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Monday, January 3,2005

Sheep Notes

by WLJ
Ewe lamb applications due USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) posted the Final Rule for the 2004 Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Payment Program (ELRRPP) in the Dec. 23 Federal Register. The rule announced that the application period for the program will end January 13, 2005. The program was designed to encourage the replacement and retention of the ewe-lamb breeding stock in the U.S. ELRRPP provides direct payments to producers at a rate of $18 per ewe retained in the base period from Aug. 1, 2003, through July 31, 2004. Total payments to this program cannot exceed $18 million. In the event that eligible applications result in expenditures in excess of the amount available, FSA will prorate the payments to producers in order to stay within the $18 million available for the program. The final rule does not state when producers can expect their payment, however, the second half of January is most likely. Producers still interested in applying are urged to contact their local FSA office. Faster disease testing unveiled Two new tests are offered to goat and sheep owners, through Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Regional Animal Health Laboratory (RMRAHL). The lab, a program of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, offers testing for caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) in goats and ovine progressive pneumonia virus (OPPV) in sheep. RMRAHL tests for CAEV are done on Wednesdays with results available that day. The tests for OPPV/CAEV is available on Monday and Wednesday with results in 24 to 48 hours. For more information visit the Web site www.ag.state.co.us/animals/rmrahl/rmrahl.html or call RMRAHL at 303/477-0049. New sheep shearing record The world record for lamb shearing has been smashed by a Reporoa man, according to the New Zealand News. Justin Bell managed to shear 851 lambs in nine hours, 12 more than the record set in 2000 by Rodney Sutton. The 30-year-old has been shearing for 11 years and has achieved 13 wins as well as the Golden Shears Competition in 1998.  

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Monday, January 3,2005

Packer losses slow fed trade

by WLJ
Fed beef trade was slow and cautious last week. Cattle feeders appeared to think they were in the driver’s seat and were wanting to make packers pay more for their slaughter needs than the week previous. However, as of Thursday at noon, packers were not coming to the table with more than $90 per cwt. In fact, most bids were $88-89 across the country. For the week, as of press time Thursday, 10-12,000 head of cattle traded in northern feeding areas at mostly $139 dressed, while Texas sellers had moved only 2-3,000 head at $88 live. Most trade during the week leading up to Christmas was at $90 live. Packers were holding out until the last possible minute to purchase fed cattle for nearby slaughter needs, sources said. The primary reason for the stalemate was the fact that packer margins continued to be significantly negative. Lance Zuhrmann, analyst and consultant with M&Z Livestock Analytics, said he was convinced that packers may stay out of the cash fed cattle market until after Jan. 1, particularly if margins didn’t improve immediately. “They are out $50-60 per head right now, and at steady prices for both fed cattle coming in and boxed beef going out, the chances that profits will be seen anytime soon are slim and none,” he said. “The longer they can go without buying cattle and still selling boxed beef, the better things look for turning around their finances.” Jason Kraft, CattleHedging.com, Fort Collins, CO, said that packers weren’t expected to process many cattle last Friday—it being New Year’s Eve—and that those cattle will be shifted over to meet processing needs during the first half of the first week of 2005. David Talbot, cattle consultant with T&Z Ag Commodities, Wichita, KS, concurred with other sources, and said that below-normal kill days the previous three weeks have rebuilt packers’ captive supplies. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see captive cattle supplies be 20-25 percent above normal for this time of year,” he said. “That means they need fewer cattle on the cash market, and will set out until either the price is right or they have reached the end of available supplies. It’s possible they (packers) could get into the market Monday (Jan. 3) and have them delivered to plants by Wednesday or Thursday. It’s not without precedent.” Packers also appeared optimistic that a significant downturn in live cattle futures prices last Wednesday would turn the cash market in their favor. They were waiting for that to happen, as of Thursday midday. Live cattle futures markets had a rough week with the announcement that the U.S. would start accepting live Canadian fed and feeder cattle in March 7. December and February live cattle contracts fell 192 points on news of the announcement, as did the other listed contracts. Most feeder cattle contracts were down nearly 300 points through the April contract. Market analysts said there was no reason for December and February live cattle futures to plummet like they did. Most sources cited the lack of communication between USDA and futures traders for the decline in the two contracts closest in time. “There had to be an omission of the effective date of implementation for the rule,” said Jim Robb, analyst with the Livestock Marketing Information Center, Lakewood, CO. “The earliest Canadian cattle are going to be allowed to cross the border is March 7, well after both December and February contracts expire.” Other sources said the across-the-board futures declines were the result of the Canadian announcement last Wednesday that another cow may be infected with BSE. Boxed beef markets were stronger than the week prior. However, volumes were much lower than two weeks ago. Over 2,100 loads of fabricated beef cuts traded on the cash market during the five days leading up to Christmas eve. Last week’s trade was a bit more tame as the Choice composite cutout was trading at mostly $141 per cwt and Select was at $135.09 on moderate volume. Slaughter for the week was running mostly steady with a week earlier. Through Thursday 363,000 head had been processed, just 2,000 head behind the prior week. Cattle slaughter the week of Christmas totaled 497,000 head, 8.4 percent below a year ago. Beef production was down 7.3 percent year-to-date, which will be where the year will finish up, according to analysts’ projections. Calves, yearling trade stagnant Overall demand for all classes of feeder and stocker cattle was called “extremely anemic” last week, resulting in prices between $2-5 below the week earlier. Additional price pressure is expected in the spring when Canadian feeder cattle are allowed entry into the U.S. Most auction barns across the country didn’t hold sales, as they allowed employees and customers to enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Most feedlots were also said to be short staffed through the holiday, and that limited the amount of cattle, if any, allowed to enter their facilities. Adding to the lackluster demand was that cattle feeders are still swimming in red ink. Most breakevens on fed cattle are between $94-96, $4-6 higher than the most recent cash market price. Stocker operators, according to Zuhrmann, are also being hurt by red ink, and that is keeping them out of the market right now. “Many calf graziers and backgrounders bought lightweight calves at unheard of prices this summer and early fall,” he said. “The prices for heavier, more placement ready cattle have deteriorated to levels where these guys are starting to show negative margins.” Zuhrmann indicated that several stocker operators are losing $4-7 per cwt, or $25-45 per head. The CME feeder cattle index last Wednesday was $104.69, $1.50 below the previous Wednesday. — WLJ

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Monday, January 3,2005

Yellowstone bison to be vaccinated

by WLJ
The state is proposing to vaccinate bison that stray from Yellowstone National Park, a move intended to help prevent the spread of disease to Montana cattle. But some activists oppose the Livestock Department’s plan, questioning the vaccine’s efficacy. The debate heats up each winter, when some Yellowstone bison wander off in search of food. Ranchers in Montana worry the animals will transmit brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort their pregnancies. Activists contend the fear is unjustified. “Why throw taxpayer money down the drain to keep a handful of ranchers happy?” said Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign. Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said it is important to take steps to protect the livestock industry. While his group supports the vaccine, it realizes efforts won’t necessarily be 100 percent effective. “But you don’t use that as a reason not to try,” he said. An environmental assessment by Montana’s livestock department proposes vaccinating calves and yearlings that leave the park’s western boundary and enter the state. The process would take place “opportunistically,” the document said, as part of bison management activities. Comments on the plan are being taken through Jan. 5. The department expects to make a decision by Jan. 31. If approved, a program could be in place this winter. Yellowstone bison have been vaccinated before, but it is the first time the state suggested inoculating those that stray form the park. A joint state-federal management plan already allows for the hazing and capture of bison that leaver the park, and for brucellosis testing. Those testing positive are sent to slaughter.

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Monday, January 3,2005

WHO: Ways of raising animals must change

by WLJ
The way animals are raised for food needs to be urgently changed in an attempt to prevent a possible global flu pandemic that could kill millions of people, a senior World Health Organization official said Friday, Nov. 26. Shigeru Omi, Western Pacific regional director of WHO, said bird flu could cause the next global pandemic, and efforts to control it must begin with farming methods. “I believe we are closer now to a pandemic than at any time recent years," Omi said. He said the current outbreak of bird flu in poultry is "historically unprecedented in terms of geographical spread and impact," the virus "appears to be not only very resilient, but also extremely versatile," and influenza pandemics historically appear every 20 to 30 years. “On this basis, the next one is overdue,” he said. Omi told a meeting of regional health ministers and senior officials that "it's very important to address the root cause of the disease -that is, the transmission from animals to humans." “This means a thorough overhaul of animal husbandry practices, and the way animals are raised for food in the region. I believe that anything less than that will only result in further threats to public health," he added. Chickens, ducks and other animals are often allowed to roam freely on small Southeast Asian farms, and often come into close contact with wild animals and with family members. Some animal health experts have been promoting so-called "closed-system farming," in which poultry are raised in a sealed environment where they face minimal exposure to outside infections. But the system is likely to be prohibitively expensive for many poor farmers. The H5N1 bird flu virus, which first spread among chickens, has killed 32 people this year in Thailand and Vietnam. Health officials fear it could combine with a human flu virus, creating a new form that could spread rapidly throughout the world. WHO says a pandemic could cause an estimated 2 million to 7 million deaths and make billions of people ill. Health ministers and senior officials from 10 Southeast Asian countries, along with China, Japan and South Korea, are among more than 100 people attending a meeting this week in Bangkok to develop strategies against bird flu and other infectious diseases. — WLJ

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Monday, September 27,2004

FSIS demands better humane handling compliance

by WLJ
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently published a formal notice urging livestock processors to use a more systematic approach to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). In addition, the agency said it will be quicker to levy penalties against processors that violate HMSA rules and that don't actively work to remedy "inhumane" procedures. FSIS has recommended that packing facilities identify where and under what circumstances livestock may experience excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury while being handled during the slaughter process. In addition, those facilities are being urged to design facilities and implement practices that will minimize injury and discomfort prior to slaughter. "Plants should periodically evaluate their system for effectiveness and improve or adjust operations accordingly," said FSIS, in its Federal Register announcement earlier this month. "Implementing these steps will serve to improve product quality and efficiency as well as enhance worker safety." FSIS officials indicated that numerous congressional inquiries and concerns from consumer and animal welfare groups have led to the increased enforcement of humane slaughtering regulations. FSIS has received more than 20,000 letters during the past few years from individuals, consumer organizations, and animal welfare organizations expressing concerns regarding the humane treatment of livestock. In addition, the agency said there has been a marked increase in the number of violations over the past three years. The percentage of that increase was not released by the agency. An aide for a minority member of the House Ag Committee indicated that FSIS has said that instances of "inhumane handling" incidents have jumped 5-8 percent since the beginning of 2000. "That is an increase of 1.5-2.5 million head possibly being mistreated prior to or during the slaughter process since the beginning of the (twenty-first) century," the aide said. "We have been asked by constituents to address the issue and we have taken those concerns up the ladder. It seems like the (packing) industry needs to address the concerns of the end-product user, and this is something consumers are paying much more attention to now." A Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation, which was commissioned and funded by a House appropriations conference committee report, said the frequency of humane handling and slaughter noncompliance incidents increased significantly between January 2001 and March 2003 specifically. "Similarly, the number of noncompliance records documenting relatively minor violations increased as well," FSIS said, in its September 9 Federal Register announcement. In 2001, FSIS started hiring District Veterinary Medical Specialists to serve as the primary contact for humane handling and slaughter issues in each district. In 2003, FSIS issued a directive to provide FSIS inspection personnel additional information on humane handling verification procedures and to clarify enforcement actions to be taken for violations. Early this year, FSIS implemented its electronic Humane Activities Tracking program (HAT) to document inspection activities to ensure livestock are humanely handled in federally-inspected facilities. That program provides more accurate and readily available information on the activities and time spent by inspection personnel investigating the handling and slaughter procedures within individual plants. HMSA requires that humane methods for handling and slaughtering be used for all meat inspected by FSIS. FSIS also said it is making Humane handling research and documentation available to processors, so they can develop and maintain slaughter processes that are in compliance with current HMSA regulations. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor  

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Monday, September 27,2004

Irradiated beef orders pulled by Schools

by WLJ
Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas schools have all pulled their standing orders for irradiated beef this school year as USDA contends suppliers continue to charge too much for the product. According to USDA, suppliers were still asking approximately $2.50 per pound for irradiated hamburger and ground beef, as early as the first week of September. That price is almost 75 cents more than the cost for non-irradiated product. Officials with Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas indicated that all orders for irradiated beef have been scratched, and that individual schools will have to wait to the summer of 2005 before ordering irradiated beef. A total of 221 schools in those three states had planned on allowing kids the opportunity to eat school lunches made with irradiated ground beef, which has been manufactured on the premise it is freer of contaminants, specifically pathogens including E. coli 0157:H7. All three states were under pressure from the USDA to decide earlier this month whether to keep their orders for the meat. The USDA received bids from suppliers of irradiated beef ranging from $2.25 to $2.50 per pound, compared to $1.65-1.75 usually paid for non-irradiated beef. USDA officials would not specify how many pounds of irradiated product were specified in all the school orders, however, it was indicated that bids came in on more than 30,000 pounds of ground beef, from potential suppliers. USDA indicated that it expected the cost of irradiated beef to be about 20 cents more per pound than untreated beef, but officials said much more expense than that was unacceptable. The first bid to supply irradiated ground beef to schools in the three states came in at $2.50 a pound. The second was $2.25 a pound. The USDA rejected both. No supplier names have yet been released. While the states were displeased with the inability to get any irradiated product procured, they said that canceling their orders went a long way towards stemming controversy over the situation. While science has shown irradiated beef to be safe and of no consequence to taste or smell, there are still fears concerning the process. Irradiation involves directing electron beams or gamma rays at food to rid it of harmful bacteria. Studies show that most of the radiation passes through without being absorbed. The small remaining amount kills bacteria. USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deemed irradiation safe, and numerous food safety experts say it is one way to prevent consumers from getting sick from E. coli and other bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The USDA donated 131.85 million pounds of beef worth $184.35 million for school lunches and other federal nutrition programs in 2003, according to government data. The agency expected the school lunch program to deal in at least that amount of beef this year, if not a couple million pounds more. — WLJ

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Monday, September 27,2004

Europeans eat less trans fats than Americans

by WLJ
Europeans eat less of the most dangerous, cholesterol-raising fats than Americans do and the amount is decreasing, according to a report released September 2 by the European Food Safety Authority, reports the Associated Press. Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority declined to say whether the EU should follow the U.S.' lead and require special labels on margarine, chips, cookies, fries, and other potential sources of trans fatty acids. "These are almost political decisions," said agency executive director Geoffrey Podger. "There are a variety of societal factors about when you decide to label." Some trans fats occur naturally in beef, lamb, and dairy products. But most are created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to create solid margarine or shortening. Both trans fat and saturated fats, which are prevalent in meat, raise blood levels of bad cholesterol. But trans fats also reduce levels of good cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease even more. It also increases blood levels of triglycerides, the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. The USDA this year ordered food manufacturers to list trans fat alongside saturated fats on product labels, starting Jan. 1, 2006. As the U.S. obesity problem spreads to Europe, calls have been raised for companies here to follow suit. Some manufacturers have already reformulated products—Frito-Lay has removed trans fats from its Doritos and Cheetos—but others say they are struggling to eliminate them from classics, such as Kraft's Oreos or McDonald's fries, without affecting taste. In the boldest move, Denmark last year ordered a virtual end to the use of artificial trans fats in processed foods, with then-Food Minister Mariann Fischer Boel—soon to be the EU's agriculture commissioner—urging other EU countries to do the same. That forced McDonald's Denmark, for example, to switch oils for its fries, even though the company has yet to do so elsewhere, said spokesman Kristian Madsen. "We have had to get used to it," he said, adding that the new oil degrades faster and is probably higher in saturated fats. Dr. Steen Stender, a cardiologist with the Danish Nutrition Council who pushed for the Danish law, conceded the trade-off but said trans fats were "much more" dangerous per gram than saturated fats and should be avoided as much as possible. "There is no reason for having this extra risk for heart disease," he said. "It can be removed without anyone suffering from any lack of quality of life." An EU study in the mid-1990s found trans fats accounted for about 0.5 to two percent of daily calories for Europeans. That compares with an estimated 2.6 percent for Americans, according to the USDA. Mediterranean countries were at the lowest end of the scale, reflecting their use of olive and other vegetable oils rather than spreads, said Albert Flynn, a professor at Ireland's University College Cork, who chaired the scientific panel. But even in northern countries like Iceland, Denmark, and Finland, more recent studies show intake levels decreasing, mainly because margarine makers are reformulating their products, he said. On the other hand, saturated fats comprised 10.5 to 18 percent of calories consumed in Europe, the EU study found, compared to the U.S. FDA estimate of about 10 to 13 percent for Americans. The recommended level for calories from saturated fat is maximum 10 percent, but "very few countries come close to that," Flynn said. — International Ag News

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Monday, September 27,2004

Critical habitat granted to bull trout in Northwest

by WLJ
— Washington, Oregon, Idaho affected. — Announcement less than expected. For the second time this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced critical habitat designation for a federally protected species in an effort to comply with a court order. Like the last time, environmentalists have stated displeasure with the announcement while ranching interests are taking a wait-and-see approach on the issue. FWS last week announced it is designating approximately 1,748 miles of streams and 61,235 acres of lakes in the Columbia and Klamath River basins of Oregon, Washington and Idaho as critical habitat for the bull trout under the Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are considered "essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations." A designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where Federal funding, permits or projects are involved. It does not affect citizens engaged in activities on private land that do not involve a federal agency. FWS originally proposed designating approximately 18,450 stream miles and approximately 532,700 acres of lakes and reservoirs back in November 2002. The state-by-state breakdown of that designation is 706 stream miles and 33,939 acres of lakes and marshes in the Klamath Basin of Oregon; 706 miles of streams and 33,939 acres of lakes and marshes; 737 miles of streams in the Columbia River basin of Washington; and 306 miles of streams and 27,296 acres of lakes in the Columbia River basin in Idaho. Last week's designation, according to FWS, provides credit for ongoing conservation and management efforts for bull trout, and they said that there wasn't the need for as much critical habitat as originally thought. "As a result of the extensive public comment we received on our proposed designation, we found there were many areas that already had conservation efforts in place and did not need to be designated," said Dave Allen, regional director for FWS' Pacific Region. "In other areas, we found that the social and economic cost of a designation outweighed the conservation benefit." For example, Allen said FWS determined that Washington-state's Forest Practices Act provided conservation benefits for the bull trout in Washington that are far superior to the benefits provided by a federal critical habitat designation. FWS also determined the Federal Columbia River Power System has spent $3.3 billion on restoration of salmon habitat in the river system over the past 20 years, most of which also benefitted bull trout. The agency also said Montana and Idaho wildlife agencies have aggressive management plans designed to preserve the bull trout population, as well. After proposing critical habitat in November 2002 for bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath river basins, the Service held nine public hearings and numerous public meetings, reviewed 549 written comments from the public and obtained peer review of its proposal from the American Fisheries Society. The public had a total of seven months to review and comment on the critical habitat proposal and the draft economic analysis. Last week's announcements was the first of two legally mandated critical habitat designations that will be made for bull trout. In January 2002, FWS and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan reached a court settlement establishing a schedule for the proposal of critical habitat for bull trout. The two environmental groups had sued FWS for not designating critical habitat when it first listed the bull trout as threatened back in 1998. FWS is also conducting a five-year review on the bull trout to determine whether a change in status is warranted. That review is expected to be finished in 2005. Work on a recovery plan for bull trout is on hold until the review to determine whether the species is threatened is complete. Environmentalist organizations were displaying much displeasure with the smaller-than-expected critical habitat designation, and there were indications that FWS would be taken to court over that announcement. Ranching interests that could be impacted by the announcement said they were waiting to see what happens with the second critical habitat designation, and that they will wait for all the court room battles to subside before having too much of a reaction. There is concern that federally-permitted livestock grazing could be hampered with the designation, particularly if requirements for fencing off stream banks and lakes are mandated. The primary source for stockwater on many federally-managed allotments in the Northwest are streams, lakes and ponds. Several sources said bringing outside water resources to grazing livestock is almost impossible and that the only way to access many of those allotments are by horse. Last week's bull trout announcement followed up a similar situation earlier this month when FWS announced critical habitat designation for the Mexican spotted owl in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. In that instance, the amount of acres set aside were also detested by environmentalists, who said they were in the process of mounting a legal challenge to the announcement. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor

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Monday, September 27,2004

Cowdogs to be highlighted during NILE

by WLJ
"When you can't work harder, you have to work smarter." That age-old advice has never been more appropriate than today's busy life on the ranch, with time, money, and man-power getting harder to come by. Many ranchers are turning to well-trained cowdogs to fill the gap, with growing interest in a composite breed known as Hangin' Tree Cowdogs. These dogs and their ability to perform on a working cattle ranch will be featured in a free demonstration at the NILE Stock Show, ProRodeo & Horse Extravaganza on Friday, October 15 at noon in the Superbarn at MetraPark in Billings, Montana. Scott Allison, a cowdog breeder and trainer from Dillon, MT, will demonstrate how one lone rider can gather, hold, sort, doctor, and even load cattle into a stock trailer on the open range, with only his dogs for help. Allison uses his dogs on a large, family-owned cattle ranch in southwest Montana, with a herd of 1,200 cow/calf pairs and several hundred yearlings. The ranch is all-terrain, with cattle-gathering challenges like thick brush, boulders, timber, deep gullies, creek bottoms, steep-walled canyons, narrow ridges, and mountain tops. After learning firsthand how dogs can reduce the cost of manpower, Allison began looking for a dog that could handle tough terrain, distance, and a variety of ranch situations. His search led him to the Hangin' Tree Cowdog line. He now breeds, trains, and sells what he calls "working cowdogs for working cowboys." Hangin' Tree Cowdogs are a composite of three talented breeds: Catahoula Leopard Dog, Border Collie, and Australian Kelpie. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is known for having top hunting/tracking instincts, tenacity, and a natural trailing ability. The Border Collie is intelligent, responsive, and trainable, skilled at gathering and herding. The Australian Kelpie has agility, hardiness, toughness, and endurance. Hangin' Tree Cowdogs are medium-sized and have short coats to give them protection from heat, help in shedding burrs, and ease of coat maintenance, all critical features for dogs working on the open range or in the brush. Their bone structure is relatively heavy compared to their size, a quality that gives them stamina and strength. They have alert ear sets and a sharp eye, as well as docked tails. The dogs come in many colors, ranging from solid black to red and blue merles. Hangin' Tree Cowdogs are registered by the American Cowdog Association. Their registry is unique: The dogs must prove that they can and will hit heads and heels before they can receive their registration papers. The Hangin' Tree Cowdog demonstration is one of dozens of educational clinics and seminars featured the final days of NILE, which runs October 13-16. Spectator admission is free to all exhibits and most events at NILE. For a schedule of events, call 406-256-2495 or visit online at www.thenile.org.

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Monday, September 27,2004

COOL amendment dies on tie vote

by WLJ
— Next labeling effort not expected until ‘05. A last minute amendment to the Senate's proposed $84 billion agriculture appropriations bill to move up the implementation date of mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) from September 30, 2006, to January 1, 2005, died last week when a Senate Appropriation Committee vote tied 14-14. Congressional aides and Washington, DC, lobbyists doubted that any further effort to mandate COOL would be seen this year. The amendment was defeated along party lines with all committee Republicans voting against the initiative and Democrats voting to speed up mandatory labeling implementation. A simple majority would have allowed the amendment to be sent on to a Senate/House conference committee for further consideration. Leading the vocal Senate charge against expedited COOL implementation were Republicans Robert Bennett, UT; Christopher "Kit" Bond, MO; Conrad Burns, MT; Larry Craig, ID; and Ted Stevens, AK. Primary proponents, who testified in favor of the amendment, were its sponsors Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD. Bennett, who is the agriculture appropriations subcommittee chairman, said that it can be difficult and costly to discern the origin of a product that is born in one place, fed in another and possibly slaughtered elsewhere. USDA's proposed COOL program mandates that all stages of a meat product's production must be included on a label. For example, beef that is from a steer that is originally from Mexico, slaughtered in the U.S., and then further processed in Canada before coming back to the U.S. has to have all that indicated on the label. "It's not as easy as trying to determine what country a radish is grown in," Bennett said. Proponents of immediate mandatory COOL implementation said it is "ludicrous to not take this step," because it is in the best interest of national consumer health and safety. In addition, they said mandatory COOL will provide the U.S. beef industry more profit opportunity because of differentiating its higher-quality and safer meat products from similar products produced in other countries. While there is still expected to be lip service given to getting mandatory COOL implemented next year, most congressional and meat industry lobbyists weren't expecting any significant efforts to come to the forefront before next month's end-of-year adjournment. Most sources indicated that the upcoming presidential election will shorten the amount of time many U.S. representatives and senators in Washington, DC, will spend in Washington, DC, the rest of this year and that will hamper any major pro-COOL effort from gaining much steam. "There are still several other appropriation packages that need to get through both houses of Congress, and less time than normal to get them through conference committee and passed on to the President for signing," said a spokeswoman for a Republican member of the House Agriculture Committee. "We continue to hear that mandatory COOL will continue to be introduced, however, it's unlikely those efforts will be reward over the rest of this year. There are other pressing issues before revisiting this one. It will probably be one of the first items, at least agriculturally, brought up for consideration next year." The target adjournment date for Congress this year is October 1. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor

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