HSUS tries a new approach in Nebraska

Is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) changing its strategy in regards to state-by-state ballot initiatives?

At a news conference in Lincoln Tuesday, the HSUS joined the Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) in announcing the formation of an advisory body called the Nebraska Agriculture Council of The Humane Society of the United States.

Chief among the new council’s goals will be creating market opportunities for farmers and ranchers who want to market “humanely-raised” meat and poultry products.  Officials of both groups say the council will also “facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them.”

AUDIO: Excerpts from NeFU-HSUS news conference (20:49 MP3)

NeFU president John Hansen says that, as part of their agreement to work with HSUS on the project, the animal rights organization has assured him that it will not pursue an animal welfare ballot initiative in the state.

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National FFA Convention kick-off luncheon

The 84th National FFA Convention is set to get underway tomorrow in downtown Indianapolis.  Today, hundreds gathered for the kick-off luncheon and had the opportunity to hear Major General Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard speak about how his two backgrounds, the military and agriculture complement each other.  Major General Umbarger tells Brownfield that he has a lot of pride in both. He says both the military and agriculture industry requires skills like self-discipline, motivation and leader can be obtained through organizations like FFA. 

AUDIO: Major General Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General Indiana National Guard (3:48mp3)

A record-setting World Dairy Expo

Final numbers are in from World Dairy Expo, a record 2,587 head of dairy cattle were exhibited by 1,130 exhibitors from 37 states and 7 Canadian provinces this year. The trade show featured a record 810 commercial exhibitors from 28 countries. There were also record entries in the FFA competition, the World Forage Analysis Superbowl and the Championship Dairy Products Contest.

A total of 68,006 visitors, with 2,699 registered international guests from 90 countries attended the show.

Next year’s show will be October 2nd through the 6th with the theme “Market Fresh”.

Ag Approps bill introduced in Senate

The Ag Appropriations Bill was introduced on the Senate floor on Monday. Subcommittee chair Herb Kohl of Wisconsin introduced the $19.78 billion package which would fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration for FY 2012. The bill is 15 percent smaller than the FY 2011 spending plan and is the first appropriations bill to be introduced under the restrictions contained in the debt ceiling agreement earlier this summer. It is still more than the $17.25 billion package put forth in the House last June.

In introducing the bill, Senator Kohl called it a “very austere measure”; lower than last year and much lower than two years ago. The plan includes $6.6 billion for the WIC program, $2 billion for rural Development, nearly $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, $2.2 billion for the FDA and $300 million for disaster relief. The plan maintains ag research funding and the PL 480 and McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.

Senate leadership hopes to have the bill completed before they adjourn for a weeklong recess later this week.

One amendment already in the works from Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mo Udall of Colorado would head-off USDA’s plan to reduce the amount of potatoes in the school lunch program. The new guidelines were designed to reduce the amount of starch in school lunches, Collins says USDA needs to come up with better ways to prepare the potato rather than limit or ban it.

RFA blasts ethanol amendment

The Renewable Fuels Association is blasting an amendment that seeks to keep federal dollars from funding ethanol fuel pumps and related infrastructure. The proposed amendment to the 2012 ag appropriations bill is sponsored by Arizona Senator John McCain and was defeated in June during the ethanol tax debate. The RFA says such a policy would take the country backwards, kill a wide range of new biofuels technologies and harm the economy.

84th National FFA Convention

The 84th National FFA Convention officially kicks off Wednesday in downtown Indianapolis.  As the sea of blue and gold makes its way through the city, Joe Kelsay, with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture says it’s exciting to have the convention in the heart of an agricultural state.  Kelsay, a former Indiana State FFA officer himself, says the jackets are a great way to start the conversation about the importance of agriculture.  He says anyone in downtown Indianapolis that doesn’t know about the organization can ask any member “how about all those blue jackets” and that can open the door to advocate for the industry as well as the important role the National FFA organization plays in developing life and leadership skills.

Kelsay tells Brownfield the skills gained by FFA members are invaluable.  He says many of the students may not end up in the agricultural field, but the fact that this (National FFA) organization adds to their skill sets will help them down the road.  Kelsay says these are the life skills that are sought after by employers and their FFA experience will put them on the front lines to get the best jobs and to do great things, not only in agriculture but other areas as well.  He says that is something to be excited about in the future.

The 84th National FFA Convention runs through October 22nd.  

AUDIO: Joe Kelsay, ISDA (4:08mp3)

Allendale sees big cut in placements

Ahead of Friday’s USDA cattle on feed report, Allendale Inc. expects smaller placements against an increase in cattle on feed.

Placements are seen at 92% of a year ago due to the generally tight supply of cattle and marketings are pegged at 99.7% of a year ago.

The total number of cattle on feed as of October 1 is estimated at 103.1% of a year ago but that would be down on the month when compared to September’s numbers.

Also out Friday is the monthly cold storage update with Allendale expecting both pork and beef supplies to be up on the month but with the increases below the respective five year averages thanks to solid export demand.

The reports are out Friday, October 21 at 2 PM Central.

Japan may ease U.S. beef import restrictions

Japan is preparing to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports. A report from Bloomberg quotes two unnamed sources in Japan’s government saying Japan may raise the age limit of cattle from which U.S. beef can be imported from 20 months of age or younger to 30 months and younger.

According to the report, concerns in Japan have receded about the brain wasting cattle disease, BSE. Additionally, Japan’s domestic cattle production has fallen since their earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.

Even Japan’s Ag Minister says there are hopes the issue will be resolved, but he won’t say when it could happen.

Until 2003, when a case of BSE was discovered in a cow in Washington State, Japan was the biggest buyer of U.S. beef.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says current restrictions result in about $1 billion in lost sales annually.

If Japan relaxes the age limit, U.S. shipments will likely return to pre-ban levels. U.S. Meat Export Federation Senior Tokyo Director Susumu Harada says most U.S. beef shipped overseas is from cattle up to 24 months of age.

Soybeans down on harvest, profit taking

Soybeans were lower on profit taking and fund selling. There was late support from a bullish shift in the outside markets. There was no fresh demand news and there are concerns about China’s economic issues impacting export demand. In any event, contracts saw continued harvest pressure and planting weather in South America generally looks good. Soybean meal was higher and oil was lower on product spread trade. China’s National Grain and Oils Information Center, via Dow Jones Newswires, expects domestic crush capacity to reach 125 million tons by the end of 2012.

Corn ended the session narrowly mixed. Nearby contracts were up on slow farmer selling, fund buying, and short covering. Deferreds were down on spillover from beans and profit taking. Past that – there was no fresh news with traders watching the harvest and waiting for new demand news. Ethanol futures were mixed. Ukraine’s Ag Ministry reports new crop corn exports since the start of the marketing year, July 1, were 500,000 tons, with Dow Jones Newswires adding President Viktor Yanukovych has not signed a bill passed October 7 that would end export tariffs on corn and wheat.

The wheat complex was mixed. Minneapolis was up on the tight supply of and good demand for high quality, high protein wheat. Kansas City was lower, looking at forecasts for rain in the Southern Plains, and Chicago was narrowly mixed in consolidation trade. European wheat was down early but finished higher, tracking the U.S. gains and keeping an eye on dry conditions in key European growing areas. Dow Jones Newswires reports Canada’s Conservative government has introduced a bill ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s export monopoly allowing farmers sell grains and oilseeds to customers of their choosing by August 1, 2012 while restructuring and selling off parts of the CWB over a five year period. The opposition New Democratic Party says it intends to delay passage of the legislation. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada expects 2011/12 wheat exports to be above 2010/11 thanks to a bigger crop. Japan issued a tender for 102,652 tons of wheat (52,499 tons Canadian western red spring, 29,360 tons Australian standard white, and 20,793 tons U.S. dark northern spring). The Philippines bought 50,000 tons of optional origin feed wheat. Ukraine’s Ag Ministry, via Dow Jones Newswires, states new crop wheat exports since the start of the marketing year on July 1 were 1.625 million tons out of a total of 3.84 million tons with a year to year slowdown partially attributed to export taxes. The United Kingdom’s Customs Agency reports wheat exports during August were 163,037 tons, roughly 20% less than August 2010.

Take the whole high school to the FFA convention

On Wednesday morning, 44 students and a dozen adults will get on a bus in Granton, Wisconsin and take-off for the National FFA Convention. For most schools, 44 students going to the convention is quite a large delegation…for Granton High School, it is 75 percent of the student body. A few of the kids are staying back because the co-op football team with Greenwood has a playoff game on Friday night. Some who have gone in the past are staying back this year because the bus is full and they want to give others the opportunity.

Granton is a town of 379 people smack-dab in the middle of rural Wisconsin, there are more Amish children than public school children in the district. There have been graduating classes of a dozen yet the community was determined to keep the school going. A year ago, it looked like the beginning of the end, the school board decided to entertain offers from neighboring schools to send their high school students to their school. This would be the final year for Granton High School.

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