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Monday, July 16,2007

Heavy feeder cattle lead the way higher

by WLJ
—Fed market rebound and lower corn provide added boost to strong video auction prices paid for yearlings. Fed cattle trade this week got an early start as short-bought packers slowed production speed and started off with bids steady with the prior week. Feedlots, on the other hand, held firm, looking for higher prices for available fed cattle, which are reported to be in very current condition. It appeared last week like cattle are also being pulled forward to fill packer demand. Nebraska live trade started Tuesday at $142 with live trade in a range of $89-90 although volume was reportedly light to a single regional packer. Elsewhere, bids were still being rejected last Thursday as feedlots used their market advantage to push for higher prices. In Kansas and Texas, packer bids were at $88-89 live, while dressed bids in Colorado ranged from $142-143 and in Iowa from $140-142. Analysts last week expected live prices to reach the $91 live and $141 dressed level before any major trade would occur. The short-bought status of packers had them slowing their production speed slightly last week as they attempted to stay out of the market as long as possible and add value to cutout prices. Slaughter volume through last Thursday was estimated at 497,000 head, well above the previous holiday shortened week tally of 378,000 head, but lower than the same period in 2006 when the total reached 501,000 head. The bounce in the fed cattle market over the past six weeks shows that feedlots probably could have avoided the sharp drop to the low $80 level had they stood firm on asking prices. Occasional early week trade for lower money in the north didn’t help the cause of southern Plains feedlots which tended to market cattle later in the week. The past three weeks have seen a continuation of the trend with southern feeders generally trading higher than their northern counterparts. With tight supplies of fed cattle in the immediate future, the summer low is likely in place and prices should continue higher. The upcoming cattle on feed report is expected to show placement levels about 12 percent below June 2006. Adding to the picture are the prices being paid by feedlots for heavy weight placements for immediate delivery. Those cattle are being purchased to fit into the late fourth quarter marketings, which are trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) in excess of $99. With the recent corn market slide and the shortage of market-ready fed cattle ahead, the market picture for cattle feeders is looking better than many expected it to this year. However, retail demand will need to perk up if the cash market is going to fulfill market expectations in the fourth quarter.  HedgersEdge.com estimated last Thursday that packer losses are at $3.80 per head, which is largely the result of poor movement of beef at the wholesale level. Last Thursday, Choice product was trading at $143.33, up 24 cents, while Select gained 30 cents by midday to trade at $137.25. Good fill-in trade following the 4th of July holiday two weeks ago helped move the cutout higher. Since then however, movement has fallen off and last Thursday’s morning volume was lackluster with only 234 loads trading hands. One bright spot continues to be the cow markets, which are strong as a result of good movement of trim and grind loads. Last Wednesday, 44 loads of trim and 82 loads of grind product sold.  That movement is reflective of strong retail demand for ground beef products as consumers hunt for value-priced protein at the supermarket. The high demand has maintained cow beef cutouts well above year-ago levels. Last Thursday, cow cutout values were up 66 cents to $116.82, and the 90 percent lean traded at $144.70, while the 50 percent product moved at $55.62. The upward surge in the Canadian dollar to near par with the U.S. dollar means that there is less incentive for producers north of the border to ship their culls to the south for processing. That has left a few northern packers with a short supply and added to the willingness to pay more for cull cows. Prices remain in the mid-$50s and could remain there well into the fall if expected U.S. herd inventory numbers are reported near analyst’s expectations. The inventory report, due out June 20, is expected to show the smallest calf crop in years and perhaps a shift toward herd building, one that has been stalled for the past year and-a-half as a result of widespread drought last year and surging corn prices this year. If retention numbers increase, it will lead to an even shorter supply of available heifers this fall and reduce the number of cows being sent to market later this year, adding further support to the cow market. Feeder cattle Western Video Market Auction and Superior Livestock Auction both held massive video auctions last week, setting the fall market in most places. From July 9-11, Western Video Market held their auction in Reno, NV, at the Silver Legacy Hotel and most lots in that auction sold well considering weather conditions throughout the western U.S. Approximately 155,000 head were offered, with very good demand for heavy cattle over 700 lbs., most ready for immediate or near delivery. Demand for cattle to put on feed is heaviest in the north central states but feeders in California were ready for cattle as well, with the futures looking good, keeping the heavier cattle moving at good prices, mostly in the $108-$115 range. Lighter cattle were a tough sell in the western states where drought persists, but the lots offered for later delivery, mostly from October-December, sold fairly well. Six weight steer and heifer calves did better after the first day of the sale, but concerns over high feed prices kept many buyers away from all but reputable cattle. Prices for 600-700 lb. steers stayed in the $110-$125 range, mostly $115-120. Jerry York, WLJ fieldman, was at the auction headquarters in Reno during the sale. “We definitely saw the heavy cattle sell very well. The lighter cattle for immediate delivery got pretty tough. There were a lot of no sales on the lighter calves, just because the drought has a lot of guys worried about where they’ll go with these cattle,” he said. “The lightweights that did sell very well were all from good reputation outfits. It is pretty typical to see those cattle coming out of higher performance sires sell better, but this year, in some cases, they were the only ones selling.” York said that some lightweight black-hided cattle went for as high as $138. “Again, the ones bringing top dollar and selling well were the calves from top-reputation ranches. Value-added cattle also helped some of the lighter cattle sell. The natural feeders were generally worth three to five cents more. Quite a few Certified Angus Beef and a number of age/source verified cattle were run through the auction and they all, for the most part, sold very well.” York also added that drought was not the only concern at this year’s auction. “Normally people will talk about the weather at sales and it will be the biggest concern for ranchers, but this year I heard a lot of people talk about high input costs and uncertainty over domestic security issues,” he said. “ I think, overall, people were waiting to see how some of these things panned out before they bought higher-priced cattle for immediate delivery. It wasn’t just fears about lingering drought keeping buyers from taking all the offerings.” Superior Livestock held their annual “Week in the Rockies” video auction July 9-14, and this year it was their largest auction to date with 330,000 head on offer. Prices at the Superior Auction followed those of Western Video’s closely, although more cattle were offered from the Plains states and eastern U.S. In the southern plains of TX, OK and NM, prices seen during the Superior Auction were better than at local weekly auctions, largely because of weather issues. While good moisture blesses some areas of those states, flooding in large areas of eastern Oklahoma and Texas has kept some muddy cattle going through the rings, and severe drought in the Deep South has forced many cattle from the east into auctions in the Plains. Demand at auctions for feeder cattle in all Western and Midwestern states was good to very good, with prices being up from previous sales in all cases. In country auction markets, volume at most locations is seasonally low, keeping even the lighter weight cattle going back on grass in strong demand. Most demand is spurred by cattle feeder confidence in the corn market staying down after the recent announcement of a larger corn harvest estimate. Both corn and cattle futures for the remainder of 2007 are giving the feed yards some attractive margins and demand has increased accordingly. In Joplin, MO, last week 5,100 head of feeder cattle were sold, with steers going for $3-6 higher at $106-122 for six to seven weights and heifers were mostly steady to $3 higher in the same weight range at $99-109. Receipts in Oklahoma City were up sharply from two weeks earlier with 9,111 head sold, although down by nearly half from a year ago. Demand was very good for all classes of cattle with a number of aggressive out-of-state buyers attending. There are still some quality issues as in the past few weeks at this sale, with a number of cattle coming from the east and being quite thin, although last week the quality picked up some. Both steers and heifers were $3-5 higher, with 600-700 lb. steers selling at $117-$127.75, heifers about $10 lower. Heavier cattle also sold very well, with all weights, include those over 1,000 lbs., selling above $100. Trade and demand were good in Abilene, TX, where 974 head sold. Prices compared to the last sale were better on all cattle and feeders were $2-6 higher. Feeder steers in the 600-700 lb. range sold at $105-116, heifers roughly $10 lower. The 800-900 lb. feeder cattle were only a couple dollars lower across the board compared to the lighter calves. Prices were sharply higher since the last sale for all classes of cattle in Clovis, NM, where 2,823 head were sold last week. Steers were selling $7-11 higher and, in some cases, $13 higher. Heifers were mostly $6-8 higher and, in instances, up $10. Steers sold at $109-$113 for mostly 600 lb. calves, and the same for 700- 800 lb. cattle. Feeder heifers in the 600-700 lb. range were $95-$98.50, with the same or slightly better prices on 700-800 lb. cattle. In Madras, OR, 668 head traded last week, with a number beginning to come in because of short grass reserves. Feeder steers there sold at $102-111 for 600-700 lb. cattle, nearly the same as 400-500 lb. calves which were trading at $105-115. Steers in Madera, CA, were selling for $89-99.50 for 600-700 lb. cattle, with heifers at $82-91. Steers of 800-plus lbs. were trading at $81-92.25. CME feeder cattle contracts finished on July 12 with August feeder cattle futures down 32 cents to finish at $1.14. November contracts settled at $1.14, down 52 cents on the day. — WLJ  

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Monday, July 16,2007

Two Montana counties now quarantined for rabies

by WLJ
—Caution and vaccinations encouraged. Two Montana counties—Wheatland and Yellowstone—are now under a 60-day quarantine for rabies, the Montana Department of Livestock announced. The Wheatland County quarantine began on June 20 when a rabid dog was discovered and was renewed when a lamb was found to have rabies on June 26. The Yellowstone County quarantine began on June 27 because of a rabid dog. The quarantine status will remain in effect until the counties go for a full 60-day period without another positive finding for rabies, according to Dr. Jeanne Rankin, acting state veterinarian. Rankin explained that under Montana administrative rules, the quarantine status means that no unvaccinated dogs, cats or ferrets in the affected counties can be permitted to run at large or unattended. Instead, all unvaccinated dogs, cats and ferrets must be under the direct and immediate control of their owners at all times, she said. She said animals that received rabies vaccinations before the quarantines began, and which have been officially vaccinated for 14 days, are not affected by the quarantines, but may be subject to confinement ordinances adopted by local governments under their stray animal control programs. When accompanied by a rabies vaccination certificate, these animals are eligible for movement out of the quarantined county. Animals that are vaccinated after a quarantine period has begun are subject to only a 14-day county confinement period under state regulations. “This would be a very good time for people to make sure their pets have been vaccinated,” Rankin emphasized. She noted that the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control “calls for any unvaccinated animal that comes in contact with an animal that is rabid or that is bitten by any wild animal to be euthanized immediately and its brain tested for rabies, or to be put in strict isolation for six months to be sure no infection has occurred. This is a very severe prospect, but it’s entirely avoidable by keeping your pets’ rabies vaccinations current,” she said. She explained that people tend to not keep house pets current on vaccinations, thinking that they will have no exposure to rabid animals. Just the contrary is true, as these pets are in much closer proximity to humans and are a bigger risk if a rabid bat gets into the house, which is very common in Montana, especially west of the Rocky Mountains. “Vaccination is cheap insurance,” she said, noting that last year over 250 dogs and cats were destroyed because of human bites or, more commonly, exposure of unvaccinated pets to wild or rabid animals. There were no positive cases of rabies in dogs or cats in 2006, but there was a case in a horse, Rankin explained. Rankin said the state has every reason to expect more positive rabies findings in the coming days, “so we are cautioning people to be very careful when encountering wild animals that may appear to be tame. People shouldn’t touch or attempt to pick up any wild animals, particularly in the counties that are quarantined,” she warned. She emphasized that any person who suspects that he or she has been bitten by a wild animal should please contact local health officials. She explained that the rabies virus can be excreted in the saliva of an infected animal, and can be transmitted not only by an animal bite but also by exposure of the infected saliva to a scratch or open wound. Rankin reported that horses, sheep and cattle also can be vaccinated for rabies, and she recommended that livestock owners consult with their veterinarians about the advisability of getting vaccinations, especially of those livestock kept in close contact with people. — WLJ  

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Monday, July 9,2007

Tick quarantine set in Starr County, TX

by WLJ
The fever tick quarantine zone in Starr County, TX, has been expanded temporarily due to the threat of fever ticks beyond the permanent “quarantine zone” that runs along the Rio Grande. Effective July 3, livestock cannot be moved from the expanded preventive quarantine area until the animals are manually inspected for fever ticks, dipped and permitted for movement by personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fever Tick Force or the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a protozoa—or tiny animal parasite—that causes the deadly livestock disease “Texas Fever.” The temporary preventive quarantined area is bounded on the east by Ebanos Road (Ebony Road) from its junction with U.S. Highway 83, then north on San Julian Road to its junction with Sanchez Ranch Road (San Julian Road). The northern boundary is comprised of Sanchez Ranch Road (San Julian Road), south on Loma Blanca Road, then west on Hinojosa Ranch Road (Falcon Loop) to its junction with U.S. Highway 83. The western edge is Highway 83 south to the Ebony Road junction. “At this time, we do not know the extent of the infestation in this preventive fever tick quarantined area. However, tick infestation is possible, and therefore, we must take extraordinary precautions to prevent the spread of these very dangerous pests,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and executive director of TAHC, the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. He explained that the fever tick, if not contained, could become re-established, even through the winter, throughout much of the south, southeast and parts of California. In addition to cattle, horses and white-tailed deer, Nilgai and elk can act as a host of the tick, perpetuating its population. “It took more than 50 years to eradicate fever ticks from the U.S.,” he said. He noted that a permanent fever tick zone runs through eight South Texas counties along the Rio Grande and is staffed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fever Tick Force. Livestock moved from this permanent quarantine zone also must be inspected, dipped and permitted prior to movement. Tick inspections also are conducted at a number of South Texas livestock markets.   When tick-infested livestock are detected, the ranch and animals are quarantined. Owners can choose to have their cattle inspected and dipped every seven to 14 days for nine months, or the livestock can be dipped repeatedly, until declared tick-free and moved to a new site, leaving the infested pasture “vacated” for nine months, causing the ticks to starve. Regardless of the option selected, wildlife, deer and other hoof stock are provided treated feed to kill fever ticks on these animals. The Fever Tick Force also maintains vigilance along the permanent quarantine zone to apprehend, inspect and dip stray livestock from Mexico, where the fever tick still exists. Owners may reclaim their animals by paying a nominal feed bill. Among the stringent health requirements for livestock shipments from Mexico are fever tick inspection and dipping. If an animal in a shipment is found to have fever ticks, the entire shipment is rejected until it can be re- dipped and inspected. “Keeping the fever tick out of the U.S. is essential,” said Dr. Hillman. “Infected ticks can kill thousands of cattle, and our ability to move animals without restriction could be severely limited. The implementation of this preventive fever tick quarantine is expected to be temporary and will be released as soon as possible.”

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

BSE roundtable to have full agenda

by WLJ
6, 2005 The list of stakeholders invited to attend the U.S. Department of Agriculture's June 9 roundtable to discuss the safety of U.S. and Canadian beef and cattle in the debate over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is large enough to present a full agenda, said Jim Rogers, spokesman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Groups formally invited to attend are The National Cattlemen's Beef Association; American Meat Institute; National Meat Association; R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America; American Farm Bureau Federation; National Farmers Union; National Renderers' Association; National Milk Producers Association; Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; a representative of the World Animal Health Organization; and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Rogers said no information about the order of business is available. The situation is still "in flux," he said. The roundtable, titled "The Safety of North American Beef and the Economic Effect of BSE on the U.S. Beef Industry," is to be held in St. Paul, MN, according to the invitation to R-CALF USA and provided to Dow Jones Newswires by communications director Shae Dodson. The discussion will be held before an open audience, and a moderator is to assist the discussion "to ensure that invited participants are given an opportunity to speak," the letter said. Specific topics for discussion are to include the safety of the cattle and beef supplies and the economic effect and the changes in global beef flow, with special emphasis on the long-term effects on competitiveness, the letter said. Requests for an invitation from several Canadian cattle groups were not answered by USDA, as of last Thursday. Several representatives from Canadian organizations are expected to be in attendance in the audience. — Lester Aldrich, Dow Jones Newswire © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

Beef slump strains feds

by WLJ
6, 2005 Memorial day weekend was a big disappointment from a beef sales perspective, and the fallout pressured fed cattle prices downward $2-4. The boxed beef cutout was under serious pressure on the Friday prior to the popular grilling weekend, being down nearly $5 for that day. Following the anticipated big sales weekend, packers found themselves with large inventories and held a midweek fire sale last week, with the Choice cutout falling to $144.28. Trade volume was exceptionally large, with 807 loads trading last Thursday and another 693 loads moving the day previous. The boxed beef cutout was down nearly $15 from the prior week. As a result, fed cattle prices were under pressure, and the market was established at $85 live and $134-136 dressed in the central and northern plains. Southern fed cattle trade still hadn’t materialized as of press time last Thursday. Kansas and Texas cattle feeders were asking for at least $86, however, packers were still bidding mostly $83-84. Through midday Thursday, just over 100,000 head of cattle traded nationwide. Slaughter levels remained fairly high considering the slower beef sales. Slaughter for the week ending May 29 was 657,000 head, only 2,000 head below last year. Last week was a short week and daily slaughter rates averaged 122,000 head. The latest packer margin index showed packers earning $9.35 per head, based on buying cattle at $87 two weeks ago. Slaughter weights were also a concern to market analysts as they stay heavier than a year ago. For the week ending May 27, average live cattle weights were seven pounds heavier than a year ago. However, Jim Robb, chief analyst with the Livestock Marketing Information Center said finished cattle in the southern feeding states were almost 40 pounds heavier than the same time last year. Wholesalers have become tough buyers over the past two years, and with the cutout dropping to its lowest level in several months they could become more aggressive beef buyers. Beef demand during the first quarter of 2005 was called lower by 2.7 percent. The second quarter is expected to be flat in relation to a year ago. Boneless cow beef markets, which have been a bright spot in the beef markets in previous weeks, were also softer. The 90 percent lean beef price fell several dollars last week, to $142.65, and the 50 percent trim was at $80.65. However market analysts contend that the manufacturing beef market is supply driven rather than demand driven at this point. The cow beef cutout was at $115.92, down nearly $10 from the previous week. Slaughter cows are still in limited supply and trading in the low $60, particularly for “fleshier” cows. Calf, yearlings mostly steady Feeder cattle and calf markets last week were being called mostly steady on a nationwide basis, however, that was based on very light volumes being offered across most regions of the country. Later in the week, heavier weight cattle were seeing some price pressure based on pessimistic summer fed market projections. From a calf and lighter cattle standpoint, market analysts said that while cattle offerings were smaller, the number of potential buyers for those cattle were pretty much static with previous weeks. “It is just not a good week to really get a read on where the market is going,” said David Drake, broker with SW Livestock Inc., Tulsa, OK. “We had buyers out there as did our other normal competitors, but cattle were very hard to find. That resulted in prices staying probably higher than they would have without the holiday hangover.” For example, Oklahoma City Stockyards reported 1,500 cattle being offered, compared to 15,000 the previous week, and a projected 12,000 head for the week beginning June 7. Several other auction barns reported no sale last week due to the holiday, including Joplin Regional Stockyards, one of the largest central Plains auction barns for cattle. Looking at market indicators, market analysts said they would be surprised if both calf and yearling prices remained on an uptrend for the next several weeks. Most sources said that projections for higher corn prices through the rest of the year and beginning of 2006 and poor cattle feeding margins should pressure calf and yearling prices. Despite near-term corn futures contracts falling last Wednesday, they are still 15-20 cents ahead of prices a few weeks earlier. For each dime move in corn, a $3-5 per cwt opposite move is expected in the calf and yearling cattle markets, according to market analysts. Some analysts, however, said that with summer fed cattle breakevens already projected at $90-plus, that a downward cattle market correction of $5-7 could be expected for every dime increase in corn prices. Breakevens for fed cattle being marketed now were called mostly $86-88 up north, while several sources indicated that a lot of southern cattle feeders probably are figuring breakevens at $88 or higher. At an $85 market, most southern cattle feeders could be seeing losses of at least $40 per head, analysts indicated. The CME feeder cattle index last Wednesday, was at $110.77 per cwt, about 40 cents below the previous Wednesday. Calves and lighter feeder cattle were being supported not only by steady demand on smaller volumes, but by projections for longer-than-normal summer, fall and early winter grazing prospects across the country, particularly in areas hit by drought over the previous few years. While moisture has slowed plant growth down so far this spring, rangeland specialists have said that once hotter temperatures become more consistent that grass and other forage growth should be well above previous years’ levels and should result in more forage to be grazed into September, possibly October. — WLJ © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

BSE testing rates slow down

by WLJ
6, 2005 — Seasonal slaughter trends cited. BSE testing figures for last month were the smallest in seven months, with the number of weekly tests being about 25 percent below the previous few months. Officials with the stepped-up federal BSE surveillance program said the decline was simply a matter of seasonal cow slaughter declines and was not associated with any changes in current protocol. For the month of May a total of 30,196 head of cattle were tested by laboratories certified by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). That is the lowest monthly total in the year-long program since October of last year, when 25,476 head were tested. Each of the previous six months had over 31,000 head tested, peaking at 52,755 in March. Representatives with USDA told WLJ last week that there have been no changes in BSE testing or surveillance protocol and that the same number of labs are conducting tests for the disease. “We are still utilizing the federal lab (in Ames, IA) and the seven other certified laboratories to conduct BSE tests,” said Jim Rogers, spokesman for USDA. “There might be fewer technicians available at some of those labs, particularly with them being on university campuses, however, a large majority of the decline is based on seasonal trends within the industry. There are fewer cows being offered up for slaughter right now and that is the big influence in testing declines.” Network labs currently testing for the disease are Davis, CA; Pullman, WA; Fort Collins, CO; College Station, TX; Madison, WI; Ithaca, NY; and Athens, GA. There are five other labs that have been certified for testing but have not started testing. Those labs are in Kissimmee, FL; St. Paul, MN; Manhattan, KS; Frankfort, KY; and Harrisburg, PA. Rogers and other APHIS officials reiterated sentiments from Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns last month that the BSE testing program will proceed as it is currently implemented through most of June, and that a decision on when to close the program would be made at a later date. When the program was first unveiled last year, the minimum number of cattle that needed to be tested was said to be around 268,000 head, which was reached at the beginning of the year. The total number of “most-at-risk” animals was estimated at around 450,000 head. APHIS officials said that even at current testing rates, that figure could be reached this summer, probably some time in September. When the stepped-up surveillance program was first announced last year, Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator for APHIS, said sampling the minimum requirement of 268,000 animals would allow for the detection of BSE at a rate of one positive in 10 million adult cattle with a 99 percent confidence level. “In other words, the enhanced program could detect BSE even if there were only five positive animals in the entire country,” he said. However, with almost 370,000 cattle already being tested without a confirmed case of the disease, it is possible the agency would conclude the stepped-up surveillance program within the next month or two, sources said. As of the end of May, just over 369,000 head had been tested for the disease. Rogers said last week that APHIS officials are currently analyzing the testing data to see whether the program can be ended before the maximum 18-month time frame is reached. He added that if the program is ceased as it is currently, that USDA will probably revert back to a system where BSE testing is conducted according to guidelines suggested by the World Animal Health Organization, which are expected to change sometime later this year. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

ESA changes to be offered

by WLJ
6, 2005 — House report cites program shortfalls. Following on the heels of a Republican–authorized staff report stating that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not working, bills restructuring the law are expected to be introduced into the U.S. House and Senate this summer. Brian Kennedy, communications director for the House Resources Committee, said, “I can’t give you an exact time line,” but the committee expects to begin review of proposed legislation this summer and hopes to send a proposed bill to the full House before the August recess. On May 17, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo, R-CA, released a report, Implementation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, that said less than one percent of protected species have fully recovered, while nearly two-thirds have fallen into the categories of uncertain, declining or possibly extinct. Pombo requested the House Resources Committee’s Oversight & Investigations staff to research and author the report. “The Endangered Species Act’s less than one percent success rate for species recovery is a well-documented and readily-available statistic, but the status of the remaining species on its list has not been as clear until now,” Pombo said in a press release. “This exhaustive review of government data makes it clear the vast majority of these species have not improved under implementation of current law.” Environmentalists and other critics say the report overlooks the lengthy recovery time needed by many species, which often takes decades. The report disagrees, saying, “From the opposing perspective, while recovery to the point of delisting may require a substantial amount of time for many species, after three decades more progress should be demonstrable through species that have recovered and been delisted. Even if a species has increased in numbers or distribution or the threats facing the species have been reduced, if it has not been delisted on the basis of recovery, the ESA’s prohibitions and regulations remain applicable and the ESA should not be a ‘oneway street.’” Critics also say the report looks strictly at the costs of the act and weighs none of the benefits. Jamie Rappaport Clark, who oversaw the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Clinton administration, is quoted by several news services as saying the law is a "remarkable success." She said that just one percent of listed species have gone extinct. Those touting the success of the Endangered Species Act point to the bald eagle, California condor, red and gray wolves, whooping crane, Canadian lynx and other species as examples of success. Those supporters say hundreds of species are improving, and some are nearing recovery goals. The report is not an official House Resources Committee report, but was undertaken at the request of Pombo, who is expected to introduce legislation soon. The authorization for the act expired in 1993, but the congress has appropriated money for it each year since. So, it continues to have the force of law. To compile the report, the Republican majority staff researched and reviewed Federal Register notices for delisted and downlisted species, a decade of agency expenditure reports, data from the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries (NMFS), reports to Congress, critical habitat designation economic impact assessments, agency regulations and recovery plans, and discussed implementation of the act with federal, state and local officials. The press release said the committee has never before conducted such an exhaustive review of ESA implementation. “The ESA has not achieved its original intent of recovering species,” Pombo said. “In fact, there is little evidence of progress in the law’s 30-year history. After reviewing this body of agency information on the act’s implementation over the years, no reasonable individual can conclude that the ESA is sustainable in its current form. It checks species in, but never checks them out.” The report says that in 30 years only 10 of nearly 1,300 domestic species have recovered and, in many cases, the ESA was not the primary factor in the recovery. Definitions, such as the difference between threatened and engdangered, are blurred, the report says, as is the definition of critical habitat. Erroneous data has also affected the implementation of the ESA, according to the researchers. They said that at least 15 of the 33 domestic species that have been delisted in the law’s history were removed from the list because of erroneous data. Errors in data were a contributing factor in at least 10 of 19 or more than 50 percent of the downlisted domestic species, according to the report. Money spent by federal, state, and private parties on species listed because of bad data deprives legitimately endangered species of protection, the report says. Litigation is driving the process, according to the report, rather than science, driving up expenses, protecting species that need no protection and leaving threatened species unprotected. Kennedy said the Pombo is personally involved in trying to put together a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize and restructure ESA. Representatives of the House committee have been in contact with Senate staffers, Kennedy said, to try to coordinate the approaches to ESA reauthorization. Several senators are drafting ESA legislation, but the pace is expected to be slower than that of the House Resources Committee. Senate Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-RI, is drafting a bipartisan proposal, and the committee held its first ESA hearing two weeks ago. "I am wading into this apprehensively,” Chafee, in published reports, said. "I don't want to do anything to damage or weaken ESA, that is my concern.” The House Resources Committee report is available at resourcescommittee.house.gov/issues/more/esa/ESA_Implementation_Report5.17.05.pdf — WLJ © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

Hay quality questioned

by WLJ
6, 2005 — Cow hay prices to soften. — Higher quality forage to remain high. Average to good quality “cow hay” is expected to be much more readily available later this year and a little cheaper to buy, compared to the previous couple of years, thanks to a second straight year-to-year up-tick in mid-year hay stocks and an increase in projected total harvest for 2005. However, higher quality hay could still be in short supply, and transportation and harvest costs could still make hay a little more expensive, compared to the previous 10 years. In its May 1 Crop Production Report, USDA said U.S. hay stocks totaled 27.7 million tons, almost seven percent more than May 1 last year and 26 percent more than the same date in 2003. The increase was attributed to an array of factors, such as increased hay production in 2004, a mild winter in the western U.S., and reduced demand in that region. Twenty-six of the 48 continental states reported an increase in hay stocks compared to 2004. A majority of the states posting a yearly increase in hay stocks were located in the northern Great Plains and the central Corn Belt. The most significant increases in hay stocks, compared to last year, were reported in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. A few major livestock states reporting declines in mid-year supplies, compared to last year were Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and California. In addition, May 1 hay stocks in the Southeast were smaller than a year ago due to a decline in winter hay production. In addition, projected hay acres to be harvested this year are up almost one million acres, compared to last year, and weather has already been wetter than normal across most areas of the country, which means per acre yields could be up also. According to USDA, 2005 hay acres total 62.94 million acres, compared to 61.92 million acres last year. However, while overall hay production is projected to be up from a year ago, there are some indications that overall hay quality may still be below historical levels. According to Jim Robb, market analyst with the Livestock Marketing Information Center, first and second cutting hay across much of the country will probably be average or below-average in quality, which means prices for “horse” and “dairy” hay could be pressured somewhat higher. Cow hay prices, however, could be below the previous few years, depending on what fuel costs are for harvesting and transporting hay. “In a lot of western states it won’t be hard to increase (hay) production, particularly with drought ravaging those areas the previous few years,” said Robb. “However, while winter and spring moisture has been welcomed with open arms (in those areas), it hasn’t been accompanied by warm temperatures and that has slowed down the growth of hay crops and has caused a lot of ‘stemmy’ first cutting hay. That could continue through second cutting. That’s good cow hay, but not good for horse or dairy producers.” While traveling through Utah recently, Robb saw several hay producing areas that are suffering through “boggy conditions,” which haven’t been seen in 25-30 years, maybe longer. “There’s just not enough heat to alleviate wet conditions and get plants to grow,” Robb said. USDA hay reports last month indicated that “fair” to “good” quality hay prices are on average 12-15 percent below the last couple of years and a lot of that decline was seen in the last half of the month. Robb said that while pre-delivery hay prices are cheaper than a year ago and may continue to slide during the remainder of the year, fuel costs may still be a hindrance to producers looking for hay. “Not only is fuel an issue with transportation, but when it comes to harvesting hay, fuel is becoming a very big issue,” said Robb. “Producers need to recoup costs of running their equipment, just like truckers need to be appropriately compensated for their extra costs.” Several trucking companies have said that current transportation rates are hovering between $2.50-2.75 per loaded mile, 20-30 percent more than just a couple of years ago. In addition, several sources said it is entirely possible freight rates could get up to $3 per loaded mile or trucks could be “parked” on a long-term basis. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

Letters

by WLJ
6, 2005 Dear Editor, In 1883 The National Cattle Growers Association was formed in Chicago. From that time on there has been an on going battle between cattleman, cattle feeders and meat packers. There always was a group whom I refer to as “that damn bunch” who never went along with anything or any organized group such as The National Cattle Growers, The American National Cattlemen’s Association, The National Cattlemen’s Association and now the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. From 1883 to 2005, you have the same leadership in the cattle industry but the leaders wear different faces. Their goals have always been to promote the industry and to assure the public their product; U.S. beef was safe and wholesome. The recent burr under the saddle of “that same damn bunch” has been our 1986 mandatory national check off passed by 67% of the actual producers to promote and research our product beef. I personally testified before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee several times in 1984 and 1985 to see to it that a beef check off would be fair and equal to all producers who paid the $1 per head when they sell cattle. Surveys conducted by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board have had ratings as high as 77% approval by all cattlemen that the $1 check off was serving its purpose. Unfortunately twenty some percent that never have agreed has formed behind a few small cattle groups to spring on everything from the constitutionality of the check off and now a protectionist attitude which would disallow free and open trade with any other countries in the world. This same damn bunch went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court to try the Constitutionality of the Beef Check off and this week the Supreme Court by a vote of 6 to 3 ruled the Beef Check off as constitutional law. My hat is off to all that carried the water for the cattle industry to see justice was upheld. As to “that same damn bunch” as usual the good guys won. Sincerely, Jimme L. Wilson Past President of NCA 1992 Trout Creek, MT © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 20,2007

U.S., Korea pact possible soon

by WLJ
6, 2005 USDA and U.S. beef packing industry officials indicated last week that they are hopeful that South Korea, the third largest pre-BSE export market for U.S. beef, could be reopened to U.S. beef before the end of June. However, Korean officials said that while an agreement may be made this month, actual resumption of beef trade with the U.S. could still be a few months away. A team of Korean veterinarians are scheduled to visit the U.S. June 6-10 to examine the U.S.’ BSE prevention and surveillance protocol. Sources said the visit could lead to a decision to reopen Korea’s borders to U.S. beef in the “very near future.” Seoul has expressed its intention to lift the ban, following the footsteps of Mexico, Taiwan and several other smaller export markets. Korean officials, however, said it will take months until the sale of U.S. beef is allowed in the Korean market due to some technical problems. “If experts agree that U.S. beef is safe to eat, trade representatives will meet several times. They will negotiate sanitary conditions and other safety issues, which are necessary for the U.S. to export beef to South Korea again,” said Park Hyun-chool, a director at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF), in a press release. The Korean delegation will be led by Kim Chang-sup, an MOAF official. The delegation will inspect the improved U.S. quarantine system aimed to prevent BSE. The U.S. government has claimed it enhanced disease control programs to meet international standards for beef trade. Last month, a group of Korean consumer group representatives toured U.S. beef processing and ranching facilities to see first hand the efforts that have been made to prevent the spread of BSE and prove the safety of U.S. beef. Packing industry officials called last month’s tour a big success, with several sources saying the contingent was more than satisfied that the appropriate efforts to eliminate the disease had been made. A high-level USDA official told WLJ last week that a possible trade resolution with Korea could be announced during the June 6-10 tour, particularly with U.S. and Korean trade officials meeting prior to that scheduled event. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman is scheduled to meet with Korean officials during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade minister’s meeting on Cheju Island, which was scheduled to start June 3. Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and Portman are expected to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the meeting. U.S. agriculture officials said that it is possible an agreement is reached during those negotiations, but that no announcement of it will be made until the Korean veterinarians conclude their tour and “sign off” on the U.S.’ BSE controls. As far as the time line for reopening the Korean border is concerned, officials with U.S. processors were under the impression that Korea does not have as strict of a regulatory protocol as Japan, and that Korea could be reopened to U.S. beef within weeks of an agreement being reached. Meat export specialists agreed with that; however, they said that Korea is still in the middle of figuring out what kind of protocol they want to agree to. “They (the Koreans) have always said they want to have as strict a protocol as Japan has implemented,” said Lynn Heinze, vice president of information services for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (MEF). “However, they have been in almost constant contact with the Taiwanese government and are more seriously looking at the protocol that country has used to reopen its borders.” Heinze said that Korea is starting to be more receptive to allowing beef from animals 30 months of age and younger and starting to turn away from a proposal that would only allow beef to be brought in from cattle 20 months or younger. Heinze said that adopting a proposal similar to Japan’s 20-month rule would really restrict the amount of beef Korea could choose from and that it would be a more expensive product because of limited supplies. “With the 30-month rule, Korea would be looking at more available beef at lower prices,” Heinze said. “Beef demand over there is really starting to rebound, and (short) supplies are starting to become an issue. They are starting to see a need for reopening their market to more product.” Heinze added that his organization was expecting to Korea to set a specific date for reopening its borders to U.S. beef once an agreement is reached, similar to what Taiwan did. “It’s not a given that Korea will reach a near future agreement, but if they do, I think they will set a date not too far off, which will give their consumers and the U.S. industry a time line to be prepared for,” Heinze concluded. Prior to U.S. beef being banned in late December 2003, Korea was the third-largest importer of U.S. beef after Japan and Mexico. In 2003, Korea imported 199,000 tons of beef from the U.S., which accounted for about 68 percent of all beef imported into Korea that year. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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© Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use, without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. 2008 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.