Vilsack urges 'growth mindset' for ag: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack started what he called "an adult conversation" with rural America during his recent keynote speech at the 2012 Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C. Vilsack called on all of agriculture to embrace a more proactive message and approach when pursuing political interests. He suggested replacing "a preservation mindset with a growth mindset" by opening up to new markets, promoting global exports, welcoming diversity and choosing political battles more carefully. Without a change in tone and strategy, Vilsack cautioned that rural America will continue to decline in political relevance, posing the question, "Why is it that we don't have a farm bill? It isn't just the differences of policy. It's the fact that rural America, with a shrinking population, is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that, and we better begin to reverse it." The message was tough for some to hear, but the secretary, who has made rural economic growth a cornerstone of his tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also spoke of his belief in rural America and its bright future. "We've got something to market here," he said. "We've got something to be proactive about. Let's spend our time and our resources and our energy doing that, and I think if we do, we're going to have a lot of young people who want to be part of that future." The forum was hosted by the Farm Journal Foundation, in partnership with Informa Economics.
Brazilian state to export pork to U.S.: Brazil's southern state of Santa Catarina plans to begin exporting pork to the U.S. in March, Thomas Shannon Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, announced last week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted Santa Catarina foot and mouth disease (FMD)-free status two years ago, allowing it to export beef and pork to the U.S. (Feedstuffs, Nov. 22, 2010). USDA cleared six of the state's pork processing plants to export pork last January. The announcement has stirred debate in the U.S. over the risk the exports pose to bringing FMD into the U.S. because neither the U.S. nor the World Organization for Animal Health recognize Brazil or Argentina, which neighbors Santa Catarina, as FMD free.
Judge rules against Waterkeepers: A U.S. district court judge has ruled that the Waterkeepers Alliance did not prove its charges that a Maryland family farm and Perdue Farms Inc. caused runoff into local waters that, in turn, polluted the Chesapeake Bay. The suit claimed that chicken contract growers Alan and Kristin Hudson had polluted a ditch that feeds into local waters that flow into the Pocomoke River and, ultimately, into the Chesapeake Bay. The suit maintained that the Hudsons, who grew chickens for Perdue, the fourth-largest chicken integrator in the U.S., had violated the Clean Water Act by releasing high levels of contaminants from a manure pile into the ditch and that Perdue was responsible for the actions of its growers (Feedstuffs, Aug. 2, 2010). However, testimony during the trial demonstrated that the alleged manure pile was actually approved biomass and that Perdue took steps for its handling and treatment as an alternative to land application, preventing subsequent runoff. The judge, in his ruling, commended Perdue for its program to handle such composites at its growers' farms. The Waterkeepers said it is reviewing the ruling to determine if it should proceed through appeal.
Cargill expands Atchison rail service: Cargill and Union Pacific Railroad announced that the Cargill grain elevator in Atchison, Kan., can now load 110-car shuttles; the facility could previously handle only 75-car units. "This upgrade will be very good for area farmers as the facility will now be able to access additional markets at competitive rates," said Rob Nordmeyer, general manager of Cargill's Twin Rivers Farm Service Group. The Atchison facility purchases corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum.
Harold Ford: Harold Ford, retired chief executive officer of the Southeastern Poultry & Egg Assn. (Southeastern) who expanded the association's annual trade show, the International Poultry Expo (IPE), into the poultry industry's pre-eminent trade show, died Dec. 14. Ford served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and joined Southeastern in 1954, assuming the CEO position in 1957. In 1961, he joined Mar-Jac Poultry Co. in Gainesville, Ga., and then Sanderson Farms Inc. in Laurel, Miss., returning to Southeastern as CEO in 1967 at the request of the board of directors. He retired in 1992. Today, Southeastern is the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., and IPE is now the International Production & Processing Expo, having merged with the annual trade shows of the American Feed Industry Assn. and the American Meat Institute.
Foie gras suit filed: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sued Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, Cal., claiming that the restaurant is serving foie gras in violation of a state law passed in 2004 that bans the production and/or sale of the product. PETA said Hot's Kitchen is skirting the law by offering the product as "a complimentary side" to a menu item. The lawsuit was filed in the superior court of Los Angeles, Cal. The ban prohibits the production of foie gras through force-feeding ducks and geese and prohibits selling foie gras from force-fed poultry. The legislators gave restaurants until July 1 of this year to find an alternative method of production or remove the product from their menus. Most restaurants nixed the item, although some sought ways around the law, including the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, Cal., which said the law did not apply to it because it's located on federal land. Presidio has subsequently stopped selling foie gras. Hot's, part of the Hot's Restaurant Group, and two foie gras producers have filed a suit seeking to nullify the law on the basis that it's overly vague (Feedstuffs, July 9).