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Monday, January 17,2005

Hunter contracts bovine TB

by WLJ
A hunter in Michigan was diagnosed with a rare human case of bovine tuberculosis after he cut his hand while gutting an infected deer, state health officials said. He is the first living person diagnosed with the strain of bovine tuberculosis that has been found in some northern Michigan deer and cattle in recent years, said T. J. Bucholz, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health. The disease, which is difficult for humans to get but highly contagious in animals, has saddled farmers with costly testing requirements and limits to how they market their cattle in neighboring states. Officials would not release the hunter’s name or home town, but said the deer was killed in Alcona County. The man is in good condition and is being treated with antibiotics, Bucholz said. The same strain of bovine TB was found during an autopsy of an elderly person who died in 2002, but it was not the cause of death, he said. Eradication programs and milk pasteurization have reduced the number of human cases over the years. Different stains of the of the disease have been found in eight people from foreign countries in Michigan since 1995. The hunter in the new case sought medical attention after cutting his hand while removing the innards of the deer and noticing lesions in the animal’s chest cavity. The rare human cases usually are caused by breathing barn air infected by a sick cow or drinking unpasteurized milk from an infected cow. “This appearance of bovine TB in a human underscores the human health risk of the disease in free-ranging deer,” said Janet Olszewski, state community health director. “People should not consume wild animals that appear or are confirmed to be sick, regardless of the circumstance.” Michigan lost its federal bovine TB-free status in 2000, six years after discovery of an infected deer. State officials have ordered testing of the state’s nearly one million cattle, and some herds have undergone multiple testing, said Bridget Patrick, coordinator of the state’s eradication task force. Because the bacteria grow extremely slow and tend to remain dormant there is no reliable way to ensure the disease has been eliminated from an infected herd. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends killing herds known to have it.

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Friday, January 14,2005

Ag survey finds 86% favor online marketplace

by WLJ
Findings from an Internet survey indicate future farm success will involve farmers and ranchers and their cooperatives knowing how to effectively manage the Internet for marketing. That was the sentiment registered by 86 percent of individuals responding to an on-line survey conducted by National Farmers Union, a general farm organization representing more than a quarter of a million farm families nationwide and headquartered in metro Denver. “The purpose of this survey was to find out from farmers, ranchers and rural citizens ways they may be using the Internet and its relevance to their farm business and local cooperatives,” said Jeff Moser, project manager and NFU director of economic and co-op development. Perhaps the most significant finding in the survey was 58 percent of the responding farmers said they used the Internet for doing farm business for buying and selling. “From that key result Farmers Union is encouraged by helping farmers and ranchers and their co-ops to use the Internet for marketing and selling niche services and goods like specialty cheeses, par-baked breads, premium pasta, organic soybeans and natural meats,” Moser said. The survey also found that: • 94 percent of all respondents use a computer • 88 percent were connected to the Internet • 80 percent use the Internet daily • 51 percent made a purchase over the Internet within the past six months • 47 percent are interested in marketing the products of their own farm or co-op over the Internet • 44 percent declared they were presently members of a co-op and/or credit union • 43 percent said their farm or the cooperative that they are associated with had a web site. According to other recent statistics, online retailing in the United States accounts for 2.3 percent of all retail sales or approximately $100 billion annually. In the NFU survey, security was the number one Internet concern of 50 percent of all respondents, followed in order by privacy, reliability of service, affordability of service and ease to learn. The NFU survey is part of a larger project to enhance rural business from an existing online learning center created two years ago by NFU. The Web site, www.e-cooperatives.com, was created to tie Internet education with online retailing so the specialty products of farms and farm cooperatives become more readily available to consumers, said Moser. “We seek to increase value to consumers, raise farm profits and add to the quality of rural life.” “E-cooperatives.com educates and helps family farmers and ranchers carve out a niche, add value to their products and enhance their bottom line,” said Missouri Farmers Union President Russ Kremer. “It also helps create authentic relationships between producers and consumers.” “I feel that consumers want convenience, and like the producers who supply the food, also focus on value, taste and health,” said Sue Beitlich, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin and that state’s Farmers Union president. Beitlich is a member of the NFU e-commerce team of farmers, cooperative specialists and Internet developers guiding the project. Forester Research, an independent technology research company, projects that by the year 2009, half of U.S. households will have broadband at home. During this year’s holiday season, Beitlich and her client team at the NFU hope to launch the retail component to www.e-cooperatives.com. Then family farmers and co-ops will have a new venue on the Internet for reaching online shoppers seeking better produce from local farms. National Farmers Union fielded the online survey between Aug. 10 and Sept. 6 and motivated 827 respondents by entering them in a random drawing for a laptop computer, held Oct. 13. The survey was also provided offline to attendees at various state and local fairs around the country including in California, Colorado and Missouri. Specifically, 408 farmers, ages 17-87 and from 24 states took part in the survey, representing 49 percent or near half of all individuals participating. Of the farmers, 78 percent indicated they had been farming for at least 10 years or more. The NFU survey was similar to one conducted in March 2004 by the NFU when 268 persons responded from 23 states. Seventeen percent of the survey participants identified themselves as current Farmers Union members.

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Friday, January 14,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Lone Star reports earnings Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. reported fourth quarter earnings were up for all its restaurants except for Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon which ended the fourth quarter down 1.7 percent. Positive fourth quarter earnings include Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 3.1 percent, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, 17 percent, and Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, 7.9 percent. Year ending results were up for all its restaurants—Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon, 0.6 percent, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 5.6 percent, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, 23.2 percent and Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, 9.9 percent. Company earnings were up 1.3 percent for the fourth quarter, with an overall 3.6 percent increase for the year. Aussie beef to Korea hits record Australia recorded its highest ever monthly beef exports to Korea in December 2004, according to Meat and Livestock Australia. Exports reached 13,500 metric tons as importers built up stocks for the Korean New Year Feb. 8-10. That figure represented a 133 percent increase compared to the same month last year. Total Australian beef exports for the year reached 93,300 metric tons, up 50 percent compared to 2003 and the highest level since 1992. Demand for chilled beef showed strong growth in 2004, with exports reaching 12,200 tons for the year, 89 percent above 2003 levels. The share of chilled beef also increased from 10 percent of total exports in 2003 to 13 percent in 2004. Exports of frozen beef increased significantly—up by 45 percent on 2003 levels to reach 81,100 metric tons. Wendy's sales struggle, again Wendy's International reported a slide in same-store sales in December, projected wider losses for the fourth quarter and vowed to fight a $5 million verdict in a dispute with a Florida firm over the purchase of 27 restaurants more than a decade ago. The company is writing down the value of its Baja Fresh Mexican restaurant chain for $175 to $195 million. Legal costs over the $5 million verdict will raise Wendy's loss for the fourth quarter from $1.06 to $1.26 per share, up from its earlier estimate of $1.02 to $1.23. U.S. same-store sales slid 2.1 percent in December, compared to a 9 percent increase a year ago. Same-store sales increased 2.9 percent at company-owned Wendy's stores and 1.7 percent to 1.8 percent at franchised stores. Beef sub earns permanent spot The success and popularity of the Steakhouse Beef Dip Sub—the sandwich that moved more than one million pounds of beef in a six-week partnership between the beef checkoff program and Quiznos Subs—have earned it a permanent place on the chain’s menu. “The Steakhouse Beef Dip Sub was the most successful menu item introduction in our history,” said Trey Hall, chief marketing officer for Quiznos Sub. “We are extremely pleased with our partnership with the beef checkoff program.” Uganda steps up export efforts The Ugandan Beef Processors Association (UBPA) has formed a joint venture with a Kenyan company to increase beef production for export, according to published reports. UBPA has acquired a 49 percent stake in the Senko Livestock Farm in Mukono district, which was formerly owned by the government. The Kenyan company, Critical Mass Group, has taken the remaining 51 percent. The new venture will enable the UBPA to source cattle, breed and distribute them to farmers as well as slaughter and pack the meat for export. The project is expected to cost $65 million over five years including investment in machinery, a slaughter plant, and processing and packing equipment. The program plans to export 50,000 metric tons of beef within five years and also increase local consumption. CA packer changes financiers Brawley Beef, a U.S. beef processing and distribution company, has announced it has entered into a new three-year, $30 million asset-based credit facility with Wells Fargo Business Credit as its main operating lender. The new facility replaces the company's previous $10 million revolving credit agreement with Bank of the West. World’s top 10 U.S. beef cuts The U.S. Meat Export Federation and the beef checkoff program have identified 10 U.S. beef items that enjoy the greatest global demand. Top selling muscle meats are, in this order, short plate, short rib, chuck roll, outside skirt steak, hanging tender and rib finger. The top selling variety meats are liver, intestine, tongue and tripe. This information guides USMEF’s offshore marketing efforts in order to maintain sales of these products while building new markets for complementary U.S. beef products.

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Friday, January 14,2005

Budgets show higher production costs for 2005

by WLJ
Total direct costs of production in 2005 will increase more than 10 percent for most crops because of higher fertilizer and fuel expenses, according to Andrew Swenson, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist. Fertilizer is typically the largest and most volatile direct cost of crop production. Fertilizer prices are higher because of energy costs and global demand. Unfortunately, this coincides with low levels of soil nitrogen throughout the state, except for the southwest region. This means more of the expensive fertilizer is necessary for the same yield goal of a year ago. Fuel costs are also sharply higher for 2005, and interest rates will edge up for the first time in several years. Higher costs and poor prices will make it difficult for producers to find a crop rotation that is agronomically sound and provides a profit. Spring wheat, durum and canola project a return to labor and management of minus $10 to minus $30 in most of the nine crop budget regions. Malting barley is close to breaking even only in the west regions and the south-central region. Swenson cautions that the budgets are based on the average yield from 1997 to 2003, with the low and high yield years omitted. Although it may be considered more risky, winter wheat shows either a profit or small loss in all regions outside of the Red River Valley. Oats and rye once again are on the bottom of the profit picture, with losses ranging from $30 to $70 per acre. Soybean acreage has increased for 11 consecutive years, but Swenson believes that streak will end in 2005. Soybeans still will be strong in the east-central, southeast and Red River Valley regions, although the price of genetically modified seed took a substantial jump. However, soybeans are not expected to be profitable in other regions. Corn acreage also will decline because of significantly higher costs and lower prices. Dry edible beans and confectionery sunflowers have the best profit potential. These crops are considered to have more production risk than many, but with average yields, both will provide excellent returns. Because of strong prices, oil sunflower profit is projected at $15 to $40 per acre, depending on the region. Swenson says if a price is attractive, producers should contract and consider an 'act-of-God' clause for protection from a production shortfall. Lentils, safflower and large garbanzo beans are projecting a profit of about $30 in the west regions. However, garbanzo beans are costly to grow and have a high disease risk. A modest profit is projected in most regions for the minor crops of buckwheat and millet. More profit is projected for mustard. Flax and field peas do not project a profit, but Swenson expects acreage to increase because small grains project a lesser return. In addition, the marketing loan rate for flax and field peas provides better price risk protection. Swenson notes that the budgets do not include federal aid that is de-coupled from production (direct and counter-cyclical payments). These payments are based on historic crop bases and yields, not on current crop selection or production, but can be important to the whole farm profit. Direct payments generally increase from west to east. For example, when averaged over all crop acres, the direct payments will be about $6.25 per acre in the southwest region and about $13 in the south Red River Valley. Counter-cyclical payments occur if the national average prices of program crops are below a certain level. Payments are expected with the price levels used in the budgets. Historic yields and base acreage, which vary by farm, are used to calculate the amount. Expected payments, averaged over all crop acres, would be about $3 in the west regions and about $9 in the south Valley region. Unlike direct payments, which are fixed, counter-cyclical payments will dissipate if prices rise. Swenson emphasizes that the budget projections are just that. "Commodity prices and yields are extremely difficult to predict from one year to the next. It is critical to evaluate crop insurance and consider the financial downside risk, as well as the upside potential, of the crop rotation," he says. The budgets are available on the Web at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/ecguides.htm. — WLJ

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Friday, January 14,2005

Canadian cattle die from grain overdose

by WLJ
— Investigation initiated. More than 150 cattle were found already dead late last week and another 20 were euthanized in a central Alberta feedlot after they were fed too much high-concentrate grain upon entering the facility, Canadian veterinarian sources said The situation happened just days after the feedlot went into receivership and was seized by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Acute carbohydrate ingestion, or simple overload, appeared to be the cause of the deaths, said Kee Jim, a veterinarian who was called in to investigate Sunday morning by the Calgary-based receiver, Deloitte and Touche. “Cattle lack the biological mechanisms to stop themselves from overeating,” said Jim. Pasture grass isn't rich enough to do them harm no matter how much they eat, but grain—typically used to fatten cattle in a feedlot just before they are sent to slaughter—is a different story. Jim said feedlots need to slowly increase the amount of grain in the cattle's rations to give them time to adjust. The value of the dead cattle was estimated at about $150,000. They will be sent to a rendering plant. Officials from the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPC) said last week it will likely take a week to decide if they will lay charges in the case of dozens of cattle that died after being given the wrong feed. “There's a lot on information that has to be gathered," SPCA Constable Ken Dean said. “We're still at that gathering stage and it's too early to make that kind of commitment. “We need to know who is responsible for what (and) at what times they were responsible for it," said Dean, one of a number of special constables appointed by the Alberta government to enforce animal health and welfare legislation. — WLJ

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Friday, January 14,2005

Founder more prominent this winter

by WLJ
Ruminant nutritionists around the country are urging cow/calf producers to use extra caution this winter when feeding or supplementing corn in their cattle rations. Several sources indicated that warmer-than-normal temperatures and cheap grain prices could combine to create a problem with more cattle foundering than normal. “There is no doubt that corn is a cheap feed resource right now, and it can hold a place in cow nutrition and management throughout the winter,” said Doug Linfield, nutritionist with Ruminant Specialists Inc., Hugoton, KS. “However, as good as an option as it is, it isn’t a good idea to rely on it too much. Cows can overeat on corn and that can result in aborting their babies, crippling them for life, or even killing them.” He said there has been more cases of founder reported to him since November than the previous three-and-a-half years combined, and that several colleagues have indicated several herds have had more than double-digit founder diagnoses. Reasons behind the increase in founder has been the better availability of sub-$2 per bushel corn, unseasonably mild winter weather through most of November and the first half of December, and the lack of extra forage available to cattle. “Up until the past several weeks, weather was wet but it wasn’t accompanied by severe cold or winds nationwide,” said Linfield. “As a result, cattle haven’t needed as much energy to both meet the needs of their fetus or their own usual winter nutritional requirements. That extra energy, from more corn, is not being utilized and is being stored in the joints of animals, which isn’t a healthy situation.” However, Linfield said cattle will usually eat whatever is put in front of them, even if it is too much. If that is the case with corn, founder will happen very quickly. Several nutritionists suggested producers cut back on their corn usage, and that a good rule of thumb to use is give free-choice forage to cows and feed them one pound of corn for every 350 pounds of body weight per day. If temperatures drop below freezing, an extra pound of grain is suggested. For cows in their third trimester of pregnancy, an extra half- to three-quarters-of-a-pound of corn can be fed. “In most circumstances, going above five or six pounds of grain a day is inviting trouble, particularly if there is plenty of forage available for cattle to ruminate on,” Linfield said. “If inclement weather conditions—particularly heavy, wet snow and high winds—start to become a constant battle, then upping that amount is feasible, but only by a pound, maybe two, per day.” However, producers are also urged to make sure that cows are only eating grain planned for individual diets and are not moving around and eating feed that has been placed in front of other cows. “If you go short on your feed estimates, you are ensured of minimizing problems with founder, if experiencing it at all,” said Linfield.

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Friday, January 14,2005

Letters

by WLJ
Setting record straight Dear Editor (Steven Vetter), I want to clarify some errors in the article “Breed-specific beef validation debated” in your 2005 Bull Buyer’s Guide. First, I cannot be included in a group of “administrators and executive directors,” but I am in charge of producer communications for Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB). The article has me saying consumers think it false advertising when a breed-specific brand doesn’t require at least a portion of the breed claimed in their genetic makeup. Then it has me disagreeing with them. In fact, I did not agree or disagree with the idea. I did question the validity of the concern, because it has been driven primarily by a genomics company trying to market a new alleged breed-specific DNA test, and not by consumers. I still question the wisdom of helping such companies build a perception that any breed-specific program must come from purebred cattle. After all, consumers do not realize that most ranchers do not produce purebreds for the feedlot. As rendered, my quote appears to state that breed makes almost no difference in beef quality. I certainly did not mean to say, nor do I believe that. What I said is that many “consumers fail to understand” product quality grades, and a breed name on a retail label—by itself—may be the least important factor in eating quality for that package-not for the beef cattle industry. I would rather buy a non-branded Prime steak than a breed-specific brand of unknown grade. I said the focus of branded beef is to bring improved quality to the table, but I did not say, “while not sacrificing the health and safety of consumers,” because improved quality does not risk such a sacrifice. In trying to explain the origins of the CAB carcass specifications, and our record of working closely with USDA, my comments were misrepresented to imply a problem more recent than its 1978 basis, and that there is a “contract” apart from the USDA-monitored specifications. Also, CAB has licensed a smaller portion of the packing capacity than reported, about 80 percent. CAB has looked into the bovine genome as an area of interest starting eight years ago, but that was not a quest for breed, but for marbling and tenderness markers. It was not accurate to say CAB looked at DNA verification “each of the last eight years and that in each case, there wasn’t enough financial benefit to warrant implementing such a program.” Thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight. Sincerely, Steve Suther Director of Industry Information Certified Angus Beef LLC (Editor’s note: Western Livestock Journal’s editorial staff regrets any errors that were portrayed in the referenced story, and apologizes for any inconvenience it may have caused.) Foolish move! The USDA's action of charging ahead to allow the importation of live ruminants from Canada seems foolhardy at best in the face of the discovery of another BSE case in Canada. Perhaps this kind of foolhardiness has a precedent in history. At the behest of the British East India Tea Company the British government passed taxes on tea and forbade the Colonists from trading directly with other countries. The only beneficiary would have been the British East India Tea Company. Now, to the delight of the American (or is that North American) Meat Institute which says it speaks for the meatpacking industry and the NCBA which says that it doesn't, the USDA has promulgated a proposed ruling which will benefit the meatpackers royally. The cry that began in Boston Harbor was "Taxation without Representation." Now we need to avoid "Regulation without Representation." Fortunately it appears that Congress itself may take up the issue to determine the appropriate course of action. Now is the time to act. Now is the time for country-of-origin labeling. The FDA has announced rules to require tracing of meat (and other food products) from the processor to the retailer. The USDA's proposed regulations provide for the marking of all Canadian cattle. These actions cover two-thirds of what is required for COOL. The costs of COOL have gone down. Only the segregation at the packing plant isn't now covered by other regulations or proposed regulations. When Japan briefly continued to take shipments of U.S. beef after the discovery of the first case of BSE in Canada the meatpacking industry found a way to satisfy the Japanese requirement that American beef be segregated from non-American beef in the packing plants. They can do the same for American consumers. All the excuses are gone. Let's move up the implementation of country-of-origin labeling. Let's get it done now. Terry A. Stevenson Wheatland, WY McD’s is deceiving consumers McDonald’s was named “Marketer of the Year” by Advertising Age magazine for the brand’s marketing achievements around the world in 2004. Their “I’m lovin’ it” campaign features a small photo of a teen-aged boy holding a hamburger with the following copy—“When I open my burger I know it’s 100 percent USDA beef. Nothing but the real thing in every Quarter Pounder with cheese.” One might question, however, just what message McDonald’s is trying to convey with the “100 percent USDA” claim. Do they want consumers to think McDonald’s burgers are 100 percent U.S. produced? Or are they trying to say their burgers are 100 percent inspected by USDA? The truth is, McDonald’s does want U.S. consumers to believe the USDA stamp means the meat is all U.S. meat. However, this is not true. McDonald’s depends heavily on cheap imported meat. All meat, U.S. and imported alike, is stamped “USDA inspected.” It is painfully clear, that McDonald’s is aware that U.S. consumers have confidence in U.S. meat rather than meat from foreign countries such as Canada that has BSE in its cowherd. Isn’t it ironic that McDonald’s is rewarded for an advertising campaign aimed at deceiving their most important ally, the U.S. consumer? Sincerely, Mike Callicrate Colorado Springs, CO

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Friday, January 14,2005

Low-carb diets set for slower rise

by WLJ
Consumers may once again turn to low-carbohydrate diets to shed unwanted pounds this month, but the trend is unlikely to be as significant for food and beverage manufacturers as it was last year, according to the findings of a Morgan Stanley survey. Morgan Stanley’s consumer staples analysts surveyed 2,500 U.S. adults in late December. About 13 percent of those surveyed expected to start a diet in early 2005, and about one-third of those were expecting to choose a low-carb diet plan. Based on the findings of their survey, the analysts estimate six to seven million adults will start a low-carb diet in the first quarter. That is about 20 percent below last year’s level, the analysts said. “Even as the low-carb movement subsides, manufacturers can’t ignore this segment, said Bill Pecoriello, a beverage industry analyst at the firm. “While we believe the popularity of low-carb dieting is likely to continue to drop gradually, the number of people who continue to monitor their carbohydrate intake is likely to stay significant. Not all food and beverage categories hurt by the low-carb trend will recover in the same way. Sales of some high-carb foods improved as carb-counting waned, but consumers are continuing to avoid some categories with weaker nutritional profiles, said food industry analyst David Adelman. In addition, some food categories benefitted from the introduction of low-carb alternative products, he said, citing yogurt and frozen entrees as examples. However,” Adelman said, “we remain skeptical that the low-carb versions of products in high-carb categories will meaningfully contribute to long-term category growth.” This was the fifth time Morgan Stanley conducted this survey. The firm’s research has shown about 7.8 percent of U.S. adults were on a low-carb diet in the fourth quarter, about 9.3 percent during the third quarter, about 10 percent in the second quarter and 9.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2003. Pecoriello expects beverage companies such as PepsiCo Inc. and Anheuser-Busch Cos. to gain the most from the declining popularity of low-carb diets. “Consumers who drop off a low-carb diet are more likely to go back to consuming beer, fruit juice, snack bars, pretzels and cereal than other categories such as carbonated soft drinks,” he said. However, other headwinds are slowing beer category growth and sales of Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra are declining, as 40 percent of its volume came from low-carb dieters, he said. Meanwhile, Adelman continues to have a cautious view of the U.S. packaged food industry, because of ongoing challenges such as competition from store brands and changing consumer preferences.

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Friday, January 14,2005

More Canadian BSE

by WLJ
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in that nation’s cowherd last Tuesday. The latest cow was not a herd mate to a BSE-positive animal discovered only nine days prior and was a purebred Charolais under seven years of age. CFIA said that while testing the cow they kept control of the carcass, and no part of the animal’s remains entered the human food or animal feed production chains. The agency also said that because the animal is purebred it will help facilitate traceback and discovery of any related animals that may have been exposed to the disease. Marc Richard, spokesman with CFIA, said the rancher noticed the cow was lagging behind when he was bringing her in from pasture. A veterinarian took a sample of the suspect cow at the ranch and sent the sample for the preliminary rapid testing at the Alberta Provincial Lab on Jan. 7. That lab is one of several facilities approved by Canada as part of a network of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) laboratories. When the rapid test revealed a positive result, the cow’s sample was sent to the federal Winnipeg lab to undergo testing under the international gold standard immunohistochemistry (IHC) test. The results were confirmed on Jan. 11 and the BSE announcement was made. The cow was born in March 1998, meaning Canada’s ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban was in place prior to the animal being born. The U.S. and Canada both established laws to prohibit the feeding of these products believed to spread BSE by an animal ingesting meat or bone meal made from the rendered parts of a contaminated animal. Canada implemented a ban in August 1997. Cindy McCreath, communications manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), said the most recent infection could be tracked back to the animal eating feed that was grandfathered in by the feed ban. “It’s important to note that while the feed ban began in August 1997, there was no recall issued at that time on feed ingredients already in the system.” She said it was likely the cow was exposed to feed that was produced prior to the feed ban and was stored on a farm an extra long time. She added that does not indicate a lack of feed ban compliance at this stage of the investigation. The other three BSE-positive cow’s originating from Canada were all born prior to the feed ban and investigations into their infection indicated that they had come in contact with BSE- contaminated feed. McCreath said, “We have confidence in our regulators to ensure the effectiveness of the ban. The low incidence of BSE in Canada, as shown by the surveillance program, is evidence that the ban is working. The CCA fully supports a review and validation of the implementation of Canada’s feed ban.” Jan Lyons, Kansas producer and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said, “America’s cattlemen insist that the feed ban be strictly enforced, and we must be assured Canada is in full compliance. We demand that USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate Canada’s feed ban compliance. Based on this information, USDA and FDA should determine how to proceed with regard to the implementation of the Canadian rule.” Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said, “Since this animal is born shortly after the implementation of Canada’s feed ban and to determine is there are any potential links among the positive animals, we will expedite sending a technical team to Canada to evaluate the circumstances surrounding these recent finds. We appreciate Canada’s willingness to cooperate and assist us in these efforts. We will continue our ongoing work with Canadian officials in their epidemiological investigations to determine the facts of these cases.” A team of investigators was sent to Canada last Wednesday to initiate the investigation into Canada’s implementation of its feed ban and the overall effectiveness of its rule. An FDA investigative team will be sent into Canada to research the feed ban sometime before Jan. 21. According to Richard, CFIA is looking to invite a separate international review panel to evaluate the same issues as USDA and FDA. On the other side of the issue, R-CALF USA does not believe the feed ban is enough to prevent the spread of BSE. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard criticized Canadian officials’ comments during a news conference about the feed ban. Bullard quoted the officials as saying the feed ban was enough of a safeguard to prevent the spread of BSE into the Canadian cattle herd and into the human food supply. “However,” Bullard said, “during Europe’s BSE crisis, Europe also implemented a feed ban, yet, cases of BSE were discovered 12 years after the feed ban was put into place.” He also emphasized that, given the new finding, USDA should immediately withdraw its final rule allowing Canadian cattle and beef from cattle over 30 months of age into the U.S. The National Farmers Union (NFU) joined in the sentiment that USDA should revoke the final cattle import rule. Dave Frederickson, NFU president, said, “The National Farmers Union reiterates its call for Congress to reject, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately abandon, efforts to reopen the Canadian border to live cattle. In addition, we urge USDA to rescind its rule allowing Canadian boxed beef to enter the United States. It would be negligent to jeopardize consumer confidence and our domestic cattle market with these rules. “Of the 23 countries with documented cases of BSE, 70 percent have discovered subsequent cases in the months and years that follow. This latest discovery is further evidence that the Canadian cattle herd is infected with BSE, and the safeguards put into place in Canada to prevent the disease are not properly working.” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee expressed disappointment in USDA’s failure to reevaluate plans to reopen the Canadian border through last week. However, the Senate Agriculture Committee did commit to holding a hearing. Harkin said, “Critical questions exist about the efficacy of both the Canadian anti-BSE effort and our own anti-BSE policies. Addressing these concerns has to be a top priority of USDA before more broadly opening the border to Canadian beef and cattle.” Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, sent a letter to outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, asking USDA to withdraw the Canadian final rule to allow imports to resume. “Today’s announcement reminds us that we do not know the prevalence of BSE in Canada’s herd until they have completed their testing program,” said Enzi. To date, CFIA says it has tested 24,000 head of cattle for BSE. This is the third positive BSE test in Canada and the fourth case of BSE in an animal of Canadian origin. Enzi indicated that he supported reopening the border after export markets were reestablished. That is a similar position to Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-ND, who introduced legislation earlier this month delaying Canadian cattle imports until U.S. beef export markets were reopened to pre-BSE levels. “From the producer perspective, it is imperative that we reopen our export markets before we allow our domestic market to be flooded with Canadian cattle ... The border opening must be done in a way that minimizes economic impact to domestic producers,” Enzi said. No health concerns On the other side of the issue, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and NCBA wanted to ensure that consumer confidence here in the U.S. is not damaged by the announcement of this latest case of BSE. AMI emphasized that the meat never entered the food chain. However, they did say that had the meat been sold for human consumption, it would have been safe because the risk materials where the contaminating agent is found is required to be removed. “Those are the only tissues where BSE has ever been found,” said James Hodges, AMI president. Lyons agreed, saying consumers should remember BSE is not found in beef such as steaks, roasts and ground beef. Hodges also said, “There are multiple firewalls in place to detect BSE if it exists in North America and prevent the contamination of the food supply. This animal was identified because it had been detected under the Canadian surveillance system.” On a final note, Hodges said it is important that the U.S. tries to fully understand the significance and the demand that public officials make policy decisions based on sound science. AMI encouraged USDA to move forward with the decision to open the border on March 7. CFIA said the results of a full internal audit of the Canadian feed rule, as well as the traceback and traceout of this animal to find any subsequent contaminated animals should be completed before March 7.

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Friday, January 14,2005

Retail food down in 4th quarter

by WLJ
Retail prices for food at the supermarket dropped about four percent in the fourth quarter of 2004, retracting most of the increase recorded in the third quarter, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation market basket survey. The informal survey on the total cost of 16 basic grocery items showed a decrease of $1.51 from the 2004 third quarter survey. The third quarter average price for the market basket items was $1.53 higher than the second quarter. The $38.87 average paid by volunteer shoppers for the 16 items is $1.44 higher than the 2003 fourth quarter survey average of $37.43. While the survey average has increased from a year ago, food remains affordable overall. Americans spend just 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased and five decreased in average price compared to the 2004 third quarter survey. Reversing an upward trend in price that began during the first quarter, bacon showed the largest decrease, down 41 cents per pound to $3.11, followed by Russet potatoes, which dropped 31 cents per 5-pound bag to $1.75. The price for a gallon of whole milk dropped for the second consecutive quarter, ending at $2.98, a 25-cent drop from the third quarter. Cheddar cheese dropped 18 cents per pound, showing the lowest average price in a year at $3.76. The price for a dozen eggs and a pound of apples also dropped 18 cents, to $.99 and $1.04 respectively. Other items that decreased in price: • Flour, down 16 cents per 5-pound bag, to $1.46; • Pork chops, down 14 cents per pound, to $3.29; • Whole fryers, down 14 cents per pound, to $1.14; • Sirloin tip roast, down four cents per pound, to $3.70; and • Vegetable oil, down four cents per 32-oz. jar, to $2.52. “The decline in meat and milk prices is due to a couple of different factors working concurrently. First, there has been an increase in the supply of beef––production rose two percent from a year earlier in the fourth quarter. At the same time, reduced demand for meat products became a factor, due to a weakening of the high-protein diet craze which has gripped the country over the last year or so,” said AFBF Senior Economist Terry Francl. After dropping 12 cents in the third quarter, the price for a 20-oz. loaf of bread increased 15 cents to $1.44. Corn oil increased in price, rising 11 cents to $2.78 per 32-oz. jar. Toasted oat cereal increased 11 cents, rising to $3.07 for a 10-oz. box. Ground chuck averaged $2.57 per pound, a 9-cent increase from the third quarter and the first rise in price in a year. Mayonnaise increased to $3.27 per 32-oz. jar, a 4-cent rise. Despite steady increases in grocery store average prices over time, the share of the average food dollar received by America's farm and ranch families has actually dropped. “This reflects a long-standing trend,” said Francl. “Thirty years ago farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures.” According to the most recent Agriculture Department statistics, America's farmers and ranchers receive just 19 cents out of every dollar spent for food. Using that across-the-board percentage, the farmer's share of this quarter's market basket average total would be about $7.39. Francl noted that increases in off-farm costs, which account for 81 cents of the retail food dollar, reflect the higher cost of energy as well as health and retirement benefits. “These are more likely correlated with the overall inflation rate in the general economy,” Francl said. — WLJ

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