Monday, January 31, 2011

California precip for January by the numbers

Somebody reached up (or down, as the case may be) and turned off the spigot, but we're still OK. This is where we stand.

January rainfall
Here are the January and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Monday, Jan. 31:
Redding: month to date 1.44 inches (normal 6.29 inches); season to date 17.51 inches (normal 17.92 inches)
Sacramento: month to date 1.68 inches (normal 3.71 inches); season to date 11.06 inches (normal 9.71 inches)
Stockton: month to date 0.76 inches (normal 2.62 inches); season to date 8.81 inches (normal 7.46 inches)
Modesto: month to date 1.11 inches (normal 2.47 inches); season to date 7.50 inches (normal 6.76 inches)
Salinas: month to date 1.69 inches (normal 2.53 inches); season to date 7.44 inches (normal 6.73 inches)
Fresno: month to date 1.72 inches (normal 2.08 inches); season to date 9.88 inches (normal 5.45 inches)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Jan. 30, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 74 percent
Shasta Lake: 77 percent
Lake Oroville: 69 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 72 percent
Folsom Lake: 49 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 66 percent
Lake McClure: 78 percent
Millerton Lake: 76 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 65 percent
Lake Isabella: 39 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 93 percent

Here are average snow water equivalents and comparisons to normal for the date in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center. Totals are as of Monday, Jan. 31:
North: 19 inches, 105 percent of normal
Central: 23 inches, 126 percent of normal
South: 25 inches, 166 percent of normal
Statewide: 23 inches, 130 percent of normal

For more details on January weather and where it leaves us, visit soon.

Bull sale cracks $1 million mark

The bull sale in Red Bluff, Calif., on Saturday cracked the $1 million mark for the first time since 2006.

Gross sales from the marquee event at the five-day Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale totaled $1,037,600 -- a huge jump from the more than $700,000 in total sales of bulls in 2007.

Two factors led to the big increase, bull sale manager Adam Owens told me this morning. One, the quality of bulls was good this year, and two, Red Bluff is one of the few places left in California where bulls are available. Now that the sale is over, ranchers will likely have to travel to Oregon or Nevada if they want to buy a bull this year.

For complete results from this year's bull and gelding sale, check soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Capital Press at the bull sale


The Capital Press has a booth again this year at the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, one of many events throughout the year at which our paper has a presence.

Manning the booth this year is our newest ad representative, Josef Laredo, who works out of Woodland and has Northern California as his territory. He can be reached at 916-203-8869 or at

I have a bit of a fondness for the Capital Press booth at the bull sale, having stopped there three years ago when I was working in the Red Bluff bureau for the Redding Record Searchlight. I had read the Capital Press before, but the person at the booth then told me how it worked -- that reporters throughout the West work out of their homes and cover their regions. When the Capital Press' Northern California field reporting job came open later that year, I applied.

So if you're at the bull sale, stop by for souvenirs, subscription deals and conversation. Or just come by and grab a paper.

USDA: GMO alfalfa is safe

Here is the news release from the USDA regarding genetically modified alfalfa:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.

"After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they've done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful."

After releasing a final EIS in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue exist; and areas where USDA could – or should – play an important and helpful role.

In response to the request for support from its stakeholders, USDA is taking a number of steps, including:

* Reestablishing two important USDA advisory committees - Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, and the National Genetic Resources Advisory Committee. These two committees will tackle a broad range of issues, from ensuring the availability of high quality seed, to helping ensure that growers have access to the best tools available to support their production choices, to whether risk management and indemnification options can play a role;
* Conducting research into areas such as ensuring the genetic integrity, production and preservation of alfalfa seeds entrusted to the germplasm system;
* Refining and extending current models of gene flow in alfalfa;
* Requesting proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to improve handling of forage seeds and detection of transgenes in alfalfa seeds and hay; and,
* Providing voluntary, third-party audits and verification of industry-led stewardship initiatives.

More information on these areas of support USDA will provide outside of the regulatory arena is available online .

APHIS' deregulation of Roundup ready alfalfa will become effective upon publication of the Agency's determination of nonregulated status in the Federal Register. USDA's Record of Decision on RR alfalfa is available to the public at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Bluff bull sale rumbles on


Here are a few snapshots from today's goings-on at the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, which began Tuesday and continues through Saturday at the Tehama District Fair grounds. Among today's activities was an online auction of feeders and replacement heifers, arena work for geldings and mules and stock dog workouts.

Here's what's happening the rest of the week:

* Trade and art shows, all day today, Friday and Saturday

* Working stock dogs, sale at 2:30 p.m. Friday

* Geldings and mules, arena work Friday morning and sale at 5 p.m. Friday

* Sale of all bulls, 8:30 a.m. Saturday

The sale comes as prices for cattle have been riding high, but so, too, have been the costs borne by ranchers in the form of feed and fuel.

"That's the No. 1 challenge we're faced with right now," Kenny Read of Bar KD Ranch in Culver, Ore., told me this afternoon.

For an examination of these issues and for a full report on how the sale went, check early next week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'It's time to level the playing field'

In response to my inquiries about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest ruling allowing a higher mix of ethanol in gasoline, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president Steve Fogelsong e-mailed me this statement through a spokeswoman:

“NCBA members strongly oppose government mandates and intervention in the marketplace. We are disappointed that EPA has granted Growth Energy a waiver and will allow E15 in 2001-2006 vehicles. The corn based ethanol industry is of significance to the cattle industry because of its impact on feed prices. Rather than perpetuating the government’s continued intervention in the 30-year old corn-based ethanol industry, it’s time to level the playing field for all corn end users. NCBA encourages EPA and the federal government to reevaluate U.S. renewable energy policies and evaluate the consequences these policies continue to have on all corn end users. We look forward to working with the U.S. Congress to ensure our nation’s renewable energy policies create a level playing field and do not pick winners and losers.”

This week I teamed with Idaho-based reporter Carol Ryan Dumas to take an in-depth look at the impact the EPA's ruling will have on animal agriculture. Look for the story at later in the week.

Ag committee chair reacts to SOTU

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, issued this statement about President Obama's State of the Union address:

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, I was happy to sit with my Republican colleague from the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas. The unity that was demonstrated tonight by members of both parties is very encouraging.

“I am pleased that the President focused on the most important issue for Michigan: helping our businesses grow and create jobs. As he said tonight, the way we do this is by out-innovating, out-building, and out-educating our competition. I am also happy he will continue to seek bipartisan action to address the budget deficit in a responsible way.

“I will continue to work with the President and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep our focus on jobs, expanding opportunities for small businesses, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture. Our top priority needs to be a focus on jobs for everyone who wants and needs to work and creating opportunities for every family and every business to succeed and prosper.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beef forum kicks off bull sale week

In Red Bluff, Calif., this morning, ranchers and others piled into the Don Smith Pavilion for a pancake breakfast and forum on the use of antibiotics in beef cattle, all to kick off the five-day Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale.

The forum featured Eric Moore, a Kansas-based veterinarian for Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health, who was there to explain why some treatments work to combat bovine respiratory disease while others fail. Despite the fact that antibiotic use has been "under attack," it all falls under strict regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said.

"If you see this Rx sign on a product, that's a prescription product," Moore told the gathering. "There are laws that govern using this product."

Activities at the Tehama District Fair grounds continued this morning with sifting and grading of calving-ease and range ready bulls in the pavilion.

For my story on the antibiotics lecture, check back at soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A case for Roundup Ready alfalfa

Jeff Fowle, a rancher from Etna, Calif., blogs:

Arguments against Roundup Ready alfalfa are flying around the internet like “flies on stink.” Ironically, that is pretty much what the arguments against GMO alfalfa are…”stink.”

We have been growing alfalfa for more than 30 years on our ranch, for personal use and for sale, averaging roughly 6.5 tons per acre on 130 acres. I am very familiar with the attributes of alfalfa, its growing patterns, nutritive needs, life span and harvesting.

For those throwing out arguments against GMO alfalfa, it is very apparent that they have no understanding of the production of the forage.

Fowle explains the issue here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cattlemen like Obama's 'newfound' commitment

... to eliminating what they call "growth-killing" regulations.

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed news that President Obama today, Jan. 18, 2011, signed an Executive Order titled “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” that seeks to review all federal regulations and eliminate job and growth-killing regulations.

“If there were one word to describe the first two years of President Obama’s Administration, it would be regulation,” NCBA President Steve Foglesong said. “From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed livestock and poultry marketing rule to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory rampage – this Administration’s regulatory agenda to-date won’t just stymie growth in the U.S. beef cattle industry, it could kill the industry as we know it.”

According to a Jan. 18, 2011, article appearing in The Wall Street Journal, President Obama said the Executive Order calls for “a government-wide review” of federal regulations and “to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” Additionally, the President said this Executive Order will help ensure the federal government avoids “excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation” and directs “federal agencies to do more to account for — and reduce — the burdens regulations may place on small businesses.”

Foglesong said this action from the President is reassuring but needs to happen immediately. Specifically, Foglesong said EPA’s dust regulation would essentially make it illegal to drive a truck down a dirt road. He said USDA’s rule on livestock marketing is a perfect example of government overreach into the private marketplace.

“This Executive Order is a step in the right direction for this Administration. NCBA supports common sense regulation based on sound-science that will encourage growth in the industry,” Foglesong said. “Unfortunately, many of the regulations that have been proposed over the past two years will have detrimental impacts on cattle producers’ ability to do their jobs. We look forward to working with the Administration on this new initiative to eliminate job and growth-killing regulations and to move the U.S. economy and the cattle industry in the right direction forward.”

Count me as skeptical of any talk of easing regulatory burdens when the USDA is doing an end-around of Congress by teaching farmers to participate in carbon markets that don't even exist yet.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Groups react to EPA ethanol ruling

Sent to Capital Press this morning by the American Meat Institute and National Chicken Council:

Diverse Coalition Responds to EPA Decision on E15

(WASHINGTON, DC) - A coalition of business, environmental, budget watchdog and public interest groups issued the following statements in response to today's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to expand the scope of its October, 2010 decision to allow a 50 percent increase—from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15)—in the amount of ethanol permitted in gasoline. Today's decision by the EPA broadens its earlier decision to allow E15 gasoline in model year 2007 or newer automobiles. The new higher ethanol-content fuel will now be available for use in millions of cars in model years 2001 to 2006 as well.


“EPA’s decision to increase the ethanol blend to E15 will further increase volatility in the grain markets. This could hasten the reduction in wheat acres and raise Americans’ food bills. U.S. cropland is already stretched to its limit. Increasing the blend has the potential to further impact commodity stocks and ultimately food prices. The grain markets are currently experiencing near record volatility and prices have edged closer to the record levels of 2008.”

-Robb MacKie, President and CEO, American Bakers Association

“Why is the government forcing consumers to use an inefficient fuel that causes the price of food to skyrocket? Corn ethanol gets less miles per gallon, and is less efficient than gasoline. Now that more cars are ‘approved’ to use E15, according to the EPA, then we can expect the price of regular gasoline to increase to encourage use of this inefficient fuel. All subsidies and mandates to use ethanol should be repealed.”

-Bill Wilson, President, Americans for Limited Government

“Increased pressure on the corn supply has again pushed corn above $6.00 a bushel, levels not seen since 2008. This announcement only means that more corn will be diverted from an already thinning supply and increased pressure will be put on the meat and poultry sector which is already facing near record high feed costs. For consumers who are concerned about food prices, this decision will further increase prices at the grocery store. Burning our food and feed as fuel is not a sustainable approach to solving this country’s long-term energy needs.”

-J. Patrick Boyle, President and CEO, American Meat Institute

“With this decision, the Obama administration has just voided car warranties for millions of Americans at the behest of the corn and ethanol lobby. The confusion at the pump will be unimaginable, as will the costly burden placed on taxpayers as cars and small engines not made to burn corn ethanol break down after misfueling. Taxpayers have invested billions in a fuel that does little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil while tearing up the land and polluting fresh water."

-Shelia Karpf, Legislative and Policy Analyst, Environmental Working Group

"The EPA's decision amounts to a New Year's gift to corporate ethanol interests that is bad for consumers and bad for the environment. Corn ethanol is a highly polluting fuel that causes more climate-damaging emissions than regular gasoline, according to the EPA's own scientific analysis. Consumers are bound to get confused at the pump, and using more ethanol in engines not configured to run on ethanol could lead to engine damage and increased emissions of toxic air pollutants."

-Kate McMahon, Biofuels Campaign Coordinator, Friends of the Earth

"Today's decision will divert even more food and feed to fuel, increasing food prices at a time when food prices are already rising. We urge EPA and the Obama Administration to put the needs of ordinary Americans ahead of the needs of the ethanol industry and reverse this decision."

-Geoff Moody, Director, Energy and Environmental Policy, Grocery Manufacturers Association

“Dairy processors and farmers are increasingly aware of the impact that ethanol policies are having on feed costs and ultimately what consumers are paying for dairy products. EPA’s decision is unfortunately another step in the wrong direction. “

-Jerry Slominski, Sr. Vice President, International Dairy Foods Association

“EPA’s decision is another giveaway to the ethanol interests and again demonstrates EPA cannot or will not balance the broad national interests on this issue. E15 may be good for ethanol producers and corn farmers but it is clearly detrimental to all other interested parties. To the extent EPA and the ethanol industry actually manage to force more ethanol into the nation’s motor gasoline, they will put even more pressure on the already very tight supply of corn. When consumers ask why their food costs are higher, it will be difficult for EPA to explain that today’s decision had no impact on the food shopper’s dollar.”

-Bill Roenigk, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, National Chicken Council.

“This decision literally takes food out of the mouths of American consumers in order to increase the profits of the ethanol industry. When corn and all the food products derived from it are diverted away from the dinner table, that drives up the cost of a meal for every American family whether they are eating in a restaurant or at home. Turning corn into ethanol and burning it as fuel should not take priority over feeding families at an affordable price.”

-Scott Vinson, Vice President, National Council of Chain Restaurants

"This decision to increase the ethanol blend in gasoline is environmentally shortsighted and virtually guaranteed to negatively impact U.S. food security."

- Barry Carpenter, CEO, National Meat Association

“For several decades now, Washington has propped up ethanol through subsidies, sweetheart tax deals, mandates, and other schemes. The EPA shouldn't encourage this dash for cash even further by using its authority to expand E15's usage. Taxpayers are already groaning under the weight of past mistakes with ethanol policy; it's time for government to stop breaking their backs.”

-Pete Sepp, Executive Vice President, National Taxpayers Union

“EPA’s decision completely disregarded significant scientific and economic evidence surrounding E15 and its potentially disastrous impact. It sends a terrible signal to an already volatile market at a time when corn supplies are very tight. The long-term potential for diverting even larger amounts of corn away from food and feed is a recipe for that could result in consumers paying more for food.”

-Joel Brandenberger, President, National Turkey Federation

Local Farm Bureau seeking members

Kari Dodd, manager of the Tehama County (Calif.) Farm Bureau, posted this on Facebook:

Tehama County Farm Bureau needs YOU! We are looking for new members who want to support agriculture! Become a member and receive discounts at Red Bluff Yamaha, Allied and Nationwide Insurance, RAM pickups, theme parks and choice hotels, just to name a few. For more information, contact Kari Dodd at 530-527-7882.

Road trip: Peaches, tractors and bulls


Lots of exciting things are happening in Northern California agriculture these days.

Yesterday I went to the University of California Cooperative Extension's annual Cling Peach Day in Yuba City, where Ginny Hair (top photo) of the California Cling Peach Board explained the many ways she and her partners are reaching out to schools and others to market American-grown canned peaches.

From there I stopped in Colusa and talked with Mitch Dihel (middle photo) of Beeler Tractor Co., who told me that participating in the annual Colusa Farm Show helps bring exposure to his business. This year's show is happening Feb. 1-3 at the fairgrounds there.

And finally, I watched preparations for next week's Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, which begins Tuesday. The bottom photo is of forklift operator Tony Welch lowering the trade show office into place at the Tehama District Fair grounds.

For my story on the cling peach marketing efforts and for ongoing coverage of the bull sale and farm show, keep checking in the coming days.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Local 4-Hers help the homeless

Sharyn Cornelius of the East Valley Times in Palo Cedro, Calif., reports:

Members of local 4-H clubs have formed a mobile soup kitchen to provide a hot lunch for homeless people one day a month. On Monday, Jan. 17, a school holiday, three members of the Twin Palms and Cow Creek clubs—Dani Plake, Karah Harbuck, and Ruth Bailey–gathered in the Millville kitchen of Adrienne Hulst, Cow Creek 4-H community leader, to cook up a batch of chili and bake cornbread muffins. They will also hand out bottled water and canned peaches.

Hulst, who is also the goat project leader, had to help one of her young charges with a goat-birthing emergency that morning, but she left the young cooks under the capable supervision of her daughter Sierra, Twin Palms community leader Lynette Plake, and mothers Heather Dyer and Jennifer Collins.

As the girls poured cornbread batter into muffin cups and stirred the chili, they talked about what it meant to them to be able to help the homeless and what they had learned from the experience.

More here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Red Bluff Bull Sale awaits


[ Photo caption: Amy Anderson of Eagle Point, Ore., shows her entry in the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale's first-ever art show. ]

As I wrote about last week, the 70th Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale is happening Tuesday, Jan. 25, through Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Tehama District Fair grounds.

Here is the complete schedule, courtesy of the bull sale Web site:


7:30AM Kick-Off Breakfast & Beef Forum, "Antibiotics and BRD, How treatments work and why they fail" presented by Intervet/Schering-Plough, Don Smith Pavilion.

10:30AM Sifting & Grading of CALVING-EASE and RANGE READY BULLS, Don Smith Pavilion.


7:30AM Sifting & Grading of all Breeds of HALTER BULLS, Don Smith Pavilion.

12:00PM Trade Show opens. Closes at 7:00PM.

1:00PM Working Stock Dogs - All dogs work OUTSIDE.
3:30-5:30PM TED ROBINSON COWHORSE CLINIC, Presented by Purina Mills, LLC., Pauline Davis Pavilion
6:00PM Buyer & Consignor Dinner - $15/person. Fairgrounds Cafeteria. Cocktails 6:00PM. Dinner at 7:00PM Youth Activity Fund Raffle: 7:30PM and Auction of Red Bluff's Buckin' Best Bull Riders.


7:00AM GELDINGS & MULES - Shown at halter, in age order, youngest to oldest. Pauline Davis Pavilion.

9:00AM Trade Show Opens. Closes at 9:00PM.

11:00AM Novartis Animal Health Seminar, Don Smith Pavilion.
12:30PM WVM INTERNET FEEDER/REPLACEMENT FEMALE SALE, presented by Walco/Novartis, Don Smith Pavilion.
1:00PM GELDING & MULES - Dry work under saddle, versatility, open cattle work, Pauline Davis Pavilion.

5:00PM Art Show Wine & Cheese Reception, Hosted by Raley's, Ron Knight Building.

6:00-7:15PM TED ROBINSON COWHORSE CLINIC. Presented by Purina Mills, LLC., Pauline Davis Pavilion.
7:30PM GELDINGS - Conformation Horse Selected. Pauline Davis Pavilion.
WORKING STOCKDOGS. Working all Stockdogs inside, Pauline Davis Pavilion.


6:00AM Cowboy Pancake Breakfast - Pauline Davis Pavilion.
8:00AM GELDINGS & MULES - Roping, Cutting, Hackamore/Snaffle Bit & Stock Horse Contest. SELECTION OF THE CRAIG OWENS IDEAL RANCH HORSE, Pauline Davis Pavilion.
9:00AM Trade Show Opens. Closes at 9:00PM.
11:00AM Pfizer Animal Health Seminar. Don Smith Pavilion.
11:00AM Luncheon by Tehama County Cattle Women, Fairgrounds Cafeteria.
12:00PM WORKING OF STOCKDOGS - Final Round - Work outside.
3:30PM DOORS OPEN FOR GELDING & MULE SALE, Pauline Davis Pavilion.
4:00PM 11th Annual Chico State Ag. Alumni Reunion, Fairgrounds Cafeteria. Information: Leslie Santos (530)898-6343 / Shelley Macdonald (530)527-1941.
4:00PM Vic Woolery's Famous Tri-Tip BBQ before & during the Gelding Sale. $10.00/person. Pauline Davis Pavilion.
5:00PM SALE OF QUARTER HORSE, PAINT GELDINGS & SADDLE MULES, PRESENTED BY ROLLING HILLS CASINO. Pauline Davis Pavilion. Animals sold in computer drawn order. Admission is $10.00/person. Tickets available at door, or call office.


9:00AM Trade Show opens. Closes at 7:00PM.
7:00PM RED BLUFF'S BUCKIN' BEST BULL RIDING featuring Top Cowboys going head-to-head with the rankest bucking bulls & broncs in rodeo! Party & Dance immediately following. Pre-Sale General
admission: $20/person, $25 at door, Arena Floor Seating Pre-Sale $30/person, $35 at door:
V.I.P. Premier Seating, Parking, Reception, Appetizers: Pre-Sale $75, $80 at door.

Friday, January 14, 2011

USMEF: November exports achieve highs

From the U.S. Meat Export Federation:

November exports of U.S. pork and beef reached their highest monthly volumes in more than two years, according to results compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports totaled 177,203 metric tons valued at $443.4 million - increases of 5 percent in volume and 15 percent in value over November 2009. For January through November, exports were up 2 percent in volume (1.73 million metric tons) and 10 percent in value ($4.34 billion). The cumulative value total is just 4 percent below the all-time record pace set in the first 11 months of 2008. For the year, exports accounted for 23.6 percent of production with a per-head value equivalent of $43.61 ($44.80 in November alone). For the same period in 2009, exports equated to 22.5 percent of production with a per-head value of $38.42. In the record export year of 2008, the per-head value was $42.30.

Beef export value in November was $389.5 million, an increase of nearly 50 percent over November 2009. By volume (101,323 metric tons), beef exports exceeded the year-ago level by 32 percent. For the first 11 months of 2010, exports were 18 percent above 2009 in terms of volume (964,369 metric tons) and 30 percent higher by value ($3.67 billion). The value total is about 1 percent ahead of the 2003 pace when beef exports went on to set a single-year record of $3.86 billion. Exports accounted for 11.6 percent of production with a per-head value equivalent of $150.36 ($178. 20 in November) - up dramatically from the 2009 totals of 9.8 percent and $117.80.

"November was clearly one of the best months on record for U.S. meat exports," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "With economies improving throughout the world, U.S. pork and beef are well-positioned for strong growth. We worked through some very difficult economic circumstances in 2009, but we're now seeing those persistent marketing efforts pay big dividends as exports are adding more and more value to every animal produced."

More here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is the green movement fading?

One poll suggests it may be. From

Automakers beware! Hybrid cars may dominate at the Detroit Auto Show, but fewer Americans said they purchased a hybrid car in 2010 than in 2009, according to a new Harris Interactive Poll.

In fact, only 8 percent of those surveyed said they "purchased a hybrid or more fuel efficient car" in 2010. That compares with 13 percent who said they had in 2009.

Only 1 percent of Americans said they bought a hybrid car -- down from 2 percent the year before.

The poll, released on Monday, also shows that fewer Americans overall are "going green," as compared to 2009.

In addition to purchasing a hybrid, American adults were less likely to engage in a host of "green" behaviors in their daily life in 2010, including:

-- "Making an effort to use less water" (57 percent in 2010 vs. 60 percent in 2009)

-- "Purchasing locally grown produce" (33 percent vs. 39 percent)

-- "Purchasing locally manufactured products" (23 percent vs. 29 percent)

-- "Purchasing organic products" (15 percent vs. 17 percent)

-- "Composting food and organic waste" (15 percent vs. 17 percent).

More here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When driving in California, be extremely careful

From Doug Christian, a Redding, Calif., business consultant, on his Facebook page:

Please be extremely careful in your driving and car registration & insurance matters. State of California is broke and they are trying hard to squeeze all of us hard to collect money.

Effective immediately, if you do not stop at the red l...ight, be ready to pay $436 in fines or if you pass a school bus with flashing red signals, you will be charged $616. The state of California is going for blood, so be extra careful in driving, You cannot afford messing with them. I have been hearing that Highway Patrols are under pressure to issue a lot more tickets than last year with at least 30% increase in fines over 2009, so beware of radar guns, highway and traffic cameras installed everywhere and the tougher enforcement of parking rules.

Just for your info, the next time you park in the handicapped zone, even for a minute, you will be looking at almost $ 1000 in parking tickets , so it'd better be worth it.

California needs money, so pay close attention to the rules of the road!

Traffic Ticket Fines (Effective 01/06/2011)

VC 12814.6 $214 Failure to obey license provisions.

VC 14600(A) $214 Failure to notify DMV of address change within 10 days

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 16028(A) $796 Failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility (insurance)

Note: This fine may be reduced with proof of insurance on or after the violation date.

VC 21453(A) $436 Failure to stop at a red signal.

VC 22349 $214 Unsafe speed, 1 to 15 miles over the limit.

VC 22350 $328 Unsafe speed, 16 to 25 miles over the limit.

VC 22450 $214 Failure to stop at a stop sign.

VC 22454(A) $616 Passing a school bus with flashing red signals.

VC 23123(A) $148 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands free, first offense .

someone who got this ended up paying $274

VC 23123(B) $256 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands free, each subsequent offense.

VC 23123.5 $148 Driving while using a wireless device to send, read or write text.

VC 23124 $148 Minor driving while using a wireless phone.

VC 22500 $976 Parking in a bus loading area.

VC 22507(A) $976 Violation of disabled parking provisions, first offense.

VC 22507(B) $1876 Violation of disabled parking provisions, second offense.

VC 26708 $178 Unlawful material on vehicle windows.

VC 27150 $178 Adequate muffler required.

VC 27315 $148 Mandatory use of seat belts.

VC 27360 $436 Mandatory use of passenger child restraints.

Note: This fine may be reduced by completing a court authorized child seat diversion program .

VC 27400 $178 Headsets or Earplugs covering both ears.

VC 27803 $178 Violation of motorcycle safety helmet requirements.

VC 34506 $616 Commercial Driver - Log book violation.

VC 4000 $256 No evidence of current registration.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 4159 $178 Notify DMV of change of address within 10 days.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 5200 $178 Proper display of license plates.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 9400 $178 Commercial weight fees due.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction Look out for the money grabbers in Sacramento but don‘t blame the cops. They don’t set the fines or collect them!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rising fuel prices squeezing truckers, producers


Wilfredo Vazquez, who owns Vazquez Transport in Hawthorne, Calif., said he has seen the price of diesel fuel rise from $3.08 a gallon last month to $3.38 a gallon as of this morning.

"Fuel prices have gone up really bad," Vazquez told me during a stop today at the Redding Travel Plaza. "It's crazy."

Vazquez, who was hauling a load to Washington state, said it's harder for truck owner-operators to make ends meet because the people who pay them don't give them increases to offset their fuel costs.

For my story on how rising oil prices are affecting agriculture, check later this week.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The beef industry ushers in 2011


[ Photo captions -- Top: California Cattlemen's Association past president Tom Talbot (left) talks with Bill Donald, incoming president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Middle: From left, Talbot, University of California-Davis graduate student Roxann Brooks and UC-Davis researcher Jeffrey Stott give an update on efforts to develop a vaccine for foothill abortion. Bottom: People socialize and examine silent auction items before the Tehama County Cattlemen's and CattleWomen's annual dinner Saturday night in Red Bluff, Calif. ]

A near record crowd gathered in Red Bluff, Calif., on Saturday night for the annual Tehama County Cattlemen's and CattleWomen's dinner and auction to raise funds for a scholarship program. The event was held at the Tehama District Fair grounds.

The packed house welcomed several beef industry dignitaries, including incoming National Cattlemen's Beef Association president Bill Donald, a Montana rancher, and new California Cattlemen's Association president Kevin Kester. Also on hand was U.S. Rep. Wally Herger of Northern California, the top Western Republican on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, as well as newly sworn in state Sen. Doug LaMalfa and second-term Assemblyman Jim Nielsen.

Among newsworthy goings-on during the evening:

-- In a presentation before the dinner, University of California-Davis researchers told area ranchers that progress is being made in the effort to develop a vaccine for foothill abortion, a tick-carried malady that kills calf fetuses. A federal licensing application process has begun, and an interim vaccine should be in the field within the next couple of years.

-- Donald, who will take over in February for outgoing NCBA president Steve Foglesong, said he wants to usher in a new spirit of cooperation with other national beef organizations after the industry was fractured last year over the debate over GIPSA. A one-time R-CALF member in its early days, Donald said dueling press releases between organizations doesn't help the industry.

For more details on these issues, check early this week.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The inflation train has left the station

On the subject of inflation, this just in from the American Farm Bureau Federation:

Retail food prices at the supermarket increased slightly during the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $46.97, up 80 cents or about 2 percent compared to the third quarter of 2010. Of the 16 items surveyed, nine increased, six decreased and one remained the same in average price compared to the prior quarter. The total average price for the 16 items was up $4.07 (about 10 percent) compared to one year ago.

Bacon, eggs, whole milk, sliced deli ham and bread increased the most in dollar value compared to the third quarter.

Bacon increased 68 cents to $4.32 per pound; eggs and whole milk increased 19 cents to $1.60 per dozen and $3.35 per gallon, respectively; sliced deli ham increased 18 cents to $4.84 per pound; and bread increased 14 cents to $1.75 for a 20-ounce loaf.

“Hearty breakfast lovers felt the pinch in the fourth quarter of 2010,” said AFBF Economist John Anderson. “Increased consumer demand for meats and dairy products that began in 2009 continued through the fourth quarter of 2010. Wholesale meat supplies remained tight in the fourth quarter of the year, due to smaller livestock herds and poultry flocks, which also contributed to the retail price increases our volunteer shoppers reported.”

Other items that increased in price since the third quarter were sirloin tip roast, up 9 cents to $3.95 per pound; shredded cheddar cheese, up 7 cents to $4.16 per pound; toasted oat cereal and vegetable oil, up 4 cents each to $2.88 for a 9-ounce box and 32-ounce bottle, respectively.

Most items showing an increase in retail price from quarter-to-quarter also showed year-to-year increases. Compared to one year ago, bacon was up 44 percent, eggs were up 4 percent, whole milk was up 10 percent and sliced deli ham was up 11 percent.

“Increasing our nation’s livestock herd to meet the growing demand for meat and dairy products takes time, so we are likely to see retail prices continue to increase for some foods throughout 2011,” Anderson said.

Six foods decreased slightly in price compared to the prior quarter: boneless chicken breasts, down 34 cents to $3.10 per pound; flour, down 16 cents to $1.99 for a 5-pound bag; Russet potatoes, down 13 cents to $2.50 for a 5-pound bag; ground chuck, down 10 cents to $2.83 per pound; and bagged salad, down 6 cents to $2.69 per pound.

Orange juice remained the same in price at $2.97 for a half-gallon.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index ( report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now just over 20 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $46.97 marketbasket would be $9.39.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends since 1989. The mix of foods in the marketbasket was updated during the first quarter of 2008.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 92 shoppers in 29 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in late October/early November.

The Farm Bureau article also tracks milk and egg price trends for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, world food prices rose to record levels in December on higher sugar, grain and oilseed costs, and oil prices have reached $95 a barrel. (For my look at how rising fuel costs are affecting agriculture, check in a few days.)

It's all only beginning, folks.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Senators to Vilsack: Keep your promise

From the American Meat Institute:

A dozen senators are urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to follow through on a pledge that a “far more rigorous cost-benefit analysis (CBA) will be conducted” on the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) livestock marketing rule.

“We are hopeful that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now on the path to conducting a thorough, comprehensive CBA, which will provide the kind of information that is necessary to understand the potential consequences of this rule,” said the senators in a letter to Vilsack.

The senators noted that this announcement leads to several relevant questions including:

* To what extent will the USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber and the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) will be involved?
* To what extent will the Office of Information at the White House Office of Management and Budget will be involved?
* What is the scope of the CBA that will be conducted?
* Could the rule actually lead to decreased competition and fewer markets for American producers to market their livestock?

“Given the significance of the potential impacts of the proposed rule on livestock and poultry producers, processors and consumers, it is essential that we proceed with the best information we can, including a thorough and comprehensive CBA conducted by the OCE, aided by an impartial, external peer review,” the letter concluded.

To view the letter, click here:

For more on this issue, check soon.

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