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Monday, April 18,2005

What Canada has to say about traceability

by WLJ
Canada's food and feed-processing industries will need to take a proactive approach to the issue of traceability as consumers become more concerned about the safety and quality of what they are eating, according to presentations Tuesday at the Canada Grains Council 36th annual meeting. Delegates at the meeting were told that although agriculture is barely on the minds of consumers, this sector was the driving force behind the need to improve food safety. Scott Dutton, a media relations official with IPSOS-Reid, a marketing-research firm, said a recent survey of 2,000 adults across Canada found that 35 percent of respondents were completely confident in Canada's food safeguards while 55 percent were somewhat confident. The results were considered accurate within plus or minus four percent, Dutton said. Those not confident, one in 10, expressed concerns about animal diseases, such as BSE or avian flu, as well as food contamination and the use of pathogens. Dutton said based on another survey of 1,600 adults in Canada, the food-processing industry in Canada will take the brunt of the blame for any kind of food safety issue that may arise. He said 38 percent of the respondents would blame the food-processing sector for the problem, 15 percent would link the problem back to the farm, 15 percent to the restaurant sector, 10 percent on transportation, 10 percent on the environment at home and about 9 percent on the grocery or retail store. Kathleen Sullivan, general manager with the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada, or ANAC, said it was important for feed mills and feed manufacturers in Canada to be proactive and prepare to handle the inevitable traceability issue. She said her organization which was formed in 1996 with a goal of bringing Canadian companies on line to Good Manufacturing Practices and on board with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCPs, in the feed sector. "It is important that consumers know that the feed which is going into these animals and will eventually be used in the food chain is also safe," Sullivan said. Some 179 Canadian facilities are HACCP certified, of which 70 percent are feed producers and 33 percent are commercial feed mills, Sullivan said. She said cost is the problem in getting the smaller feed mills on board with the HACCP program. But she said ANAC is looking at how to streamline these safety programs from a cost perspective. "It is only a matter of time before outlets like Walmart in North America begin demanding audits of their food suppliers," said David Trueman, with DB Information Systems from the U.K. Because of that, he said it would be wise for food processors and feed manufacturers in North America to be proactive in coming up with product traceability lines and additional food-security proposals instead of waiting for government legislators to become involved. Trueman warned Canadian food and feed processors that failure to be prepared for these changes will result in a loss of market. — 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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Monday, April 11,2005

Appeal focuses on human health risk

by WLJ
A reply brief was filed by the National Meat Association (NMA) last Monday with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the continuing battle over whether to allow imports of younger Canadian cattle. The brief not only sought the higher court= s intervention in allowing this organization to be an intervener in the case of R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America v. USDA, but also asked the court to overturn the preliminary injunction put in place by a Montana-based Federal District Court preventing the border from re-opening last month. According to an NMA news release, the filing was a direct result of a comment made in a brief filed by R-CALF last week that said R-CALF has, A never argued that there was a great risk to human health from resumed imports of cattle and beef from cattle.@ Citing this statement, NMA asked the Ninth Circuit to immediately overturn the preliminary injunction against imports of Canadian cattle and beef, saying the judge= s ruling was based to a large extent on the alleged potential for harm to human health. The 30-page preliminary injunction issued on March 2 by U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull addresses the issue of human health in an item entitled, A Has the USDA failed to adequately assess the impact of its action on human health?@ The A action@ Judge Cebull refers to is USDA= s issuance of a final rule creating a category of regions with minimal risk BSE and setting conditions for importation of ruminants and of meat and other ruminant products from such regions, and naming Canada as the sole region with that classification. Cebull= s ruling says R-CALF alleges that by issuing the Final Rule, USDA has provided no assurance that the risk to human health is minimized, and USDA has not explained the criteria and basis for its conclusion that the increased risk presented by imports of Canadian beef and cattle is acceptable. Cebull cited the Animal Health Protection Act as law in this instance, since this act directs the USDA secretary to protect the health and welfare of the people of the United States. NMA cites excerpts of Cebull= s ruling justifying the preliminary injunction because of an A increased risk to human health@ and also a A genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers.@ NMA said, A Now it appears that these conclusions by the Court had no basis in the record, since R-CALF has effectively admitted that they could not have been based on argument presented by R-CALF.@ When asked about the human health risk quote NMA is citing, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said, A They (NMA) blatantly misquoted our disease risk assessment expert who in his declaration said that while he did not consider a wide spread health risk to be highly likely under the proposed rule, he said it is not sufficiently unlikely to be dismissed or ignored. In other words, we are being realistic and factual in statements, and yet NMA is blatantly misrepresenting our expert in the caution that he was expressing to the court, which certainly borders on unethical practices on the part of NMA in a court of law.@ Bullard added that NMA= s quote that R-CALF never argued that there was a great risk to human health is not a direct quote. Instead, he said, they have deleted words and omitted commas and substituted them with a period to misrepresent R-CALF= s stance. After reviewing the Ninth Circuit brief filed by NMA, Bullard said NMA suggests the only reason not to allow Canadian beef is it would cause a wide-spread health risk. A That= s not R-CALF= s position at all,@ said Bullard. A We acknowledge that this disease, as we have watched it unfold, is a rare disease. And, our position is that it is a disease with such devastating consequences that we must take every precaution to avoid it and prevent its introduction into this country. NMA= s position is all about their financial self-interest.@ Another aspect of the NMA brief is an allegation that R-CALF has never addressed the risk assessment work supporting USDA= s Final Rule, including three successive studies from the Harvard School of Public Health. A R-CALF now seems more interested in supporting its protectionist preliminary injunction on procedural grounds rather than addressing human health and animal safety,@ said Rosemary Mucklow, NMA executive director. A And today to confirm the priority that R-CALF gives to procedural maneuvering, R-CALF filed with the Ninth Circuit a motion to strike the amicus briefs offered by two cattle feeders, Pioneer, Inc. and Easterday Feeders, and a brief offered jointly by the American Meat Institute and the North American Meat Processors in support of NMA= s appeal to the Ninth Circuit. A R-CALF will apparently use every legal technicality and tactic to keep in place the preliminary injunction from which R-CALF members are reaping huge profits at the expense of the very survival of U.S. slaughter facilities and U.S. workers,@ Mucklow concluded. Copies of NMA= s Reply brief and copies of R-CALF motion to strike are available on NMA= s website at www.nmaonline.org. Copies of R-CALF= s briefs and judge Cebull= s ruling can be found on the R-CALF website at www.r-calfusa.com. A hearing on the merits of R-CALF= s case for a permanent injunction is scheduled for July 27. As of press time last Thursday, it was uncertain whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear NMA= s case. C Sarah L. Swenson, WLJ Associate 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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Monday, April 11,2005

LETTERS

by WLJ
R-CALF= s position is rife with hypocrisy Dear Editor: A group of protectionist, anti-free-trade ranchers known as R-CALF has pulled the wool over our eyes. They= ve convinced a Federal District Court judge in Montana that they know more than the best scientific minds around the world on how to protect the U.S. against BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). The R-CALF approach doesn= t involve controlling cattle feedC the source of BSE. It doesn= t involve processing only younger cattle that are scientifically proven to be BSE-free. It involves locking out their Canadian competitors to preserve historically high profits for R-CALF members at the expense of workers and consumers. While R-CALF frantically waves the flag in the name of beef safety and protecting the U.S. cattle herd, take a moment to consider the hypocrisy of their position. Why locking out Canadian cattle doesn= t help the United States: It doesn= t keep out Canadian beef (which is safe). In August of 2003, the USDA elected to allow imports of boneless boxed Canadian beef under 30 months of age as a first step toward totally opening the border to live cattle. U.S. consumers ate more than one billion pounds of Canadian beef last yearC more than 32 pounds for every man, woman and child in this country. This isn= t a food safety issue. As noted above, we= re already eating beef from the same cattle that are being stopped at our borders. We= re not protecting domestic cattle. The USDA proposal for March 7 was to open the border to cattle under 30 months of ageC younger than the scientifically proven onset of BSE. BSE is not conveyed through contact. Bringing Canadian cattle into the U.S. does not create a risk of contamination for the U.S. herd. Shipping only under-30-month Canadian cattle directly to U.S. processing plants in sealed containers would be an added precaution. It isn= t a hasty step. Our border has been closed to Canadian cattle since May of 2003. What science has made very clear over the past two years is: There is no scientific evidence that cattle under 30 months show evidence of BSE. Of 1.6 million cattle less than 30 months tested for BSE in the United Kingdom in 2002, not a single one tested positive for BSE. What R-CALF has accomplished: Perpetuating an unfair advantage for Canadian beef processors. The price of comparable fed cattle has averaged $265 per head less in Canada than in the U.S. That price differential shot from $115 to $325 within one week after Federal District Judge Richard Cebull issued his March 2 ruling keeping the border closed to Canadian cattle. This sizeable advantage for Canadian processors is cutting into U.S. beef sales domestically as well as in countries like Mexico, where we compete with Canada. The outsourcing of U.S. beef industry jobs to Canada. While more than 272,000 U.S. beef industry workers and their families have been economically harmed as our industry has run more than 9 percent below pre-BSE levels, the Canadian beef processing industry grew by 24 percent in 2004, with another 19 percent growth predicted by 2007. The jobs created in Canada likely will never return to the U.S. A continuing drain on the U.S. economyC particularly in those regions where beef processing is significant. Based on a Colorado State University economic impact study, it= s estimated that the Greeley, CO, community alone has lost more than $250 million in economic activity in 2004 just based on a 9-10 percent production slowdown. Extended nationwide, that translates to between $6-8 billion in lost economic activity in one year alone. R-CALF supports protectionism, not safety: Some members of R-CALF are playing both sides of the fenceC buying cheap Canadian cattle to earn huge profits if/when the border is openedC while running up the price of domestic cattle by charging that Canadian cattle are A unsafe.@ A Japanese official was quoted as saying that R-CALF= s opposition to opening the border may delay the start of beef exports to Japan. Since the U.S. is demanding that Japan use scientific standards as a reason to reopen their border to U.S. beef, how can we justify denying entry to Canadian cattle that meet the same criterion? Even the staunch consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, has criticized the continued closure of the border to Canadian cattle. A American ranchers alleged health concern about young Canadian cows exposing American consumers to BSE is all sizzle and no steakC it has nothing to do with human health and everything to do with protecting their profits,@ said CSPI= s Caroline Smith DeWaal. Besides hurting thousands of U.S. beef industry workers and their families and flouting scientific evidence, the R-CALF ranchers are keeping beef prices high. One economist estimates domestic beef prices will drop a nickel per pound once the border is opened to Canadian cattle under 30 months of age. Consumers should tell their Congressmen that we shouldn= t let a group of radical fringe ranchers dictate our food safety and agriculture policies just so they can line their own pockets. Return control to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and put the U.S. beef industry on a level playing field with its foreign competitors. Sincerely, John Simons President & CEO Swift & Company Greeley, CO Nebraska= s reps refusing to support the border closure Dear Editor: Why have Nebraska's Congressional representatives refused to sign the Resolution of Disapproval (HR 23) which keeps the Canadian border closed to live cattle? Why aren't they working to secure mandatory country-of-origin labeling? Why has the United States guaranteed that it won't export Canadian beef to Japan when it has blocked efforts to give American consumers that choice? Why are Nebraska's representatives willing to risk the loss of consumer confidence by waiving the rules on BSE established in l989 by World Health Officials? Do they realize that if the border opens under relaxed regulations, the U.S. would have the lowest health and safety standards on imported cattle of any developed nation? Will the U.S. become a dumping ground for beef from other BSE-infected countries? We lost our largest export markets because one infected Canadian cow was identified in the U.S. Why would we EVER put our domestic market at risk by further relaxing existing regulations? If the livelihood of Nebraska's ranchers and farmers is important to our representatives, then Osborne, Terry, and Fortenberry should sign on as co-sponsors of the Resolution of Disapproval so a vote can be taken. Chris Abbott Hyannis, NE CAFTA And Its Parallels With History The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to the Tea Act of 1773 that was passed by Parliament to rescue the British East India Company from impending failure. The Tea Act essentially eliminated all taxes on tea except the three pence Townshend tax. It allowed the company to sell American colonists tea at a lower price than that of the colonial smugglers (independent importers). As a result, the British East India Company would be saved from bankruptcy, the colonial smugglers would be out of business, and the principle of parliamentary taxation would be upheld. The British East India Company lobbied the British Crown for advantageous tax and trade legislation. Modern day versions of the multinational are lobbying congress for similar trade advantages. CAFTA could give multinationals that set up new businesses in other CAFTA countries a "patent" or temporary monopoly by removing import duties immediately but phasing out export duties over 17-20 years. By that time domestic competition would be out of business. Cheap goods that we could import because of CAFTA would come at a cost. Not only would production (the source of wealth) move out of the country, but every act of Congress would be subject to review by an international arbitration tribunal that could declare laws passed by the U.S. Congress "illegal." Such declarations would not be appealable to a higher governmental body. Resulting rulings could not be brought to the Supreme Court. Trade penalties could be imposed until Congress changed the offending law. CAFTA is not a trade agreement, it is an import agreement. There is no free lunch. CAFTA asks us to sell our collective soul for a few cheap imports. In the 1770s Colonialists in America rejected the opportunity to buy cheap tea by giving away their national sovereignty. We should follow their brave example and reject CAFTA. Randy Stevenson Double S Livestock Wheatland, WY U.S. breeding cattle into Mexico Steven Vetter: I am a good friend of Dick Crow and he told me you= d be a good contact for information. I read with a lot of interest your article about the trilateral meeting in Mexico City. You covered the aspect of U.S. breeding cattle into Canada and the prospects of Canadian breeding cattle into Mexico. However, I did not see any references to U.S. breeding cattle into Mexico. My primary business for the last 30 years has been the export of cattle and cattle related products into Mexico. Primarily the states of Sonora and Sinaloa. You can imagine the hardship that this ban has imposed on my income stream. I ranch as well in Mexico where we run 900 cows, about half are commercial cows and the other half are Balancer and Simmental herds. The bull sales in Mexico have been super, all our bull calves have sold before 12 months of age at very good prices. However, we depend on American genetics to keep our genetic pool in Mexico in the same century as the genetic pool in the U.S. I feel we are losing ground, especially in this competitive fast changing times. The gist of this letter is to ascertain if you have a better guess than the rest of us, as to when the American breeding cattle can head south. Ray Rodriguez, Ph.D R&R Agrotech, Inc. Tucson, AZ © 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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Monday, April 11,2005

COMMENTS

by WLJ
It= s quite a contrast when you consider that the sheep industry just re-approved their promotion checkoff program by an 80-20 percent margin. In the beef industry the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision very soon that could overturn the beef checkoff by finding it unconstitutionalC essentially killing it. I= m relatively certain that if the beef industry had it to do over, we might not be in the situation of possibly losing the beef checkoff. At the time the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) went after the checkoff, there was an entirely different board of directors, and mind set. Today, I don= t think it would have gone this far. In retrospect, all LMA wanted was to reconfirm that producers really wanted a producer-funded promotion program, which is exactly what sheep producers did. Once the courts got into the act, everyone lost control. Think about itC after some producers took it to federal court the checkoff issue took off on an uncontrollable journey, one that producers who devised and paid for the program couldn= t do anything about. This is the kind of stuff that worries me whenever groups in the beef industry take their own issues to court. Once the courts get it, producers lose all control. I certainly wouldn= t want that for my business. As a matter of fact, I= m allergic to lawyers and courts. During World War II, the sheep industry reached its largest point with 56 million head. Wool played a stronger role in that market; today that aspect is essentially non-existent. Perhaps with oil prices going through the roof, natural fibers like wool and cotton will make a comeback. Anyway, today= s sheep industry has an inventory of only 6.1 million head. Funny how that works, whittle your industry to 10 percent of its original size and now fed lambs are trading at an all time highC $1.30 a pound. Now that supply and demand have actually met, real demand for lamb is growing, primarily due to growing ethnic populations and their religious traditions. Imports played a significant role in today= s lamb business. Imported lamb was everywhere and U.S. producers were getting trounced because of the lower cost and younger product. U.S. producers were taking such a beating that the World Trade Organization (WTO) provided sheep producers with some injunctive relief from lamb imports. The tariffs lasted for roughly two years, then U.S. producers were forced to compete with imports. The interesting point about the sheep business is that it appeared to go to the very edge of dying before turning around. Clearly supply had to meet demand, and the industry went from 56 million head to six million head in a 60-year period. With a down trend like that, it would have been hard to get out of the way fast enough. I= m not sure just how much lamb is imported to the U.S. today, but it certainly seems to be a much different product than U.S. lamb. New Zealand and Australia are the big players in the global lamb markets, and they have always offered a much smaller lamb that was grass fed. I think it would be safe to say that the lamb industry, particularly U.S. lamb, has had to rebuild its market. What does this have to do with the beef business? There has been much concern over beef imports, even though the Canadian border situation is getting all the headlines. It would be difficult to imagine the U.S. beef industry following the path of the lamb business. U.S. grain fed beef is a unique product. One that grass fed beef will never be able to fulfill. For the most part, beef imports have been limited to a high-lean product, a product U.S. cattlemen have had difficulty producing. Not because we can= t, but because our industry is focused on producing high-value, high-quality fed beef. The lamb industry realized that promoting their product is vital and are investing in their future to create demand. It= s perplexing that some in the beef industry have determined promoting beef through a producer-funded program is a violation of free speech and doesn= t represent their view. The beef industry, has always been a supply-driven industry, except for the last few years. At some point in time the lamb industry had some demand. But, to see that industry at just 10 percent of its maximum size is mind boggling. C PETE CROW © 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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Monday, April 11,2005

Ranchers seek to intervene in grazing suit

by WLJ
Faced with the possibility of losing approximately 83,000 animal unit months from grazing permits on 11 national forests in California, officials with the California Cattlemen= s Association (CCA) recently announced plans to file for intervener status in a court case challenging revisions to federal grazing policy. In February, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several radical environmental organizations filed lawsuits seeking to reverse 2004 revisions to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA). SNFPA is a United States Forest Service (USFS) planning document originally conceived by then President Bill Clinton= s administration and finalized in early 2001 governing the management of 11 national forests in California, which entails almost 11.5 million acres. SNFPA originally sought to severely reduce grazing in the region, primarily via standards and guidelines intended to protect three species deemed A sensitive@ by the USFSC the Willow Flycatcher, Yosemite Toad and Great Gray Owl. However, late that year, regional forester Jack Blackwell initiated a review of SNFPA primarily focusing on unintended and severe impacts to grazing permittees in the region. That review found little scientific justification for the original SNFPA standards, and a supplemental environmental impact statement was developed containing revised standards and guidelines intended to allow grazing to continue while giving equivalent levels of protection to sensitive species. The revised document was finalized in early 2004. CCA officials last week said it is imperative that graziers fight the suits against the revised SNFPA because of the significant impacts that California cattle producers could face. A We are intervening on behalf of the Forest Service in this issue, but on the basis that our members could be severely impacted by significant losses of grazing permit stocking rates,@ said Ben Higgins. A If these suits against the revised Sierra Nevada plan are successful we could lose a significant amount of grazing availability.@ Higgins reiterated that the original SNFPA would result in a loss of over 80,000 AUMs on the 11 national forests included under the act. The request for intervener status was not yet filed as of press time last Thursday. Higgins said that it is likely, however, it will hit the court by the end of the month. A We are well beyond contemplating this action,@ he said. A The process of gaining this status is well underway and we have already notified the Forest Service of our intentions and that a brief backing their decision will be filed on their behalf.@ C 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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Monday, April 4,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Yum! raises earnings view Yum! Brands Inc., the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, recently raised its first-quarter earnings outlook slightly due to strong sales. First-quarter sales at Yum! Brands restaurants rose four percent in the U.S. The Louisville, KY-based restaurant operator said it expects first-quarter earnings of 51 cents to 52 cents a share. In February, the company forecast earnings of 51 cents a share. In the first quarter last year, Yum! Brands posted earnings of $142 million, or 47 cents a share. Finger found in chili A diner bit into a segment of human finger while digging into a bowl of chili at a San Jose Wendy's restaurant March 22, Santa Clara County health officials said. The finger was described by Santa Clara County Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph P. O'Hara as cooked but not decomposed. The finger was found in two pieces, a one and three-eighths inch long fingertip complete with the skin whorls used in fingerprinting, and a half-inch long piece of fingernail. The joint appeared to have been torn off, possibly by manufacturing machinery, rather than cleanly cut. Health inspectors assume the finger likely entered the food chain as a result of the manufacturing process. ConAgra restates financial results ConAgra Foods Inc. will restate its financial results for 2004 and the first half of fiscal 2005 because of income tax errors. The accounting problems could cost the Omaha, NE-based company up to $200 million. The packaged-food manufacturer reported that it earned an estimated $160 million on sales of $3.6 billion, slightly ahead of last year, for the three months ending Feb. 27. Comparable net income and per share results from the same period last year will be restated because of the tax errors. ConAgra warned last month that its earnings would be down about 10 cents a share because of production problems and increased costs. Based on that estimate, analysts revised their estimates for the quarter to 32 cents a share, down from 42 cents a share. NE checkoff bill stalls Legislative debate on a proposed bill that would implement a state beef checkoff in Nebraska stalled last week. State Sen. Bob Kramer of Aurora introduced bill LB 150 that would create a statewide checkoff that producers would pay $1-per-head to fund. As part of that proposal, producers could ask for a full or partial refund of the fee on a monthly basis. Kramer cited fears that the U.S. Supreme Court might rule the national checkoff program unconstitutional and that Nebraska beef producers needed to have another program help promote beef produced from their cattle. However, opposition has arose and stalled discussion on the issue. When the bill would be brought up for debate again was unknown last Thursday. Processing plant increases size Flanders Provision Co. in Waycross, GA, has added a 18,000-square-foot processing plant to increase production capacity and streamline beef processing and distribution operations, from raw material handling to final product packaging and distribution. The addition brings the size of the plant to 50,000-square feet. Flanders Provision Co., a leading producer of frozen meat patties, distributes beef products to retail grocery stores in 48 states and 14 countries. The facility was designed and expanded to incorporate the highest standards in food quality, safety, and overall plant efficiency based on USDA standards. Russians seek to reduce import duty Russia’s Economic Development and Trade Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and the Central Bank of Russia plan to propose to the government that it reduce the over-quota import duty on beef to 40 percent from 60 percent, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told a news agency Prime Tass reports. Russia’s imports of frozen and chilled red meat from outside the Commonwealth of Independent States, consisting mostly of beef and pork, increased 2.4 percent on the year to 878,200 tons in 2004. Rap plan for the Big Mac Rappers and hip-hop artists who agree to incorporate Big Mac into their lyrics will receive $1 to $5 from McDonald's Corp. each time one of their songs gets radio airplay, according the company. The new marketing plan is designed to reach young adults through their music of choice. The burger giant will have final approval of any lyrics that include Big Mac. McDonald's developed the strategy in conjunction with marketing firm Maven Strategies, which created a similar program for Seagram's gin. License suspended Manilla Halal Meats, Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada, had its slaughtering license suspended by the Ministry of Agriculture on the same day an animal was allegedly killed there without a mandatory pre-slaughter inspection. A Ministry spokeswoman Susan Murray was cited as saying the license was suspended because a pre-slaughter inspection, known as an ante-mortem inspection, was not performed as required © 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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Monday, April 4,2005

Fed trade light, but higher money

by WLJ
— Northern cattle up $4-5; southern trade slow going. Light to moderate trade happened in northern feeding areas last Wednesday at prices $4-5 higher than the majority of trade the previous week, while southern cattle feeders were still waiting on packers to come in at prices $2-3 stronger as of press time last Thursday. Analysts weren’t sure that southern feeders would get the $94-95 live they were looking for, but were pretty confident that a majority of last week’s trade would end up at mostly $93. The slow interest by packer buyers in the south was said to be the result of packers buying enough cattle the previous two weeks to fill a large portion of slaughter spots during the first full week of April. Through Thursday approximately 50,000 cattle moved in Nebraska in a range of $93-95 live, $148-153.50 dressed. In Kansas, only 2-3,000 head had moved through Thursday at mostly $93 live. Texas trade was called “virtually nonexistent.” Stronger prices were said to be almost exclusively the result of feedlots being “extremely current” with their showlists. In fact, several sources said some cattle that were listed as available for sale were “greener than normal,” and would be sold only if the price was right. Packers were reluctant to pay higher money for cattle due to margins being $20-25 per head in the red most of last week. There was also some sentiment from analysts that a moderate post-Easter beef rally might be in store due to eastern consumers trying to get out of the “winter doldrums,” and getting into the grilling mode. A slight rally in the boxed beef market through the middle part of the week made paying a little extra for slaughter-ready cattle a bit more tolerable, analysts said. Choice boxed beef last Thursday was at $151.53, up from the previous Friday’s close of $149.01. Select ended Thursday at $140.82, up slightly from the end of the previous week. Boxed beef trade volume was softer than two weeks ago. However, analysts said weather was once again behind some of the slow movement. They added that once the weather starts to warm up, particularly in the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, boxed beef movement should pick up again. The cow beef market remained strong with 50 percent lean hovering around the $70 per cwt mark, and 90 percent lean being between $158-159 per cwt. Slaughter volumes last week were indicative of packers needing fewer cattle. Through Thursday, last week’s slaughter volume was 445,000 head, 9,000 fewer than the same period a week earlier and 21,000 fewer than a year ago. For the week ending March 26, 572,000 head were processed, compared to 590,000 head the previous week and 616,000 head for the same week last year. Several analysts still indicated that a slaughter week of approximately 560,000 head would meet current beef demand, which further indicates packers needing fewer and fewer cattle compared to pre-BSE years. Last week’s total slaughter volume was expected to be around 570,000 head. Live cattle futures gave some strength to last week’s cash fed cattle market, at least through midday Wednesday. Those contracts lost some of their momentum Wednesday afternoon, however, and that helped soften stronger price prospects in southern feeding states. Early in the week, April live cattle got up to $91 before closing Thursday at $89.82. Moisture strengthens calf prices The spring stocker and calf market continues to be spurred on by abnormally large amounts of precipitation that has inundated the southern half of the country, southern West Coast and the Midwest. Spring grazing prospects continue to improve, and that is giving stocker operators the opportunity to increase stocking rates significantly compared to the past few drought years. In most instances, calf prices were up another $2-5 from two weeks ago, with the one exception being the Northwest where drought conditions continue to put a damper on the spring grazing outlook. It was not uncommon last week to see 400-pound-or-lighter steers bring $160 or more, and five- to six-weight steers bring $135-140 consistently. Calf supplies continue to be tight and that was helping to elevate prices. Some analysts said if the USDA appeal of Judge Richard Cebull’s injunction against allowing Canadian live cattle into the U.S. was successful that short supplies wouldn’t be as big of a deal. However, they also said they didn’t see there being enough Canadian cattle to fully fill the void of fed cattle supplies. Some analysts thought the Canadian border reopening might soften the calf market $3-5 initially, and maybe another $1-2 for a week or two following. Feeders, yearlings Prospects for cattle feeding profits last week, and last week’s developments with Pacific Rim countries over beef trade, helped spike prices for feedlot-ready cattle $2-3. At $95 northern cattle feeders were starting to show $30-50 profits at minimum, according to analysts. Some profits were said to be upward of $75-100 per head. In addition, news that Japan was moving forward with plans that could reopen its border to U.S. beef before the end of the year had cattle feeders placing cattle that would be ready for market this summer and early fall. Futures also rallied stronger last week on the news of Taiwan setting April 16 as its formal date for allowing U.S. beef back across its borders. The April feeder cattle contract last week got up over $108 per cwt, before settling back down to $107.67 at the close of business Thursday. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (CME) feeder cattle index, for steers weighing 700-850 pounds, was around $107.80 last Wednesday, over $1.50 higher than the previous Wednesday.

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Monday, April 4,2005

Letter

by WLJ
Bullard doesn’t speak for me! R-CALF’s hired hand, Bill Bullard, does not speak for me. I am one of those 774,630 independent U.S. cattle producers that is fed up with Bullard implying that he speaks for all U.S. cow-calf producers. Bullard’s recent WLJ article (March 28 issue) underscores a consistent theme of reckless rhetoric that has nothing to do with protecting the safety of U.S. beef and everything to do with frightening U.S. consumers, dismantling northern U.S. packing capacity and trying to maintain an illogical trade barrier at the U.S./Canadian border. BSE is an animal health issue, not a human health or consumer safety issue here in the U.S. or Canada. Provisions are in place within the beef production system that ensures humans are not at risk. Cattlemen that do not understand that and continue to address BSE in terms of a human health threat need to do their homework or look for another line of work. That’s a harsh statement, but if you don’t understand the measures that are in place from calving to the dinner plate to ensure BSE is not a human health risk then how can the rest of us cattlemen trust you to abide by those measures? Like it or not, beef is produced and processed in the same manner on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border. Contrary to what Bullard would have you think, Canadian cattlemen are not a bunch of irresponsible idiots. In fact, since their very existence has been threatened as a result of BSE, I can think of no other group of cattlemen in world that would be more aware and conscientious about producing a safe product. If Canadian processed beef and live cattle are unsafe, well I won’t finish the rest of the sentence. The Canadian government is pouring millions of dollars into new processing plants to replace the capacity Canadian cattlemen can no longer access here in the U.S. R-CALF and Bullard want you to think they are helping U.S. cattle producers by waging war against those dastardly “multi-national meatpackers.” Wake up cattlemen, R-CALF’s lawsuit has caused the Canadian government to dole out $87 million dollars in a single week to help expand packing capacity. Yes, Mr. Bullard you and R- CALF are really teaching the packers a lesson and helping me out! Bullard talks about competing in the international market. How far do you think his logic will take us? We don’t allow their product in, but our product must be welcome in their market. R- CALF’s law-suit to prohibit live cattle trade hugely favors packers with plants on both sides of the border. They access cheap Canadian cattle, process them in brand new government financed plants and send that product into the U.S. as boxed beef. Mean while their sister plants on this side of the border reduce cattle buys, slow operations to a crawl or shut down. That low cost boxed beef coming across competes directly with beef processed by smaller exclusively U.S. based packing plants. Guess who supplies the cattle for those exclusively U.S. based plants that are struggling to stay afloat? You and I do friend! Sincerely yours, Dale Lueck Aitkin, MN © 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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Monday, March 28,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Hormel acquires Lloyd's BBQ Hormel Foods has purchased Lloyd's Barbeque Co. of St. Paul, MN, from General Mills, which bought the company in 1999. Lloyd's makes a full line of refrigerated barbecue products, including tubs of barbecued beef and beef back ribs. “Lloyd's brands have earned strong market share in the retail refrigerated entrée category, a business that Hormel Foods knows well," said Joel Johnson, Hormel chairman. “We believe Lloyd's will continue to flourish as part of our roster of refrigerated products.” No terms of the agreement were announced last week. Egypt lifts ban on U.S. beef Egypt has lifted its ban on U.S. beef and beef products derived from cattle under 30 months old, USDA announced March 17. Egypt, according to USDA, imported $30 million worth of beef and beef products in 2003 before Dec. 23, when a case of BSE was reported in Washington state. Liver accounted for almost $19 million, approximately 65 percent, of U.S. beef sales. Egypt is now requiring age and origin verification under the USDA Beef Export Verification program. BK closes Oklahoma stores Burger King franchise owner Ken Knight has shuttered his 14 stores, all in the Oklahoma City area, blaming a struggling economy and a growing lack of consumer appeal. As a result of the closings, which took place over the past year, 350 employees have been let go. Knight had worked with Burger King since 1979. Burger King is exploring options to reopen the closed Burger King operations. Another Canadian beef ban A temporary ban on Canadian beef products was imposed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce and Industry last week. The new ban was the result of the two most recent cases of BSE confirmed by Canada very early this year. Saudi Arabia had reopened its borders to a limited number of Canadian beef on Dec. 22, 2003, after closing its borders in May of that year because of the first confirmed case of BSE in an Alberta cow. Canadian beef exports to Saudi Arabia in 2004 totaled C$2.5 million, compared to $3.8 million the year prior. Canadian trade officials said they are still negotiating with Saudi Arabia to resume beef trade, particularly veal products. Italy detects new case of BSE Two cows in northern Italy have tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the first cases detected this year, the Health Ministry said. The ministry said analysis confirmed a positive result in a 9-year-old cow from a breeding farm in the countryside of Brescia and in a 12-year-old cow in Cuneo. That makes 126 cases of BSE detected in the country since testing began in 2001. The European Union requires tests on catt1e older than 30 months destined for slaughter. ConAgra patent case moves on The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if ConAgra Foods violated antitrust laws in a patent dispute. After receiving a patent for a meat-browning process in 1999, ConAgra warned other food companies in writing not to deal with anyone selling a similar process. Unitherm Food Systems had its own process patented six years earlier, and sued in federal court, which awarded it more than US$19M and ruled that ConAgra was fraudulent in its patent application and tried to monopolize the market with its warnings. It also stated ConAgra should never have received a patent which was substantially similar to Unitherm's. ConAgra appealed, arguing that it thought it had a valid patent, and the Supreme Court will most likely decide based upon procedural issues of the lower courts, rather than the merits of the case. New Belgium BSE case The first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to be found in Belgium in 2005 was confirmed by government officials earlier this month. According to that country's Food Agency, the animal was born in 1997. Three offspring of the cow have also been destroyed; at least one of the three offspring is being tested for the disease. Since 1997, Belgium has confirmed at least 130 cases of BSE in cattle. Friendly's highlights beef ‘SuperMelts’ Casual dining restaurant chain Friendly’s, Wilbraham, MA, recently announced a promotion of three “SuperMelt” sandwiches, including two beef ones. Back by popular demand is the Philly Steak 'n Cheddar SuperMelt, made with thinly sliced steak, sauteed onions and green peppers and warm cheddar cheese sauce on grilled sourdough bread. In addition, the chain recently debuted the Cheesy Colossal Bacon SuperMelt, which is a half-pound burger with bacon, warm cheddar cheese sauce and tomato on grilled sourdough bread. The SuperMelts promotion will last through May 1.

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Monday, March 28,2005

Early WNV vaccination urged

by WLJ
— Early case confirmed in California. Veterinarians and government animal health officials are recommending earlier vaccinations for horses in an effort to prevent West Nile Virus (WNV) from becoming a severe problem this year. “Horse owners should begin vaccinating their animals in March and April this year, which is earlier than usual, as an added precaution," said Wayne Cunningham, state veterinarian at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "Depending on the levels of infection in an area, a second booster shot might be needed later this year, which is why it's important for them to consult with their local veterinarians." WNV has caused more deaths in equine than any other vector-driven disease. This means that a vector, such as a mosquito, is needed to spread the disease, and horses cannot infect each other. In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs' feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents. 2005 case confirmed California’s announcement earlier this month of the earliest confirmation of WNV ever recorded in a horse raises the potential for a widespread outbreak of the disease this year. Livestock health officials in the state attributed the very early March case to the flooding that hit southern California during the months before and the mosquitoes that came along with that problem. Mosquitoes are considered a primary carrier of the virus and the primary vector that moves the disease from animal to animal. Last year, 540 horses in the state were known to have contracted the disease, with 229 deaths. Of the known cases, 356 of the horses were not vaccinated and 145 more were vaccinated incompletely. “Outbreaks of West Nile this year may be even worse than last year,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. “Horse owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible to ensure vaccination status is current. If people get the necessary shots for their horses now, horses will have the protection they need against the deadly disease.” Last year a total of 1,341 horses were confirmed infected with WNV, nationwide. That figure was way down from 5,181 in 2003 and 15,257 in 2002. However, federal and state livestock officials said the drop in cases last year doesn’t mean that the threat of the disease is any less than it was several years ago. The disease can cause an inflammation of the brain and is transmitted by mosquitoes that can infect people and animals. Although both humans and animals have died from the disease, most WNV infections do not cause any illness. Clinical symptoms seen in infected horses include an elevated temperature, stumbling, lack of coordination, weakness of the limbs or partial paralysis. Of the horses that exhibit clinical signs of the infection, one of three will most likely die from the infection. The symptoms of WNV are similar to Western Equine Encephalitis, which owners typically vaccinate their horses against. Producers concerned that their horses may be infected with the disease later in the year are urged to contact their individual state department of agriculture and find out what days testing for the disease occurs.

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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.