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When Will We Have An Answer On JBS?

That was the question on most minds during the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) meeting this week in Colorado Springs. However, Douglas Ross, special counsel for ag with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, says he doesn’t know when a decision would be released on the proposed purchase by JBS Swift of National Beef and Smithfield’s beef plants.

Each case is fact-specific, he says, promising a thorough analysis of the facts in the case. However, in three previous cases with similar implications – Cargill-Continental Grain; Smithfield-Farmland; and Smithfield-Premium Standard Farms – the time frame varied from eight to 16 months before the Department of Justice announced its findings.

We take the concerns we’ve heard about concentration very seriously,” he says. “But it’s not enough to say we think there’s too much concentration. We have to do further analysis to see if it will be anti-competitive.”

Others on the CCA program ventured the following guesses on a forthcoming decision: Cattle-Fax CEO Randy Blach anticipates a decision no sooner than August. Gregg Doud, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association chief economist, thinks it could come as early as next month.

Trade Support For Livestock

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is urging USDA to increase funding for the promotion of pork and beef export markets. He’s asking USDA to look at various programs that will help livestock producers “through this rough patch.”

In a letter to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer, Grassley wrote, “I would ask that USDA give serious consideration to increasing funding for pork and beef promotion in the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD). These programs can encourage the development, maintenance, and expansion of commercial export markets for our meat products.”

Surprise! Midwest Governors Support RFS

The Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to uphold the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) passed by Congress last December.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, MGA says the “blame placed on ethanol for higher food prices is misguided. Higher food prices are the result of many factors, including rising transportation and production costs due to record oil prices, increased demand for grains and meat from developing countries, increased speculator investment and influence in all commodities markets, and extended global drought. As a result, all food commodity prices are high, not just the price of corn. In short, granting any waiver to the RFS will not reduce current food commodity prices.”

The letter also says the RFS will help move the ethanol industry toward use of cellulosic materials by “encouraging investment and technological innovations.” The letter was signed by Governors Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Jennifer Granholm (D-MI).

Record-High U.S. Red Meat Production In April

The National Ag Statistics Service reported record-high U.S. red meat production in April, totaling 4.30 billion lbs., an increase of 14% over the 3.75 billion lbs. produced in April 2007.

Pork was the big gainer, rising 18% from April of last year, while April beef production was up 12%, based on a 10% increase in cattle slaughter. Veal production increased by 1%, while lamb and mutton production were up by 2%.

In 2008, year-to-date totals (through April), commercial red meat production has increased 8% over 2007 totals. Beef production is up by 5%, while pork production is up by 13%. Veal production is down 12% from last year, and lamb and mutton production has declined by 5%.

President To Veto Second Farm Bill

The White House expects to receive the second farm bill early next week when President George W. Bush returns from Europe. Bush will veto the bill and return it to Congress, which is expected to override the veto by the end of next week. This will mean that all 15 titles, including trade, will become law.

Montana Loses Brucellosis-Free Status

The Montana Department of Livestock says a heifer from the Paradise Valley has tested positive for brucellosis. Testing performed at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA, confirmed the presence of the brucella abortus bacterium, the causative agent of brucellosis. Within four to eight weeks, or as soon as soon as the downgrade can be listed in the Federal Register, Montana will be downgraded from Brucellosis Class Free status to Class A.

State veterinarian Marty Zaluski says the brucellosis-confirmed heifer had been vaccinated twice and was part of a herd-management plan. All other animals in the herd have tested negative.

With the loss of Class Free status, Montana’s livestock producers must test bulls and non-spayed females, 18 months of age or older, 30 days before interstate movement.

In May 2007, the disease was discovered in a Bridger cattle herd, resulting in 301 cows and 284 calves being depopulated. Per USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service regulations, the state had to remain brucellosis-free until July 2009 to maintain its Class Free status. Montana had been brucellosis free since 1985.

The soonest Montana can apply to regain Class Free status is one year from the date the last reactor was killed, or May 27, 2009. In February of this year, USDA declared all 50 states to be free of brucellosis in livestock, the first time in 74 years.

Minnesota Bovine TB Requirements Take Effect June 15

Effective June 15, regulations go into effect in Minnesota for livestock herds in the proposed “Split State Zone,” an area within Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Beltrami and Marshall counties.

Herds in the zone will be required to have an annual whole-herd TB test and maintain up-to-date contact info with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH). Animals moving off the farm will need a whole-herd test, individual animal ID, an individual TB test within 60 days prior to movement, and a movement certificate. Cattle going directly to slaughter or to slaughter through a state or federally inspected market are exempt from the 60-day individual animal test.

In addition, all livestock producers in the proposed “Modified Accredited Zone” (also known as the Split State Zone) must provide MBAH with up-to-date contact and premises info by June 15 to comply with these regulations.

Once the regulations take effect, law enforcement can stop trucks and check that animal movement is in compliance with these regulations. Any person in violation is subject to criminal or civil penalties.

MBAH is applying to USDA for a Split State Status that, if approved, would enable much of the state to upgrade its TB status while the affected area of northwest Minnesota will remain at Modified Accredited. As part of the application, MBAH must develop a zone and demonstrate to USDA that there’s a plan in place to prevent the disease from spreading out of that zone.

Get more info at or calling the Bovine TB Hotline at 1-877-MN TB FREE (668-2373).

5 Tips To Prevent Fuel Theft On Your Ranch

With the skyrocketing cost of fuel, fuel thefts are growing across the country, particularly from farm fuel tanks, which are usually in remote locations. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) offers these five steps to help decrease the likelihood that fuel thieves will raid your tanks:

  1. Lock both fuel nozzles and filler caps on overhead fuel tanks in rural areas.
  2. Don't leave fuel-burning equipment unattended near roadways or construction sites.
  3. Don't leave portable fuel tanks unattended in fields or at job sites. Even if the tank is empty, thieves may take it and use it to steal fuel at another location! Any type of tank that can be used to transport fuel is susceptible to theft; numerous thefts of chemical tanks at gas well sites have been reported.
  4. Invest in locking fuel caps for your vehicles. A good-quality cap may be purchased for approximately the price of what 3 gals. of fuel now cost!
  5. When purchasing bulk fuel, make sure you get the amount you paid for. It's easy for a dishonest delivery driver to short you 10-20 gals., and then sell it at the end of the day and pocket the money. If at all possible, be present or have a representative present when fuel is delivered to assure you got the number of gallons you paid for.

KSU Sustains Damage In Late-Night Tornado

A line of tornadoes late Wednesday night caused widespread damage across northeast Kansas, including a direct hit on the town of Chapman and considerable damage in Manhattan.

In fact, areas of Kansas State University (KSU) were significantly damaged, including Weber Hall. According to Ken Odde, KSU Animal Sciences Department head, the southeast entrance to Weber Hall was completely destroyed, as was the majority of the roof over Weber Arena.

“It will be a long time before Weber Hall will be fully functional again,” Odde says. “The most important thing is there were no injuries.”

Thursday was spent assessing damage and trying to secure the building. Odde is hopeful the portions of Weber that had minimal damage will be partially functional in the next few weeks. Call Hall and the KSU livestock units were not affected, while Waters Hall, which houses the College of Ag offices and classrooms, sustained some damage.

There were several other structures on campus that where hit by the tornado, including the engineering building and the wind erosion lab. Currently, storm damage at KSU is estimated at $20 million.

House Members Urge No Change In RFS

Over 30 Congressional Members led by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Johnson urging him to preserve the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in last year’s energy bill and to refuse granting any waiver to the RFS requirement.

The letter stated, “A careful look at the facts reveals that American ag producers can and will meet our domestic and international commitments for food and feed and still make a significant and growing contribution to lessening our dependence on imported oil with homegrown, American-made renewable fuels. The harsh criticism biofuels have received recently in connection with the rise in food prices is unwarranted.

“If we look at the facts, several other factors are central to higher food prices: record oil prices, soaring global demand for commodities from oil to grains, poor weather conditions, a weak U.S. dollar, and restrictive ag policies around the world. In fact, a recent study by Texas A&M University noted, ‘The underlying force driving changes in the ag industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs, evidenced by $100/barrel oil.’ ”