FAO Food Price Index down 7%: The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that its Food Price Index dropped for the third consecutive month in December 2012, edging down 1.1% to 209 points. The decline was led by reductions in the international prices of major cereals, oils and fats. The index set a previous low in 2012 at 200 points in June. For 2012 as a whole, the index averaged 212 -- 7.0% less than in 2011 -- with the sharpest year-over-year declines registered in sugar (-17.1%), dairy products (-14.5%) and oils (-10.7%). Price declines were much more modest for cereals (-2.4%) and meat (-1.1%). "The result marks a reversal from the situation last July, when sharply rising prices prompted fears of a new food crisis, but international coordination, ... as well as flagging demand in a stagnant international economy, helped ensure that the price spike was short-lived and calmed markets so that 2012 prices ended up below the previous year's levels," said FAO assistant director-general Jomo Sundaram.
House Ag Committee members named: House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) recently announced their appointments to the committee for the 113th Congress. Peterson's announcement included 11 new appointments and freshman members. The new members include: Reps. Ann Kuster (D., N.H.), Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.), Filemon Vela (D., Texas), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D., Cal.), Juan Vargas (D., Cal.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.), Pete Gallego (D., Texas), Rick Nolan (D., Minn.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D., N.Y.), Suzan DelBene (D., Wash.) and William Enyart (D., Ill.). Lucas' announcement included eight new appointments, five of whom are freshmen. These appointments include: Reps. Dan Benishek (R., Mich.), Jeff Denham (R., Cal.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), along with incoming freshman Reps. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), Richard Hudson (R., N.C.), Doug LaMalfa (R., Cal.) and Ted Yoho (R., Fla.). Lucas also recently announced the creation of two new subcommittees: the livestock, rural development and credit subcommittee headed by Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) and the horticulture, research, biotechnology and foreign agriculture subcommittee to be led by Rep. Austin Scott (R., Ga.).
Indonesia import restrictions: U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk announced that the U.S. is requesting consultations with Indonesia under the dispute settlement provisions of the World Trade Organization concerning trade-restrictive measures applied to imports of horticultural products, animals and animal products. A USTR statement said Indonesia has created a complex web of import licensing requirements that, while perhaps designed to protect the domestic agriculture industry, have the effect of unfairly restricting imports from the U.S. Through its measures establishing and administering these non-automatic import licensing requirements, Indonesia appears to have acted inconsistently with several of its WTO obligations, according to USTR. Indonesia has long maintained a non-automatic import licensing and quota regime for beef and other animal product imports and recently announced drastic reductions in these quotas, further restricting access to the market, USTR reported.
Butterball buys Gusto: Butterball LLC announced the acquisition of Gusto Packing Co., a family-owned business that specializes in apple and hickory wood smoked bacon and a number of pork and turkey products. Butterball, the largest turkey company in the U.S., will add 325 million lb. of capacity to its operations and will be able to develop and manufacture innovative products for its brand, according to chief executive officer Rod Brenneman. Although expanding outside of turkey production, Butterball will remain focused on its core product, which is turkey, he said. Terms of the deal were not released, but the announcement said the Gusto leadership team and workforce are expected to remain in place in Montgomery, Ill.
Callicrate suit: Kansas cattle feeder Mike Callicrate has said he will continue his lawsuit seeking to enjoin the Cattlemen's Beef Board from contracting beef checkoff programs to the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA), even though his attorneys have withdrawn from the case. The attorneys from Polsinelli Shugart in Kansas City, Mo., who were handling the case pro bono, asked to withdraw last month due to conflicts of interest, and the judge has now granted that request. The attorneys said their firm had been meeting with one of the defendants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on another matter before taking Callicrate's lawsuit. Callicrate said other attorneys have expressed a willingness to take the case without compensation. He filed the suit last year, naming the Beef Board, Beef Operating Committee, USDA, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as defendants in the matter (Feedstuffs, Aug. 20, 2012). The lawsuit alleges that "hundreds of millions of dollars" have been channeled to NCBA, which has used the money for policy-making and public affairs to influence government action and policy, activities for which checkoff funds are expressly prohibited from being used. However, the examples cited in the suit stem from a dispute between the Beef Board and NCBA that the parties resolved two years ago (Feedstuffs, Aug. 8, 2011).
'Stall-free' pork: Williams Sausage Co. announced last week that it plans to ask its pork suppliers for schedules to transition to pork from "stall-free" production systems by 2017, with the understanding that such a transition is a long-term process that may take up to 10 years. Williams, based in Union City, Tenn., manufactures sausage and sausage-based products.
Automated teat dip: GEA Farm Technologies has introduced the ApolloMilkSystem, which utilizes innovative technology to automatically dispense teat dip from within the milking unit just prior to removal to ensure that post-dipping is performed completely and consistently, the announcement said. After removal, a sanitizing backflush solution neutralizes any remaining bacteria in the milking unit before it is attached to the next cow. The ApolloMilkSystem harvests milk safely through a patent-pending separation technology that includes a safety valve, constructed of tough Radel material, that guarantees that milk and teat dip always remain in separate channels, the company said. The "block-bleed-block" shutoff design provides redundant safety features. The ApolloMilkSytem is integrated into the IQ Milking Unit, a four-chamber milking unit that features a vacuum control system that blocks airflow just prior to unit attachment (or if the unit is kickedoff), which prevents manure, bedding or other contaminants from getting sucked into the milk line.
Spanish manual: The National Milk Producers Federation has released a revised version of its Spanish residue prevention manual "Prevencion de residuos de farmacos en la leche y la carne" for 2013, which is a translation of the revised 2013 "Milk & Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention Manual" that was released in the fall. The federation said additions to the 2013 version include a section on avoiding potential residue violations from extra-label drug use in an unapproved class of cattle, cephalosporin extra-label use prohibitions and an updated drug and test kit list.