Zoetis to seek approval for PEDV vaccine

An official with animal health company Zoetis says the company is seeking U.S. approval before the end of this year for a PEDv vaccine.

There is only one other vaccine to help prevent Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in pigs – by Harrisvaccines, which was granted conditional approval from the USDA for its vaccine in June.

The CEO of Zoetis (Juan Ramon Alaix) told analysts during a quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday that the company would seek a conditional license from the USDA before 2015.

Conditional license for PEDv vaccine

Vilsack says voluntary conservation programs are working

There’s been considerable debate as to whether farming conservation practices should remain voluntary or be made mandatory.  But Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack believes voluntary programs are working and that farmers are embracing new conservation practices.

Conference_LOGO“We’ve recently done a series of assessments in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and in the Chesapeake Bay area, specifically, that show and indicate that voluntary conservation is reducing nitrogen and phosphorous intake into our rivers and streams and reducing the rate of soil erosion,” Vilsack says.

Vilsack spoke via phone to an Ames, Iowa conference on the sustainability and resilience of corn-based cropping systems.  He says, going forward, farmers will need to adapt to highly variable and unpredictable weather and long term changing climate conditions.

“On the one hand we’re likely going to see longer growing seasons, which could potentially give rise to increased crop productivity,” says Vilsack. “But on the other hand, we’re also likely going to experience more extreme weather events and additional and more significant pest and disease risks, all of which could substantially reduce crop production.”

The Resilient Agriculture Conference in Ames has drawn farmers, crop advisers and scientists from all across the U.S.  It’s sponsored by the USDA’s Sustainable Corn Project and the 25x’25 Alliance.

AUDIO: Excerpts from Vilsack’s conference call (16:52 MP3)

NCBA monitors ‘Dietary Guidelines’ process

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is keeping a close eye on the development of new federal dietary guidelines to be released in 2015.

butts-kristina-denver 7-14Kristina Butts is NCBA’s executive director of legislative affairs.  Butts says the dietary guidelines advisory committee, which consists of nutrition and health professionals, has been delving into sustainability and environmental issues in food production—topics that NCBA believes are outside the scope of the committee.

“On the beef side, they were trying to ask questions on if grass-finished beef is more nutritious than grain-finished beef—and then if grass-finished beef is more sustainable than grain-fed beef,” Butts says.

NCBA has concerns, Butts says, with nutrition and health professionals trying to make recommendations based on animal production-type research.

“They don’t have the background or the expertise to even be able to review some of the scientific literature—to be able to make those conclusions,” she says, “and at the end of the day, how does sustainability fit into conversations talking about childhood obesity, etc.?”

In addition, Butts says, animal rights activists and other anti-meat groups continue to promote their vegan agenda to the dietary guidelines committee.

Butts says NCBA is staying in contact with officials at USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, the two agencies with final say on the dietary guidelines.  She says farm-state members of Congress are also monitoring the development of those guidelines to make sure they don’t stray too far from the original intent.

AUDIO: Kristina Butts (5:28 MP3)

Beef herd expansion ‘accelerating’

It looks like the long-awaited expansion of the nation’s beef cattle herd is finally gaining some momentum.

Kevin Good

Kevin Good

Heifer slaughter is down seven percent and beef cow slaughter down 16 percent in 2014. Kevin Good, senior market analyst with CattleFax, says if the trend continues, the cow herd could increase by up to two million head—from the current 29 million up to 31 million—by 2018.

“If moisture conditions stay as good or improved going forward, and that’s always a big ‘if’,” Good says. “But doggone, the profitability is there to get after it and expand.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Bob McCan, a rancher from south Texas, says much better weather in 2014 has cattlemen in that part of the country thinking expansion.

“You know, it’s an expensive proposition right now, but our markets are good and our folks have built a lot of equity in their companies,” McCan says. “So I think they can realize that this is a good time to go ahead and make that big investment to kind of expand their businesses—and I think they see the returns.”

Good thinks 2015 prices and profitability, for all segments of the industry, could be just as good—or better—than 2014.

AUDIO: Kevin Good interview with Ken Anderson and Ron Hays (7:24 MP3)

Beef demand continues to amaze

As cattle and beef prices continue to set record highs, a common question among cattlemen is “will we reach a point where people stop eating beef?”

John Lundeen, senior executive director of market research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says beef demand remains strong and shows no signs of weakening.  But is there a price level that will cause people to stop buying beef?

beef-meatcase“I always say it’s not a cliff—it’s like a slow hill that you climb.  At every price, there’s another family that has to cut back a little bit on their beef consumption,” Lundeen says. “People are spending just as much on beef, but they may be getting less pounds.  And with supply down, we are in a situation where people are going to get a little less beef than they have historically.”

But while the higher prices have caused some consumers to cut back on their consumption, Lundeen doesn’t think beef-eating habits have been altered long-term.

“When people have more money in their pocket, they want to buy beef.  We’re seeing more pounds sold in food service,” he says. “So I look at the underlying dynamics driving the beef industry and I feel quite positive.”

We talked to Lundeen at the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.

AUDIO: John Lundeen (5:06 MP3)

NCBA hammers away at EPA’s water rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is encouraging its members and all cattlemen to submit comments on the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

NCBA environmental counsel Ashley McDonald says, in the case of cattlemen, the impact of the rule will be significant.

“If you increase regulation by the federal government to include things like ditches, all ponds, any open water within a flood plain and a riparian area—if all those features are now jurisdictional, there are a lot more activities that we are going to need Section 404 dredge and fill permits for,” says McDonald.  “There are a lot more activities that you are going to need a 402 NPDES permit for—things like spraying pesticides and spraying herbicides.”

McDonald says even an activity like brush management may need a permit.

“Those permits—one, they’re not cheap, and two, they take a long time to get through the regulatory system,” she says. “So there’s going to be a lot more permits for cattle producers and there’s going to be a lot more costs and lot more delays in activities—routine activities that everybody has to get done.”

McDonald urges cattlemen to submit comments to the EPA by going to NCBA’s web site, beefusa.org.

McDonald’s comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the start of the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.

AUDIO: Ashley McDonald (5:28 MP3)

Mandatory COOL upheld in appeals court

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia upheld mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat and meat products.  The 9-2 decision supports an earlier appellate court ruling which determined that labeling was needed to prevent deception.  Judge Stephen Williams cited consumer interest and health concerns, saying the government’s interest in country-of-origin labeling for food make the interest substantial.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson called the decision a victory in the battle to uphold the enforcement of the COOL regulation.  He says that American consumers want to know where their meat comes from, and livestock producers, proud of what they produce, are happy to let consumers know where it comes from.

The meat industry and some livestock groups have attempted to block COOL, saying compliance with the rule is costly and it provides no health benefits to consumers.

FFA American Star Finalists named

2013 Star Finalists National FFA photo

2013 Star Finalists
National FFA photo

The National FFA Organization has named the finalists for each of the American Stars:

American Star Farmer

  • Alan Barka, Litchfield FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Barka owns a dairy cattle operation, in which he manages and sells the milk produced.
  • Josh Stutrud, Rugby FFA Chapter (North Dakota) – Stutrud manages his own diversified agricultural livestock and grain operation of beef cattle, alfalfa and corn.
  • Zach Weichel, Cordell FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Weichel operates his beef and grain production, where he markets and sells his feeder cattle and wheat crop.
  • Thomas Michael Allen, Reedsburg FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Allen breeds, raises, and markets dairy cattle and then sells his livestock at shows and sales.

American Star in Agribusiness

  • Jared A. Eilertson, United South Central FFA Chapter (Minnesota) – Eilertson operates his own custom hay bailing, ditch-hay sales and agricultural commodities trucking enterprises.
  • Dustin Stanton, Centralia FFA Chapter (Missouri) – Stanton owns Stanton Brothers, a poultry operation that supplies fresh eggs to community members, local businesses and farmers markets.
  • Ethan VanderWal, Sioux Valley FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – VanderWal started a custom round hay bailing and rolling business, where he provides services to customers in his community.
  • Thomas Larson, Viroqua FFA Chapter (Wisconsin) – Larson created a business for repairing machinery and re-selling fixed items, including chainsaws, weed eaters, lawnmowers and more.

American Star in Agricultural Placement

  • Travis A. Poppe, Crofton FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Poppe works for his family’s farm, Poppe Farms, where he manages swine and cattle and operates the diversified crop production of corn and soybeans.
  • Garrett Sharp, Waukomis FFA Chapter (Oklahoma) – Sharp operates and services equipment, moving and preparing land  and implements conservation practices while being employeed at his uncle’s farm.
  • Matt Eichacker, McCook Central FFA Chapter (South Dakota) – Eichacker operates corn and soybean productions, manages beef cattle and applies fertilizers and chemicals for two farms and a cooperative.
  • Jessica Woodworth, Mineral County FFA Chapter (West Virginia) – Woodworth works for her family’s farm and store. While there, she assists in the beef cattle, swine and produce operations and sells retail meat cuts, fruits, vegetables and other products.

American Star in Agriscience

  • Patrik Arkfeld, Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca FFA Chapter (Nebraska) – Arkfeld conducts swine research in meat quality, genetics, waste management and more.
  • Sarah Cox, Zane Trace FFA Chapter (Ohio) – Cox studies animal and food sciences through research projects including zooenotic diseases, plant diseases and microorganisms.
  • Katie Osborn, Greenwood FFA Chapter (Pennsylvania) – Osborn has performed four studies in dairy cattle mastitis, an infection in the udders.
  • Witney L. Bowman, Stonewall Jackson FFA Chapter (Virginia) – Bowman studies the effects of feeding calves additional milk replacer and injecting rooting hormones in Juniper trees.

Each star finalist receives $2,000 from the National FFA Foundation.

A panel of judges will interview finalists and select one winner for each award.  The winners will be announced on November 1st during the Stars Over America Pageant at the 87th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

The four winners will receive an additional $2,000.


Farm Bill provides risk management options

Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Commitee (1)_webOver 200 farmers attended a Farm Bill Implementation Forum at Bowling Green State University on Friday, July 25.


Sponsored by Ohio Farmers Union the Forum was designed to provide insight into what the new Farm Bill provides and while complex, Joe Shultz, Chief Economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee says it also provides farmers with options.


“It does look a lot different than the previous Farm Bills, but I think that reflects the diversity of agriculture and really the strength of American agriculture,” said Shultz. “It will be a good bill and it offer some real options to producers.”


Shultz also says farmers will have plenty of time to study the options before signing up, sometime next year.


“We’ve also provided more tools for farmers to get educated, the Farm Bill provides some money for outreach and education meetings, we’re also providing some online decision making tools so producers can enter their data, their farm history online and get some good information about which decision makes the most sense for their operation,” Shultz said.

Audio: Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, Senate Agriculture Committee (4:25 mp3)


Brownfield’s Dave Russell also talked with Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan following the Forum at BGSU.

Audio: Joe Logan, President, Ohio Farmers Union (2:40 mp3)

China issues new rule on U.S. DDGS imports

ddgs-usgcChina says it wants all imports of distiller’s dried grains (DDGS) from the U.S. to be officially certified free of the MIR 162 GMO trait. The new requirement is effective immediately.

But U.S. Grains Council (USGC) president and CEO Tom Sleight says China is asking for something that cannot be done.

“This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” Sleight says. “It cannot be produced from a U.S. government authority.  They do not inspect for biotech traits.”

China stopped issuing import permits for U.S. DDGS in June on concerns it might contain the trait, which has not been approved for import by China’s agricultural ministry.

Grains Council chairman Julius Schaaf, a farmer from Randolph, Iowa, says it’s time for China to approve the MIR 162 trait.  But he’s not convinced it’s just about GMOs.

“If this is a supply issue and China has plenty of corn and they really don’t need our grain right now, let’s call it what it is—a supply issue,” Schaaf says. “Let’s don’t blame it on biotechnology, which is pushing back on an industry and a development area that grain farmers desperately need for the future to stay competitive and provide global food security.”

AUDIO: Julius Schaaf (2:25 MP3)

Trade issues with China are expected to be a big part of the discussion at next week’s summer annual meeting of the USGC in Omaha.