusSource can use the program to substantiate COOL claims. The COOL law provides for the use of qualified producer affidavits on which packers can rely to initiate the origin claim, according to Jim Riva, chief of USDA’s audit, review and compliance branch. Riva says participation in USDA Quality System Verification Programs that contain a source-verification component can also be used to substantiate COOL claims. AngusSource, a USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) for Angus-sired calves, verifies source, age and a minimum of 50 percent Angus genetics. It is the source-verification component that provides traceability to the ranch of origin that can be used by the industry to meet COOL requirements. "The goal of the AngusSource program is to add value to Angus-sired calves," says Sara Moyer-Snider, director of AngusSource. "As the industry has evolved, AngusSource has adapted to help producers meet marketing requirements. The ability to substantiate claims for COOL with source-verification is the newest addition to the list of services AngusSource offers." "The PVP status of AngusSource adds integrity to the program and has opened doors to export markets and branded beef programs," explains Jim Shirley, American Angus Association vice president, industry relations. "Assisting producers with COOL is the next logical step," he says. Age-verification through AngusSource qualifies cattle for export markets like Japan. In 2007, Certified Angus Beef LLC became the first branded-beef program to utilize AngusSource genetic-verification to qualify supply for the brand. Since then, more than 14 other Angus-based programs have included AngusSource as part of their live animal requirements. "We’re glad that AngusSource has been able to serve commercial Angus producers in these ways," Moyer-Snider says. "We will continue to work with USDA and plan for the future to ensure that we are able to help our customers meet emerging industry requirements." — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Competing proteins pose renewed concerns for beef

by WLJ
Competing proteins pose renewed concerns for beef —Trade issues could flood the U.S. market with lower-priced pork and poultry, limiting beef gains in the fourth quarter. Fed cattle trade wrapped up early last week at mostly steady money despite weakness in the boxed beef complex and a steady decline in the futures market. In Texas and Kansas, cattle traded at $99 live with good volume moving ahead of the holiday. Corn Belt trade was in a spread of $154-156 dressed, with most trade reported at the top of that range. Beef cutout values last week were moving lower for much of the week with disappointing movement out of cold storage warehouses. Midweek trade was light with only 96 fab loads trading, according to last Thursday’s mid-day report. Choice boxed beef was steady with the previous day at $160.98 while Select cuts were off slightly at $154.23. Slaughter volume last week remained robust with 505,000 head processed for the week through Thursday. That number was down from the previous week’s harvest, but it remained above the year-earlier level of 500,000 head. Cow slaughter numbers for the year remain well above year ago totals, indicating that the current downward slide in calf production and total domestic herd size is likely to continue for at least the next year. For the week ending Aug. 9, cow slaughter stood at 132,292 head, sharply higher than year earlier totals of 106,950 head. High input costs are pinching producers and strong cull cow and calf markets are making liquidation and heavy culling an attractive option. The strong cow and cow beef markets are largely the result of a sharp decline in the amount of beef being imported to the U.S., making domestic cull cows a more attractively price option for ground beef producers. Last week’s cow cutout value stood at $139.38, down slightly from the previous week as a result of a decline in demand after buyers met their pre-holiday needs. The 90 percent lean traded at $174.23 while the 50 percent trim was also down slightly from the prior week at $92.71. Most of the wholesale fabricated cut trade for the holiday weekend demand had been filled the previous week, so the light movement was of little surprise to analysts last week. The next key factor in determining market direction will be weekend clearance levels. There have been some excellent beef feature prices advertised recently which should help support retail sales and future packer buying interest. If movement at the retail level is strong, it could provide support going into the fourth quarter. Of particular concern during the last three months of the year will be competing meats. Pork and poultry supplies are expected to surge for the last few months of 2008 and pork especially will pose a significant threat to beef prices. There were reports last week that Russia and China, both large importers of U.S. pork and poultry, will sharply curtail purchases. That could flood the domestic market with cheaper protein options for U.S. consumers who will be the key to sustaining beef prices during the expected tight supplies later this year. Exports have been highly supportive of the domestic beef market this year when consumers have slowed their discretionary spending as a result of a weak economy. Exports have largely picked up the slack with an increase of 31 percent in volume for the first half of the year, totaling 831 million pounds. If consumers, faced with higher living expenses, turn away from beef in favor of pork and poultry, the improvement in cutout prices needed to sustain profit margins in the beef industry could falter. News that China and Russia would cut back their pork buying was adding to the gloom in the hog trade last week and futures markets were trading limit down. To make matters worse, the delisting of several processing plants in Mexico by USDA was adding to trade concerns last week. Analysts noted that the request to block exports from plants that did not meet U.S. standards could cause Mexico to curtail purchases of product from the U.S. As the largest buyer of U.S. beef, Mexico’s withdrawal from the market could have severe consequences for beef prices in the U.S. Feeder cattle Last week’s cash feeder cattle market marked the first time in recent weeks that feeder cattle prices have slipped lower, even as lower corn futures made buyers more optimistic. The trend towards placing heavier feeder cattle continues, with yearlings continuing to be in heavy demand, although quality runs of lighter weight calves have also become a source of appeal to many buyers at local auction markets. "This marks the first time in over two months that the weekly nationwide yearling trend came in lower," points out USDA Market Reporter Greg Harrison. "In fact, several markets noted that the buyer demand for calves was actually better than the yearling feeder demand for the first time in recent memory." Harrison noted that good rains in southern winter grazing regions have given many operators reason to get back into the market for lighter weight calves which can be backgrounded and resold as heavy, placement-ready feeders come spring. "Heavy rains across the southern Plains have perked up the late grass that many backgrounders will use to warm-up lightweight calves before turning them out on early wheat pasture, which should have a good start this year from ample subsoil moisture," he said. Potential feeder cattle buyers are beginning to get used to the roller coaster corn markets, which Wall says now draw less attention than they have during recent periods of high grain futures. "However, drastic grain market volatility is now the norm where only a few years ago, a nickel change would stir attention," said Harrison. "The CBOT [Chicago Board of Trade] September corn contract has settled with more than a 10-cent move on every August trading session but one this month. This has feedlot owners shaking their head in confusion on when is the best time to secure feed inventories." Last week’s auction at the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, OK, saw 8,583 head of feeder cattle available for sale. Compared to the previous sale, feeder steers and heifers were $1-2 lower, with steer and heifer calves steady with good demand. Recent rains across most of the region, along with cooler temperatures, have revived the grass and improved wheat pasture prospects. Quality of the feeder cattle offered continued to decline with several full or lighter muscled cattle included. Steers weighing an average of 679 lbs. sold for $113.44, while heifers weighing 654 lbs. sold at $108.75. The Joplin Regional Stockyards near Joplin, MO, received 4,900 head for sale last week where steers remained steady and heifers under 500 lbs. were $2-5 lower. Heifers weighing 500-700 lbs. were $1-3 lower, with weights over 700 lbs. steady. Demand and supply was moderate, with the bulk of the offerings being weaned calves and yearlings. Feeder steers weighing 682 lbs. sold for $115.04, while 674 lb. heifers brought $104.40. There were 2,627 head of feeders received last week at the Winter Livestock Feeder Cattle Auction in Dodge City, KS, where compared to the week prior, steers and heifers from 700-950 lbs. sold $1-3 lower, mostly $2 lower. There were not enough steers and heifers of 700 lbs. and under for a good market test, though a lower undertone was noted. Buyers paid $113.22 for steers weighing an average of 738 lbs., and $105.32 for heifers weighing 711 lbs. To the north in McCook, NE, at the Tri-state Livestock Exchange, there were 1,850 head of feeders offered for sale last week, though no comparison was available due to no recent sale. Steers weighing 704 lbs. brought an average of $116.25, while feeder heifers weighing 669 lbs. sold at $113.94. Last week’s sale at the Winter Livestock Auction in La Junta, CO, saw receipts of 1,187 head where trade was active on calves and yearlings and included good demand for both classes. No price comparison was available as the last covered auction was in July. Steers weighing an average of 687 lbs. sold for $116.75, while 669 lb. heifers brought $102.70. There were 961 head available for sale in a light run last week at the Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, where feeder cattle were firm in the light test. Trade was active with moderate to good demand. Steers weighing 739 lbs. sold for $100 at this sale, while 731 lb. heifers sold for $98.19. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Beef Checkoff revamps, revitalizes and relaunches BSE Web site

by WLJ
Beef Checkoff revamps, revitalizes and relaunches BSE Web site Oftentimes, information is outdated by the time it reaches the mailbox. In an effort to provide the latest facts about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly called "mad cow disease"), the Beef Checkoff-funded Web site BSEInfo.org recently was overhauled to include new and updated content and an easy-to-search Web structure. Although the U.S. hasn’t had a case of BSE since 2006, this disease remains important to the beef industry and the scientific community and frequently receives media attention. "The latest update to BSEInfo.org reflects the industry’s commitment to providing the most current, scientifically valid information about these diseases. The Beef Checkoff is dedicated to investing in educational tools such as the site in order to eliminate confusion and misinformation among numerous audiences," says cow/calf producer Austin Brown III, Cattlemen’s Beef Board member from Beeville, TX. "The site also explains the measures we take to protect beef safety. We rely on our industry and media partners to share the facts about beef, and want to be sure to provide credible and complete information about how animal health and public health are protected from this disease." A highlight of the site is the Scientific Resource, which was reviewed by nine leading international experts in BSE and related diseases. These transmissible spongiform encephalopathy experts served as scientific reviewers for sections about prions, BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, scrapie and chronic wasting disease. "The validation from these folks not only lends credibility to the site among external audiences, but also speaks to the standing of this resource within the scientific community," continues Brown. Media partners worldwide covering BSE can locate the best resources, determine who to contact to arrange an interview, and find the foremost experts through this site. In addition, the revised Web site now contains updated BSE basics; information about BSE in the news; beef industry statements; answers to frequently asked questions; and beef industry facts. BSEInfo.org also serves as a portal to other government, international and industry Web sites, and interactive maps highlight the geographic distribution of BSE cases. A premiere Web site in its subject area, BSEInfo.org continues to be one of a very few sites to offer a comprehensive range of scientific information about BSE and related disease, typically hosting more than 2,000 unique visitors per week, many from other countries. Visit the revised site at www.BSEInfo.org. For more information about checkoff-funded programs, visit www.MyBeefCheckoff.com. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana open to U.S. beef

by WLJ
Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana open to U.S. beef Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer last week reviewed the success from recent openings of U.S. beef markets into Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana recognizing international trade standards for U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages. "The opening of these diverse markets demonstrates the global appetite for U.S. beef and the understanding and confidence nations place in America’s science-based international standards for safety," said Schafer. "I think it is important to review this pattern of opened markets for their strategic placement in the world marketplace where surrounding nations and world travelers can once again enjoy the quality of American beef." Officials from the USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have made a concerted effort to restore markets for U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages in line with international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health. More than 100 countries currently allow the entry of U.S. beef and beef products. Costa Rica and Belize are both Central American countries with strong tourism sectors. In addition, Costa Rica is an important port and gateway to other Latin American markets. In calendar year 2003, the U.S. exported more than $2.6 million in beef and beef products to Costa Rica. Belize, the second smallest and least populated country in Central America, relies on foreign imports from countries such as the U.S., Belize’s number one trading partner. Qatar, bordering the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world and blossoming hotel and tourism industries. Exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Qatar topped $1.2 million in 2003, and strong growth is expected. The West African nation of Ghana has become an important trading partner in Africa due, in large part, to a stable and vibrant democracy, and economic reform. The Ghanaian market is a relatively new one for U.S. beef. — WLJ

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