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Articles from 2017 In October


Ibach sworn in as latest USDA undersecretary

Governor of Nebraska's office undersecretary of agriculture Greg Ibach being sworn in

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue traveled to Omaha, Neb., Monday to swear in Greg Ibach as U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

Ibach is the third undersecretary to join Perdue at USDA, although Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey’s Senate confirmation has been placed on hold by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).

In comments at the ceremony, Perdue said he had hoped that the event would be for both Ibach and Northey. He said both are “so clearly not bureaucrats” but instead are “authentic agriculturists” who have learned how to get things done within the bureaucracies of state governments and maintain the “dirt under their fingernails” with agriculture at heart.

Ibach, who has served as Nebraska’s director of agriculture for 12 years, will become undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, which oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration.

Ibach said balance will be a key part of how he addresses his new role, including balancing the regulatory responsibility while also looking for opportunities to expand U.S. agriculture.

“I hope to create a framework consumers can trust in agriculture and in the food supply not only here in the United States but as they look to us as a supplier worldwide,” he said in comments after being sworn in.

Northey, who was elected as Iowa’s secretary of agriculture in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014, has been cleared by the Senate Agriculture Committee to serve in the new combined mission area as undersecretary for farm production and conservation, which oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.

Cruz has placed a hold on Northey not over his credentials but in retaliation for Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) placing holds on Environmental Protection Agency nominees and pressuring EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

When Perdue was asked about the level of frustration on the hold, he said he couldn’t even express it. He said it is “unfortunate” and hopes it will be resolved soon, explaining, “It is October. We need people to go to work.”

Perdue has changed the undersecretary position Northey will assume, once confirmed, to a farmer-focused agency including farm and conservation programs. “He’ll do a great job there with the heart of a farmer knowing what it’s like to sit across the table,” Perdue said.

Global dairy leaders call for united approach on consumer confidence

nevodka/iStock/Thinkstock Dairy products including milk, cheese, butter and yogurt displayed on white wood

Speaking at the International Dairy Federation World Dairy Summit this week in Belfast, Germany, industry leaders from the U.K., China, Japan and Australia underlined the importance of communicating effectively with consumers who are looking for reassurance on the integrity and quality of dairy foods at a time when anti-dairy activism is on the rise.

Paul Vernon, chief executive of Gambia Cheese and chairman of Dairy UK, the U.K.'s industry trade association, said, "The world and the dairy sector has changed massively over the past 30 years, and the way we are communicating with consumers has changed, too. Dairy is a superfood, and we need to ensure that message is heard loud and clear by consumers who are under a constant barrage of misleading and ill-informed messages about dairy."

Tomas Pietrangeli, managing director of Arla UK, said at a time when there is a global need for more nutritious food, dairy should be a critical part of the solution. However, he said the myths and fear-mongering about dairy does put the industry in a potential crisis. The U.K. and Europe could be facing an existential threat from anti-dairy campaigning, he added.

"We have a bright future, we have the ammunition and we need to play to our strengths,” Pietrangeli said. “Changing the visual image of milk and focusing on young women is essential in establishing the message that one of the greatest sources of foods is still relevant and part of modern-day life. It's time to get behind the goodness and time to debunk the anti-dairy myths and unsubstantiated claims."

Dr. Jaap Evers, IDF leader global standards, explained that dairy protein is a natural, high-quality protein and emphasized that it is imperative that consumers understand dairy is an integral part of a sustainable diet.

"There is a wealth of scientific research that should strengthen dairy's role as an integral element of healthy consumers' diets,” he said, adding that IDF will soon undertake a new research project on protein.

Mary Anne Burkman, an internationally renowned nutrition expert, said the validity of science underpinning the nutritional value of dairy has never been more comprehensive and compelling. “The challenge is to get consumers and health authorities to recognize this," she said.

According to Zheng Jianqiu, executive president of Yili Dairy, China, the Chinese dairy industry is working very hard to develop solidarity across the supply chain and with consumers. “Our vision is to be the most trusted supplier of nutritious dairy foods. It is important that dairy's voice is heard by the whole of society," he said.

Dr. Judith Bryans, president of the International Dairy Federation, said the message from across the global sector is quite clear: The industry must be committed to highlighting the nutritional benefits of dairy and confronting the many myths that are peddled by the anti-dairy lobby.

“It is a major challenge but one that dairy can rise to," she added.

U.S. ag forced to downsize if NAFTA withdrawn

Darwel iStock Thinkstock signposts with NAFTA United States

When Humpty Dumpty -- to which the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations were compared -- falls off the wall, it is hard to put the pieces back together. The comparison was made several times Tuesday morning during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce discussion on “The Future of NAFTA: The Stakes for American Agriculture & Business.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) made the comparison first last week after a private luncheon with Republican leaders, where President Donald Trump shared his NAFTA negotiation strategy. The President believes that, by issuing a notification of his intent to withdraw from NAFTA – which would trigger a six-month waiting period before the actual exit – he can force Mexico and Canada to make the concessions he wants.

Roberts told those at the Chamber event that he knows U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and said he is a “good man” who “knows the value of agriculture,” but the path he may take is a “path fraught with a lot of dangers.”

“We are fighting a pervasive view that our economy has not benefited from NAFTA. We are coming to a crossroads, and the decisions made on international trade will determine the future economic success of our country,” Roberts said in a plea to those at the event.

“We must educate. Our message must be clear and consistent in every way. We must commit to challenge this view, set the record straight and explain what is at stake. These issues affect real jobs and real lives,” Roberts said.

The Administration has set a key negotiating objective to create more balanced trade deficits, while Canada and Mexico have rejected that objective. It has created a situation that could result in a financial catastrophe for the agriculture industry, which has seen overwhelmingly improved trade balances under NAFTA, according to Minnesota pork and crop farmer Randy Spronk, who also spoke as part of a panel at the event.

Spronk, a past president of the National Pork Producers Council, said there’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that terminating NAFTA would bring serious harm to U.S. agriculture and rural America and would send “shock waves across the globe.” He said the U.S. is already falling behind on negotiating free trade deals with other countries, and terminating NAFTA would doom U.S. prospects on new deals needed to keep U.S. agriculture competitive.

Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes said he does not expect Mexico to make concessions in six months if forced to do so by a withdrawal from NAFTA. His research has found that many agriculture sectors, including pork, beef, dairy, corn and soybeans, would have to downsize production at a time when the agricultural economy is already in trouble.

Many of these segments exports 10-15% of domestic production to Mexico or Canada. Recent profit driven-expansion would now be forced to go through multiyear effects of loss-driven production decreases.

“The pain would be localized,” Hayes said, especially in “flyover country,” which has high production of eggs, corn, soybean, beef and dairy.

He said the 20% tariff on U.S. pork that would resume for Mexico would likely create a 15% increase in consumer pork prices in Mexico and force a 5% reduction in U.S. pork production. “That 15% increase stimulates Mexico to increase their production and causes their retailers to look at other countries for alternative sources,” Hayes said.

National Association of Wheat Growers president Gordon Stoner said he would propose that the discussion not focus on “doing no harm” but, rather, “doing no more harm.”

“We’ve already seen markets affected by rhetoric and posturing to date regarding NAFTA,” stated Stoner, a Montana wheat farmer. Mexico has already inked a deal to purchase 30,000 tons of wheat from Argentina.

“Rhetoric has made trading partners very anxious. They’re not going to be held hostage,” Stoner said.

In the wheat market, millers and bakers have to formulate recipes based on where their wheat is sourced. “Once they source another wheat, they’re very hesitant to tinker again with recipes. We are not only losing the sale today, but it is hard to get that sale back in the future,” Stoner explained.

He said 4-6 cents/bu. can determine who gets a sale. So, tariffs ranging from 5% to 40% can knock the U.S. out of the market immediately.

“The Administration tends to look at the deals like a real estate property, where you make a deal and move on to the next deal," Stoner said. "We’re dealing with sovereign nations and relationships that are built over years and decades. The current Administration is turning that on its head and trying to walk away from the NAFTA deal.”

The rest of the world is watching the U.S. and wondering whether to take us at our word, Stoner said, adding that these are “long-term decisions that will effect generations of farmers.”

Watch a webcast of the event here.

ADM delivers lower Q3 2017 results

Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) reported this week that its financial results for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2017, were lower than anticipated as a result of bulging global grain supplies and restructuring actions.

“Our third-quarter results were below our expectations, as the operating environment in our Ag Services and Oilseeds businesses was more challenging than anticipated,” ADM chairman and chief executive officer Juan Luciano said. “Through the quarter, we took several actions to be even more competitive in the future, including: restructuring our global workforce, reconfiguring the Peoria (Ill.) ethanol complex, working to complete several operational start-ups, driving additional asset monetizations and further reducing costs through our Project Readiness initiative."

Moving into the fourth quarter, Luciano said the company is starting to transition from a period of costs and investment in acquisitions, new innovation centers and new facilities to a period of lower capital spending and increasing benefits from these investments.

Earnings per share (EPS) were 34 cents, which included: a charge of 12 cents per share related to asset impairments and restructuring activities, a net gain of 2 cents per share on the sale of assets and businesses and a loss of 1 cent per share on debt extinguishment. Adjusted EPS, which excludes these items, was 45 cents, down from 59 cents during the same period in 2016.

Segment operating profit of $485 million for the quarter includes charges of $63 million for asset impairment and restructuring charges -- primarily related to the Peoria ethanol complex reconfiguration -- and a net gain of $12 million on the sale of assets and businesses. Adjusted segment operating profit was $541 million, down from $650 million in the third quarter of 2016.

Looking ahead to 2018, ADM expects much of the same, saying it will reduce capital spending by about 20% to $800 million. Luciano told analysts on a conference call that the company will also reallocate funds to its high-value business from oilseed crushing. “We are not counting on a significant change in conditions for 2018,” he said.

Results of operations

Ag Services reported a profit of $87 million, down from $195 million in 2016.

In merchandising and handling, results decreased in both North American grain and global trade, largely due to the lack of competitiveness of U.S. corn and soybeans in global markets, ADM said.

Transportation results decreased from the prior-year period due to reduced U.S. grain exports and a slower start to the North American harvest.

Milling & Other earnings were down due to decreased volumes mainly in the U.S, while product margins remained steady.

ADM reported that Corn Processing results were up year over year, delivering another strong quarter. North American sweeteners and starches experienced good margins. Bioproducts results increased, with better ethanol margins compared to the prior-year period.

Oilseeds Processing results were $119 million, down from $145 in the third quarter of last year. Crushing and origination results were affected by compressed global crush margins and weak South American origination margins.

Refining, packaging, biodiesel and other experienced lower earnings versus the third quarter of 2016 primarily due to weaker biodiesel results caused by lower margins and negative market-to-market impacts.

Results in Asia were up versus the prior-year period, while Wilmar results were lower than anticipated but still higher than last year’s.

WFSI results were down versus the prior-year quarter. However, WILD Flavors delivered double-digit operating profit growth, with strong sales in Asia and the Europe/Middle East/Africa region. Specialty Ingredients results were down for the quarter due, in part, to higher costs caused by operational start-ups in certain businesses.

FEEDSTUFFS MEAT PRICE OUTLOOK: October 31, 2017

Photology1971/iStock/Thinkstock raw meat cuts

Beef: Despite seasonally larger feedlot placements of heavier cattle throughout late spring to early summer and favorable packer margins, slaughter rates continued to moderate throughout the second half of October. Last week's 617,000-head level was considerably smaller than expectations, with a 103,000-head harvest on Friday accounting for a majority of the disparity in forecasts. Additionally, lighter carcass weights have continued to hamper total beef production, with last week's production dipping below a year ago for the first time since mid-January. Despite the larger placements throughout the early summer months, slaughter rates are expected to hold in the upper 620,000- to lower 630,000-head area, leaving steer and heifer slaughter running in the 500,000- to 505,000-head range, save for upcoming holiday-reduced slaughter schedules. Further modest seasonal easing is expected into early winter towards the 490,000-head level.

Pork: Cold storage for September revealed stocks of 616 million lb., above August levels by 40.6 million lb. This change from August is not a record increase going into September but is the largest absolute addition in the last five years. Major notables in the report were loins, bellies and trim. Bellies in cold storage rotation were not the numbers many in the industry were looking for. Some analysts expected bellies going into rotation at an increasing rate, but numbers revealed otherwise. August levels were 19.21 million lb., and September levels were 20.91 million lb., below the prior year by 4 million lb. (16%). This does not represent an alarming level for September but does set expectations moving forward. If the industry is going to avoid significant price volatility, cold storage programs will need to be at higher levels than the industry accomplished last winter.

Poultry: Broiler live weights began to flatten early in 2017, which was surprising to observers, especially considering that feed costs were expected to be near decade-low levels. However, the industry has managed to keep bird weights from largely advancing this year, and save for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's September "Poultry Slaughter" report released last week showing that broiler live weights averaged 6.25 lb. (a historic high), the annual advance is expected to stay under 0.5% compared to the previous year. This is a rather slow advance, considering that the annual average increase was 1.4% in the 10 years prior to 2016. At times, weights advanced by as much as 2% compared to prior-year levels. The monthly report showing the 6.25 lb. average live weight was surprising, considering that the weekly data averaged just 6.22 lb. Despite the uptick, bird weights are expected to again flatten out over the next three reporting months.

Names in the News: November 2017

THE ANDERSONS INC., Maumee, Ohio — Joseph E. McNeely will join the company as president of the Rail Group, effective Jan. 8, 2018. McNeely was previously with FreightCar America Inc.

Rasesh "Rash" H. Shah will retire as president of the Rail Group in July 2018.

 

AB VISTA, Marlborough, U.K. — Joel McAtee has joined the technical services team as feed applications engineer for the Americas. McAtee will provide feed engineering support and advice to customers in the Americas region, including feed mill equipment design, operation and effectiveness.

 

DIAMOND V, Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Payton Terry has joined the company as regional sales manager — Southwest. Terry will serve dairy and beef producers, nutritionists, veterinarians and feed manufacturers in Texas and New Mexico. He was previously with Elanco Animal Health.

 

UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO, Reno, Nev. — Dr. Ivory W. Lyles has been named director of the university's Cooperative Extension and associate dean for engagement in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources. Lyles will leverage the full range of expertise within the university and all state higher education institutions to address the needs and challenges of citizens throughout Nevada. He was previously with Alcorn State University.

 

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SWINE VETERINARIANS, Perry, Iowa — Dr. Judi Bell will retire as associate editor of the Journal of Swine Health & Production.

Sherrie Webb has joined the association as associate editor of the Journal of Swine Health & Production, effective Jan. 8, 2018. Webb will be responsible for proofreading and editing scientific articles submitted for publication in the bimonthly journal and will utilize her expertise in swine well-being to advise on animal welfare issues and aid in the development of welfare outreach and education opportunities. She was previously with the National Pork Board.

 

ARYSTA LIFESCIENCE, Cary, N.C. — Hildo Brilleman has been named chief executive officer of the Europe, Middle East & Africa region, effective Jan. 1, 2018. Brilleman was most recently head of Northwest, Central & Eastern Europe.

 

KINCANNON & REED, London, U.K. — Attila von Hanko has been named managing director. Von Hanko will focus on senior executive recruitments for animal health clients across Europe and Asia. He was previously with Vaxxinova International BV.

 

AGRINOS, Oslo, Norway — Kevin Helash has been appointed chief executive officer. Helash was previously with Agrium Retail Canada.

 

KENT NUTRITION GROUP INC., Muscatine, Iowa — Annie Doerr has joined the company as northeast Nebraska territory sales manager for Kent Feeds. Doerr was previously with Elanco Animal Health.

Logan Nolting has been named industrial engineer. Nolting was most recently plant engineer at the Columbus plant.

 

THE ANDERSONS INC., Maumee, Ohio — Jeffrey C. Blair will join the company as president of the Plant Nutrient Group, effective Dec. 4. Blair will lead the entire Plant Nutrient Group, including its diverse product lines and businesses. He was previously with Intrepid Potash Inc.

 

CHS INC., Inver Grove Heights, Minn. — Rick Dusek has been named executive vice president for the Country Operations division. Dusek will help create value for owners through the Country Operations retail platform. He was most recently vice president, CHS Agronomy.

 

BUNGE LTD., White Plains, N.Y. — Todd Bastean has been appointed president — North America, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Pierre Mauger has been appointed president — Europe and Asia, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Raul Padilla has been appointed president — South America and Sugar & Bioenergy, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

 

NUTRIAD, Dendermonde, Belgium — Dr. Ahmed Elmaazoun has been appointed sales manager Middle East. Elmaazoun will be responsible for key account management and will support distribution partners in the region.

 

PMI NUTRITIONAL ADDITIVES, Shoreview, Minn. — Dr. Kay Russo has joined the dairy product research and technical sales team. Russo was previously with Boehringer Ingelheim.

 

ARM & HAMMER, Princeton, N.J. — Dr. Vivek Berwal has joined the sales team as dairy account manager. Berwal will support dairy customers with a full portfolio of nutrition and microbial solutions and will work with dairy producers and influencers across India to grow awareness of the portfolio. He was previously with Neospark Drugs & Chemicals.

 

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE DEPARTMENTS OF AGRICULTURE, Washington, D.C. — Aline DeLucia has joined the public policy team as associate director, public policy. DeLucia will represent the association on a diverse portfolio of agricultural policy issues. She was previously with Syngenta.

 

MH EQUIPMENT, St. Louis, Mo. — Isaac Yates has joined the company as regional sales manager. Yates will be responsible for sales team leadership and driving revenue at the locations in St. Louis and Scott City, Mo. He was previously with Fairchild Equipment.

 

INTERNATIONAL DAIRY FOODS ASSN., Washington, D.C. — Thomas Wojno has been named senior vice president of innovation and member advancement. Wojno will be responsible for identifying and implementing innovative strategies to enhance services, expand membership and develop new opportunities for growth. He was previously with the National Restaurant Assn.

 

THE F.L. EMMERT CO., Cincinnati, Ohio — Fred Corbett has joined the company as national sales manager, pet food and treats. Corbett will manage key accounts with the goal of creating growth in sales, marketing and product support.

 

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, Ames, Iowa — Terry Tuttle has been appointed superintendent of the Northwest Research & Demonstration Farm near Sutherland, Iowa. Tuttle will continue to manage the farm and is the primary contact for research projects and the farm. He was most recently agricultural specialist and interim superintendent of the demonstration farm.

 

AMERICAN FEED INDUSTRY ASSN., Arlington, Va. — Raamezah Ahmad has joined the association as graphic and web design coordinator. Ahmad will be responsible for developing graphics and other visual materials for the web, social media, print and other uses, including marketing materials as well as visuals for the legislative and regulatory team. She will also serve as lead designer for the printed magazine, AFIA Journal, and will support the Marketing Committee.

 

DIAMOND V, Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Dr. Evan Chaney has joined the company as director, food safety microbiology. Chaney will help identify, qualify and validate lab capabilities to ensure the quality of microbiological results from company research and customers. He was previously with Roka Bioscience.

 

SELECT SIRES INC., Plain City, Ohio — Kevin Jorgensen has been named senior Holstein sire analyst.

Mark Kerndt has been appointed Aggressive Reproductive Technologies program manager. Kerndt was most recently Holstein sire analyst.

Rick VerBeek has been named senior Holstein sire analyst.

 

TYSON FOODS INC., Springdale, Ark. — Stewart F. Glendinning has been appointed chief financial officer, effective Feb. 10, 2018. Glendinning was previously with Molson Coors Brewing Co.

Dennis Leatherby will step down as chief financial officer on Feb. 10, 2018. Leatherby has been with the company for 28 years.

 

HENDRIX GENETICS, Boxmeer, Netherlands — Raf Beeren has been appointed managing director, business unit turkeys, effective Jan. 1. Raf most recently led the swine business unit.

Ronald de Haan will join the company as chief operating officer, effective Jan. 1.

Dave Libertini has been appointed vice president Americas, effective Jan. 1. Libertini will support and maximize synergies and growth in the region and will continue to be involved in ongoing projects around the world.

 

DIAMOND V, Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Dr. Karen Lehe has joined the company as director, swine business development. Lehe will lead development and execution of the swine business strategy in North America. She was previously with Merck Animal Health.

 

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, Ames, Iowa — Joe Colletti has been named interim dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, effective Nov. 20. Colletti will also serve as interim director of the Iowa Agriculture & Home Economics Experiment Station. He was most recently senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and associate director of the experiment station.

 

JBS USA, Greeley, Colo. — Tim Schellpeper has been named president of the fed beef business unit. Schellpeper will oversee the fed beef processing operations, including facilities in Cactus, Texas; Grand Island, Neb.; Hyrum, Utah, and Greeley. He was previously with Maschhoff Family Foods.

 

KANSAS GRAIN & FEED ASSN., Topeka, Kan. — Randy Stookey has been promoted to general counsel and senior vice president of government affairs, effective Nov. 15. Stookey will oversee all government relations initiatives and will continue his role as general counsel and administrator of the Kansas Agricultural Remediation Board. He was most recently general counsel for the association and its managing contract associations, the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Assn. and Renew Kansas.

 

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE DEPARTMENTS OF AGRICULTURE FOUNDATION, Arlington, Va. — Dr. Lisa Benson has joined the foundation as executive director. Benson was previously with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

 

KENT NUTRITION GROUP, Muscatine, Iowa — Clint McDonald has joined the company as territory sales manager for Kent Feeds. McDonald will be responsible for sales in southeast Nebraska.

 

SELECT SIRES INC., Plain City, Ohio — Sara Kitchen joins the company as communications specialist, effective Nov. 15. Kitchen will manage the writing and production of the customer newsletter, "Selections," coordinate all press releases and work with the sales and marketing team to promote company programs and services. She was previously with Select Sire Power.

 

QUALITY TECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL, Elgin, Ill. — Dr. Sheilena Brookshire has joined the company as technical sales manager. Brookshire will be responsible for supporting sales managers in the area of technical services and maintaining relationships with industry leaders, university professors, doctors of veterinary medicine as well as existing and future customers.

 

CARGILL ANIMAL NUTRITION, Hopkins, Minn. — Dr. Mac Campbell has joined the company as dairy technical specialist supporting the mid-Atlantic region. Campbell will work with the company's dairy focus consultants and producers in the mid-Atlantic region to apply the latest research and implement strategies to improve production, efficiency and cow well-being.

 

EW NUTRITION USA, Urbandale, Iowa — Alyssa Cornelison has joined the company as swine technical sales representative. Cornelison will have sales responsibilities managing some corporate swine accounts.

 

U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL, Washington, D.C. — Tim Tierney has joined the council as director of strategic marketing/ethanol, North Asia. Tierney will be based in Singapore and will capitalize on long-standing relationships in the region and emerging opportunities for biofuels. He was previously with Syngenta and DuPont.

Caleb Wurth will join the council in November as assistant director of the Southeast Asia regional office in Kuala Lumpur. He was previously with Archer Daniels Midland.

People, not cattle, likely caused methane levels to skyrocket

steve everts/iStock/Thinkstock beef cows and calves

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800,000 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization's "Greenhouse Gas Bulletin," which noted that the abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent, Cornell University pointed out.

Robert Howarth, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and an expert on the atmospheric implications of methane, said while some researchers have concluded that cattle are the cause of the increase, shale gas and shale oil are most likely the reasons behind the steep climb.

“Methane levels are at the highest levels they have been for hundreds of thousands of years. As with carbon dioxide, humans are the clear cause of the increase, and in fact, human activity has increased methane levels to a greater extent (170%) than is the case for carbon dioxide (45%)," Howarth said.

“Several papers over the past 18 months have concluded that fossil fuels may not be the cause of the latest surge in methane. However, there is very strong evidence that these papers are wrong," Howarth said. "Several of the papers have concluded that an increase in emissions from cows and cattle is the cause. This conclusion conflicts strongly with the satellite data, which show that the increase in global methane emissions over the past decade has come mostly from the U.S.; numbers of cows and cattle have decreased in the U.S. over this decade, and so this cannot be the cause.

“By far, the most likely cause of the increase, in my opinion, is from shale gas and shale oil, as the increase in emissions from the U.S. indicated by the satellite data coincides closely in time with the shale gas revolution. No other major change in activities over this time period in the U.S. makes any real sense," he emphasized.

“Note that the papers indicating that cows are the culprit are basing their conclusions on the stable carbon (C13) isotopic composition in the atmosphere, but they have all missed some fundamental literature that shows that this value for methane from shale gas sometimes looks more like methane from cows than it does methane from conventional natural gas. That is, they may have made a fundamental flaw,” Howarth concluded.

Hormel Foods enhances position in premium deli meats

Hormel Foods Corp. announced Oct. 31 that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Columbus Manufacturing Inc. -- an authentic, premium deli meat and salami company -- from Chicago, Ill.-based Arbor Investments for approximately $850 million. The strategic acquisition positions Hormel Foods as a total deli solutions provider and enhances its other strong deli brands, such as Hormel, Jennie-O, Applegate and Di Lusso.

“We are pleased to add Columbus to the Hormel Foods family. Columbus has an outstanding reputation in the food industry and is well-positioned in the advantaged retail deli category,” said Jim Snee, president and chief executive officer of Hormel Foods. “Columbus is capitalizing on one of the fastest-growing areas in the retail grocery store with premium, authentic products that are on trend with today’s consumers who are looking for unique experiences, flavors and products.”

Snee said the acquisition of Columbus will serve as a catalyst for uniting all of the company’s deli businesses into one customer-facing organization.

“This acquisition significantly enhances our scale in the deli by broadening our portfolio of products, customers and consumers. The synergies we can unlock with this acquisition are clear, and I’m excited for the next evolution of our company,” he added.

Columbus CEO Joe Ennen said,  “As a millennial-focused brand, Columbus has generated category-leading growth through a passionate commitment to quality, simplicity and time-honored recipes. In Hormel, we are joining an organization whose values and culture perfectly align with our own.”

Total annual sales for Columbus are approximately $300 million, with an expected growth rate in excess of 5%. Hormel Foods expects the acquisition to be modestly accretive to earnings per share in fiscal 2018. Full-year accretion in fiscal 2019 is expected to be 6-8 cents per share.

The company will continue to operate from California and will report into the refrigerated foods segment. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the U.S.

New method calculates carbon footprint of individual cattle

Rothamsted Research Cattle at Rothamsted's North Wyke Farm Platform in Devon
Cattle at Rothamsted's North Wyke Farm Platform in Devon, U.K.

Implications of livestock farming on climate change should not be drawn from aggregate statistics, according to a study using a new method of determining the carbon footprint of pasture-based cattle production systems that can assess the impacts of individual animals.

The new method, developed by a team from the University of Bristol and Rothamsted Research in the U.K., records the environmental impact of each animal separately before calculating the overall burden of a farm.

Existing methods of carbon footprint analysis are primarily designed to quantify total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a particular farm and, therefore, are unable to provide information on the environmental performance of specific animals.

The ability to identify "green" cattle within a herd — cattle that produce fewer emissions per kilogram of liveweight gain — promises more sustainable farming, the research team reported in the study, which was published Oct. 30 in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

The team applied both the new and old methods to field data collected at the North Wyke Farm Platform (NWFP), a state-of-the-art Rothamsted facility that supports three experimental farms over 63 hectares in Devon, U.K.

They demonstrated that the latter approach consistently underestimates levels of GHG emissions because it fails to sufficiently consider the effects of poorly performing animals, which are known to produce disproportionately large amounts of methane through enteric fermentation.

Research leader Dr. Taro Takahashi, senior lecturer in sustainable livestock systems and food security at Bristol Veterinary School and a research scientist at the North Wyke farm, said, "The research offers two important lessons that may seem paradoxical at first sight. Short term, many carbon footprint estimates currently available are probably too low, which is clearly bad news for the industry, but long term, this also means that mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions originating from ruminants could be easier than traditionally thought — if we are able to select the right animals through the right screening methods. This is precisely what we are trying to achieve at North Wyke."

The work also marked the first comprehensive evaluation of the three production systems at North Wyke. "This study demonstrates the true value of primary data being collected by the NWFP team every day," added Paul Harris, the facility's project leader. "They can challenge our intuition and enhance our understanding of how we can make agriculture more sustainable."

Michael Lee, Bristol Veterinary School professor of sustainable livestock systems and head of North Wyke, said, "At Rothamsted, not only do we aim to advance knowledge on how to minimize negative impacts of agricultural production, as exemplified by the current paper, but also on how to optimize the positive contribution grazing livestock can bring to us as part of a well-designed food supply chain."

Lee added, "Such aspects include effective use of land unsuitable for growing crops, production of higher-quality protein and more bioavailable micronutrients, improved animal welfare, prosperous rural communities and flood prevention. They all make up the bigger picture when looking for a sustainable future of food production."

NWFP is a U.K. National Capability funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council. Its data sets and resources are open to all researchers, including those outside Rothamsted.

The full open-access paper is "Distributions of Emissions Intensity for Individual Beef Cattle Reared on Pasture-Based Production Systems."

Breeding resistant chickens for improved food safety

Baris KARADENIZ/iStock/Thinkstock broiler chickens

A new test developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in College Station, Texas, could make it easier to breed pathogen-resistant chickens.

The test identifies roosters whose blood contains naturally high levels of two key chemicals: cytokines and chemokines. These chemicals mobilize the birds' innate immune response, according to microbiologist Christi Swaggerty in the ARS Food & Feed Safety Research Unit.

Using the new test, commercial poultry breeders can single out roosters that have a strong immune response and use them to selectively breed a more robust flock. Such resistance, especially during the birds' first week of life, may lower costs related to animal well-being and food safety, ARS said.

Protecting chickens from pathogens involves sanitation, vaccination, biosecurity and the use of antibiotics and other medications. However, some chickens have an especially robust and efficient immune response and can resist pathogens, Swaggerty noted.

The researchers used the test to select roosters for breeding a line of resistant broilers. Then, they exposed the resistant broilers to several pathogens and compared the resistant group to a group of susceptible broilers bred from roosters with low cytokine and chemokine levels.

The published results showed that the susceptible broilers had more pathogens and signs of infection than the resistant group. Ultimately, such resistance could mean fewer pathogens remaining on birds at the processing plant and improved consumer safety, Swaggerty noted.

Swaggerty and her colleagues study the genetics of chickens' resistance to foodborne disease-causing pathogens, such as salmonella and campylobacter.

Coccidiosis, another poultry disease, is caused by a single-celled parasite known as Eimeria. In the U.S., coccidiosis inflicts annual production losses of up to $800 million, making this intestinal disease a significant threat to nearly 9 billion meat-type birds.