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Articles from 2009 In May

Recession Affecting Grocery Purchase Trends

The recession is driving food shoppers of all regions, ages and incomes to adapt their spending and diet choices, reports the May 11 edition of the FMI/Nielsen/Lempert E-Newsletter. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2009” report, 69% of shoppers say the recession is affecting their grocery shopping, compared to 48% in 2008.

That behavior is manifested by:

  • Eating out less or spending less when they do – 55% claim they spend less money dining out than one year ago, and 69% are eating out less; 50% say they’re eating in less expensive places.
In fact, a Quick Poll found that when consumers were asked how many times per week (of 21 possible meals) they ate away from home (breakfast, lunch or dinner), 24% said “none” and 44% said “one to two.” That's equates to more than two-thirds of adult respondents saying they eat less than 10% of meals outside of their homes.

They’re also not ordering take out. When asked, "how many times do you order take out or delivery in a week," more than half (55%) said “none,” and 38% said “one to two.” That's more than 9 of 10 who presumably are discovering new appreciations of home cooking.

  • Using more money-saving measures at the supermarket by trading down, substituting or eliminating purchases. More shoppers are browsing for deals in grocery flyers, clipping coupons and developing grocery lists than previously. The most popular in-store money-saving measure is purchasing private brand products: 66% of shoppers now purchase private label on a regular basis.
  • The increased focus on price and value is causing further erosion of supermarkets’ share of purchases. Down from 60% in 2008, 56% of shoppers identified a full-service supermarket as the store where they spent the majority of their grocery budget. Supercenters gained ground to 27%.
  • Shoppers looking to save money are cooking more at home. With 92% of consumers believing home-cooked meals are healthier than foods eaten when dining out, 46% of shoppers say they typically eat a lunch brought from home or eat lunch at home. That’s up from 24% in 2008. Meanwhile, 56% of shoppers working full-time now typically bring lunch from home, compared to 45% in 2008.
-- FMI/Nielsen/Lempert E-Newsletter

Youth Takes Ranching Way Of Life To Urban Students

At eight years old, Weston Svoboda is already a spokesperson for rural living and the ranching lifestyle that his family maintains in the Nebraska Sandhills. Although he just completed the second grade at Sargent Public School, he’s spent the last two years communicating his way of life with his peers in elementary schools in urban settings through the Ag Pen Pals program.

The young agricultural advocate is the son of Scott and Jennifer Svoboda and is the fourth generation to live on his family’s ranch. He is in his second year of the Ag Pen Pals program, and this year communicated with two classrooms through written letters and videos his mother filmed on his family’s registered Angus ranch, Sand Dune Cattle Company, south of Sargent.

He corresponded with a second grade class at Cottonwood Elementary School in the Millard Public School District and also with a first grade class at Gomez Heritage Elementary School near downtown Omaha, comprised of students from several ethnic backgrounds, many who speak an additional language besides English. Over the last several months, Weston has exchanged letters, sent pictures and made videos in hopes of educating his pen pals about ag and rural life in Nebraska.

Weston says the best part of the pen pal program is actually getting to go to their classroom and meeting the kids he’s been writing to throughout the year. “I like seeing their classroom and teaching them what it is like in the country. They need to know that the food they eat grows on a farm, and the clothes they wear come from plants that grow on a farm,” he says.

Weston and Jennifer recently made the trip to Millard and Omaha to meet his pen pals in person and showed them several items used on the ranch including ear tags, branding irons, a lariat, spurs, chaps and halters. He also taught them about the sport of rodeo, and all the kids got to try their hand at roping and running a barrel pattern on a stick horse. Weston took several samples of different feeds and grains that his family raises for human and animal consumption to share with his new friends.

“All the kids wanted to come home with us and visit the ranch,” Jennifer says. “I love to see how those kids absorb something brought to them by a peer; it’s amazing. The kids ask so many smart questions, and they believe what Weston tells them. It’s so important to educate them at that age about agriculture; they need to know at an early age where their food comes from. Weston enjoys this project so much.”

And Weston enjoys his rural lifestyle, saying he appreciates his trips to the city but he’s glad he’s a country boy. “In the city there is too much going on; you can’t even sleep. And I like having my animals out in the country,” adds the young man who aspires to be a lawyer or even the president of the U.S., but will always have roots as a rancher.
-- American Angus Association release

BEEF Daily Summer Photography Contest Winners!

It's the day you have all been waiting for. The judges have weighed in, and the winners have been selected for the first BEEF Daily Summer Contest. Winners will receive a signed, limited-edition western art print, and these prints are absolutely beautiful. There were many fantastic entries submitted by BEEF readers across the nation, and I enjoyed getting to meet the participants through their photos and bios. Next week, I will kick off another BEEF Daily Summer Contest, with great prize offerings for the winners. Don't miss out on these exciting contests to celebrate summer! Now, onto the winners...

Reserve Champion Photograph: Rachel Spencer of Limon, Colo.

rachel-spencer.JPG About this prize-winning entry, Rachel writes, This is a photo of my seven-year old son, Caden, and his show pig, Jenny. When she was still small, Jenny was the cheese to Caden's macaroni, and now that she's growing into a showpig, they are learning to work together. He's still too young to show Jenny in 4-H, but she will be weighed in at the Lincoln County (Colorado) Fair by another family member. Caden hopes to show her in the open class. He plans to farrow a litter out of Jenny to select a pig to show his first year in "real" 4-H. He's hoping his sales will garner him enough to pay the feed bill to the farm, allow him a trip to the carnival and maybe enough to purchase a Pokemon game.

rachel-spencer-bio.jpgAlong with taking great photos, Rachel Spencer is a teacher, farmer, 4-H livestock coach and ag blogger. She is actively involved in Lincoln County Farm Bureau. Rachel graduated from Fort Hays State University with a degree in Animal Science, and she is currently working to complete the Master Beef Advocacy (MBA) program training through the National Cattlemens Beef Association. Congratulations, Rachel. It was a pleasure getting to know you through this contest, and I hope you will be able to find a nice place to hang your new western art print at the ranch in Colorado!

Grand Champion Photograph: Erin Holker of Lazy H Ranch, Ramsey, Minn.

erin-holker.JPG This incredible bull photo takes the top honors in this photography contest. Of this shot, Erin writes, "This is one of my favorite farm photos, taken last spring after a storm went through. It got foggy, and the sun was setting. This is our old bull, Norman, enjoying the last rays of sunshine!"

erin-holker-bio.JPGOf the champion photographer, Erin Holker is an assistant horse trainer and ranch manager, along with her husband on a miniature Hereford ranch. Erin has a passion for photography, and it shows in this photograph of Norman, who won the hearts of the judges! Born and raised in rural western Minnesota on a grain and hog farm, Erin has since moved to just north of the Twin Cities. Congratulations, Erin! I hope you enjoy your western art print as much as I enjoyed hosting this contest!

Of course, there were many amazing photos to consider in this contest. Thanks again to all participants and congratulations on your outstanding entries. Honorable mentions go to:

McPhee Red Angus of Lodi, Calif.

Bar JZ Ranches of Holabird, S.D.

Mann Farms of Yuma County, Colo.

Quick BEEF Daily Fact: Beef cattle production represents the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact, the U.S. beef industry is made up of more than 1 million businesses, farms and ranches. There are more than 800,000 ranchers and cattle producers in the United States. In 2005, producers of meat animals were responsible for more than $64 billion in added value to the U.S. economy. (Source: Beef from Pasture to Plate)

McDonald's to Join Hen Housing Study

MCDONALD'S USA has announced its participation with leading animal welfare scientists, academics, non-government organizations and egg suppliers in a commercial-scale study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens in the U.S., including cage-free housing, writes Sarah Muirhead for Feedstuffs.

The announcement of the fast-food giant's involvement immediately brought mixed results from animal welfare/rights organizations, with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) saying it is simply a stall tactic on McDonald's part and with the American Humane Assn. (AHA), a participant in the study, saying such research is very much needed to determine if differences do indeed exist in laying hen production systems in regard to welfare implications for the birds.

In addition to animal welfare, the study will also look at environmental, food safety and economic issues related to laying hen production systems.

The study, which expects to involve tens of thousands of hens, will look at the sustainability impacts of different laying hen housing environments on animal health and well-being, safe and affordable food, the environment and worker welfare.

The eggs produced during this study are expected to be used in McDonald's U.S. restaurants, provided that they meet stringent food safety and quality standards.

The research is being led by Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis).

To read the entire article, link to Feedstuffs.

Animal Antibiotics, Resistance and Human Health

Antibiotics are a vital component to rearing healthy livestock, but many researchers argue that mismanaged use is having a detrimental effect on the industry, writes Adam Anson for TheCattleSite.

When antibiotics were first introduced back in the 1930's they had an instant and momentous impact on life. Nowadays, it is easy to take the use of these drugs for granted and their importance can be overlooked. They haven't only helped humans live longer, healthier lives, but they have also been used for the same effect on livestock. Consequently the meat and animal products which we consume are safer as well.

Farmers have benefited from the advantages of higher outputs as healthier animals put on more weight. Inputs have also been reduced, not only through feed, but also space. Whether it is deemed for better or for once, antibiotics have enabled farmers to restrict the space and movement of livestock whilst keeping their health at an optimum. Without antibiotics intensive livestock systems may never have become a lucrative form of trade.

In the US approximately 70 per cent of antibiotics are used as additives, for chickens, pigs and cattle in order to make them grow faster. Whilst this is economically fruitful, many believe that such practices are not responsible. Furthermore, detailed, ongoing research has labelled it dangerous.

David Wallinga, M.D. of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says, "There is solid consensus among medical and public health officials that the profligate use of antibiotics in both human medicine and animal agriculture is eroding the efficacy of our arsenal of antibiotics."

An antibiotic is a substance or compound that kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria, but as bacteria rapidly evolve certain strains can become immune to the antibiotics in use. The science says that if we overuse antibiotics we are in effect unnaturally selecting resistant bacteria. By eliminating competing bacteria, this untreatable strain is given room to breed and develop further. Some scientists argue that farms that inappropriately use, overuse, or mismanage the application of antibiotics become breeding grounds for resistant strains of new bacteria. In affect, they render current antibiotics useless.

Proponents of this view point out that a growing pattern of resistance will lead to further expenses for producers and unnecessary detrimental effects on livestock welfare. Harmful strains of E.coli, salmonella and campylobacter could rise, threatening food safety and leading to higher numbers of global culls. Whilst antibiotic science is continuously improving, many scientists believe that the rapidly evolving resistance of bacteria could overtake it introducing a far more dangerous world.

The Long Debate

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to build public awareness regarding the dangers of overusing antibiotics for people. The CDC's public awareness campaign is laudable: If people do not have a bacterial infection, they should not take antibiotics, but the same principle are not applied to US livestock. In the European Union the use of livestock antibiotics are restricted to bacterial infections and used only for health implications. The World Animal Health Organisation also promotes this view as does the US National Academies for Science. Recently, The South Korean government also banned the use of seven antibiotics in animal feed in Korea.

Despite of the growing international concern, the issue over animal antibiotics is not a new one. In the US, concerned scientists have long debated the issue with Congress. The US Food and Drug Administration came close to shutting down the practice 30 years ago, but farm and pharmaceutical lobbyists blocked the effort. Last December, after a proposal to ban many uses of cephalosporin drugs in cows, swine, chickens and other animals, the Food and Drug Administration had a last minute U-turn and said it would continue allowing their widespread use. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the bid came under fire from the industry.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) expressed strong opposition to the legislation throughout. In a letter to Congress, AFBF President Bob Stallman said the bills would "handicap veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers in their efforts to protect the nation’s food supply and maintain the health of their farm animals." But the threat is no longer simply an industry issue. Antibiotic resistance in livestock can effect human antibiotics too.

In a recent report, the UK's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said: "resistant bacteria developing in animals could pose a threat to people. Antibiotics must be used in moderation in agricultural settings and only when necessary for animal welfare."

Dr. Lyle P. Vogel, AVMA assistant executive vice president said that evidence suggests that when livestock are not given antimicrobials for prevention of disease - as has happened in Denmark since the 1990s - an increase in illnesses is likely to occur. In some instances, he added, antibiotic resistance in humans is 10 times greater in Denmark than in the US despite the Danish ban.

"Risk assessments demonstrate a very low risk to human health from the use of antimicrobials in food animals, and some models predict an increased human health burden if the use is withdrawn," Vogel said. "Non-risk-based bans of approved uses of antimicrobials will negatively impact animal health and welfare without predictably improving public health."

To read the entire article, link to TheCattleSite.

Economist: Gas Prices on Rise but Shouldn’t Top $3

Gasoline prices were up Memorial Day weekend, but motorists should not experience the historic highs of one year ago, said a Purdue University agricultural economist.
Pump prices traditionally rise in late May with the beginning of the summer driving season, said Wally Tyner, who specializes in energy production and policy.

“For the rest of the summer, we can expect to see gasoline prices higher than this spring, but nothing like last summer,” Tyner said. “Today, gasoline is $1.35 less per gallon than this time last year. Gasoline prices this summer likely will stay in the $2 to $3 dollar-per-gallon range and not come near the $4 seen last year.”

A combination of factors is driving gas prices higher, Tyner said.

“First, there are higher oil prices,” he said. “Crude oil is now around $60 per barrel, driven by signs of economic recovery and by violence in Nigeria — an important supplier of crude for the United States.

“In addition, the falling U.S. dollar means that much of the rest of the world is not seeing the higher crude oil prices in their own currency, so they are not seeing higher gasoline or diesel prices.”

The poor economy also is having an effect on gas prices, and could for some time to come, Tyner said.

“Even though there are ‘green shoots’ evidencing prospects for eventual economic recovery, we will continue to be in recession through the summer and into fall,” he said. “Overall demand for petroleum products is still down quite a bit, led by a decline in jet fuel demand of more than 10%. Gasoline demand had been down 3.5%, but recently demand has picked up so that we are only down about 1%, leading to higher gasoline prices.

“From December 2008 until this May, gasoline had been priced lower relative to crude oil than by historic norms. But today, even though crude oil stocks are still high, gasoline inventories are now considerably lower than historic norms. In essence, gasoline prices have now caught up with crude oil prices.”


NALF Seeks Candidates for Executive Vice President

The North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) is seeking candidates for the position of executive vice president (EVP), the organization’s primary leadership position. Its responsibilities include carrying out the policies of the board of directors; financial management; strategic planning; oversight of the breed and hybrid registry; staffing; interaction with members and associates; and execution of programs associated with animal performance, marketing and breed promotion, member and commercial producer communications, and various member services.

Candidates should possess a well-rounded background in business and personnel management, strong written and oral communication and consensus-building skills, and a working knowledge of the beef seedstock and commercial cattle business.

Direct questions, résumés and references by June 15 to North American Limousin Foundation, ℅ President Robert Millerberg, 491 E. 12000 S., Draper, UT 84020-8595.

Kent Andersen, Ph.D., will vacate the position July 1, when he will become associate director for North American technical services for Pfizer Animal Genetics. In his new position, he will continue to provide leadership within the North American beef cattle industry, supporting regional sales and marketing teams and educating key opinion leaders and customers about Pfizer’s current and future genetic-marker–technology portfolio.

Andersen has served as NALF’s chief executive for nearly nine and a half years. Before that, he served nine and a half years as the organization’s director of education and research.

The North American Limousin Foundation (, headquartered in Centennial, Colo., provides programs and services – including genetic evaluation of 5,000 active sires – to more than 4,000 members and their commercial customers. The Limousin breed and its Lim-Flex® hybrid lead the beef industry in muscle-growth efficiency and ideally complement British breeds.



Leading California Hay Exporter Reduces Fuel Costs and Emissions with LNG-Powered Kenworth T800s

Alternative Fuel Trucks Offer Hay Hauler Other Business Opportunities

BRAWLEY, Calif., May 26, 2009 — For Border Valley Trading, finding a way to lower emissions and fuel costs wasn’t like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The company turned to Kenworth Truck Company and local dealer, Inland Kenworth, for the right truck to accomplish both. The Brawley, Calif.-based alfalfa, sudan and klein grass hay producer and exporter recently replaced its fleet of trucks with 15 liquefied natural gas-powered Kenworth T800s. The company plans to add five more LNG-powered T800s later this year once its proposed fueling station in the Coachella Valley, about 140 miles east of Los Angeles, near Palm Springs, receives approval by the local planning commission.

“The economics of operating new LNG-powered trucks versus our late-model diesel-powered units favored the LNG trucks,” said Border Valley Trading president Greg Braun. “We save money because the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach waive their $70 clean truck fee for our Kenworth T800 LNG trucks, and we also save 15 to 20 percent on the price of LNG fuel over that of diesel on any given day.” Converting the company’s fleet to clean-burning LNG also fulfills the company’s commitment to the environment through its green initiatives, added Braun.

The 15 Kenworth T800s are equipped with the Westport Innovations LNG fuel system and Westport GX engine, which is based on the industry-leading Cummins ISX 15-liter engine. The Kenworth trucks use 5 percent diesel and 95 percent liquefied natural gas to power the drivetrain. A typical Class 8 truck using the cleaner burning LNG fuel may reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gas emissions by up to an estimated 33 percent and 20 percent, respectively, compared to a diesel-fueled truck.

Border Valley Trading acquired the new technology with help from a grant through the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee, which paid about 20 percent of the cost of the trucks. The committee funds projects that reduce air pollution from motor vehicles within the Southern California’s South Coast Air District, which includes Orange County and portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“These trucks were right at the top of our list after converting our diesel-powered compress machines to electric power, incorporating more environmentally friendly packing materials and routing our hay products through a new logistics hub in Coachella Valley for more efficient storage and distribution,” Braun said.

Border Valley Trading is one of California’s largest exporters of compressed hay. The company grows, harvests and exports between 150,000 to 200,000 metric tons of compressed high-quality alfalfa, sudan and klein grass hay raised in the San Joaquin Valley and Imperial Valley. According to the company, its location near Brawley, which began as a 10-acre forage compressing facility, is now one of the world’s largest export facilities, providing 80,000 metric tons of hay storage encompassing 105 acres. The compressed hay is loaded onto containers in Brawley and Turlock. Border Valley’s trucks equipped with 450-hp LNG engines transport the containers to the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland for shipment to Japan, Korea, China and markets in the Middle East.

“The drivers really like all aspects of the Kenworth T800 LNG truck,” Braun said. “The ride comfort, performance and dependability of these Kenworth trucks are better than the diesel trucks we replaced.

“Having one of the few LNG truck fleets in Southern California that operates outside of the ports creates opportunities for adding potential in-bound container hauling business,” Braun said. “It also provides us the opportunity for associations with companies that want to do business with environmentally conscious transportation providers.

“While this technology is relatively new, with the help of our dealer, Inland Kenworth, we’ve both gained a better understanding of the fuel and the technology,” he said. “Once Applied LNG Technologies begins supplying our fueling station in the Coachella Valley and the station is in operation, my goal is to grow the fleet to 25 LNG trucks before the summer of 2010 and expand as needed beyond that point. I see no reason why we can’t eventually have a fleet of 30 or more trucks operating as growth opportunities take hold.”

Kenworth was the first truck manufacturer to offer an LNG fuel system as a Class 8 factory-installed option. The T800 LNG truck, which offers an operating range of at least 300 to 500 miles, has a large dash-mounted display to monitor the LNG fuel level. LNG fuel tanks can be configured to suit a range of customer requirements. The vehicle is available with a day cab, Kenworth Extended Day Cab or 38-inch Kenworth AeroCab(R) sleeper. Kenworth T800 LNG trucks also may qualify for up to $28,800 in IRS tax credits, and for other federally sponsored programs, such as the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) and Clean Cities.

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best(R) heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth is an industry leader in providing fuel-saving technology solutions that help increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The company’s dedication to the green fleet includes aerodynamic trucks, medium duty diesel-electric hybrids, liquefied natural gas trucks, and the Kenworth Clean Power(R) no-idle system. In addition, Kenworth is the recipient of the 2008 J.D. Power and Associates awards for Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Over the Road and Vocational Segment Class 8 trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at Kenworth. A PACCAR Company.

Sidebar – LNG Technician Training

In a true collaborative effort, Kenworth, Westport Innovations and Long Beach Community College (LBCC), assisted by a grant from the State of California, have launched an educational program to train service technicians on liquefied natural gas vehicles.

“With trucks powered by LNG projected to be a mainstay, especially with fleets running in port operations, it’s critical to offer training to technicians,” said Andy Douglas, Kenworth national sales manager for specialty markets. “The Clean Air Action Plan in California calls for a significant reduction in emissions over the next few years, and one way for fleets to reduce their carbon footprints is through LNG technology. We’ve seen a lot of interest in our Kenworth T800s with factory-installed LNG engines and demand is increasing.”

Douglas said after sale service and support is a key component for LNG’s long-term success. Technician training, made available through Long Beach Community College, including special LNG classes for high school students through a satellite program, will help meet the need for LNG-certified technicians.

“Our goal is to train today’s technician in the latest technology and we see LNG as an up-and-coming alternative in our region,” said Cal Macy, project director for the school’s advanced transportation technology center. “We’ve long had one of the best diesel technician training institutions in the state, and it’s exciting to be the first college to offer LNG certification.”

According to Macy, Inland Kenworth in nearby Montebello, Calif., provides a Kenworth T800 LNG truck for students to examine and work on, while Westport Innovations helped develop the engine curriculum with the school.

“It’s a winning combination between the private and public sector,” said Macy. “It benefits the transportation industry and provides training to meet growing demand for LNG technicians.”

Testament to the collaboration was when the school recently received the Exemplary Innovation Award from the California Association of Local Economic Development and the California Community College’s Economic & Workforce Development Department. The award recognized the pioneering partnership between LBCC, Cabrillo High School, the Port of Long Beach, Westport Fuel Innovations, and Kenworth for creating a training program for high school students in Long Beach that leads to a green career path servicing LNG-powered trucks.


NOTE: High-, mid- and low-resolution images for this Kenworth news release are available for download from the Kenworth Press Photos site at the link below: (T800 LNG Border Valley)

Beefing up the Races

img_1883.JPG On Memorial Monday, I spent the evening with the South Dakota Cattlemen's Auxiliary at the 4th Annual Beef Night at Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D. They had a great promotion for the fans; come to the races on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and purchase a Beef Bucks certificate for the price of $10 and get a FREE race ticket for Beef Night. In addition, fans were also registered for several drawings for prizes such as $100 Beef Cards and much more. The South Dakota Cattlemen's Auxiliary was truly "Beefing Up The Races" this weekend at Huset's Speedway.

If you haven't heard of Beef Bucks, Inc. before, this program is a non-profit organization poised to promote the beef industry as well as educate the general public about all of the great things about America's finest food, BEEF! The "Beef Buck" itself comes in two forms; a pre-paid check or a VISA debit card that can be redeemed at a wide variety of locations across the country. Since the formation of Beef Bucks, Inc in 1997, thousands of pounds of beef in numerous forms have been purchased via Beef Bucks.

beefcov1106.jpgI had the chance to interview one of the founding members of Beef Bucks, Inc, Nancy Montross, a cattle producer from DeSmet, S.D. about Beef Bucks, Beef Night and her passions for the beef industry. Nancy and her husband Bob were named the 2006 Trailblazers, an annual award presented by BEEF. You can listen to my interview with Nancy below. (Please ignore the revving engines and the authentic South Dakota winds during my chat with Nancy!)

Quick BEEF Daily Fact: Hot off the grill and delivered straight to you, did you know that Beef Bucks, Inc. has it's own blog? Check it out for information on scholarships, promotional events and ways to gift beef to your friends and family!

Reminder: Today is the final day to enter the First BEEF Daily Photo Contest. See details here for your chance to win signed, limited edition western art prints. Contest ends at 12:00 p.m. today! Winners will be announced tomorrow!