Tuesday, May 24, 2011

U.S. meat still feeds Japan quake victims

From the U.S. Meat Export Federation:

Groups of displaced Japanese citizens ranging from several hundred to more than 10,000 were served meals of U.S. beef and pork in recent weeks through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Japan Relief and Recovery Effort.

Working with Japanese retail and food service industry partners, USMEF is continuing to provide welcome meals to as many people as possible who were left homeless by the March 11 earthquake and the following tsunami. Products provided for the meals range from diced U.S. beef and pork served over rice to pork sausage and cooked peppered beef that require refrigeration, which are being provided to those who can enjoy fresh-cooked meals at their shelters.

The USMEF relief effort was joined recently by the Nebraska Beef Council, which donated $35,000, swelling the campaign coffers to $540,000.

“There are so many people who need and want our help, but the generosity of the producers in the USMEF network in the United States has enabled us to provide welcome meals to tens of thousands of displaced people,” said Susumu (Sam) Harada, USMEF-Japan senior director of trade projects and technical services. “The ‘thank-yous’ that we are hearing from people who have not had a meal with pork or beef in more than two months are heartfelt and sincere.”

In one of the biggest single relief efforts, USMEF is partnering with Japanese food industry giant Ito Ham to produce an estimated 20,000 servings of food that are being served to displaced residents in the heavily damaged prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima during the final weeks of May.

The Japanese restaurant chain Skylark has been serving an estimated 1,200 food servings per day in the city of Kesen-numa in Miyagi, which was virtually destroyed by the tsunami following the earthquake. USMEF is supplying U.S. red meat to Skylark to assist in its efforts.

Working with the nonprofit organization Bond & Justice and wholesaler Meat-Companion Company, Ltd., USMEF served an estimated 1,200 meals in Iwate and Fukushima last week.

Meat processor Hannan Foods Group and USMEF served much-welcomed hot meals to a group of about 200 senior citizens in Ishinomaki City, one of the areas most heavily damaged by the tsunami. Forced to live in a very tightly-packed shelter, the displaced seniors enjoyed their first meal containing meat since the natural disaster struck.

“The people thanked us for traveling so far from Tokyo to help them,” said Harada.

Food service leader Yoshinoya teamed last week with long-time partner USMEF on distribution of frozen gyudon (rice bowl with beef or pork) in the city of Tome, which is located northeast of Sendai More than 900 people who were evacuated from the coastal areas are being housed in Tome, and USMEF and Yoshinoya worked together to serve an estimated 6,000 meals to those affected.

USMEF also is in final discussion stages with retail leader York Benimaru, which is headquartered in the city of Fukushima, to produce bento (lunch) box meals that would help the thousands of affected residents in that region.

“Sadly, the need will not end soon,” said Harada. “Thousands of people in the coastal areas remain displaced. But the support of U.S. producers is making it possible for us to give some welcome relief. The people we are helping are thankful that their friends in America have not forgotten them.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Podcast: Bankruptcy and American farms

While large companies grab headlines when they file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, many family farmers and ranchers turn to Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Listen in as reporter Mateusz Perkowski and copy editor Will Koenig discuss the issue.

To listen, click here.

Have you faced a Chapter 12 bankruptcy or do you know someone who has? Leave your thoughts below.

Prices for U.S. wood up worldwide

[Photo caption: Cut logs are loaded onto a truck on private timberland east of Shingletown, Calif.]

From a quarterly report published by Wood Resources International LLC:

Higher lumber production, increased log trade and a weak US dollar were three factors that pushed sawlog prices up in dollar terms worldwide in the 1Q/11.

Wood fiber costs for pulp mills worldwide rose for the third consecutive quarter in the 1Q/11.

Global pulp prices stayed strong during the quarter and actually increased to record-high levels in the month of April.

Global demand for softwood lumber increased by about 18 percent in 2010. Lumber imports to Japan were up 21 percent. The weak building and construction market in Europe late last year resulted in lower lumber demand. During the first two months of 2011, lumber production was up in most provinces of Canada.

The housing market in the US South has fared relatively better than the rest of the country resulting in higher lumber consumption.

While the US and Canadian domestic pellet industry struggled through another year of weak domestic market demand and overcapacity, pellet exports to Europe continued to rise.

Lawmakers lash out at GIPSA again

The U.S. Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed restrictions on livestock and poultry marketing have never been very popular in Congress. Now 147 House of Representatives members -- including more than a dozen from the West -- are calling on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw the proposed rule, which was introduced almost a year ago.

From the National Chicken Council:

More than one-third of the members of the House of Representatives have called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to go back to the drawing board with a rule on the marketing of livestock and poultry proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

“Withdrawing the June 22, 2010, proposed rule and re-proposing a revised rule once the Department completes its economic analysis would allow stakeholders the opportunity they deserve to comment on what we hope will be substantial changes to the proposed rule more consistent with the intent of Congress outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill,” said a letter signed by 147 members.

“I am grateful for the action taken by so many members of Congress in urging the Secretary of Agriculture to withdraw and re-propose the GIPSA rule,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council. “This would allow dialogue to resume between affected industries and the USDA, a dialogue that was cut off by the end of the comment period in November. The GIPSA rule clearly needs more careful review in light of its impact on economic growth, jobs, and the Administration’s stated goal of doubling exports.”

The rule proposed by GIPSA would make profound changes in the relationship between ranchers and farmers who produce cattle, swine, chickens, and turkey and the companies that bring meat and poultry products to market. GIPSA wrote the proposed rule in response to four specific mandates in the last Farm Bill after debate in which several other proposed mandates were rejected.

“Congress provided a narrow set of issues for the Department to address,” the letter said. “It is troubling that the Department appears to be using the rule-making process to accomplish objectives specifically rejected by Congress, and we are confident any such rule will not be looked upon favorably by Congress.”

USDA published the proposed rule last year with only a cursory economic analysis, and Vilsack has agreed to conduct a more detailed analysis before a final rule is published.

“Particularly in a climate in which additional scrutiny is being applied to regulations seen as overreaching or overly burdensome, we urge the Department to proceed in a transparent manner that allows for those most impacted by this action a chance to comment on not only pending changes to the proposal but the accompanying economic analysis as well,” the letter said. The members also asked for an update from Vilsack on the timeline for completion of the economic analysis and further action on the proposal.

Those signing the letter include both Republicans and Democrats and a majority of the members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Dairy Livestock, and Poultry.

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for more than 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

For my story on reaction to the letter and an update on where the process stands, check CapitalPress.com early next week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

UC-Davis study examines chicken housing

From UC-Davis' Ag and Natural Resources department:

UC Davis and Michigan State University have received $6 million from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply to support research on the sustainability of laying hen housing in the United States.

The first study of its kind, the three-year "CSES Laying Hen Housing Research Project" will explore the interactions and tradeoffs among food safety, worker safety, environmental impact, hen health and welfare, and food affordability aspects of three different housing systems. Information generated by the research is expected to help egg purchasers and producers make objective, science-based decisions as the egg industry evolves in response to consumer needs and desires.

The goal of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply is to evaluate the viability of various laying hen housing systems. The coalition is composed of leading animal welfare scientists, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, egg suppliers, food manufacturers, and restaurant/food-service and retail food companies. It is facilitated by the Center for Food Integrity, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 to increase consumer trust and confidence in today's U.S. food system.

"We are pleased to partner with such prestigious research organizations on this important work," said Charlie Arnot, chief executive officer of the Center for Food Integrity. "Today there is much discussion about laying hen housing and standards of care but those conversations are centered primarily on one aspect of sustainability and lack adequate data from current commercial U.S. egg production facilities to provide the information necessary to make informed decisions. CSES members believe it is important to consider all potential impacts of responsible production in evaluating egg production systems. We hope the knowledge gained will benefit CSES members as well as the entire egg industry."

Joy Mench, a UC Davis animal science professor and director of the Center for Animal Welfare, said that the funding offers the first opportunity for researchers to study the potentially wide-ranging impacts of producing eggs in different kinds of commercial hen housing systems in the U.S.

"The information gained will be useful to all consumers as they make decisions about what kinds of eggs to buy," Mench said.

Janice Swanson, director of animal welfare and a professor of animal science at Michigan State University said: "Our goal is to thoroughly understand the full range of sustainability factors. This multiyear study will examine seasonal shifts, bird lifecycles, bird health and behavior, environmental impacts, human health and other factors affecting the sustainability of the egg production system."

The funding will support a comprehensive study examining five sustainability areas: environmental impact, food safety, worker safety, animal health and well-being, and food affordability. The study will be conducted in commercial-scale buildings of three types:
* conventional cage housing, the type of housing currently used by the majority of U.S. egg producers;
* enriched cage housing (also known as a furnished colony system), which provides more freedom of movement because the cages are larger than conventional cages and is also equipped with perches, nesting areas, and material designed to facilitate foraging and dust-bathing behavior; and
* cage-free aviary, a non-cage system that allows the hens to roam within a section of a building at floor level and vertically to perches and nest boxes.

Mench and Swanson are the co-scientific directors for the study.

Darrin Karcher of Michigan State University is the overall project coordinator. Additional cooperating research institutions include Iowa State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

The first research flock was established in late April 2011. The study will be replicated over two flocks with study completion expected in 2014. For updates on the CSES research, please visit http://www.SustainableEggCoalition.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Research: Strawberries may prevent cancer

From the California Strawberry Commission:

A new study by The Ohio State University suggests strawberries may help prevent human esophageal cancer. This news comes at a time when, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

According to lead researcher, Tong Chen, M.D., PhD, strawberries may help protect those at risk of esophageal cancer. This study builds on previously published research by Chen and colleagues in China, who found that freeze-http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdried strawberries significantly inhibited tumor development.

These results were presented at the 2011 anhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnual meeting of the American Association for Cancer
Research in Orlando, Florida. This study examining the beneficial impact of strawberries on cancer prevention was funded by the California Strawberry Commission.

Researchers from The Ohio State University are also investigating the effects of strawberries on reducing inflammation-associated colorectal cancer.

For more details regarding the study, please visit: http://bit.ly/gtXlFC

Esophageal cancer is the third most common gastrointestinal cancer and the sixth most frequent cause of cancer death in the world.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Haymakers see a good first cutting


Above, Cottonwood hay grower Ivar Amen holds a fistful of alfalfa to check it for dryness. Below, Miguel Torres of Alturas-based Brent Dolby Hay rakes a field in Cottonwood that had been cut.

California hay producers say they're getting good tonnage out of their first cuttings. For my story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Farmer's dilemma

This news item out of Kentucky caught my eye when it came over the Ag News feed on my other blog.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer will have a portion of his paycheck docked for back taxes after neglecting to report years worth of personal mileage on state-owned vehicles.

Bill Clary, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, said Wednesday that Farmer relied on bad advice from the department's executive team when he failed to track personal mileage during his first term in office.

Despite policy revisions in 2008, Farmer's personal mileage continued to go unreported because of a clerical blunder in the department, he said.

I don't know a thing about the guy's troubles. But what a name for an ag commissioner.

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