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Tyson Foods initiates global sustainable protein coalition

Cathy Yeulet / Thinkstock According to the latest Food Demand Survey conducted by Oklahoma State University consumers say they will buy less meat compared with last month and are looking for lower prices at the meat counter Consumersrsquo willingnesstopay WTP decreased for all products in July except for hamburger which remained nearly unchanged WTP for beef and chicken products are similar to this time last year but pork WTP is down from last yearTaste safety and price remain consumers39 most important values

Tyson Foods Inc. announced the creation of the Coalition for Global Protein, a multi-stakeholder initiative to advance the future of sustainable protein.

To mark the launch of the Coalition, Tyson Foods is convening leaders from the global protein industry, which includes all forms of protein, as well as academia, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions this week at Davos, Switzerland, alongside the 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The goal is to unite stakeholders across the food and agriculture sector to identify and implement new and creative solutions to sustainably feed the world’s growing population. The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Lawrence Haddad, executive director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.

“Efforts to make the production of high-protein foods more sustainable must continue,” said Dr. Haddad. “These foods, many from animal sources, are vital for the healthy growth of young children, especially those who already have poor quality diets. So, it is vital that their production can be undertaken in a way that respects planetary environmental boundaries. This Coalition promises to be a valuable addition to our collective efforts to square this circle.”

Noel White, chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, commented, “As one of the world’s largest food companies, we want to help ensure the responsible production of affordable, nutritious food for generations to come. We’re introducing this Coalition because we know that we cannot achieve this alone.  Collective commitment and immediate action are needed to deliver the greatest impact on the future of sustainable food production.” 

Sustainability throughout the food ecosystem is fundamental to Tyson Foods’ core values, which call on the company to “strive to serve as stewards of the resources entrusted to us.” The company has previously committed to improved land stewardship practices on two million acres of corn, partnered with the world resources institute to set science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, committed to reduce water use intensity 12% by 2020, and is working with proforest to identify deforestation risks across the company’s global supply chain.

“We’re focused on uniting the world’s most influential, food-focused stakeholders around a shared purpose to build a future of protein that is sustainable and equitable across global communities – at every link in the supply chain,” said John Tyson, chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods. “Igniting transformative change in our food system requires industry-wide collaboration and a willingness to go beyond our individual businesses through strong commitments and actions.”

The expected objectives of the Coalition will be to increase understanding around the challenges of feeding a growing population with more varied and sustainable protein options; identify new and creative solutions; and activate those solutions through pilot programs. Potential focus areas the Coalition could address include reducing food loss and waste, increasing access to protein and safeguarding ecosystems.

As part of the initial work of the Coalition, stakeholders will work together to align on the focus areas. The Coalition will publicly report on commitments and progress in 2020.

To learn more, visit www.coaltionforglobalprotein.com.


Agfinity joins forces with CommoditAg

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Agfinity, a prominent agricultural retailer in the state of Colorado, has joined the rapidly expanding CommoditAg network. CommoditAg is the an online retailer of high-quality farm products.

“CommoditAg is committed to working with dedicated partners that will provide the highest level of customer service and engagement as we work to offer convenience and accessibility to the agriculture community throughout the United States,” said John Demerly, chief executive officer or CommoditAg. “Agfinity provides excellent service and quality products in their trade area, and we are proud to have them join our network and expand our product offering to this important region.”

CommoditAg, founded in 2017, was born out of the vision that agriculture retailers could come together and embrace technology and e-commerce to create a business partnership that provides the best available service and value to the agriculture community. Today, CommoditAg brings together 10 retailers and more than 40 fulfillment center locations across the country, offering the scale, convenience and geographic access today’s agriculture community needs, including a broad range of crop protection and plant nutrition products.

The online retailer offers a streamlined and simple online ordering process with a fulfillment center locator that assures timely, reliable availability of agriculture products. CommoditAg only partners with innovative retailers, such as Agfinity, that understand the changing needs and expectations of today’s farmers and have the expertise and capabilities to help customers succeed, the company shared in a release.

“For more than 100 years, Agfinity has supported the Colorado agriculture community by providing value and relevant solutions to a strong member and customer base,” said Jason Brancel, president and CEO, Agfinity. “By partnering with CommoditAg, we are able to further expand and grow our services to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s progressive farmers.”

Agfinity is a locally owned and operated cooperative that has been serving the needs of northern Colorado since 1905. With locations in Eaton, Greeley, Brighton, Henderson, Gilcrest, Loveland and Mead, Agfinity offers products and services in Agronomy, Feed, Grain and Energy. CommoditAg’s partnership with Agfinity will also extend into southern Wyoming.  

“What’s most important to CommoditAg is that we are engaging locally where our partners do business, and while the customer experience begins on our e-commerce website, providing excellent customer service and building trust is crucial to what we do. We look forward to supporting Agfinity in the communities where it operates,” continued Demerly.


TB bacteria survive in soil amoebae

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Scientists from the University of Surrey in the U.K. and the University of Geneva in Switzerland have discovered that the bacterium behind bovine tuberculosis (TB) can survive and grow in small, single-celled organisms found in soil and dung.

According to an announcement, it is believed that originally Mycobacterium bovis evolved to survive in amoebae and, in time, progressed to infect and cause TB in larger animals such as cattle.

During the study, published in The ISME Journal, the researchers sought to understand more about M. bovis, which causes bovine TB, and how it can survive in different environments. To do this, the researchers infected a type of amoebae known as Dictyostelium discoideum with M. bovis, the University of Surrey announcement said. Unlike other bacterium that were digested and used as a food source by the amoebae, M. bovis was unharmed and continued to survive for two days, the researchers said.

In-depth analysis showed that the bacterium uses the same genes to escape from amoebae that it uses to avoid being killed by immune cells in larger animals such as cattle and humans, the researchers added.

The researchers also discovered that M. bovis remained metabolically active and continued to grow, although at a slower pace, at lower temperatures than expected. Previously, it was thought that the bacterium could only replicate at 37°C, the body temperature of cattle and humans; however, replication of the bacterium was identified at 25°C. The researchers believe that the bacterium’s ability to adapt to ambient temperatures and survive in amoebae may partially explain high transmission rates of the bacterium among animals.

Bovine TB is a hugely underestimated problem worldwide, the University of Surrey noted, adding that the U.K. has the highest incidence of infection in Europe. Cattle found to have bovine TB are legally required to be slaughtered due to the high risk of the disease entering the food chain and spreading to people.

“Despite implementation of control measures, bovine TB continues to be a major threat to cattle and has an enormous impact on the rural economy. Understanding the biology behind the TB disease and how it spreads is crucial for a balanced discussion on this devastating problem and to developing preventative measures to stop its spread," said lead author Graham Stewart, head of the department of microbial sciences at the University of Surrey. “An important additional benefit is that our research shows the potential for carrying out at least some future TB research in amoebae rather than in large animals.”


Michigan reports 77th bovine TB positive herd

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Michigan state veterinarian Nora Wineland announced Jan. 16 the detection of a bovine tuberculosis (TB) positive herd in Alcona County, Mich.; the state's 77th cattle herd to be identified with bovine TB since the first case was found in 1998.

“Bovine TB was recently confirmed in a medium sized beef herd in Alcona County, which is in Michigan’s Modified Accredited Zone. The animals were confirmed positive for bovine TB by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories on Jan. 13, 2020," Wineland said. "As in all new findings of infected cattle herds, additional testing will be done to identify the specific bacterial strain and trace testing will begin in order to identify any potential additional cases associated with the affected herd."

Bovine TB is a bacterial disease that can affect all mammals, including humans. It is present in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population in a specific area of northeastern lower Michigan and can be transmitted from the deer into cattle herds, Wineland added.

Iowa Pork Congress showcases new products

Lots of new products on display at the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress. Check out this New Product Showcase with product descriptions, contact information for the company and the exhibitor's booth number if you happen to be in Des Moines.

For more information on the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress, visit: www.iowaporkcongress.org


This Week in Agribusiness – January 18, 2020

Note: Start the video and all parts will play through as the full show

Part 1 - China deal, potato meeting, markets in-depth

Max Armstrong and Mike Pearson open this week's show with reaction to the Phase One China deal signing with reaction from key commodity groups. Russell Nemetz reports from the National Potato Council meeting in Las Vegas where more than 2,000 people meet to talk potatoes. Max and Mike talk markets with Brian Basting, Advance Trading, talking China trade, the USDA report and South America.

Part 2 - Markets, CES and agtech

Max Armstrong and Mike Pearson continue their conversation with Brian Basting, Advance Trading. In Colby AgTech, Chad Colby shares what he saw at CES in Las Vegas, including advances in auto development.

Part 3 - Exports, crop technology

Max Armstrong opens this segment talking with Darren Armstrong, U.S. Grains Council, about the work to build export markets. Orion Samuelson talks with Sherry Koch, The Mosaic Company, about key input technologies exclusive to the company.

Part 4 - Corn markets, weather update

Max Armstrong and Mike Pearson open this segment talking with Kevin Ross, president, National Corn Growers Association, about 2019, and looking ahead to 2020. Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje offers a first look at weather for the week ahead. Mike Pearson shares what he's learned from growers in his talks already this season, as well as what he's sharing with farmers, including bright spots in domestic demand.

Part 5 - Greg Soulje, long-range weather

Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks at the long-range weather forecast for agriculture including some major challenges in December.

Part 6 - Max's Tractor Shed, FFA Chapter Tribute

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max Armstrong shares the story of a 1951 John Deere G owned by Bob Storm, Milford, Ill. Max shares how Storm got the bug for that G that started with fixing a neighbor's machine. Mike Pearson profiles Greenbrier East FFA in Lewisburg, W. Va., known for its processing facility that allows students to process their own hogs and make them into hams; and there are many other activities for this group. Member Kiah Hill talks about what has helped her through the year, including her work with animals and hands-on with mechanics.

Part 7 - New FFA drone rule discussion

Max Armstrong and Mike Pearson close this week’s show with a report on Federal Aviation Agency proposals to identify drones in flight. Chad Colby reports on the proposal that will impact any drone that weighs more than a half-pound. Farmers can comment at nodecampaign.org, and at faa.gov.

Ups and downs not over for ethanol industry

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In 2019, ethanol producers saw their share of challenges, but the industry remains focused on moving forward and working cooperatively with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2020.

“What made 2019 such an especially frustrating year is that our policy and regulatory wins were often overshadowed by new obstacles and unexpected setbacks,” Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) president and chief executive officer Geoff Cooper said while keynoting the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Jan. 16.

“At every turn, it seemed our hard-fought victories were eclipsed by new impediments and a general sense of malaise and cynicism in the marketplace,” Cooper added.

The industry had many policy successes, from approval of year-round use of E15 and the President's visit to an Iowa ethanol plant to EPA finally including measures to reallocate Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending volumes lost to small refinery exemptions (SREs). Despite these victories, he said, the “promise of new demand evaporated when trade wars crimped export opportunities and EPA doled out dozens of secret refinery waivers.”

An EPA rule finalized on Dec. 19, 2019, ignited frustration throughout the agriculture and biofuel communities because, instead of accounting for demand destruction caused by SREs in future RFS rulings by using an average of the number of previously granted SREs, thus providing market certainty, the rule stated that EPA will account for SREs using an average of U.S. Department of Energy recommendations, leaving the integrity of the RFS up to EPA’s discretion.

“Yes, the biofuels and ag community were frustrated on Dec. 19, but that frustration has slowly evolved into focus on the work to be done in 2020,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Assn. (IRFA) executive director Monte Shaw said. “I think that starts by trying to rebuild some type of working relationship with the EPA. Speaking for myself, I’m ready to try. I want to try to work with EPA to take steps, small and large, that can rebuild some trust. I think the question here is: Does EPA want to do that?”

In his speech at the Iowa summit, Shaw emphasized that, despite this disappointment, there were many other policy victories in 2019 that the biofuel industry can use to grow years into the future.

“My view of 2019 is no longer solely colored by the frustration of Dec. 19,” he said. “While it is certainly a headline, it is not the entire story. As I consider 2019 from a policy perspective, there were many more significant victories than defeats, and while admittedly not a quick fix to our current economic challenges, I enter 2020 with the feeling that future economic gains will be one day traced back to 2019.”

Shaw cited year-round E15 use, a five-year extension of the biodiesel tax credit and progress in various trade markets among his list of 2019 victories. He also emphasized that while the Dec. 19 EPA rule didn’t create the immediate market certainty the industry fought for, it did create a path forward.

“If the Trump Administration follows through, then 2020 will be the first year where the RFS was fully implemented at the statutory levels since 2013,” Shaw said. “It’s hard to believe, but every year from 2014 to 2019, the congressionally mandated RFS levels have been undermined by either illegal general waivers under the Obama Administration or abuse of refinery exemptions under the Trump Administration. There has not yet been a year when the 15 billion gal. RFS was truly implemented at 15 billion gal.”

Shaw concluded by outlining top priorities for 2020 for the industry to stay focused on, including encouraging EPA to follow through on its promise to follow DOE recommendations and make the RFS whole, addressing a court-ordered remand of 500 million gal. of ethanol waived from the RFS illegally and pushing for new trade opportunities with Mexico and China.

Cooper also offered four predictions for the new decade. First and foremost is that the battle over the RFS will not only continue but intensify. “We know refiners are already working to recast the post-2022 RFS into something that limits the use of ethanol and other biofuels and fails to drive further growth,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. That’s why we are redoubling our efforts to ensure the RFS remains intact as the transformative and growth-oriented program Congress intended it to be in 2023 and well beyond.”

Cooper also predicted that low-carbon fuel standards will spread, that U.S. ethanol exports will resume vigorous growth due to thawing trade wars and that — at some point in this decade — E15 will become the standard gasoline blend in the U.S.

Regarding the last of these, Cooper reminded his audience of the history of E10. “Twenty-five years after its commercial introduction, E10 still only accounted for about 20% of total U.S. gasoline sales, but in just seven years — between 2003 and 2010 — E10 saw hockey-stick growth and went from about 20% of the market to almost 100% of the market,” he said.

Shaw concluded that “2019 was not a fun year, but policy seeds were planted that could grow into meaningful opportunities for biofuels producers and farmers in 2020. The task before us is to work with the Trump Administration to make this happen. I am ready and willing if they are. Twenty-twenty can return hope and financial stability to rural America. We stand here today urging the Trump Administration to take the steps necessary to harvest the possibilities.”

Closing his speech with a note of optimism, Cooper added a fifth prediction stemming from his prior ones: “Ethanol’s best and brightest days are ahead of us!”

BLM seeks comments on new grazing regulations

cows in pasture

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is soliciting public comments for the preparation of an environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to making an amendment to the grazing regulation for public lands. The BLM notice of intent (NOI) opened a public comment period and noted that in-person scoping meetings will be held across the West.

The BLM grazing regulations, which govern approximately 155 million acres in the western U.S., have been periodically modified, revised and updated over time. The last comprehensive revisions to BLM grazing regulations that were implemented occurred in 1995.

The current grazing regulations require revisions to update, modernize and streamline the grazing administration regulations and provide greater flexibility for land and resource management. Through this rule-making, BLM seeks to improve existing land use planning and grazing permitting procedures while simultaneously promoting conservation on public lands.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for BLM permittees to set the record straight,” said Dr. J.J. Goicoechea, who chairs the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. Federal Lands Committee and the Public Lands Council’s Grazing Regulations Working Group. “We have endured [former Interior Secretary] Bruce Babbitt’s ‘Range Reform’ for over 25 years — and the land, native grasses and local ranching families have suffered as a result. This NOI is the first step toward righting that wrong. I cannot understate how important it is for ranchers to submit comments and participate in these scoping meetings.”

The public comment period closes 15 days after the conclusion of the final public scoping meeting. The dates and locations of scoping meetings will be announced at least seven days in advance through local media, newspapers and the BLM website. Public open houses are planned in Miles City, Mont.; Elko, Nev.; Las Cruces, N.M., and Casper, Wyo. Ranchers are encouraged to participate in these meetings and submit their comments during this environmental impact statement process.

Comments will be accepted now through March 6, 2020.

Stable land market expected to continue

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The land market in 2019 continued the plateau trend of the past several years, during which the supply of agricultural land for sale on the market remained lower than average and prices for good-quality cropland held mostly steady, according to Farmers National Co. That is likely to continue moving into 2020.

Similar to recent quarters, the Federal Reserve Bank reported that farm real estate values remained relatively stable. The average value of non-irrigated farmland in all participating districts changed less than 2% in the third quarter. Declines were slightly larger in the northern most states during the third quarter but remained modest; values increased slightly in Texas and Oklahoma.

Farmland sale activity in the first part of 2019 was slower than it had been for some time, with late spring and early summer especially void of farms for sale, Farmers National stated. Planting delays and prevented plantings contributed to the lackluster activity.

Land values in 2019 once again bucked the prevailing depressed mood in agriculture to hold steady or even increase slightly in some instances, except for the most stressed areas or segments such as dairy. With generally more cautious buyers, some markets saw a move to private treaty listings or bid sales instead of the traditional public land auction.

“The lower supply of land for sale had much to do with land prices being mostly steady as did having adequate demand for quality cropland. Lower-quality farmland had less demand and, in many cases, was harder to sell. Investor interest in cropland increased somewhat in 2019, with several new entities entering the market and also from an increase in purchasing activity by existing institutional investors,” said Randy Dickhut, Farmers National senior vice president of real estate operations.

Several other factors had a favorable effect on farmland values in 2019. Interest rates remained historically low and moved even lower during the year, even though at one time, most thought rates would work higher. The other significant factor supporting land values and buyer demand, especially by farmers, was the amount of government support for production agriculture. One-third of the agriculture industry's 2019 net farm income came from government-provided sources, including crop insurance, the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and various other conservation and program funding.

In its latest Ag Finance Databook, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., reported that interest rates on all loan types remained well below the 20-year average, while maturities remained slightly above the average for most loan types. The decline in both interest rates and maturities was largest for machinery and equipment loans.

In 2019, the agriculture industry endured floods, planting frustrations, trade uncertainty and struggling commodity prices. Financial conditions for some producers degenerated, but agriculture overall remains in better shape than expected due to support payments and the fact that land values are historically strong. The land market weathered many storms in 2019, just like U.S. agriculture, as both balanced precipitously on the plateau of the past five years.

So, will 2020 be the year that the land market breaks out of its plateau?  

“There are a number of factors that indicate that the land market will continue to be steady in 2020,” Dickhut said. “Interest rates are low and are poised to remain so during the foreseeable future, and government support through MFP payments will likely continue if Chinese trade issues are not fully resolved. Overall, agriculture is in adequate financial shape, but there are individual and regional concerns.”

Other factors could also have a more depressing influence on farmland values in 2020, Farmers National reported. In addition to ongoing trade disruptions, there is a concern over whether financially caused sales of land by producers will increase. Buyer demand for good cropland has been adequate for the supply, and this will have to remain so in order for land values to continue on their plateau.

California judge upholds foie gras ban

Roland Tanglao Plate of duck foie gras

A federal district court judge ruled in favor California’s foie gras ban -- a challenge that started in 2004, when California passed a law to phase out the production and sale of foie gras from force-fed ducks and geese.

Foie gras is made from the livers of geese or ducks that have been fattened with grain by force feeding.

In 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, in response to foie gras producers’ complaints, that the law did not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Following that loss, foie gras producers pivoted to a different tactic, alleging that the foie gras law is impermissible under federal poultry products law. The Ninth Circuit once again sided with the state, overturning a lower court decision.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said the federal court ruling is the “latest judicial confirmation of states’ authority to enact humane legislation."

Lovvorn continued, “No amount of legal maneuvering by plaintiffs can change the fact that California has every right to restrict the sale of cruel products from its marketplace.”

Kitty Block, HSUS president and chief executive officer, noted that the decision issued Jan. 15 is important because it “affirms that state lawmakers and governors have a right to set standards for humane treatment, if they choose to do so. States are increasingly taking action to protect animals in food production. In the years since the foie gras sales ban, many more states, including California, have passed laws and ballot measures banning the cruel confinement of farm animals and the sale of those products, which have been upheld by the courts.”

Block added, “The message should be clear: Californians have no stomach for the cruelty of foie gras. Worldwide, too, there is a great distaste for this product, with more than a dozen countries, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom, having either prohibited force feeding for foie gras production or interpreted it as illegal under existing anti-cruelty laws. The arguments for continuing the sale of a product that is not a staple in anyone’s diet and that is built on immense animal suffering have run out.”

On Oct. 30, 2019, the New York City Council voted to ban the sale of foie gras, starting in 2022.