Friday, November 1, 2019

Thursday October 31 Ag News

Researchers to tackle irrigation decision-making with help of USDA grant

A new grant that brings together researchers from Nebraska, Illinois and Princeton aims to bridge the gap between data-collection, modeling and decision-making so crop producers can more easily decide whether to irrigate. The project, funded by a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture program, could potentially save both financial and water resources.

The project includes three parts, the third in which Nebraska will serve as ground zero. Trenton Franz, Derek Heeren, and Daran Rudnick, all of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will work with partners and producers in the state to validate remotely-collected soil moisture and weather data and to inform the design of an end-product useful to producers’ decision-making.

Kaiyu Guan, remote-sensing specialist with the University of Illinois, is leading the project, with Franz and Ming Pan, associate research hydrologist at Princeton University, acting as institutional leads.

“We have remote-sensing, modeling, and in-field data, but we want to know how best to combine and use that data to make improved decisions about irrigation,” said Franz, an associate professor in the School of Natural Resources. “Right now the main problem is we don’t have great real-time irrigation data to help validate the remote sensing and modeling data to make it useful for decision making.”

Weather, soil, and irrigation data collected via unmanned aerial vehicles, airplanes or satellites have certain problems: inopportune cloud cover, time between Earth passes, the scale — hundreds or meters across rather than at the 10s of meters needed, all which hinder the ability to make an informed decision.

Farmers have their own set of barriers. As farms progressively get bigger — in some cases 50 to 60 miles across — it becomes impossible to check the entire farm for rainfall simultaneously. Factor in that it takes three to four days for a center pivot irrigation system to complete a cycle around the field, and the end result is farmers making decisions based on a five-day period of time with inaccurate or missing information.

“We’ve all driven by someone’s lawn or farm field and it’s raining, and we ask, ‘Why not just turn off the sprinkler or center pivot when it’s raining?’” Franz said. “The actual decision (for a farmer) is not very simple. The bottom line is if you turn off your sprinkler, and it didn’t rain and it’s the wrong time of year — that’s going to cost you a lot of money.” The crop won’t get enough moisture and yield will drop, resulting in lower income.

Farmers want to conserve water, he added, but unless a sound decision can be made quickly, they’ll make the safe decision and water the field.

The researchers will spend the next three years working to refine satellite-collected data so it can be incorporated into mathematical modeling to accurately represent daily weather, crop and irrigation information; and then validate those components through field-level monitoring.

The UNL team, members of SNR and the Biological Systems Engineering Department, will work with Nebraska stakeholders to install on-the-ground crop sensors measuring 40 variables, including rainfall, solar radiation and plant health. Those variables combined will provide a water and energy budget — the information the farmer needs to make a decision — and the researchers hope to develop that information into an app or other easily-accessible product.

“Once we disseminate that out through our networks, we hope to make it better with feedback from users and with more localized data,” Franz said, “because the project leaders can look at the app, but if it’s just us, it’s not useful.”

The Nature Conservancy, the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance, Nebraska Natural Resource Districts, and Nebraska Extension will partner on the project, with additional partners working with University of Illinois and Princeton University on data analysis and modeling methods.

The National Science Foundation, together with USDA-NIFA, is funding the research through the cyber-physical systems program.

Agricultural Land Management Quarterly Webinar Series

The Agricultural Land Management Quarterly webinar series will offer management advice and insight for Nebraska landowners, agricultural producers and others with an interest in agricultural land.

The first episode will examine recent trends in Nebraska cash rental rates and considerations for updating agricultural leases for 2019. Future episodes will address landlord-tenant communication, lease decision-making issues and seasonal lease considerations. The webinars will conclude with an “Ask the Experts” session where participants can get answers to their land or lease questions.

Fall Seminar
Monday November 18, 6:30 p.m. CT
-    Closing out the lease and harvest season
-    Fall and winter lease considerations
-    Ask the experts
-    Presenters: NE Extension Educators Jim Jansen and Allan Vyhnalek. 

Sign up here:

Nebraska Cattlemen Traceability Forum

November 14, 2019
Holiday Inn, Kearney, NE
Loper Hall - 9am - 3pm
*Onsite Registration begins at 8:45am

We would like to invite you to learn more about what is happening with traceability at the federal and state level. Hear from technology manufacturers, marketing programs and traceability pilot projects.

Topics and Speakers include:
-    The Federal Perspective, Dr. Sarah Tomlinson, Executive Director APHIS Veterinary Services, Technology and Analysis Services
-    The Nebraska State Perspective, Ross Baker, Animal Disease Traceability Coordinator
-    A State with Mandatory Identification Perspective, Dr. Dave Minier, Michigan State Veterinarian Department
-    The Nebraska Brand Committee Perspective, Danna Schwenk, Nebraska Brand Committee Project Coordinator
-    The Cattle Trace Pilot Project, Dr. Brandon Depenbusch
-    Using Block Chain to Market Cattle, Rob Jennings

Register here:

Iowa Farm Liquidity in Decline, Aside from Government Payments

Farm liquidity across Iowa has been in decline over the past several years, despite a slight increase in 2018.

A recent study of 214 mid-size Iowa farms, conducted by Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist at Iowa State University, found that 44% of the farms could be classified as having “vulnerable liquidity” in December 2018, while that percentage was just 31.3% in December 2014.

These results and more analysis are featured in the October edition of the Ag Decision Newsletter, in an article called “Farm liquidity slightly up, but still subdued.”

According to Plastina, farm liquidity improved slightly in 2018, mostly due to the $646 million Iowans received from Market Facilitation Program payments. However, he said the long-term trend, since 2014, has been one of significant decline.

“While liquidity improved slightly in 2018 due mostly to the MFP payments, the cumulative loss in working capital since 2014 averaged $189 per acre across the farms in my study,” Plastina said.

And, given the difficult growing season of this year, he expects 2019 financial numbers to be poor, as well.

“A massive number of delayed and prevented planting acres, low crop prices, reduced demand from biofuel refineries, and trade uncertainties in 2019 present a challenging liquidity scenario for farmers in Iowa,” Plastina said. “A new round of MFP payments will certainly help mitigate liquidity gaps this year, but the question remains on the sustainability of these payments through time.”

Farm profitability will be a priority issue at farm management meetings this fall and into the winter season.

ISU Extension and Outreach has more than 50 farm bill meetings planned, and dates have also been set for the Pro-Ag Outlook and Management Seminars, as well as the Ag Chemical Dealer meetings.

Nelson Family from Woodbury County to receive the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will present the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to cattle producer Eric Nelson and family. Naig will present the award on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 11 a.m. at the Moville Community Center at 815 Main Street Moville, IA 51039.

“Leaders in agriculture are not only implementing best practices on their farms, they are active in their communities and serve many organizations,” said Secretary Naig. “The Nelsons are great examples of leaders who take pride in caring for their cattle, their land and their community. They are deserving recipients of the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award.”

Eric Nelson farms with his wife Carol, and children Mark, Matt, John, Paul and Sarah. The family has a cow-calf operation and feeds out cattle. The Nelsons have practiced continuous no-till since 1993 and know the importance of implementing conservation practices, including grass waterways and grass field borders where appropriate.

The Nelsons operate according to Beef Quality Assurance guidelines, knowing that a low-stress environment is best for raising cattle. They are also stewards of the land, using soil testing to determine nutrient needs and use this information to plan the timing and location of manure field applications.

Each member of the Nelson family is active in community organizations. Eric has served as the Woodbury Co. Farm Bureau president for the last three years, is an 11-year member of the Woodbury Central School Board and is currently Vice President of Siouxland Ag in the Classroom. Carol is a member of the Woodbury County Extension Council and board member of Moville Area Community Development Inc. Their children are also involved in numerous organizations. Mark is President of the Woodbury County Cattlemen and Treasurer of Woodbury County Farm Bureau. Mark’s wife, Melissa, is the Woodbury County Beef Team leader and a Siouxland Ag in the Classroom board member. John is a volunteer firefighter with the Moville Volunteer Fire Department. The family is involved with Immaculate Conception Church in Moville.

Seminars Educate Sonora Livestock Producers About Value Of U.S. DDGS

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is answering technical questions and sharing firsthand experience using U.S. dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS) with poultry, swine and beef producers in Sonora, Mexico. This work to encourage increased DDGS use is augmented by newly installed stingers that will make it easier for these producers to obtain DDGS from the United States.

Located south of the Arizona border, Sonora is a significant livestock production zone. It is the second-largest pork producing state in Mexico, including large-scale programs like breeding, fattening and processing. Overall, the state produces 229,600 metric tons of pork per year with 2 percent growth year-over-year. To do so, the pork producers union makes consolidated grain purchases for its members, using about 50,000 metric tons of feed grains monthly – 40 percent from the United States.

Sonora is also the third-largest egg-producing state in the country, with Sonora’s poultry association members using 20,000 metric tons of feed grains monthly to feed their 12 million layers. The region is also home to significant cattle production with 32,000 livestock producers grazing cattle and installed feedlot capacity for fattening 145,000 head per year.

“Sonora has strong demand potential for bulk DDGS,” Chavez said. “The economic and nutritional advantages of U.S. DDGS have sparked increased interest from all three of the major livestock production industries in the state.”

The combination of these industries and the state’s geographic proximity to the United States makes Sonora a prime destination for the Council’s market development work.

In the last year, the Council, the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and the Regional Livestock Pork Producers Union of Sonora (Union) partnered to purchase hard car unloaders – known as “stingers” – for the Ciudad Obregon rail terminal in the state of Sonora, where U.S. DDGS will be stored and used. This new delivery option will also benefit the poultry and cattle industries in the region.

The Council is working to match the interest and new logistical advantages of the stinger installations with information and testimonials on DDGS use. A triad of seminars conducted in September answered questions for producers and promoted the advantages of using DDGS. Dr. Kevin Herrick, nutritionist and technical service director for Poet Nutrition, provided technical expertise, while Iowa farmer and swine producer Bob Hemesath also provided his firsthand perspective on feeding DDGS to his hogs and updated the groups on the current year’s corn crop.

The first seminar reinforced the benefits of DDGS to the poultry producers association. Approximately 70 percent of the association’s membership already uses DDGS, so this seminar answered more technical questions on usage and encouraged higher inclusion rates. The second seminar targeted swine producers, allowing Hemesath to make an even larger impact by discussing his use of DDGS at a 40 percent inclusion rate and feeding until slaughter.

“Dr. Herrick’s presentation was geared toward giving more confidence in using DDGS for swine and backing up Hemesath’s personal good experience feeding DDGS to his hogs,” Chavez said. “This was exactly the information the audience was waiting to hear.”

The third and final presentation was designed for members of the regional cattle feeders association. This seminar included robust discussion of costs, antibiotics use and how to push maximum inclusion levels.

The Council will continue to work with the poultry, swine and cattle livestock associations to answer further questions, especially as the new rail options for DDGS delivery come into active operation.

“It is imperative that these livestock associations have access to nutritional experts to help them in incorporating DDGS into their feed rations and troubleshoot any issues,” Chavez said. “The Council will remain active in this region as these three different industries all gain their own experience with the advantages of feeding DDGS to their animals.”

Women in Ag Survey Reveals Business Acumen and Leadership

Women are active advocates for agriculture and successful business owners interested in filling leadership roles, according to a new Farm Bureau survey. A majority of those surveyed, 91%, also believe there should be more women in leadership roles in the industry. More than 3,000 women completed the informal survey online, which was conducted to determine the goals and achievements of women in agriculture.

“Women play a vital role in modern farming and ranching,” said Sherry Saylor, an Arizona farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. “We hope to use the survey results to drive our program of work and also to give women their voice and help them make even more of an impact in their communities.”

More than 50% of women surveyed have started their own business that’s still in operation; 25% have not started a business but indicated they would like to do so in the future. Respondents cited prioritizing and finding time to accomplish tasks, acquiring financial support and marketing plan development as their top business challenges.

Respondents ranked communicating effectively, inspiring and motivating others, and managing conflict among the most important leadership skills for women in agriculture.

Another topline finding of the survey was that 75% of respondents are leaders at the local level, 50% are leaders at the state level and 26% are leaders at the national level.

All women who are farmers, ranchers, farm/ranch employees, employed in agricultural businesses, pursuing ag-related higher education or supportive of agriculture in other ways were invited to participate in the survey.

Full survey results, including comparisons to the initial “Women in Ag” survey (conducted in 2015), are available online at

New Voluntary Performance Standards for Pork Plants

Meat processing has come a long way since the early 1900s, when packing plants were graphically depicted in Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle. Since that time, meat inspectors, safety precautions for workers, the use of better technology and higher food-safety standards have arguably made the U.S. food supply the safest in the world. However, there is always room for improvement, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) intends to propose new, voluntary performance standards for pork.

The final rule for the Modernized Hog Slaughter Plan was published October 1, and one of its goals is to align hog slaughter inspection with hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles. It will also allow market hog slaughter establishments to operation under the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS).

Under the plan, all swine slaughter establishments must develop written sanitary dressing plans and implement microbial sampling to monitor process control. Pork sampling will increase in FY2020 and inspectors will stop testing for STEC. However, FSIS will partner with Agricultural Research Service to study STEC in pork.

“Modernization moves inspection away from the traditional control and command approach,” said Captain Kis Robertson Hale, DVM, with the U.S. Public Health Service post at FSIS, during the 2019 annual meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association this week. Hale explained that under the new rule, plant employees will do two points of sampling, one at the beginning and one at the end, giving plants the options for indicator product sampling.

The biggest thing that has been a source of question is the new swine inspection system.

NSIS requirements for sorting state that establishment personnel are responsible for sorting and removing unfit animals before ante mortem inspection, as well as for identifying and trimming defects on carcasses and parts before postmortem inspection. FSIS will continue to do all the inspections it has done in the past, but sorting will be the responsibility of establishment personnel.
“It shifts agency resources so we can do inspections more efficiently,” Hale said.

Establishment personal will be responsible for: Identifying with a unique tag, tattoo, or similar device animals or carcasses that have been sorted or removed for disposal prior to inspection, and; developing, implementing and maintaining written procedures in its HACCP system to ensure unfit animals or carcasses are properly disposed.

Plants will determine line speed

The new standard authorizes establishments to determine their own line speeds based on their ability to maintain process control. This area has received a lot of attention, Hale said, but the important point is the plant’s ability to maintain process control.

“There is still 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection so it isn’t practical to have excessively high speeds. However, inspectors are empowered to slow the lines,” Hale said.

“Back in the day, the speed was set on what food inspectors needed to conduct their tasks. Since then, advancements in science and technology have refined our understanding about line speed requirements. We are still very much focused on hazard reduction,” she added.

Under NSIS, inspectors will be able to conduct more verification tasks that are associated with better food-safety outcomes.

“Science has been the driving force of where we are with pork sampling and slaughter inspection. By increasing industry accountability for pathogen reduction, improvements to food safety are expected,” Hale said. “It’s amazing how many illnesses have been averted by going with a HAACP approach.”

Swine Fever Could Kill Quarter of Pigs

(AP) -- Around a quarter of the world's pigs are expected to die from African swine fever as authorities grapple with a complex disease spreading rapidly in the globalization era, the World Organization for Animal Health's president said Thursday.

A sharp reduction in the world's pig population would lead to possible food shortages and high pork prices, and it might also cause shortfalls in the many products made from pigs, such as the blood-thinner heparin that's used in people, said Dr. Mark Schipp, the organization's president.

The disease's spread in the past year to countries including China, which has half the world's pigs, had inflamed a worldwide crisis, Schipp told reporters at a briefing in Sydney.

"I don't think the species will be lost, but it's the biggest threat to the commercial raising of pigs we've ever seen," he said. "And it's the biggest threat to any commercial livestock of our generation."

African swine fever, fatal to hogs but no threat to humans, has wiped out pig herds in many Asian countries. Chinese authorities have destroyed about 1.2 million pigs in an effort to contain the disease there since August 2018.

The price of pork has nearly doubled from a year ago in China, which produces and consumes two-thirds of the world's pork. And China's efforts to buy pork abroad, as well as smaller outbreaks in other countries, are pushing up global prices.

"There are some shortages in some countries, and there's been some substitutions using other sources of protein, which is driving up the prices of other proteins," said Schipp.

Progress had been made toward a vaccine, but Schipp, who is also Australia's chief veterinary officer, said the work was challenging because the virus itself is large and has a complex structure. He said a big step forward was the announcement last week that scientists had unraveled the 3D structure of the virus.

African swine fever is spread by contact among pigs, through contaminated fodder and by ticks. It originated in South Africa and appeared in Europe in in the 1960s. A recent reappearance in western Europe came from wild pigs transferred into Belgian forests for hunting purposes.

Its capacity to spread rapidly is shown by its spread from China in the past year, Schipp said. Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia and East Timor have had outbreaks as well.

He said the spread reflects the global movement of pork and of people but also the effect of tariffs and trade barriers, which sends those obtaining pork to seek out riskier sources. And Schipp said quality control was difficult for products such as skins for sausages, salamis and similar foods.

"Those casing products move through multiple countries," he said. "They're cleaned in one, graded in another, sorted in another, partially treated in another, and finally treated in a fourth of fifth country. They've very hard to trace, through so many countries."

An emerging issue in the crisis is a potential heparin shortage, Schipp said.

"Most of it is sourced from China, which has been badly hit. There are concerns that this will threaten the global supply of heparin," Schipp said.

He praised China's efforts to battle the disease and said the outbreaks would change the way pigs are raised.

"In China, previously they had a lot of backyard piggeries. They're seeing this as an opportunity to take a big step forward and move to large scale commercial piggeries," Schipp said. "The challenge will be to other countries without the infrastructure or capital reserves to scale up in those ways."

ADM Reports Third Quarter Earnings of $0.72 per Share, $0.77 per Share on an Adjusted Basis

Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) today reported financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

“We delivered solid third quarter results, consistent with the perspectives we provided last quarter, despite a difficult external environment,” said Chairman and CEO Juan Luciano. “We maintained our focus on serving our customers and advancing our strategic goals, and continued to realize the benefits of the actions that we took earlier this year.

“We are excited about our strategic growth activities, and particularly our participation and leadership in major global trends such as flexitarian diets, nutrition for health, and sustainable materials. We have invested in assets, platforms and technological capabilities to serve and grow with our customers, who are embracing these market-changing trends.

“While external conditions for certain businesses may remain fluid and potentially challenging in the near term, our growing leadership position in major global trends, and our strength in innovation, efficiency, and customer service, position us well for stronger results in 2020 and beyond.”

Third Quarter 2019 Highlights
•  Net earnings of $407 million
•  Earnings per share:  $0.72  ($0.94 last year)

Results of Operations

Ag Services & Oilseeds results were lower than the third quarter of 2018, which benefited from very strong crush margins.
-    Ag Services results were in line with the prior-year quarter. In South America, results were up on improved origination margins in Brazil and increased export volumes from Argentina. In North America, improved merchandising results from favorable ownership positions helped offset a continued challenging volume and margin environment for U.S. exports.
-    In Crushing, results were lower year over year. Crush margins globally were substantially below the record high levels seen in 2018, though still solid in North America and EMEA. In South America, margins were pressured by continued strong exports of soybeans to China. Global crush margins benefited from positive net timing effects of approximately $50 million during the third quarter.
-    Refined Products and Other results were significantly higher than the third quarter of 2018, largely driven by significant improvements in Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts.

Carbohydrate Solutions results were substantially lower than the year-ago period.
-    Starches and Sweeteners results were down versus the third quarter of 2018. Results in North America were affected by higher net corn costs partly offset by lower manufacturing costs, which included improvements at the Decatur corn complex. EMEA results were impacted by lower selling prices and continued pressure from Turkish sweetener quotas. In wheat milling, an increase in sales volumes was more than offset by lower margins due to limited opportunities in wheat procurement.
-    Bioproducts results were significantly lower, driven by a continued unfavorable margin environment in the ethanol industry.

Nutrition results were substantially higher.
-    WFSI results were significantly higher than the prior-year quarter, with growth across the portfolio. Higher sales and margins globally led to record quarterly results for WILD. In Specialty Ingredients, the protein business continued to expand amid the growing consumer market for alternative proteins. Continued contributions from growth investments in bioactives and fibers benefited the Health & Wellness business.
-    Animal Nutrition results were up year over year, driven largely by contributions from Neovia. Improvements in vitamin additives also helped contribute to positive results. Lysine production improved, though pricing was negatively impacted by lower global demand.

NCBA Announces Finalists for National Anthem Contest

Four finalists have been announced for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s seventh annual National Anthem Singing Contest. The winner will receive a trip to the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show Feb. 5-7 to perform the Star Spangled Banner at the event’s Opening General Session Feb. 5 as well as the Friday Night NCBA PBR Invitational Event Feb. 7. The contest is sponsored by Norbrook.

The four finalists are:
Courtney Stefan, Hallettsville, Texas
Anna Kelsey, Tecumseh, Oklahoma
Sara Schlickau, Manhattan, Kansas
Lauren McCarthy, Reno, Nevada

Everyone will be able to vote for their favorite singer Nov. 1-15. One vote per day will be offered to each IP address. The winner will be announced Nov. 18, 2019.

The contest winner will receive a hotel room for four nights, free convention registration for two, a meet-and-greet hosted by Norbrook, plus a pair of boots, pair of jeans and a shirt from Roper or Stetson.

The videos of the top four finalists are available for voting on the convention website at Voting is being counted by an independent firm and will be open from Nov. 1, 2019 to Nov. 15, 2019 (one vote per IP address per day).

Beef Quality Assurance Campaign Seeks Greater Understanding of Industry Efforts

About 85 percent of U.S. beef today comes from Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)-certified farmers or ranchers. But do American consumers know that? Just as important, do they know what BQA is – and what it stands for?

Those are the kinds of questions a new Beef Checkoff-funded campaign from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a Beef Checkoff contractor, is addressing. Its goal is to bridge the gap between what the industry is doing to produce high-quality beef in a humane, environmentally friendly way, and what consumers know about those efforts.

The new campaign, designed to meet the consumer’s desire to learn more about how beef is produced, kicked off in October with a series of videos from Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. that bring the BQA program to life by highlighting how cattle farmers and ranchers across the country raise cattle under BQA guidelines.

The videos and corresponding audio clips will be used to advertise on platforms including YouTube, Hulu, Pandora and Spotify and will also be made available on a new BQA section of Consumers will also learn more about BQA through interactive “BQ&A” Instagram stories that address common questions about how cattle are raised. The video, website and social activations provide consumers with an overview of the BQA program and the ongoing commitment of cattle farmers and ranchers to care for their animals and provide the safest and highest quality beef possible.

In addition to the digital marketing and social activations, media sources, such as Bloomberg, Reuters, USA Today and others will be introduced to BQA, and influencers and beef advocates will share BQA information with their audiences.

“The campaign expands the reach of a traditionally producer-facing program,” says Josh White, executive director of producer education at NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. “Beef farmers and ranchers are committed to not only caring for their animals and the environment in which they do that, they are dedicated to delivering the safest and highest quality beef possible,” he says. “At the same time, research shows that consumers want to know more about how and where their food is raised. This new effort shares information about the program with consumers in a way that benefits both producers and those who enjoy their beef.”
Producer Support

U.S. beef producers who have embraced BQA are encouraged by this step to get the message to those who buy beef.

“I’m so excited about BQA becoming a consumer-facing program,” says Kim Brackett, a cow-calf producer whose operation sits on the Idaho/Oregon border. “The average consumer does not know what is happening in our industry. This is going to help reassure them as they’re making their purchasing decisions.”

Brackett and her husband, Ira, have four children who will be the sixth generation involved in cattle production. She got involved in BQA about 15 years ago and helped get it going in her area. A former chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, she is currently the vice chairman of NCBA’s BQA advisory group. Brackett says being open with consumers is key to industry success.

“We’re living in a transparent world,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to make the connections we need with our customers and BQA helps bridge that gap.”

Brandi Karisch, beef cattle extension specialist at Mississippi State University, says as a mother of two young children she sees the problem frequently.

“In talking with other moms, it’s kind of shocking some of the things they believe,” she says. “There’s just a lot of bad information out there. Now is an important time to correct that,” she says.

After completing her undergraduate work at LSU, Karisch went on to get her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is now the co-coordinator of the BQA program in Mississippi. Karisch grew up in Southern Louisiana on a small purebred cow-calf operation and says timing for the new campaign couldn’t be better.

“BQA is one of our shining moments as a beef industry. It’s really important for consumers to hear about it,” she says.

“The Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. brand provides a tremendous foundation for this effort,” says Alisa Harrison, NCBA senior vice president for global marketing. “For more than a quarter century, consumers have come to know and respect Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. and this is the next step in helping consumers understand how beef is produced.”

Harrison says the primary audience for the new campaign will be older millennial parents. To all consumers, however, the messages will be transparent and open, featuring the point that cattle are safely, humanely and sustainably raised. 

“There’s so much negative media and noise out there, any reassurance we can provide, that only helps,” says Brackett. The fact that information is continually updated and kept fresh is also a positive, she says. “Producers themselves are in charge. It’s very attainable,” she says.

Karisch agrees. “Producers always have a voice in BQA, and that’s important,” she says.
A Bigger and Better Program

Participation in BQA by farmers and ranchers continues to grow as certifications, including dairy and youth facing programs, recently surpassed the 350,000 mark. Throughout the country producers are becoming BQA-certified through in-person and online training. Certified farmers and ranchers must be re-certified every three years.

Online BQA training provides 24/7 access to the program through a series of videos and animations in the areas of cow-calf, stocker/backgrounder and feedyard. In-person training is available through sessions conducted by hundreds of in-state BQA coordinators throughout the country. The certifications are also available in Spanish.

Doing the Right Thing
Bottom line, BQA encourages proper animal care, and consumers should feel good knowing there’s a national program in place that sets consistent animal welfare and care standards across the beef industry.

“BQA helps us be better stewards of animals and the land,” says Karisch. “That’s really the key.

“But there’s a lot of noise out there about animal welfare. That creates a lot of bad vibes for the cattle industry.”

Those are vibes the industry can’t afford, Karisch says. “I don’t want people thinking bad things about our industry,” she says. “Some of the finest people I know are in the cattle business. And we really are doing things right.”

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