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EPA releases CAFO data

EPA releases CAFO data

LIVESTOCK producers were relieved last year when the Environmental Protection Agency dropped a proposed rule that would have made information on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) publicly available.

Now, livestock producers are again concerned after learning that EPA was obligated to share the sensitive information with environmental groups Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In January 2012, EPA proposed the Clean Water Act Section 308 CAFO Reporting rule to collect information from CAFOs and make it publicly available and readily searchable through the agency's website.

Livestock producers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expressed concerns that this was not only a serious overreach of EPA's authority that could create a roadmap for activists to harass individual families but that the proposal would aid and abet terrorism and provide a very real threat to the nation's food security.

EPA later withdrew the 308 rule on these grounds, but livestock groups learned that the agency still intends to use the information it gathered to create a searchable national database of livestock operations, the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. said in a statement.

The regulation was the result of a 2010 sweetheart deal EPA reached with environmental groups, including NRDC. The deal was struck while EPA and livestock and poultry producers were in the middle of a lawsuit the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed over EPA's 2008 CAFO rule, which required large livestock and poultry operations that propose to or that might discharge into waterways to obtain Clean Water Act (CWA) permits. A federal appeals court ruled that CWA requires permits only for farms that actually discharge.

When asked why the groups sought the information, Jon Devine, senior attorney with the NRDC Water Program, told Feedstuffs the data requested by NRDC and Pew "will provide a greater understanding of what is known about industrial livestock facilities and help identify ways that safeguards against CAFO pollution can be improved to protect human health and the environment."

In its FOIA request, EarthJustice said its sole interest in obtaining the records was to understand "why EPA withdrew the CAFO reporting rule and whether EPA has a reasonable plan in place to learn about which CAFOs are likely discharging and to undertake advocacy efforts related in improving EPA's regulation of CAFOs under the Clean Water Act, if appropriate."

The information released covers CAFOs in more than 30 states and even includes many family farmers and ranchers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under CWA. In some instances, farmers' home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, as well as information on the operations' employees, were released, NPPC reported.

"When we reviewed the information submitted by the states and released by EPA, we were alarmed at the detail of the information provided on hard-working family farmers and ranchers -- family operations, including my own," said NCBA past president J.D. Alexander, a cattle feeder from Pilger, Neb. "It is beyond comprehension to me that, with threats to my family from harassment atop biosecurity concerns, EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups."

NPPC president R.C. Hunt, a hog farmer from Wilson, N.C., said, "The release of data containing personal and confidential information is extremely troubling; we feel betrayed. We are very concerned for farmers and with the ability of those opposed to modern livestock and poultry farms to manipulate the data to advance their extremist agenda."

NPPC is reviewing the files EPA released to better understand the scope and content of the data.

"What's ironic," Hunt said, "is that, in the name of transparency, EPA released information in secret and violated the privacy rights of farmers across the country."

Volume:85 Issue:08

Roullier buys 50% of magnesia supplier in Brazil

Roullier buys 50% of magnesia supplier in Brazil

THE Roullier Group has acquired 50% of independent magnesia producer Magnesium do Brasil, a family-owned company in Brazil.

Magnesium do Brasil supplies the magnesium market in South America from its own mines. Located in northeastern Brazil, the firm has direct access to two ports, which allows export access to major international markets.

Magnesium do Brasil's production capacity in 2010 was 20,000 tons per year of caustic calcined magnesia sourced from its two magnesite mines, Jucas and Pitombeiros, in the Ceara state of Brazil. It has since installed a second 170-ton-per-day shaft kiln to raise its capacity.

Magnesium do Brasil has been a commercial partner with Roullier for a few years, and the companies share similar long-term development goals, the announcement said.

Based in Dinard, France, family-owned Roullier owns 14 business lines that are split into three divisions: managing phosphates, magnesia and industrial solutions.

The company has recently been focusing more on the magnesia division, which consists mainly of TIMAB and Magnesitas Navarras. TIMAB is a 100%-owned subsidiary that manufactures magnesia and phosphate products for the fertilizer and animal feed industries. TIMAB North America has offices in Minneapolis, Minn.

Magnesitas Navarras, which is 60% owned by Roullier and 40% by Grecian Magnesite S.A. since 2000, is a Spanish magnesia producer that produces magnesia for the refractory and fertilizer industries.

In January 2012, Roullier acquired a 50% stake in Dutch magnesia processor and distributor Van Mannekus & Co. B.V., which was previously owned by Possehl Erzkontor GmbH.

Volume:85 Issue:06

DNA testing delivers poll flock fast

DNA testing delivers poll flock fast

EFFECTIVE use of DNA technology can reduce the chance of breeding horned Merino rams by 80% in just one year and completely remove the horn gene from the flock in just seven years, according to new data from Australia's Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

Through its "Information Nucleus Flock," the Sheep CRC has researched the effects of various DNA testing regimes for breeding out the presence of the genes responsible for horns on Merinos.

The modeling revealed that DNA testing just the rams used in a breeding program will quickly reduce the number of horned sheep and eventually lead to the removal of the horn gene from a poll flock in approximately 20 years. The gene can be removed even faster if producers choose the more expensive option of testing both rams and ewes, the announcement said.

"The development of horns in sheep appears to be controlled by a single gene for which there is good DNA marker," Sheep CRC chief executive professor James Rowe said.

"The new genomic test for the horn gene means that, in poll flocks, we can avoid breeding from rams that are carriers of the horn gene," Rowe said. "Commercial producers have expressed a preference for polled Merinos, and as a result, the stud market is delivering a clear price differential of as much as $200 (Australian) in favor of polled rams. At $17 per DNA test, there is a clear return on investment for breeders and ram buyers wanting polled Merinos."

Operating as part of the Australia federal Department of Innovation Industry Science & Research CRC program, the Sheep CRC is a collaboration of the industry, government and commercial sector. It works to increase the productivity and profitability of the sheep industry through the adoption of new technologies in both the meat and wool supply chains.

More information on DNA testing for horn/poll is available from the Sheep CRC website at www.sheepcrc.org.au.

Volume:85 Issue:06

EU lawmakers demand stricter food labeling

EU lawmakers demand stricter food labeling

MEMBERS of the European Parliament (MEPs) called for more meat testing along the food chain in the wake of the scandal in which horse meat was found in product labeled as ground beef.

During a Feb. 18 debate in the food safety committee, many MEPs voiced concern over European Union member states' level of commitment to enforcing the EU's existing rules on food product labeling and urged the European Commission to step up controls.

According to a press release, most MEPs at the hearing felt that the horse meat finding was a labeling and traceability issue rather than a food safety issue, although some highlighted concerns that horses could be treated with substances like the painkiller phenilbutazone (Feedstuffs, Feb. 18), which is banned from meat for human consumption.

"It is a vast fraud, but we need to calm down on this," MEP Peter Liese from Germany said. "However, I understand that consumers don't want to be fooled into eating something they don't want."

His advice was to improve enforcement of the existing legislation, reinforce tests and introduce DNA testing.

"What shocked most people was that after the (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) crisis, the system was supposed to have brought in traceability," MEP Linda McAvan from the U.K. added. She pointed out that rules on meat product labeling had been supported by the European Parliament but then rejected by EU governments.

"On traceability, we have the most developed legislation in the world," European Commission director-general for health and consumers Paola Testori Coggi said. "Fraud was detected, and the meat was traced. The system worked. The commission has proposed a plan for increased controls, including DNA tests on meat."


Fraudulent labeling?

Chris Davis, an MEP from the U.K., said, "Responsibility must rest with the food manufacturers. Where is the evidence that the checks have been carried out by the national authorities? Ideally, some effort should be made for common penalties at the EU level."

MEP Carl Schlyter from Sweden warned that "focusing on low prices increases the risk of fraud" and said meat origin labeling would allow companies to build long-term links with their suppliers, thereby reducing the risk. Moreover, he said he believes "the risk of penalties should be felt by the companies."

Coggi replied that criminal sanctions are the responsibility of the member states, and the EU cannot legislate in this area.

MEP Kartika Tamara Liotard from the Netherlands urged the European Commission to be "tough on member states that don't apply the legislation," adding that "we simply need to know what's in our food."

MEP Paul Nuttall from the U.K. said, "We're not ensuring that food is safe, and we're also labeling it incorrectly. ... In this case, the meat traveled to five different countries. It is almost impossible to police."

He asked that food safety authority be returned to EU member states.

Volume:85 Issue:08

Plant's water demands adaptable

Plant's water demands adaptable

PLANTS can adapt to extreme shifts in water availability, such as from drought and flooding, but their ability to withstand these extreme patterns will be tested by future climate change, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists and their cooperators.

The study was published in Nature by a team from USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) led by Guillermo Ponce Campos and Susan Moran and an Australian team led by Alfredo Huete from the University of Technology-Sydney (UTS). This research included contributions from nine other ARS scientists, four U.S. Forest Service scientists and colleagues from the University of Arizona, the University of California-Irvine and UTS.

"In the U.S., much of our agricultural productivity has depended on long-term precipitation regimes, but those patterns are changing, and we need information for managing the effects of those shifts," ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling said. "These findings can help managers respond to the challenges of global climate change with effective strategies for maintaining agricultural productivity."

The researchers conducted their investigation using measurements made during 2000-09 at 29 sites in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Australia. This provided data about precipitation patterns in environments ranging from grasslands to forests. Globally, 2000 through 2009 ranked as the 10 warmest years of the 130-year (1880-2009) record, ARS said.

The team compared these data with measurements taken from 1975 to 1998 at 14 sites in North America, Central America and South America.

To calculate ecosystem water use, the scientists used satellite observations to approximate above-ground net plant productivity at each site. Then, they combined these approximations with field data of precipitation and estimates of plant water loss to generate indicators of plant water use efficiency.

ARS said the researchers noted that ecosystem water use efficiency increased in the driest years and decreased in the wettest years. This suggests that plants' water demand fluctuated in accordance with water availability and that there is a cross-community capacity for tolerating low precipitation and responding to high precipitation during periods of warm drought.

However, the team observed that the water use efficiency data exhibited a trend of "diminishing returns." This suggests that plant communities will eventually approach a water use efficiency threshold that will disrupt plant water use and severely limit plant production when drought is prolonged.

The researchers also used the data to develop predictions about future plant responses to climate changes. Their results suggest that ecosystem resilience will decline as regions are subjected to continuing warming and drying trends. They project that this downturn will begin in grassland biomes because these plant communities are particularly sensitive to the hot and dry conditions of prolonged warm droughts.

Volume:85 Issue:04

Schools of ag expand investments

Schools of ag expand investments

WHILE university agricultural programs have faced tightened budgets and hiring freezes over the past few years, two colleges of agriculture announced Feb. 18 major initiatives that will increase funding and lead to new faculty positions.

The Purdue University College of Agriculture announced that it has received an anonymous estate gift valued at $65 million, the largest donation from individuals in the university's history.

"This gift is a tremendous vote of confidence for all of Purdue and our College of Agriculture," Purdue president Mitch Daniels said. "Their generosity will enhance Purdue (College of) Agriculture's ability to educate future generations of food and agricultural leaders and scientists, make the discoveries that improve and save lives and ensure that those discoveries make it into the hands of the people who need them."

Jay Akridge, Purdue's Glenn W. Sample dean of agriculture, said, "This is truly a transformational gift, which will dramatically enhance our ability to make a difference for the people of Indiana, our country and the world."

Akridge said the donors want to remain anonymous and gave the college flexibility in how it uses the money.

"Their wishes are that this future funding be used in the best possible way to build on (the College of) Agriculture's tradition of excellence and to ensure that we enhance that excellence in all we do going forward," he said. "This donor will make an incredible investment in Purdue agriculture because they believe in our ability, both today and in the future, to deliver on a research, education and extension mission that addresses our most pressing real-world problems with real-world solutions."

Lisa Calvert, Purdue vice president for development, said the gift also was an endorsement of university leadership.

"Since the announcement of a new administration in June, there has been an increase in broad-base support, including the total number of donors and dollars raised, resulting in a new energy in philanthropy," she said.

Purdue officials also announced that $22 million in gifts and university matching funds have led to the creation of 13 new endowed professorships as part of the "Faculty Excellence Challenge Match" program that was launched last year.



The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced that it is "strategically increasing" its investment in agriculture and natural resources and is looking to hire 36 new faculty after a decade of budget cuts and stagnant hiring.

Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the university's Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources, where the faculty will be housed, said the new hires will come in subject areas that fulfill workforce gaps critical to the global challenges of the future, including expanded and more-efficient food production and improved water and natural resource management.

The 36 new positions, listed at http://ianrhome.unl.edu/web/ianr/growingianr, are primarily in the areas of science literacy, stress biology, computational sciences, healthy humans and healthy systems for agricultural production and natural resources.

"They cover a fairly wide range of areas across the institute addressing contemporary agricultural and natural resource issues," Green said.

"We are absolutely convinced that, as a university, it's time to double down on our investment in these areas around food, fuel and water," Green said. "All of the needs out there indicate that we need to expand our efforts to meet the challenges that are ahead."

By emphasizing areas where the state of Nebraska and its land-grant university already are proficient, "we're building strength on strength," he said.

While this slate of new positions is "a big bang," Green emphasized that the institute actually has been steadily ramping up hiring over the last couple of years and expects to embark on a fresh wave of hiring in about 18 months. This follows several years of university budget cuts and holds on hiring.

"It's a bold statement that we're making. Some would say it's risky to be taking on this much at once," Green said. However, "I'd say it's a calculated, strategic move that's going to pay off big in the long run."


Volume:85 Issue:08

Biofuel feedstocks 'blend' in

Biofuel feedstocks 'blend' in

- Ionic liquid pretreatment studied on mixed and densified feedstocks.

- Four fuel crops milled into flour or pellets.

- Fermentable sugar yield of 90% achieved.

IN the future, makers of advanced biofuels might blend different feedstock varieties to balance the energy characteristics of the transportation fuel they produce, according to a news release from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A collaborative study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) -- a bioenergy research center led by the Berkeley Lab -- and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has shown that an ionic liquid that's effective at pretreating individual biofuel feedstocks is also effective at pretreating multiple feedstocks that have been mixed and densified into a blend.

"Our results show that an ionic liquid pretreatment can efficiently handle mixed feedstocks that have been milled and densified into pellets and can generate high yields of fermentable sugars, regardless of upstream processing," said Blake Simmons, a chemical engineer who heads JBEI's deconstruction division. "This indicates that blending and densifying a wide range of feedstocks has significant potential for helping to make biofuels a cost-competitive transportation fuel technology."

Simmons and colleague Seema Singh, director of JBEI's biomass pretreatment group, led the JBEI/INL study in which four biomass feedstocks -- representing the general classes of plants that are well-suited to serving as fuel crops -- were mixed and milled into either flour or pellets and then were pretreated with 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate, the ionic liquid JBEI uses as a benchmark for biomass processing.

The objective was to determine the impact of mixing and densification on the efficiency at which the complex polysaccharides in cellulosic biomass could be converted into fermentable sugars for fuel production.

"Lignocellulosic biorefineries must be able to efficiently process available regional feedstocks at cost-competitive prices year-round, but feedstocks markedly vary from region to region," Singh said. "Also, individual feedstocks within a given region are quite variable, depending on weather conditions, handling, storage and crop variety. Blending and densifying different feedstocks to create a single, uniform feedstock has been proposed as a solution, but not much scientific attention has been paid to the efficiency of converting mixtures of feedstocks into fermentable sugars and fuels."

Produced from the microbial fermentation of sugars in lignocellulosic biomass, advanced biofuels are clean, green and renewable and could displace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel on a gallon-for-gallon basis and be directly dropped into today's engines and infrastructure, according to the news release.

The sugars in lignocellulosic biomass, however, are complex polysaccharides that are deeply embedded within a very recalcitrant material called lignin. To break apart the complex lignocellulose and help hydrolyze the released polysaccharides into sugars that can be fermented by microbes, researchers at JBEI and elsewhere have been studying biomass pretreatments with ionic liquids -- environmentally benign organic salts often used as green chemistry substitutes for volatile organic solvents.

Researchers at INL have been investigating ways to increase the energy densities of biomass feedstocks and make delivery to refineries much more economical. Milling feedstocks into flour or pellets is an effective process for large-scale energy densification, but before this latest study, it was unknown as to how densification of single or mixed feedstocks would affect ionic liquid pretreatment and sugar yield.

The JBEI/INL collaborators mixed switchgrass, lodgepole pine, corn stover and eucalyptus in flour and pellets and, within 24 hours of saccharification, were able to obtain sugar yields of up to 90% for both forms. Pellets, because of their higher energy density, would be the preferred form.

"Our work is the first demonstration that ionic liquid pretreatments can effectively handle mixed and densified feedstocks," Simmons said. "We're continuing the collaboration to next identify the most economical pelletized feedstock mixtures based on targeted regions of the U.S. We'll then determine how efficiently our process can convert these mixtures into fermentable sugars."

The researchers published their results in the journal Biofuels in a paper titled "Impact of Mixed Feedstocks & Feedstock Densification on Ionic Liquid Pretreatment Efficiency." Co-authors, in addition to Simmons and Singh, included JBEI's Jian Shi and Vitalie Stavila and INL's Vicki Thompson and Neal Yancey.

Volume:85 Issue:08

In 60 seconds: 2/25/13

In 60 seconds: 2/25/13

U.S. to challenge EU ethanol tariffs: The European Commission is officially imposing a tariff of $83.03 per metric ton on U.S. ethanol entering the European Union. The 9.5% tariff was approved because EU officials claim that the U.S. is selling ethanol at unfairly low prices due to subsidies. However, the U.S. no longer receives production subsidies as it did prior to 2012. The U.S. ethanol industry announced its intentions to challenge the tariff. The Renewable Fuels Assn. and Growth Energy issued a strongly worded statement saying, "This tariff is outrageous and based on absolutely no facts or evidence of harm. An extensive investigation was conducted, and there was no proof to substantiate the European Union's protectionist claims of dumping. Imposing a country-wide antidumping tariff is unprecedented and unfounded. This is blatant protectionism at its worst. This is absolutely not the final chapter. We will challenge this policy in every manner possible."

Mexico reports new case of avian flu: The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced Feb. 18 that Mexico's animal health agency (SENASICA) reported to the international animal health body that it had identified nine outbreaks of highly pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza in Mexico's state of Guanajuato. SENASICA said the outbreaks occurred in seven breeder farms and two commercial layer farms and affected 647,742 birds, 34,889 of which died and 53,553 of which became ill. OIE said, in addition to the depopulation activities, SENASICA launched a preventive vaccination program on breeder and layer farms in Guanajuato. The epidemiological investigation is ongoing, and the first results suggest that the virus had been introduced through fomites and biosecurity failures. Mexico also reported outbreaks of H7N3 avian flu in the states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes in January.

Bloomberg seeks polystyrene ban: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on polystyrene foam, a common substance used for making takeout food containers. The mayor, who most recently championed a ban on the sale of large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages (Feedstuffs, Oct. 1, 2012), said polystyrene clogs landfills, does not biodegrade and may be harmful to human health. "We can live without it. We may live longer without it, and the doggie bag will be just fine," he said in proposing the ban in his "State of the City" speech Feb. 14. The proposal likely will be opposed by restaurant interests since alternatives to polystyrene cost two to five times as much as the foam product.

Seaboard removes care statement: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced that its complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and Securities & Exchange Commission "over false and misleading statements" by Seaboard Foods have forced Seaboard to remove the statements from its website. Seaboard, the third-largest pork producer in the U.S., continues to use gestation stalls for pregnant sows, a form of housing that HSUS regards as inhumane. However, HSUS said Seaboard had maintained on its website that the company uses "the most humane practices throughout the animal's life." HSUS noted that Seaboard has now removed the statement.

CRP signups: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) beginning May 20 and ending June 14. Additional signups for continuous CRP programs, such as the Highly Erodible Land Initiative and the Initiative to Restore Grasslands, Wetlands & Wildlife, will be announced in the spring. Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP, which is a voluntary program designed to help agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. CRP contracts on 3.3 million acres are set to expire on Sept. 30. USDA is encouraging producers with expiring contracts or with environmentally sensitive land to evaluate their options under CRP.

U.K. raw milk: The U.K. Food Standards Agency plans to prosecute the department store Selfridges Retail Ltd. for installing vending machines that offer raw milk in its store in London, England, according to an announcement. The agency also plans to prosecute the dairy farmer who supplies the raw milk. A magistrate court has set a hearing on the matter for Feb. 6. Under current regulations, dairy farmers in England, Ireland and Wales are permitted to sell raw milk at farms or farmers markets, but such sales are banned in Scotland. Selfridges said it provides the product because it supports "unique products" and "a variety of choices" for its customers.

Volume:85 Issue:08

Senators urge fast action on Russia's meat ban

Senators urge fast action on Russia's meat ban

SENATE Agriculture Committee leaders wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk asking him to quickly address Russia's new import ban on U.S. beef, poultry and turkey -- a ban that could cost the U.S. economy $600 million annually.

Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) and ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) said the ban is "unfounded, not based on sound science and violates World Trade Organization rules."

The trade violation stems from Russia's zero-tolerance policy regarding ractopamine, a feed additive for livestock approved in 2000 by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and last summer by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international organization that sets science-based food safety standards.

"We must demonstrate to Russia that its newfound commitment to WTO membership includes adherence to science-based standards, such as the Codex (maximum residue limit) for ractopamine," the senators wrote.

Ractopamine is used in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South American countries such as Brazil. U.S. livestock producers can add ractopamine to the feed of animals nearing slaughter, explained Dr. James McKean, an Iowa State University professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and associate director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center.

The additive acts as a growth regulator that "repartitions" the proportion of fat and lean muscle the animals produce. Swine fed ractopamine grow a higher proportion of muscle at a time when they normally add more fat, he said. Ractopamine also increases feed efficiency.

Concerns that traces of the substance remain in the meat after an animal has been slaughtered have prompted other countries to ban the product.

In their letter to Kirk, Stabenow and Cochran wrote, "With your swift action and use of all enforcement tools available, it is our sincere hope that the issues surrounding Russia's import ban can be quickly and decisively resolved, thereby ensuring a stable and predictable trading environment for U.S. livestock producers and exporters."

McKean said Russia's decision to stop importing U.S. meat that contains ractopamine resulted more from heightening trade tensions between the two countries than from a concern over public safety.

Volume:85 Issue:08

Ractopamine creating conflicting headlines

Ractopamine creating conflicting headlines

THE feed additive ractopamine continues to be an issue of global debate as both Russia and Brazil recently made conflicting decisions regarding its use.

Russia decided to ban U.S. meat that may contain residues of the feed additive, which is used to promote leaner meat and increase feed efficiency.

On the other end of the spectrum, scientists in Brazil have found that using a small dose of the product can boost pork production without sacrificing quality and taste.

Pork, turkey and beef are now all on Russia's list of banned meat after Russia found ractopamine residue in some of the products.

While many say it is a political move, Russia is not the first country to reject the feed additive. In fact, many countries, including the European Union, have banned the use of ractopamine in their own countries.

After years of restrictions following the Cold War, the U.S. Senate recently passed a bill to establish normal trade relations with Russia. A provision in the bill, however, requires that the Russian government exercise sanctions against human rights violators.

Clearly angered over the requirements, Russia expressed disapproval by banning U.S. meat, saying ractopamine residues were found in meat. The government will allow the banned U.S. meat products to be imported once the U.S. can ensure that no residues will be found.

Lee Schulz, an assistant professor of economics at Iowa State University and an extension and outreach livestock market specialist, said Russia accounted for about 6.7% of the U.S. beef export market in 2012 through November, up 7.6% from the previous year.

On the pork side, Russia was a key market in 2012, with U.S. shipments to Russia growing 47.3% through November. According to Schulz, Russia accounted for about 5.6% of the U.S. pork export market in 2012.

Schulz said the Russian market is relatively small compared to other major markets for U.S. meat, but that doesn't mean it's unimportant.

"Anytime trade is restricted, it has the potential to affect individual producers, but the impact could be limited," Schulz said. "The restriction being in place doesn't necessarily mean exports will completely cease, especially for pork. U.S. pork producers and processors have been producing non-ractopamine-fed pigs for some markets. Beef producers could do the same, if the markets are large enough and pay well enough."

Dr. James McKean, a professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University and associate director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, said ractopamine went through a long and rigorous testing period and was approved by the Food & Drug Administration before livestock producers began using it more than a decade ago.

McKean insists that it's a safe product.

"Ractopamine underwent very thorough safety testing, and it took a long time to get the product on the market," McKean said. "I'm very comfortable with its safety for human consumption."

Brazil apparently agrees with the Iowa State professor. In the latest issue of the Journal of Animal Science, animal scientists in Brazil reported that a 5 mg/kg dose of ractopamine increased muscle mass and feed efficiency and had no noticeable effect on pork marbling, fat content, toughness or color. The researchers came to this conclusion by testing pork from 340 pigs raised under commercial conditions.

"We found that if (pork producers) use 5 mg/kg of ractopamine in the finishing diet of swine, that should result in no detrimental effects on fresh pork quality and cooked pork palatability," said Natalia Bortoleto Athayde, an animal scientist at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.

Some scientists had reported reduced pork quality with higher doses of ractopamine; therefore, Athayde and other researchers split a herd of pigs into three groups and gave them 0, 5 or 10 mg/kg of ractopamine during the last 28 days before slaughter. They then slaughtered the pigs and tested the pork's pH, temperature, color, drip loss, marbling, intramuscular fat, cooking loss and tenderness.

According to Athayde, analyzing meat color is important because changes in meat color can be a sign of stress in an animal.

The researchers found that, although 5 mg/kg produced no noticeable effects, pork from the 10 mg/kg pigs was lighter and less tender than pork from control group pigs. Athayde said this confirms findings from previous studies showing that 5 mg/kg is an appropriate dose in Brazil's commercial pork production.

Athayde noted that pork is the most-consumed animal protein in the world, "and Brazil is currently the fourth-largest producer of this meat. We export about 15% of pork we produce, and we believe it is extremely important to know the quality of the meat that we offer to the world."

Ractopamine use will continue to be a controversial trade issue as both consumer demand and global food production standards change. The feed additive is viewed as a tool to feed a growing population, but with limited research, some countries continue to question its safety.


Purdue pork conference

Purdue University Extension and Indiana Pork are teaming up to host the third annual Southern Indiana Pork Conference and offer an update on the latest news in the pork industry.

The free daylong conference will be held March 20 at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant in Jasper, Ind. Lunch will be provided by Indiana Pork.

Kenneth Eck, Purdue Extension educator in Dubois County, Ind., said swine producers, veterinarians and pork buyers and packers should attend to learn about and discuss issues key to the swine industry.

"We're trying to get three groups together -- Indiana pork producers, Purdue academia and Indiana veterinarians -- to talk to each other about what issues are most important to them," Eck said.

He noted that farmers in southern Indiana are particularly interested in new livestock regulations because Dubois County leads the state in livestock production. The conference will include discussions about changes in, and updates to, production, economic and environmental factors.

Topics include:

* "State Fertilizer & Manure Regulation Changes" by Julie Stephens, Office of Indiana State Chemist.

* "Tyson Animal Welfare Audit Program -- What, How & Why?" by Ed Tice, Tyson Foods Inc.

* "Can New Supplemental Enzymes Improve Pig Performance for Diets High in By-Product Ingredients?" by Brian Richert, Purdue Extension swine specialist.

* "State Regulatory & Legislative Issues & How They'll Affect You" by Josh Trenary and Spencer Morris, Indiana Pork.

* "Exploring Changing Consumer Preferences for Pork Production: Purchasing Behaviors & Perceptions in 2012" by Nicole Olynk Widmar and Melissa McKendree, Purdue Extension agricultural economists.

* "Local Health Concerns -- A Veterinarian's Perspective" by John Baker, Warrick Veterinary Clinic.

* "Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) Certification" by Eck.

Reservations are requested by March 13 to the Indiana Pork office by calling (317) 872-7500.

*Krissa Welshans holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from Michigan State University and a master's degree in public policy from New England College. Welshans has long been involved in agriculture and has worked with numerous agricultural groups, including the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

Volume:85 Issue:08