Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday March 23 Cattle on Feed and Ag News


Nebraska feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.57 million cattle on feed on March 1, according to USDA’s, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  This inventory was up 6 percent from last year and is equal to last month, which was the largest inventory since the data series began in 1994.    Placements in feedlots during February totaled 410,000 head, up 17 percent from 2011.  This equals 1999 as the largest placements for the month of February since the data series began in 1994.    Marketings of fed cattle during February totaled 390,000 head, up 7 percent from last year.  Other disappearance during February totaled 20,000 head, up 33 percent from last year.

Cattle  and  calves  on  feed  for  slaughter market  in Iowa  for all  feedlots  totaled 1.39 million on March 1,  2012  according  to  the  USDA,  National Agricultural  Statistics  Service,  Iowa  Field  Office.  The  inventory  is  up  1  percent  from  February  1, 2012  and  up  1 percent  from  March  1,  2011.  Feedlots  with  a  capacity  greater  than  1,000  head had  670,000  head  on  feed,  up  3 percent  from  last month  and  up  3  percent  from  last  year.    Feedlots with  a  capacity  less  than  1,000  head  had 720,000 head  on  feed,  down  1 percent  from  last month and down 1 percent from last year.

Placements  during  February  totaled  135,000 head, a  decrease  of  39  percent  from  last  month  but  up 6 percent  from  last  year.   Feedlots with  a  capacity greater  than  1,000 head  placed  85,000  head,  down 17 percent  from  last month but up 20 percent  from last  year.    Feedlots  with  a  capacity  less  than 1,000 head  placed  50,000  head.  This  is down 57 percent  from  last  month  and  down  9  percent from last year.

Marketings for February were 119,000 head, down 10  percent  from  last  month  and  down  15 percent from last year. Feedlots with a capacity greater than 1,000 head marketed 62,000 head, down 11 percent from  last  month  and  down  22 percent  from  last year.   Feedlots with a capacity less than 1,000 head marketed  57,000  head,  down  8  percent  from  last month  and  down  5  percent  from  last  year. Other disappearance totaled 6,000 head.

United States Cattle on Feed Up 3 Percent

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.7 million head on March 1, 2012. The inventory was 3 percent above March 1, 2011.

Placements in feedlots during February totaled 1.71 million, 3 percent above 2011. Net placements were 1.62 million head. During February, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 400,000, 600-699 pounds were 335,000, 700-799 pounds were 469,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 510,000.

Marketings of fed cattle during February totaled 1.76 million, 2 percent below 2011.  Other disappearance totaled 93,000 during February, 52 percent above 2011.

“NARD Board Elects Officers”

New officers were elected during the March Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Board meeting. Joe Anderjaska from the Middle Republican Natural Resources District (NRD) was elected President.  Anderjaska has served on the Middle Republican NRD board for twelve years, on the NARD board for ten years and previously held the Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer positions.  Anderjaska was appointed by Governor Heineman to serve on the Republican River Basin Water Sustainability Task Force.   Anderjaska is also a member of the Hayes Center School Board, involved in his local church parish, and member and past director of the Nebraska Angus Association.

“I’m looking forward to serving as the President for the state association.  This provides a great opportunity to help protect the future of Nebraska’s natural resources,” Anderjaska said.

The NARD Board elected Terry Martin from the Upper Republican NRD (URNRD) to the Vice President position.  Martin has served 12 years on the URNRD Board and currently is board chair, and has served five years as an NARD Board representative.  Martin previously served as the NARD Board Secretary/Treasurer.

Jim Bendfeldt from the Central Platte NRD (CPNRD) was elected Secretary/Treasurer. Bendfedlt has been a member of the CPNRD Board for eight years and is currently the board Secretary and Chairman of the Variance Committee. In 2011 Bendfeldt was awarded the NARD Director of the Year. Bendfedlt has been past President of Fort Kearney Cattleman’s Association (twice), Chairmen of Gibbon Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, member and Chairman of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee, past 4-H leader, member of Nebraska LEAD Program group 13, and board member of the Nebraska Agriculture Leadership Council.  Currently Bendfeldt is a board member of the LEAD Alumni Association and serves on the Platte River Recovery Implantation Program Board as a land acquisition member.

The officers serve on the NARD executive committee along with chairs from the Information and Education, Legislature committees and the past NARD Board President. Anderjaska re-appointed Jim Johnson from South Platte NRD as chair of the Information and Education committee and Jim Meismer as chair of the Legislative committee. Mary Ann Wortman will continue to serve on the executive committee as the past NARD Board President.  The NARD board consists of representation from each of the local 23 NRDs. The board members meet five times throughout the year and help guide the Association and the NRDs in decision making that protects lives, protect property and protects the future of Nebraska’s natural resources.  

The NARD, the trade association for Nebraska's 23 natural resources districts, works with individual NRDs to protect lives, protect property and protect the future of Nebraska’s natural resources. 2012 marks the 40th Anniversary of Nebraska’s unique Natural Resources District system.  NRDs are local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect our natural resources.  Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling districts to respond best to local conservation and resource management needs.

Statement from NCBA on USTR Appeal of WTO Ruling on Country of Origin Labeling

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative today March 23, 2012, opted to appeal the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).  National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President Bob McCann issued the following statement.

 "We are very disappointed in this decision. Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef. An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources. This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.

"NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government.

 "Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines."

USDA Warns of Additional Fraudulent Letters and Calls

USDA officials have been notified that additional fraudulent letters and at least one fraudulent phone call have been received by individuals in a number of states.

The phone call was received by an individual in Indiana, and letters are being sent by FAX to individuals and businesses in a growing number of states. The letters and call purportedly come from a USDA procurement officer and seek personal information. These letters are false and in no case should a recipient respond with personal and financial information.

The fraudulent letters bear USDA's logo and seal and are signed by an individual identified as "Frank Rutenberg" using a title of "Senior Procurement Officer". Recipients should not respond and should not supply the requested information. USDA is investigating this matter through the Office of the Inspector General. USDA first learned that the letters were being circulated on March 16, 2012.

If you suspect you have received such a letter or have been called by someone representing themselves as being from USDA seeking personal information, please contact USDA at: or call 202-720-9448.

February Red Meat Production Up 3 Percent from 2011

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 3.91 billion pounds in February, up 3 percent from the 3.81 billion pounds produced in February 2011.

Beef production, at 2.01 billion pounds, was 1 percent below the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.56 million head, down 2 percent from February 2011. The average live weight was up 21 pounds from the previous year, at 1,307 pounds.

Veal production totaled 9.8 million pounds, 6 percent below February a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 60,200 head, down 13 percent from February 2011. The average live weight was up 12 pounds from last year, at 276 pounds.

Pork production totaled 1.88 billion pounds, up 6 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 9.04 million head, up 6 percent from February 2011. The average live weight was up 1 pound from the previous year, at 278 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 12.3 million pounds, was up 13 percent from February 2011. Sheep slaughter totaled 165,400 head, 7 percent above last year. The average live weight was 149 pounds, up 8 pounds from February a year ago.

January to February 2012 commercial red meat production was 8.04 billion pounds, up 2 percent from 2011. Accumulated beef production was down slightly from last year, veal was down 5 percent, pork was up 6 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was up 10 percent.

By State:  (million pounds - % change from last year)
Iowa ......... 532.1  -  +3%      
Kansas ..... 398.1  -  -3%      
Nebraska .. 572.4  -  +4%

Expanding the Footprint of U.S. Red Meat in Russia

American beef and pork took center stage across western Russia this month with high-profile participation in an international culinary competition; the leading hospitality industry trade show, ExpoHoreca; and master classes for Russian chefs.

The Baltic Culinary Star Cup drew top young chefs from Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia to compete against one another and develop creative dishes using U.S. beef top blade and sirloin as well as U.S. pork loin. The Lithuanian team won the Cup this year with a dish featuring top blade.

American beef was well-represented by Marr Russia and GrandFoods, two leading importers of U.S. beef, at ExpoHoreca, the 10th International Specialized Exhibition of Hospitality Industry, which drew food industry professionals from the Baltic region’s hospitality sector and abroad.

“The large attendance this year – estimated at 10,000 – could signal a positive change in the HRI (hotel, restaurant, institutional) sector, which was heavily affected by the financial crisis,” said Yuri Barutkin, St. Petersburg representative for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Barutkin noted that the financial downturn created a good opportunity for USMEF to successfully promote alternative cuts of U.S. beef, creating new interest among HRI distributors to invest in flank and skirt steaks as well as top sirloin. USMEF also is working to develop interest among Russian chefs in pork loins.

Both U.S. beef and pork received added visibility at ExpoHoreca through USMEF master classes that ran through all three days of the show. American beef striploin and beef ribs as well as pork loins were featured in dishes prepared by leading chefs from top hotels and top restaurants in St. Petersburg who demonstrated different preparation techniques for the participants.

“The master classes featuring U.S. pork and beef enabled us to reach a wide range of professionals and consumers with information about the quality attributes of U.S. red meat, which is so different from our competition,” said Barutkin. “And, as always, tasting the product spoke louder than a thousand words for consumers.”

Barutkin also noted that USMEF’s participation in this type of culinary competition is an investment in the future.

“Most of the participants are very young chefs,” Barutkin said. “They are right out of culinary school, so they are developing their skills and reputations, and this is the perfect time to educate them about working with the highest quality ingredients, such as U.S. beef and pork.”

Support for USMEF’s participation in ExpoHoreca, the Baltic Culinary Cup and the master classes was provided through the USDA Market Access Program, the Beef Checkoff program and the Pork Checkoff program.

Withdrawal of Proposed Export Sales Reporting Requirements Rule on Pork, DDGs

FAS says rule delayed, not dead

On March 8, 2012, a proposed rule was published in the Federal Register establishing new reporting requirements for pork (fresh, chilled, and frozen box/primal cuts) and distillers dried grain (DDG) to the Export Sales Reporting Requirements. Subsequent to publication, USDA - Foreign Agricultural Service ascertained that Office of Management and Budget clearance was not yet received, so the proposed rule needs to be withdrawn until such clearance is conveyed.  FAS is currently awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget to publish a new proposed rule.

FAS says although the rule has been withdrawn, comments submitted during the original 60-day comment period may still be considered as part of the official record.  When the proposed rule is republished, a new 60-day period for comments will begin.

House Ag Appropriations Panel Meets on FY2013 Budget

The agriculture subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee met three times this week to consider portions of the FY2013 budget related to agriculture. On Tuesday, Members heard from acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse as well as the heads of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA).

Scuse reviewed the Obama Administration's budget proposal with regards to agriculture safety net programs, which would cut $32 billion by eliminating direct payments and decreasing funding for crop insurance and some conservation programs.

Scuse also reviewed announced closures affecting USDA county offices, saying FSA will close 131 offices in 2012, leaving 2,113 office locations. He said that FSA staff has declined more than 30 percent since the period in which the agency was implementing the 2002 Farm Bill.

On a brighter note, Scuse reported USDA expects U.S. farm exports to reach $131 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, near the record $137 billion achieved in fiscal year 2011, which should prompt a $24.5 billion positive trade balance.

On Wednesday, leaders of USDA's research organizations testified, including Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) Dr. Catherine Wotecki. Stressing the importance of agricultural research to feeding a population expected to swell to 9 billion by 2050, Wotecki said the $2.6 billion proposed for REE in FY2013 would help USDA achieve its research goals.

That allocation would represent a $65 million increase from FY2012, much of which would be allocated to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program, with costs offset by administrative savings and redirections from lower-priority projects.

Wotecki said at the hearing that each dollar spent on agricultural research returns $20 to the economy, which tracks with a study done by research organization CAST showing combined research and extension spending returns $32 to the economy for each dollar expended.

A third subcommittee hearing was scheduled for Thursday related to spending by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), with Chairman Gary Gensler as the sole witness.

Judge: No Antibiotics in Feed

A federal judge on Thursday ordered U.S. regulators to start proceedings to withdraw approval for the use of common antibiotics in animal feed, citing concerns that overuse is endangering human health by creating antibiotic-resistant "superbugs".

U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin proceedings unless makers of the drugs can produce evidence that their use is safe.

If they can't, then the FDA must withdraw approval for non-therapeutic use of those drugs, the judge ruled.

The FDA had started such proceedings in 1977, prompted by its concerns the widespread use in livestock feed of certain antibiotics -- particularly tetracyclines and penicillin, the most common. But the proceedings were never completed and the approval remained in place.

"In the intervening years, the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence that the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe," Katz wrote.

The lawsuit was filed by environmental and public-health groups including The Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Union of Concerned Scientists in the Manhattan federal court in May.

The plaintiffs argued that using common antibiotics in livestock feed has contributed to the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both animals and humans.

Antibiotic-resistant infections cost Americans more than $20 billion each year, the plaintiffs said, citing a 2009 study from the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and Cook County Hospital.

In his ruling, Katz ordered the FDA to follow through on the process it started in 1977 but only formally abandoned in December last year. The FDA said the proceedings were outdated and that it intended to pursue other regulatory strategies for coping with potential food-safety problems.

"The FDA has not issued a single statement since the issuance of the 1977 (notices) that undermines the original findings that the drugs have not been shown to be safe," Katz wrote.

Argentine Truck Strike Ends

Argentine grain truckers have reached a deal to end a four-day-old strike over hauling rates that had delayed deliveries to export ports, a spokeswoman for the drivers said.

The FETRA group of trucking companies began the protest on Monday to press demands for a unified hauling tariff system, sharply reducing truck arrivals at terminals in the Rosario grains export hub.

Argentina is one of the world's biggest suppliers of soy and corn and a prolonged strike by the truckers could have delayed shipments just as harvesting gathers speed.

"The strike was lifted after a deal was reached. Almost all our demands were met," said Valeria Pardo, a spokeswoman for FETRA, which was negotiating with government officials.

Strikes during the corn and soy harvests are closely watched by global grains traders in case they start to disrupt supplies, but this week's walkout had little impact because export terminals were able to use stocks to keep shipments moving.

The truckers had accused the government of failing to implement a guaranteed minimum hauling tariff that was agreed to after a strike in October.

Labor unrest is common in Argentina in March and April, when trade unions normally negotiate annual wage increases. Strikes have flared in recent years due to double-digit inflation.

Social Media Campaign to Highlight Versatility, Value of Butter to Consumers

Butter marketers will use a variety of social media tools in 2012 to better connect their product with consumers, as word-of-mouth marketing assumes a greater degree of importance in the dairy category.

The centerpiece of the campaign will be a new blog, “Go Bold With Butter,” which will serve as a virtual kitchen where consumers can interact with a team of butter enthusiasts who will tout the value and versatility of butter. The site of the same name is now live.

Nine dedicated bloggers were recruited to generate content for the blog, including recipes, photos and videos. Each will offer a unique perspective on the best way to create satisfying food experiences centered on butter. A GoBoldWithButter Facebook page and Twitter profile have also been established to complement blog activity. The Facebook page and Twitter profile will share general “GoBoldWithButter” messaging, recipes and content, and help drive traffic back to the Real Butter blog, especially for seasonal cooking themes. The campaign will also use a Pinterest page, as that social media site is rapidly growing in popularity among users that this campaign is targeting.

“The preparation and enjoyment of food is one area of life where people’s experiences and expectations are very personal, and social media tools are perfect to help amplify those feelings,” said Mark Korsmeyer, President of ABI. “Butter marketers will greatly benefit from this new campaign, because it will create real connections among butter enthusiasts, while helping to educate a new generation about why butter is best for cooking and baking.”

Each of the nine blog contributors brings a different style and perspective, but they are all passionate about creating memorable dishes to share with their friends and families.

The promotion of the blog and its digital companions is largely driven by online advertising. This includes targeted online and Facebook ad executions to fulfill advertising support of the Go Bold With Butter blog with a seasonal emphasis. The website will be updated five times throughout the course of the campaign corresponding with seasonal messaging for the GoBoldWithButter campaign. The Butter is Best e-newsletter will also be updated to correspond with the new campaign and distributed quarterly.

Irv Holmes, Chair of ABI’s Marketing Committee, said: “At a time when we’re witnessing new trends in cuisine – an emphasis on simplicity and authenticity, coupled with a curiosity about bold new flavors – we need to help connect those who have a do-it-yourself ethic with our products. Go Bold With Butter, leveraged across a variety of social media platforms, is a new type of marketing to help engage these consumers.”

A public relations campaign will be used initially and at key times throughout the promotion to help drive traffic to the blog, as well as raise awareness and increase usage of Real Butter. A majority of the public relations activities will be devoted to keeping Real Butter top of mind with consumer media, using recipe-driven content from the blog. The campaign will focus on ongoing media awareness of the blog as a Butter resource and will highlight any unique recipe collections, contests, etc., happening on the blog. Content from the blog, such as recipes and photos, will be repurposed for trend or seasonal/holiday-specific media outreach. In addition, each blogger will serve as a spokesperson for Real Butter, participating in radio and television interviews to share recipes and tips.

"Backyard Farmer" Set for 60th Season

"Backyard Farmer" will begin its 60th season April 5, with a new theme and coming off of its best ratings year ever.

"Still Growing Strong" is the new theme for the gardening series, a coproduction of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and NET Television. It first aired June 1, 1953.

"We're focusing as always on giving good, creative, science-based and entertaining advice," said Kim Todd, UNL Extension horticulturist and series host.

The series airs at 7 and 10 p.m. CDT Thursdays on NET1/HD -- starting April 5, and continuing until early September. "Backyard Farmer" episodes also can be seen on NET3 Create on Sundays at noon CDT.

Todd and series producer Brad Mills of UNL's Educational Media said this year's series will include all the favorite elements of past years, and also time to reflect on how gardening has changed -- and the series with it.

For example, Todd said, advice for dealing with pests or disease used to be simple and uniform: Spray it with some sort of chemical. That's no longer true, as the series' UNL Extension experts encourage an integrated pest management approach that makes use of best management practices.

"This season, we'll focus on how the advice we give has changed over the last six decades," Todd said. "You'll hear lively discussion about changes in chemical use and plant varieties, the 'garden weasel' and other garden fads; and green or sustainable trends that include vertical gardening, edible landscapes and green walls."

A couple of visits to sites away from the series' university-campus NET studio home are planned, and some special events and activities are ahead as well, though details are still not finalized.

Although much has changed over the years, Todd said, turf grass and tomatoes are still viewers' two top favorite subjects. Container gardening is another perennial winner.

In the last few years, Mills noted, "we've really turned our attention to this whole movement of growing your own food." People are concerned about the quality of their food and interested in taking control of that themselves.

The series has been around long enough that some of today's viewers remember their parents or grandparents watching it, Mills said. Thanks to the online availability of the series, viewers watch from across the nation and from around the world. Although the focus of the UNL Extension experts is on Nebraska conditions and issues, they also try to keep in mind that more expansive audience.

"Last year, one of our most loyal audience members watched from New Jersey," Todd said.

At the time of this interview, in mid-March, there already were 100 new questions in the BYF email inbox.

Mills and Todd said the partnership between UNL Extension and NET is key.

"The program didn't start on NET but it has grown up on NET," said Mills, noting that public-television legend Jack McBride once produced "Backyard Farmer."

Extension Master Gardeners from UNL and Lancaster County staff the phone banks, and most of the panelists on the series are extension educators and specialists.

The panelists specialize in such areas as horticulture, plant pathology, turf grass management, landscape design and entomology. The series features advice on topics such as soil preparation, water conservation, recycling in the "green" garden, organic food production, best landscape practices and edible landscapes. There's also a plant-of-the-week segment and lively discussion about plant and pest samples sent in by viewers from across the state and the Plains region. Each week, the "Backyard Farmer" telephone operators field about 200 calls during the live show. Another 75 to 100 questions are submitted via email.

Although it has a long history and is deeply rooted in tradition, the series takes advantage of today's new technology with segments on YouTube -- about 800,000 views so far -- and the "Backyard Farmer" website ( The site features gardening tips and a database of viewer questions and panelist answers. Each show is also available on iTunes as a video podcast after the Thursday evening broadcast and is streamed live at

A mobile-phone app also is in the works and is expected to be ready early in the season.

"Backyard Farmer" is underwritten in part by Earl May Nursery and Garden Centers and Finke Gardens. The series is a co-production of NET Television and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

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