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Monday, February 21,2005

Korea noncommital on lifting beef bans

by WLJ
Korea has yet to even hint if, or when, it will lift its bans in place on both U.S. and Canadian beef. While Japan has moved closer to lifting its ban, sources with USDA said it appears Korean officials are waiting for a full resolution between Japan and Canada and the U.S. before they start the resolution process. Korea did send a technical team to the U.S. last May to review and validate the findings of the International Review Commission concerning the U.S. protocols to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from infecting beef in the future. However, a high-level USDA official that has made several trips to Korea during the past few months, told WLJ last week, that the Koreans are content to wait for Japan’s final decision on the issue of beef imports of U.S. and Canada before moving forward. “Japan is considered (by Korea) to be the culture and society that is most thorough when it comes to ensuring the utmost in human health and economic sustainability,” the USDA spokesman said. “Once Japan decides on a resolution there will be several other countries follow, and Korea will probably be the first one, and will probably have a policy-making process started within two weeks of Japan’s final decision.” There are a couple of factors that could slow Korea’s desire to reopen its borders to U.S. and/or Canadian beef. The Korean government’s introduction of a traceability system in some of its retail outlets and consumers increased confidence of domestically-produced Hanwoo beef is expected to increase beef consumption in 2005. If the increased inventory allows for retail prices to drop, it would further boost the beef consumption when coupled with the economy that is slowly beginning to recover. Higher production and lower retail prices of Hanwoo beef cattle in 2005 will also help boost beef consumption in 2005. The focus of the Korean government’s policies has been less on stimulating Hanwoo production and, more on enhancing food safety. The focus includes development of a traceability program and environment friendly livestock policies. However, despite significant reduction in cattle prices and a sluggish economy, USDA officials said Hanwoo beef wholesale prices remain six times higher than imported beef and U.S. beef would fill a void of “reasonably priced” higher quality beef. Australia is the leading exporter of beef to Korea, however, it is mostly grass fed product that isn’t as high in quality and isn’t being highly demand by Korean restaurants or higher-end retailers. Hanwoo products target the high-income consumer market. However, the majority of Korean beef consumers who focused formerly on reasonably priced but high-quality imported beef have now shifted to other substitute products, such as pork and fish. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Obits

by WLJ
Edwin J. “Ed” Carter Edwin J. “Ed” Carter, 72, died Feb. 6. He was born in Torrington, WY, Nov. 1, 1932, the son of Bill and Phyllis (Platx) Carter. He grew up in Torrington and graduated from Torrington High School. Following high school he went to work as a ranch hand for various ranchers in the area and lived in Fresno, CA, Sheridan and Lovell, WY. Carter spent four years working for Senator Malcolm Wallop on his ranch near Sheridan. He then began his own business trimming cattle hooves and preparing livestock for stock shows and traveled to Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska. Carter was active in the Goshen County 4-H program, and was the ringman for the cattle show at the Goshen county fair for nearly 40 years. He enjoyed his work and taking time to help prepare young people for the stock shows. He is survived by his brother James Carter, St. George, UT, two nephews and a niece. Willie E. “Bill” Carter Willie E. “Bill” Carter, 97, died June 5, 2004. Born on May 14, 1907 in Esbon, KS, the son of Wilbur and Myrtle (Nichols) Carter. He grew up in Esbon and attended Cottner College in Omaha, NE, where he met Phyllis Ann Platz. The couple married in September of 1930, and moved to Torrington, WY, where Carter helped build the Holly Sugar factory and was employed until his retirement in 1972. He enjoyed raising cattle and working on his home. He is survived by his son, James Carter and wife Gail of St. George, UT; three grandchildren and three great-grand children. A joint memorial service for father and son was held Feb. 15, at the Colyer Funeral Home in Torrington, WY. Those who wish to make a memorial contributions may do so in Ed’s name to the Ed Carter Memorial fund, established for creating a handicap facility on the Goshen County Fair Grounds, %Pinnacle Bank, 2000 Main St., Torrington, WY 82240.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Plant processes first cattle

by WLJ
The first new packing house to open in Alberta since BSE was discovered in Canada recently processed their first cattle. After pondering the idea of turning a shuttered chicken processing plant into a beef facility over seven years ago, producers Reita and Stan Sparks, Wanham, Alberta, revisited that plan and moved forward with it after BSE was discovered back in 2003. "It gave us a jolt to try something else," said Stan Sparks, who plans to kill 70 animals a week at Hart Valley Processors near Wanham in the Peace River region of the country. Seven cattle were processed on Feb. 8, the first day of operation, but the Sparks expect to kill 35 head a day twice a week by late February. "If we get enough enthusiasm or enough work we could probably double what we're planning on," Sparks said. While as many as 40 new packing plants have been talked about across the Prairies, this is the first to open in Alberta since BSE was discovered two years ago on a farm about five miles east of the plant’s location. Unlike other groups trying to raise money by selling shares to other producers, the couple financed the venture themselves. They sold half a section of farmland and mortgaged the rest to renovate the 8,300 square-foot plant. Sparks said there was little desire shown from bankers to back the project. The project is financed through three lenders. "Bankers don't want to get involved. The Alberta government doesn't want to get involved. They're making noise but they're not really handing out any money," he said. "Part of it is the financing. Nobody's getting any help. We just went in and did it. There's a lot of talk about building slaughter houses, but no one is really doing anything but talk.” He said time will tell if jumping into a packing plant business with little experience is the right way or just the quickest way. The former chicken facility is now a beef "kill and chill" operation. The meat that leaves the plant is cut into large sections and vacuum packed. Producers can then either find a butcher to finish cutting the meat or sell it directly to restaurants. "It's up to the farmer to make his own sale and we'll process the meat," Sparks said. "We're not into the marketing end of the meat." There are plenty of butcher shops able to cut and wrap the meat, but most federal or provincial plants have a three or four month waiting list for slaughtering. The Peace River region has one provincial slaughter plant in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and a federal slaughter plant in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Probe of BSE case complete

by WLJ
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has concluded its investigation into the latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) confirmed on Jan. 11. All animals tested through the investigation were found negative for BSE. The agency's investigation determined that 349 animals comprised the birth cohort, which includes cattle born on the farm of origin within 12 months before and 12 months after the infected animal. Of this group, 41 animals were found alive and were euthanized. They tested negative for BSE. Most of the other animals from the birth cohort had previously died or been slaughtered. The investigation also identified the infected animal's two most recently born offspring. One calf born in 2003 had been slaughtered; the other born in 2004 was too young to be tested for BSE and was euthanized. Canada's ruminant feed ban was introduced in 1997 as a proactive precaution. At that time, it is likely that the feed ban was not immediately adopted uniformly across the feed industry, according to the agency. Prohibited materials would have been purged from the ruminant feed system as Canadian renderers, feed manufacturers, retailers, distributors and producers developed, implemented and refined new operating processes. Similar experiences have been observed in all countries with BSE that have implemented feed controls. Based on this understanding, the agency said, the detection of an infected animal born after the feed ban was not unexpected. The feed component of the investigation determined that BSE may have been transmitted to the infected animal through feed produced shortly after the feed ban was introduced. However, exact production dates for the feeds under investigation are unavailable. Surveillance findings, inspection reports, international risk assessments and previous investigations indicate that the ban has successfully limited the spread of BSE over time, CFIA said. Nonetheless, the agency is committed to continuously improving Canada's BSE safeguards. Canadian officials are conducting a review to gain a detailed, current snapshot of how the feed ban is working. Concurrently, proposed enhancements to the feed ban are moving through the regulatory process, the comment period for which closes on Feb. 24. These changes require the removal of specified risk material (SRM) from all animal feeds. This action will minimize the risks associated with any potential cross contamination or on-farm misuse, CFIA said. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Poor demand stalls fed cattle

by WLJ
— Cow market remains strong. — Calves stronger on weather, feeders struggling. Fed cattle markets were slow to develop last week as little trade was reported through Thursday. A small number of cattle traded between $87-88 live, $138-140 dressed. A pick up in trade was expected Friday. Early trade was $2-4 softer than the majority of market activity the previous week. Slaughter volumes continue to be a problem with just 573,00 head passing through packing plants two weeks ago, 10,000 head lower than the prior week. Packers processed 471,000 head through Thursday of last week, which was the first week that weekly slaughter exceeded weekly volume from a year ago. Feeders are also looking at Presidents Day taking a day out of their normal weekly slaughter this week. So, they won’t need as many cattle. The latest packer margin index shows packers losing around $44 per head. Boxed beef markets were slightly softer with the Choice cutout falling $2-3 to $142.70; Select was down to $139.98, making the Choice/Select spread just $2.72. Trade volume was moderate. Beef production year to date is 4.2 percent below a year ago. The Feb. 1 Cattle on Feed Report due out last Friday was expected to show strong placements into U.S. feedlots. The average analyst’s guess was 110.5 percent of a year ago, out of a range of 100-118 percent compared to last year. The number of cattle on feed is expected to be up 2.5 percent, and marketings down two percent from a year ago. The probability of a smaller marketing total made analysts more nervous than the potentially-large increase in placements. Some of the marketing decline, versus last year, can be explained as one less business day, however, the January total is set to be the smallest early year out movement since USDA started keeping on-feed data. Anyone looking at current carcass weights and impressive country leverage in the fed market would certainly not conclude that a marketing backup problem exists, however, the longer term balance sheet clearly points to potential price danger somewhere down the road. Andy Gottschalk, HedgersEdge.com, pointed out that the number of cattle that have been on feed more than 120 days will be up seven percent over last year and up 11 percent over the five-year average. His group expects to see the market retest a $93 fed market, on a storm related situation. But, he also expects to see growing inventory start to conflict with demand. He said the industry will have a summer demand base that will support a weekly slaughter of 605,000 head and that available slaughter supplies will be much larger than that. Slaughter cow markets have been seasonally stronger with top quality cows in the mid-$50s. The 90 percent lean markets are also stronger, suggesting there could be more room for slaughter cows. Ninety-percent lean was trading at $154 mid week, and the 50 percent trim market was at $54. The cow beef cutout was $115.87 last Thursday, was down $2.25 from the day before. West Coast cow beef was trading between $89-91. Calves stronger, feeders softer Last week’s calf market was called $1-3 stronger across the country as spring grazing gets closer and moisture continues to inundate most major spring grazing regions of the country. Feeder cattle prices weren’t as fortunate as a continued lack of fed cattle profits and muddy pen conditions force prices down mostly $1. Stocker operators and even some backgrounding operations were heavily demanding lighter-weight calves last week, according to auction barn managers across the country. Stocker operators, particularly in the western half of the U.S. are very bullish when it comes to spring grazing prospects. In most major spring grazing areas, moisture is 15-30 percent ahead of the previous five-year averages, and that is spurring on thoughts that stocking rates could be 10-15 percent higher than the past few years. In addition, the longevity of the grazing season could be extended by as much as a month to six weeks longer than normal, particularly in the southern Plains and Southwest, rangeland specialists indicated. Backgrounder demand was said to be spurred by the continuation of cheap corn prices along with hay prices that are $10-15 per ton cheaper than the past couple of years. On the corn side, March futures were still below $2, with several instances of $1.95 cited last week. According to commodity market analysts, old corn crop is still behind the near-term futures contract 20-25 cents, meaning that some producers can purchase cash corn between $1.65-1.70 per bushel, or $2.90-3.05 per cwt. Not only is hay cheaper across the board, but the quality of hay needed to feed backgrounded cattle doesn’t have to be very good, especially if corn or another feed grain is being fed alongside. In some instances, poor quality, stemmy hay is selling for $25-35, according to USDA hay reporters from Midwest and Plains states. Heavier weaned calves and yearlings were struggling to bring steady money last week, as most cattle feeders continue to show $25-40 losses on finished fed cattle. In some instances, calf feds have a breakeven around $90. Analysts said, however, the percentage of calf feds in the slaughter mix right now is barely in double digits. Also, demand from feedlots was deteriorating due to muddy conditions and extremely cold temperatures resurfacing in a majority of the major cattle feeding areas. Wet pen conditions and severe cold can lead to extra health problems and a slow down in getting cattle transitioned to full feedlot rations. Futures also were struggling last week, and that trickled down to the cash market. As of the close of business last Thursday, the March contract was at $100.62 per cwt, after getting up past $102 earlier in the week. Other Thursday closes showed April at $99.95, and May at $98.85. The CME cash feeder cattle index, for 700-850 pound steers was $103.89 last Wednesday, compared to $104.31 the previous Thursday. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Product News

by WLJ
Large capacity poly forage applicator In-cab controlled rates of dry forage preservative for hay or silage can be easily managed with the Gandy poly forage applicator with positive displacement metering. The 2.3 cubic foot capacity translucent hopper has an instant shutoff and the application rate can be changed with the touch of a dial. The hopper provides 100-150 lb. capacity to cover more acres per fill, and the in-cab control allows rate adjustment to compensate for changes in flow of hay or silage. The underfed metering system eliminates dribble when not operating and is available in 2, 3 or 4-outlet configurations. The metering system also features easy clean-out ports behind each spout. Other options also available. For more information contact the Gandy Company at www.gandy.net or 800/443-2476. Animal health educational program New education program from Merial designed to communicate the advantages of strategic animal husbandry initiatives within the cattle industry. The Merial Veterinary Professional Services (VPS) Strategic Husbandry and Research Education (SHARE) program is designed to maximize animal health education. With an emphasis on long-term, continuing education initiatives, the SHARE program will consist of producer and veterinary meetings, instructional newsletters, educational tools and other specific programs designed to highlight strategic animal husbandry topics. The SHARE program utilizes the expertise and industry knowledge of the Merial VPS staff, while bolstering Merial’s commitment to encouraging good management practices. One of the first topics to be addressed by the Merial VPS SHARE program will be strategic parasite control. Partnership brings feed products to U.S. Acadian Agritech and BioIngenuity LLC, announced an agreement focused on bringing several new Ascophyllum-based livestock feed products to U.S. livestock producers. Acadian Agritech, manages and harvests Ascophyllum nodosum from the North Atlantic coastline and converts this renewable resource into nutritional products for both human and livestock consumption. Research data shows feeding its products to livestock and poultry can improve conception rates, reduce heat stress and improve meat quality. Biolngenuity LLC will assist Acadian Agritech in the further development of research and marketing programs to expand its U.S. market. For information call 952/474-4187. New cattle and horse clipper The new 3-speed Cattle & Horse Clipper from Andis Co. has 180 watts of power for heavy-duty clipping. Plus it incorporates an ergonomic design that reduces fatigue when clipping and fitting large animals. It is also quiet, doesn't heat up, and has an extra long power cord. Adjustments for blade tension are quick and easy. The 3-speed clipper includes a blade set 31-15, instruction manual, clipper oil, a screwdriver, blade brush and sturdy carrying case. For more information visit www.andis.com or call 800/558-9441.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Cattle-Fax: Profits to deteriorate in 2005

by WLJ
An expected ramping up of slaughter volume this year is expected to result in cattle feeders’ struggling to show profits throughout 2005, according to a cattle market analytics firm. In addition, that profit deterioration will probably trickle down to producers supplying them with placement cattle, particularly stocker operators. During the annual Cattle Industry Convention Feb. 1-5 in San Antonio, TX, analysts for Cattle-Fax, Lone Tree, CO, told producers that recent herd rebuilding would result in almost 850,000 more fed steers and heifers being available for processing and that a lot of beef from those cattle would need to be discounted in price to help spur its movement through the production system. Prices for fed cattle could even result in packers having an average margin of a negative $20 per head over the year, analysts indicated. Randy Blach, CEO of Cattle-Fax, said cyclical nationwide beef cowherd liquidation was several years longer than normal and that the herd-rebuilding phase would carry more impact than has been shown in the past. USDA's annual Jan. 1 Cattle Inventory Report, released in late January, showed the nation’s beef cowherd to be a percent larger than the year earlier. Because of that, U.S. cattle producers likely have seen the highest prices of this cattle cycle and could see declines for the rest of the decade, Blach said. However, the longer-than-normal liquidation phase, the lack of access to export markets and last year marking the lowest steer and heifer slaughter since 1993 could lead to a significant decline in prices paid for fed cattle and deterioration of cattle feeding profits, Blach said. “Now that the herd is beginning to grow again, steer and heifer slaughter is expected to increase about 850,000 head in 2005 with most of the increase coming in the second half,” he said. “Consumer demand for beef also could level out after seeing good demand growth over the last few years. Producers can't expect that growth to continue, especially at rates the past few years. Retail grocers already are seeing price resistance by consumers, and they are featuring it less often.” Cattle-Fax indicated that average steer carcass weights could increase almost 10 pounds in 2005 compared with 2004. That could lead to the feeding industry losing currentness of market-ready supplies and eroding bargaining positions. As a rule of thumb, every one pound of increase carcass weight produces the beef equivalent of about 1,000 head of cattle per week, he said. Kevin Good, Cattle-Fax analyst, said producers should expect the low $70s per cwt to provide long-term support, with prices in the mid-$90s could offering strong resistance through probably 2006 or 2007. However, it was stipulated that those predictions are taking into account the reopening of international markets to U.S. beef products. Cattle-Fax projects the average fed cattle price to range between $82-84 during 2005, with a full range being mid-$70s during late summer to the low-$90s this spring. Prices are expected to rebound back into the mid-$80s later in the year. In turn, profits for summer grazers are expected to be closer to levels seen prior to 2003 and 2004. Cattle-Fax analysts estimated that stocker operators would probably average about a $20 per head profit through 2005, significantly lower than profits of the past two years. Stocker operator profits during 2003 and 2004 ranged mostly between $160-170. Good said it is imperative that costs be minimized, but that cattle still be produced to their maximum production potential. He said that more than two-thirds of the profit differences between high-return and low-return producers are simply the result of reducing costs.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Ranchers using DNA testing

by WLJ
A recent survey of ranchers revealed that 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest in DNA technology to improve the cattle characteristics most associated with bettering the quality of beef. According to DNA testing company Bovigen, 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest DNA testing technology to improve the quality of their beef cattle, and more than two-thirds of surveyed ranchers said they are realizing economic benefits from the technology. Forty-four percent of those who use the technology said they've seen increased efficiencies in management, offering such anecdotal comments as "it makes life simpler." Others gave long- term carcass improvement and a better tasting product for end consumers as reasons for using DNA testing on their herd. Like any emerging technology, not everyone is on board with DNA testing yet. Of the cattlemen surveyed, 25 percent said they are not using DNA testing due to cost. Of this group, 75 percent said, however, they will use DNA testing "in time." More education, lower cost, increased gene markers and customer demand were all cited as influencing factors in that decision. "That the overwhelming majority of ranchers we talked to are using or plan to use DNA testing confirms what we believe to be true—that genetic testing in the cattle industry is here to stay," said Victor Castellon, CEO of Bovigen. "Our responsibility is then to help educate the industry and continue to improve the technology so that the end result is better management techniques for ranchers and better tasting beef for consumers." The survey also found that 100 percent of the cattlemen who are using DNA testing plan to continue using it and would recommend the technology to others. Other findings from the survey included: • 56 percent of those surveyed indicated that they had a high awareness level of DNA genetic testing in beef cattle; • on average, ranchers have been using this new technology for less than two-and-a-half years; • 12 percent of ranchers surveyed, when asked in an open-ended question of what the future holds for DNA genetic testing, said the field was "unlimited" ; • 67 percent of ranchers not using DNA genetic testing said the cost was keeping them from trying it; • 28 percent of those surveyed said that DNA genetic testing could be improved by finding more gene markers. The survey was conducted during the National Western Stock Show, held Jan. 8-23 in Denver, CO. While the survey was limited to responses from only 25 ranchers across the country, Bovigen officials said it still showed that DNA technology is being utilized in the industry and that it is beneficial to those who utilize it. "All cattlemen surveyed have active ranch operations," a company statement said. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

South Dakota proposes state-of-origin labeling

by WLJ
South Dakota is moving forward with a beef certification program that should boost profits for participating producers as well as meet requirements for a proposed animal identification program. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is pushing for a South Dakota beef certification program because he says he is committed to raising the standards for beef production in the state and making sure that consumers all around the world know exactly what the state is doing. “It’s a vision of South Dakota being known by consumers worldwide as the home of the ‘World’s Best Beef,’” said Rounds. Gov. Rounds introduced the program as part of South Dakota’s 2010 Initiative. The goal of that initiative is to improve the economic future of South Dakota. “The South Dakota Certified Beef program was created to make sure agriculture can continue to be our number one industry and provide new opportunities for our children and for future generations of South Dakotans,” said Rounds. He added that the plan is complete with a protocol, accountability, verification and a strong commitment to research and marketing. The exact producer and processor protocols for this program have not been established. However, a bill, SB 220, is being considered in the current state legislative session that gives South Dakota’s Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate rules to establish the program and protect the certification trademark. The general premise of the certification program is to verify the source, age and process that they travel through. To qualify for the program, cattle must be born and raised in South Dakota. The cattle will be source verified at the farm or ranch of origin with a electronic animal identification (EID) tag. The South Dakota Department of Ag said the EID tags will need to be “scanned in” and “scanned out” of the premises they are moved to and the EID will help continually track these animals. The brand of EID tag will not be dictated by the state, they only require that tags be ISO approved RFID tags. The producer will also need to choose the data management company and that company needs to be able to electronically interface with the state database. A list of compatible companies is available on the program’s website at www.sdcertifiedbeef.com/pp.htm. The biggest question on producers’ minds seems to be how this program will add value to their cattle. Eric Iverson with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture answered that question by saying, “The South Dakota Certified Seal of Confidence will emphasize and validate that South Dakota producers are delivering the highest quality, most wholesome and safest-source/process verified livestock to their customers. This marketing tool will standardize a set of protocols creating universal recognition to the brand allowing producers to remove themselves from the commodity livestock business and more effectively market the information that makes their cattle more valuable.” The South Dakota Department of Agriculture also wants producers to be aware of the benefit this program offers through its ability to dovetail with other branded beef or animal identification programs that process verify cattle. “The agriculture industry is changing in many ways. Striving efforts to restore export markets and the vast potential that exists for expansion into ‘claim specific’ markets lends way for the development of new source and process verified programs,” said Iverson. “Identity preserve programs will also assist in localizing a disease outbreak if one exists. Consumers are more informed and concerned about the beef products they purchase and that they are safe. A Customer Confidence Assurance Program, like South Dakota Certified, will assist in making customers aware of the sound production and management practices that go into South Dakota beef cattle production.” SB 220 recently passed the state’s Senate Agriculture Committee on a vote of six to two. As of presstime Thursday, the bill remained on the Senate floor, but it had to be out of Senate by last Friday. The bill must pass the House ag committee and the House Floor before the governor signs it into law. “This bill should pass with huge support,” said Jason Glodt, senior advisor to Gov. Rounds. Once the bill passes, South Dakota will initiate the administrative rules process. That will take 40-days and involves publishing a notice, waiting 20 days, having a public hearing, then allowing for a 20-day comment period. Once these procedures are complete, South Dakota can begin implementing the beef certification program. Producers can participate in the program on a couple of different levels. Producers who just want to continue marketing live cattle at the various stages can participate in the South Dakota “Approved” Live Cattle Program, which will assist them in providing reliability to customers by verifying source, age and traceability claims. Other producers may see the benefit in forming arrangements with specific niche beef processors in South Dakota and the program will assist them in supplying and delivering South Dakota Certified Beef to customers around the world. Producers can contact the Department of Agriculture at 605/773-5436 or 800/228-5254 for more information about the certification program.

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Monday, February 21,2005

State beef checkoff killed

by WLJ
A South Dakota House committee last week rejected a plan to set up a state beef checkoff system as a backup in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules the national program unconstitutional. The state’s agriculture committee voted 8-5 to kill the bill after officials of South Dakota agricultural organizations acknowledged they are split on the proposal. HB1182 would have created a state checkoff system for beef if the national system is declared unconstitutional. Supporters argued that the state should impose its own fee of $1 a head when cattle are sold so money would continue to be available to pay for promotion and research programs. Opponents said South Dakota shouldn't set up a new system until the U.S. Supreme Court decides what is permitted in checkoff programs. "It's very important we wait for the Supreme Court to rule so we know what the ground rules are," said Jerry Vogeler, spokesman for the South Dakota Association of Livestock Auction Markets. However, Scott Jones of Midland, SD, and president-elect of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, said a backup program is needed not only to promote beef, but also to allay consumers' fears if another case of BSE is discovered. In a previous case of mad-cow disease, the program worked for about 10 days to explain that beef presented no health risk, Jones said. "They answered specific questions about safety, about what the beef industry was doing.” However, officials of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association said they oppose a mandatory checkoff with a later refund. Sellers should have the option of not paying into the system in the first place, they said. The bill would have created a state checkoff of $1 a head collected when cattle are sold. Those who do not want to contribute to the promotion and research programs could fill out a one-page form and get a refund of the fee within 30 days. — WLJ

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