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Monday, March 14,2005

Beefnet to auction Mexican cattle

by WLJ
Beefnet, an Internet cash commodity exchange, announced a partnership with Union Ganaderas de Chihuahua. The Union, a cattle association in Chihuahua, Mexico, plans to market Mexican producer cattle over the Internet using the Beefnet Exchange. The complex world of purchasing cattle in Mexico has forever frustrated U.S. buyers. The development of the Internet and the ability to trade directly with the cattle owners will mean major improvements for both buyers and sellers, according to a Beefnet press release. A centralized marketplace will allow the best buyer to find the best seller resulting in improved pricing for both. Lower transactions cost created by the electronic exchange will complete the package delivering better prices and lower costs, the release says. “We have combined click and buy trading with electronic settlement and clearing on the financial side,” said David Huseman, Beefnet technical designer. “The Beefnet site allows members to match trades for the purchase of cattle and when delivery occurs to transparently watch the money flow after the parties have agreed to the final settlement.” Regular Internet auctions will be hosted on the Beefnet Web site. The trading fee will be $6/head with buyer and seller paying $3 each. “From the click of a mouse to make the purchase to the e-confirm purchase contract, transparency and efficiency will rule”, said Beefnet developer, Bill O’Brien. “U.S. buyers expect to receive what is represented to them, and we have built a trading platform to assure purchases meet those expectations.” “Our Mexican producers want a competitive market for their cattle and the centralized marketplace developed by Beefnet presents the future for livestock marketing,” said Bilo Wallace, association president. Membership in Beefnet will be free. All Members agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of sale posted on the web site. More information and sign up for membership are available at www.beefnet.org. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

BSE test for live animals researched

by WLJ
A team of scientists at Hokkaido University is developing an automated device to detect BSE using blood samples from live cattle, according to the Japanese press. The team, led by Mamoru Tamura, a professor at the Research Institute for Electronic Science at the university, hopes to develop the device by this summer. Detecting BSE in young cattle has been thought to be difficult because the type of protein found in the brain of infected cows, prion, accumulates as the animals age. The scientists said the new device will pave the way for establishing a faster and more accurate testing method for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Under the current system, Japan tests all cows for BSE by taking brain tissue samples when animals are slaughtered. A method called ELISA, or Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, is used for the initial test before government agencies verify the results during a second-phase test. The ELISA involves adding enzymes to brain tissue samples but requires some manual work and takes four to five hours to produce results. In addition, it sometimes mixes up negative cases with suspected ones. The method being developed by the Hokkaido team is done by adding prion antibodies and fluorescent dye to blood samples. The team then irradiates the samples with a laser to measure how fast the dyed antibody molecules move. The fully automated testing quantifies the speed of the molecules’ movements and displays it on a monitor. The team says prion, when combined with antibodies, is likely to grow into larger molecules and moves slower than the lighter, normal molecules. The test takes no longer than 90 minutes to produce results and is about 10 times more sensitive than the ELISA method, the team says. The team plans to make the device small, so cattle breeders can easily use it on the farm. Detecting BSE in cows younger than 20 months old was thought to be difficult. “But with the new device, we can detect BSE regardless of a cow’s age,” research team leader Tamura said. “It would be a groundbreaking achievement if the device can help prevent the spread of BSE by detecting the disease in live animals,” said Yoshio Yamakawa of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. “But the team may need to work on enhancing the sensitivity of the test because an amount of prion in the blood is very small.” — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Bush selects Steve Johnson to head EPA

by WLJ
—If confirmed, Johnson would be first professional scientist to lead EPA President Bush elevated Stephen Johnson, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, nominating him to the top job on a full-time basis March 4. Bush called Johnson “the first professional scientist to lead the EPA.” Johnson, a career government employee who has been with the agency 24 years, had become its temporary head six weeks ago. Bush announced the nomination in a ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room. “He knows the EPA from the ground up and has a passion for its mission,” Bush said. If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson would become the first professional scientist to head the agency and would be its 11th administrator. “He will listen to those closest to the land because they know our environmental needs best,” Bush said of Johnson, 53. Johnson’s predecessor, Michael Leavitt, is now serving as the secretary of health and human services. Bush called Johnson “a talented scientist and skilled manager with a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship.” Bush urged the Senate “to confirm this nomination promptly.” Bush said one of Johnson’s top jobs would be to “lead federal efforts to ensure the safety of our drinking water supply,” saying the EPA has “an important role in the war on terror.” For his part, Johnson told Bush, “We have made great strides in environmental protection.” “If confirmed, it will be my distinct privilege to serve you and our nation to continue to advance an environmental agenda while maintaining our nations economic competitiveness,” Johnson said. Bush’s top environmental priority is to rewrite air pollution laws and regulations, although his agenda could be overshadowed by an international climate treaty taking effect without U.S. participation. Bush, whose new federal budget would cut EPA spending 5.6 percent from the year before, hopes finally to persuade Congress to pass his stalled “Clear Skies” plan for curtailing power plant pollution but not emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming. Tough court fights loom on his easing of rules that require older industrial plants and refineries to add pollution controls if they expand. Under court order, the EPA is due to introduce by March the first national cap on mercury emissions. Bush plans to cut spending on low-interest loans for local clean water projects and to seek more federal support for development of a hydrogen-fueled car. He also wants to overturn a Clinton-era ban on 58 million acres of roadless areas and allow logging and road-building in them unless governors petition the federal government to preserve them. He would keep Yellowstone National Park open to snowmobiling, despite a challenge in federal court. “The Bush administration has the worst environmental record in history, and I am hopeful that given Steve’s background and experience, he can bring a fresh and new approach to the administration,” said Sen. James Jeffords, I-VT. Jeffords said he hoped Johnson’s appointment would “help repair and restore the credibility of the Bush’s administration’s environmental record with the American public, Congress and the world.” Though an independent, Jeffords is allied with Democrats and is their senior member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Johnson had assumed the acting director post with the stated goal of promoting and maintaining the utilization of sound science while using collaborative, innovative approaches to solving environmental problems. The EPA implements and enforces the nations federal environmental laws and regulations; the Agency has over 18,000 employees nationwide and an annual budget of $8.6 billion. Johnson, a native of Washington, DC, has held a variety of positions at EPA, particularly working in pesticides and toxic substances.

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Monday, March 14,2005

Calving system to reduce scours

by WLJ
What do producers get when they have a full herd of cows in one calving pasture with calves ranging from one day old to forty-one days old? University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) animal scientists say for many producers, they get calf scours. As calving season progresses, calving pastures become more populated and some calves start getting scours. However, some Nebraska researchers have been studying ways to prevent calf scours. After five years of testing their method, UNL researchers are promoting a system they believe will help producers lessen or eliminate scours, if they have previously had scour problems in their herd. Dr. David Smith, UNL extension veterinarian, said the key to the scour system is to have the environment the same as it was the first day of calving. He explained that it takes two things to do that. One is to make sure the ground hasn’t already been contaminated. The second is to make sure a producer does not have calves that are already shedding the organisms that cause scours in high numbers. The way to accomplish these two simple goals is to subdivide calving pastures and properly move cows through them because, in a typical calving pasture, the concentration of bacteria and viruses that cause scours increase dramatically as calving season progresses. Smith elaborated on the calving system, saying that the cows all start out in one pasture for the first week of calving, and, at the end of that week, all the cows that have not calved yet are moved to a fresh pasture for seven days. At the end of the second week, cows that have not calved are moved to a third pasture, and so on. Therefore, the age range of calves in any one pasture is not more than seven days, meaning older calves are not exposing younger, more susceptible calves to massive amounts of pathogens. “They are all at the same level. They are kind of in-phase together,” said Smith. “This doesn’t eliminate the organisms, it just minimizes the dose load that they are exposed to.” Smith explained that scours is very age-specific. The peak period, as producers and veterinarians have noted, is between seven and 14 days of age, just about the time potential exposure to pathogens becomes high. Smith said veterinarians believe this is because the antibodies the calf received from the cow’s first colostrum have diminished at that point and they are exposed to more pathogens than they can handle, which makes them sick. Although called the Sandhills Calving System by researchers, the system will work anywhere. The system breaks up the scour cycle, and Smith and his colleagues believe this is because calves of different age groups are not commingled. Within a pasture, calves are still exposed to a low dose of pathogens from the cows, but they develop immunity to those pathogens and are not bombarded with pathogens shed by older calves shedding viruses, which overloads the younger calves’ immune systems. When the youngest calf is four weeks old, Smith said researchers feel it is safe to turn all the cows and calves out on grass together. Originally, Smith said researchers were going to test the theory of isolating calves that got scours to see if it would prevent others from scouring. However, in the past five years on the ranches that have been testing the calving system, there were not enough incidences of scours to try it. Smith noted that one of the trial ranches was historically experiencing a consistent 10 percent calf crop loss to scours, which is why the producer contacted UNL for assistance. Since implementing the Sandhills calving system, this ranch has seen the death loss due to scours drop to zero for five years. “I don’t think this is a system that is for everybody, because it is a little harder and requires more management,” said Smith. “If you’re not having problems with scours, then you probably don’t need to do this anyway. But, for ranches that are having problems with scours, this is something to consider.” Smith did point out that under this system, a producer only has one place to watch for calving and one pasture to watch for scour problems—the pasture with calves in the seven to 14 day of age range. Another advantage of the Sandhills Calving System is that it allows more bonding between the cow and the calf. Producers who don’t use the system typically move cows and calves when they are a day or so old. With this system, the cow is able to “nest” in one area, give birth to the calf in that area and remain there for at least four weeks without disruption. UNL forage specialist Bruce Anderson said, “Obviously, with this system, selecting the right pastures for calving that can be subdivided with water available in each subdivision is critical. After all, after eight weeks you could have cattle in eight different subdivisions.” Anderson also noted that the system could be beneficial to the pastures as well to help prevent overgrazing of any single area. “Subdividing pastures usually improves pasture health, but with the Sandhills Calving System, it can improve calf health as well,” said Anderson. “This might sound like a lot of work, but it likely will be less work than treating sick calves as well as reduce calf losses.” Anderson and Smith both advise producers to select a certain day to move cows, so that it is not overlooked. Smith further commented that the system does take considerable pre-planning. He encouraged any producer considering trying the Sandhills Calving System to consult a veterinarian and possibly even a forage specialist to map out the pastures and ensure appropriate management of pastures. Producers will need to think about how many calves are expected week by week. On a final note, Smith said this system does work better for producers who have a tighter calving schedule, such as those whose calving season is only eight weeks. He warned producers not to try to stretch out the age of calves in one pasture and get by with fewer pastures since that will break the system. “Somewhere between seven and 10 days is about right,” said Smith. “The further you get away from that, the more likely you are to start having scouring calves.” — Sarah L. Swenson, WLJ Associate Editor

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Monday, March 14,2005

Canadian pig duties set

by WLJ
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced last week that an investigation into Canadian pig imports confirmed that live hogs from north of the border were sold to the U.S. below the U.S. domestic price, and that Canadian hogs in the future should have a tariff against them of just over 10 percent. In its final ruling concerning its countervailing duty investigation, the agency said Canadian pig producers and hog exporters aren’t being provided with “countervailable subsidies,” but that the prices being paid for those pigs entering the U.S. were below U.S. costs of production. The margins of those “undercut” prices ranged from 0.53-18.87 percent, with the average margin being 10.63 percent. That average duty figure is down from a preliminary figure of 14.01 percent, which was set last October. It is now up to the U.S. International Trade Commision (ITC) to announce its final injury determination by April 18. If the ITC affirmatively determines that imports of live swine are materially injuring, or threatening to materially injure, the domestic industry, then the department will issue an antidumping duty order in April. If the ITC makes a negative injury determination, the antidumping duty investigation will be terminated. The current breakdown of producer/exporters and their dumping margins were Ontario Pork, 12.68 percent; Premium Pork, 18.87 percent; Excel Swine Services, 4.64 percent; Hytek, 0.53 percent; and all others, 10.63 percent. The decision applies to live hogs shipped from Canada, but not breeding stock or pork products. Commerce statistics show that 8.5 million hogs worth $529 million were shipped into the U.S. from Canada last year, up from 7.4 million hogs worth $389 million in 2003. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Checkoff extends Hispanic outreach

by WLJ
The Beef Checkoff Program’s continuing effort to provide product information to the Hispanic market in the United States achieved a milestone with the publication of a new, Spanish-language version of the Beef Made Easy Meat Cut Chart. The Beef Made Easy Meat Cut Chart was first developed in 1999 through the support of the Beef Checkoff Program, as a reference tool to meet the needs of both consumers and retailers. Development and promotion of the Beef Made Easy Meat Cut Chart is coordinated on behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The NCBA serves as one of the Beef Board’s contractors for checkoff-funded programs. The California Beef Council and the Texas Beef Council were major drivers in the publication of the Spanish-language Meat Cut Chart. “The Spanish-language Meat Cut Chart is a real hit, and an incredibly useful tool for retailers and consumers,” said Virginia Coelho, a Cattlemen’s Beef Board member who also chairs both the California Beef Council and the beef industry’s Mark of Quality Commission. “The Hispanic market is not only growing rapidly in size but also with regard to income and its influence on marketing strategies for all retail industries. It’s also a community that is rapidly evolving in terms of tastes and lifestyle, and we simply can’t approach it the same way we did years ago.” At a beef industry issues forum on demographics during the 2005 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show, experts estimated that the Hispanic population in the United States will grow to more than 50 million by 2015. They projected the Hispanic market’s buying power will rise to $926 billion by 2007, up nearly 60 percent from $581 billion in 2002. By 2007, its buying power will represent nearly 10 percent of total domestic expenditures. One the challenges faced in publishing a Spanish-language Meat Cut Chart is that the terminology differs throughout Latin America, across different regions of Mexico, and even among Hispanic communities within the United States. Coelho is hopeful that publication of the Spanish-language Beef Made Easy Meat Cut Chart will be a major step in bringing some uniformity and familiarity to the beef industry’s Hispanic outreach, but added that much work is still to be done. “Expanding the Beef Made Easy Meat Cut Chart to include a Spanish-language version is a very significant step in the right direction,” Coelho said. “But this effort is going to require an ongoing commitment not only to language translation but also to listening to the Hispanic community and better understanding the needs of its retailers and consumers.” — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Checkoff ruling possible by early April

by WLJ
The fate of the U.S. beef checkoff program could be known by the end of March or first week of April, according to sources from both sides of constitutionality lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court could issue its decision in the case during its next set of dates set aside for announcing decisions from cases argued in late 2004. The next decisions from the court are scheduled to be announced on March 22, 23, 29, 30 and April 4. John McBride, director of information for the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), said it has been indicated to officials with his group that a large majority of the decisions from cases argued in front of the Supreme Court in November have already had the decisions published. “Our checkoff arguments were heard Dec. 8, which means the program’s unconstitutionality should be among the decisions announced by the court this next go around,” said McBride. Defendants in the case—USDA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc.—have argued that the checkoff program is protected as “government speech,” loosely defined by court cases as the government’s ability to express a point of view. In addition, they argue that the benefits of the program have been far-reaching across the U.S. beef industry, and that cattle producers will lose those benefits if the program is scrapped. In addition, the plaintiffs have had a major complaint about the way the legal proceedings have moved ahead since an original compliance complaint was modified into the current challenge of the program’s constitutionality. Sources with USDA and the Department of Justice, who filed the original request with the Supreme Court, have indicated that federal Judge Charles Kornmann, District of South Dakota, overstepped his authority when he asked plaintiffs to amend their suit to include asking for a ruling on the program’s constitutionality. LMA contends the checkoff is not protected as government speech because it isn’t a federally funded program. “The beef promotion program is funded not from Congressional appropriations, but by mandatory payments that all members of the beef industry must make to their respective state beef industry associations,” LMA said in filed briefs. “The Supreme Court has never recognized a government speech defense, unless the speech in question was funded by taxpayers. Furthermore, the program is not government speech because the government’s control over the program is minimal. USDA loosely oversees compliance with the program’s conditions, but it does not initiate, create, devise, compose, fund or implement any of the board’s activities.” In addition, LMA said the checkoff is unconstitutional because it forces people to fund and be affiliated with advertising and promotions that they may not be in favor of or that promotes a “commodity product” when they produce a better quality product. Some producers have said advertisements funded by the checkoff program hurt their businesses rather than promote it. The First Amendment prohibits government from preventing free speech, but the Justices will have to consider if the First Amendment also prevents the government from compelling speech with which federally-mandated contributors may disagree. A total of seven amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs representing 70-plus organizations were filed alongside LMA’s briefs with the Supreme Court on Oct. 15. Background The suit was initiated in 1997 when LMA tried to force a referendum to re-authorize the program. However, in the middle of that process, Kornmann asked the plaintiffs to amend their complaint into a constitutional challenge, which they did. In June 2002, Kornmann ruled in favor of the plaintiffs citing the “compelled speech” argument. An appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals wound up with a three-judge panel upholding Kornmann’s decision in October 2003. The same appeals court was asked to rehear the case, but refused, and that resulted in the Department of Justice, on behalf of USDA, CBB and Nebraska Cattlemen, filing a hearing request with the Supreme Court. If the program is deemed unconstitutional, there is protocol in place by which funding granted and implemented for fiscal year 2005 will remain in place until completed. Any non-implemented programs will be disbanded. Any remaining funds will not be refunded to producers, according to administrators of the program. If disbanded, between $85-90 million a year will be lost in promoting beef to U.S. consumers, USDA statisticians said. According to the Beef Research and Promotion Order, if the court rules the program unconstitutional, up to 11 trustees of the checkoff board of directors will be retained and continue to pay any outstanding funds to programs approved prior to the checkoff’s termination. Any money that is not used to fund previously approved programs will not be reallocated back to producers assessed checkoff funds, the order added. Diane Henderson, communications director for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, has said it would be almost impossible to refund money to producers because of the number of people that would entail, and there would be no fair way to prorate how much of the money would be given back to each producer. “There is absolutely nothing in place to refund the money,” she said. “It would be very hard to do so, and would be a major nightmare.”

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Monday, March 14,2005

Colostrum vital for new calves

by WLJ
Colostrum intake is critical for the newborn calf, says Greg Lardy, a North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist. "At birth, a calf's immune system is not fully developed," he says. "The calf must rely on colostrum from the cow until its own immune system is totally functional (about 1 to 2 months of age)." Colostrum contains antibodies or immunoglobulins, necessary protection from disease. For colostrum to be most effective, Lardy recommends the calf receive 1 quart within six hours after birth and a total of 2 to 3 quarts within 12 hours of birth. After that, the calf's gut begins to "close" and absorbing the antibodies in colostrum becomes more difficult. At six hours after birth, calves absorb 66 percent of the immunoglobulins in colostrum, but at 36 hours after birth they are able to absorb only 7 percent of immunoglobulins. Colostrum contains 22 percent solids, compared with 12 percent solids in normal whole cow's milk. Much of the extra solid material in colostrum is immunoglobulin, but colostrum also is an important source of protein (casein), sugar (lactose), fat, and vitamins A and E. Breed type and cow age affect the amount of colostrum a cow produces, Lardy said. Dairy breeds produce more than beef breeds and mature cows produce more than heifers. Cows on higher planes of nutrition also produce more colostrum than cows on a low plane. Calves that experience a difficult or prolonged birth tend to take longer to stand and nurse, resulting in a weak calf that lacks the proper immunoglobulin protection to fend off disease threats. These calves may need to be tube fed colostrum or colostrum substitutes, Lardy said. Handling and storing colostrum Some cows don't produce an adequate amount of colostrum. That means producers sometimes have to use colostrum from other cows or stored colostrum to ensure that each calf receives an adequate amount. For optimum results, colostrum should be collected from cows within 24 hours of calving and fed fresh. Colostrum also can be collected at calving, stored frozen and used at a later date. Lardy suggests that to make storing and thawing easier, store colostrum in Ziploc bags or Serving Savers containers. The bags or containers will store flat in the freezer and producers can use a size that makes thawing individual "servings" (1 or 2 quarts) of colostrum easier. Colostrum should not be thawed and refrozen. Antibodies and immunoglobulins in colostrum are protein. Correct thawing is important to prevent colostrum from being damaged. It should be thawed slowly, either in a microwave or warm water. Lardy suggests these methods: • Place frozen colostrum and its container in warm water (110 F) and stir every five minutes. The colostrum should be warmed to 104 to 110 F. • Thaw colostrum in a microwave oven. Set the oven at no more than 60 percent power for gentle thawing. Agitate or stir the colostrum frequently to assure even thawing and warming. This is important since many microwaves do not heat material evenly. Warm the colostrum to 104 F. How much colostrum does a calf need? As a general rule of thumb, a calf should receive five percent to six percent of its body weight as colostrum within the first six hours of life. That same amount should be fed again when the calf is about 12 hours old. Colostrum weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. For an 80-pound calf, this equates to approximately 2 quarts (4 pounds) of colostrum per feeding. The Johne's disease risk Johne's disease (Myobacterium paratuberculosis) can be spread to herds through infected colostrum. Producers using colostrum from another cow as a supplement should be sure the cow from which they get it is free of the disease. "Proper colostral management is essential to the health of newborn calves," Lardy says. "Making sure calves get adequate colostrum will improve health and ensure the calf gets off to a proper start in life." — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Corn stocks to rise

by WLJ
Allendale Inc. is expecting Thursday's U.S. Department of Agriculture March supply and demand report to show an increase in domestic corn ending stocks. U.S. wheat ending stocks are pegged at 548 million bushels, which would be 10 million lower than the February report. Corn stocks are seen at 2.045 billion bushels, compared to 2.01 billion in the last report. Domestic soybean stocks are estimated at 455 million bushels. February's report had bean stocks at 440 million. World wheat ending stocks are estimated at 145.12 million tons, compared to 145.38 million in the previous report. Corn ending stocks are pegged at 119.42 million tons; February's report showed corn stocks at 117.27 million tons. Allendale is estimating soy stocks at 59.02 million tons. Last month the USDA pegged international bean stocks at 59.02 million tons. Allendale also issued some grain production estimates. Corn production in Argentina is estimated at 18 million tons, up 500,000 from the USDA's February report. Brazilian corn harvest was lowered 1.5 million to 40 million tons. South African corn production is seen steady at 9.7 million tons. 2004/05 soybean production for Brazil is pegged at 60 million tons, down 3 million from the previous estimate. Soybean production for Argentina was lowered a half million to 38.5 million tons. — WLJ

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Monday, March 14,2005

Federal air regs affect livestock industry

by WLJ
Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers have until May 1 to decide whether to sign a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After a series of court cases, the EPA announced in January that federal air quality laws would retroactively apply to certain livestock production facilities. Applicable regulations include the Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act; and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provisions. Livestock producers need to be aware of this consent agreement with the EPA and familiarize themselves with existing EPA air quality regulations, said Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska livestock bio-environmental engineer. "This issue may not be on producers' radar screens and could have significant ramifications," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources engineer said. "Producers need to make an informed decision which should not be taken lightly and should be reviewed by an attorney." "These (EPA) laws were originally meant for the smokestack industry," said John Thorne, a consultant with C&M Capitolink in Washington. Thorne and other livestock industry and government representatives spoke at a recent air quality consent agreement information meeting sponsored by Nebraska Cooperative Extension and livestock industry representatives. The meeting can be viewed on the Web at http://webvideo.unl.edu/airquality.shtml. The EPA is now applying these regulations to the livestock industry based upon recent court decisions involving livestock and poultry producers. What's needed is a clearer understanding of how these regulations apply to animal production, he said. To find that out, the consent agreement will allow the livestock industry and others to conduct a two-year air quality study. After the study, the EPA will produce air emission factors that will be used to compare emissions from animal facilities to existing regulatory thresholds in the Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act; and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Emissions that will be studied include particulate matter, such as dust, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. The consent agreement was negotiated by pork, dairy, poultry and egg industry representatives and the EPA. The beef industry believes the Clean Air Act regulations do not apply to emissions from feedlots and have pursued alternative discussions with the EPA, Koelsch said. Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers who decide to fill out the consent agreement form, must send it to the EPA postmarked no later than May 1. Forms are available at www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html. The EPA will review the consent agreement and return it to the producer. At that time, the producer will pay a penalty ranging from $200 to $100,000, depending on size and number of farms a producer owns. This penalty would range from $200 to $1,000 for a single farm. In addition, fees must be paid to cover the two-year study. National commodity associations for the pork and egg industries are paying this cost through check-off funds. The consent agreement will protect producers from liability for past air quality violations and violations during the EPA study period. Producers who do not sign the consent agreement will be liable for past violations and still will be required to comply in the future. Completion of the emissions study and development of emission factors for animal production will be completed in the next five years, said Karen Flournoy of EPA Region 7. "The fundamental question is whether or not a producer wants to sign this consent agreement with the EPA," Koelsch said. Signing the agreement admits no wrong doing, Thorne said. However, it isn't clear who is in violation of these laws because air quality emissions from livestock and poultry facilities are unknown at this time. The Clean Air Act includes only particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, said Joe Francis with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. However, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide soon could be added. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, no more than 100 pounds of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds or particulate matter can be emitted per day. "Right now, we think the Clean Air Act will only apply to the very large producers," said Rick Stowell, a university animal environmental engineer. However, the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requirements may apply to smaller farms. "Right now we don't know where the thresholds are," Stowell said."Only estimates can be made." The two-year study will determine what the emission factors will be. Stowell estimated a livestock facility that holds 2,000 swine could emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day under these two acts. However, it would likely take 10,000 to 15,000 hogs to violate the Clean Air Act provisions. These are estimates only and the actual animal thresholds determined from the two-year study could be different. For more information about what the EPA air quality consent agreement, visit EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-0501.html. For more information from Nebraska Cooperative Extension, including information from the recent meeting, consult Nebraska's Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning Web site at http://cnmp.unl.edu and click on "EPA consent agreement" or contact a local extension office. — WLJ

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