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Peanut executives indicted over salmonella outbreak

It has been over three years since the salmonella outbreak at non defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) caused the enormous recall of 2,100 products from 200 different companies and suspected nine deaths and hundreds of illnesses. Last week a 76-count indictment was brought against four former officials of PCA and a related company related to the salmonella-tainted peanuts and peanut products.

Stewart Parnell, 58, of Lynchburg, Va.; Michael Parnell, 54, of Midlothian, Va.; and Samuel Lightsey, 48, of Blakely, Ga., have been charged with mail and wire fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and conspiracy. Stewart Parnell, Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson, 39, of Edison, Ga., were also charged with obstruction of justice.

Michael Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, explained the violations could result in up to 43 years in prison, as well as monetary fines.

"When food or drug manufacturers lie and cut corners, they put all of us at risk. The Department of Justice will not hesitate to pursue any person whose criminal conduct risks the safety of Americans who have done nothing more than eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," said Stuart F. Delery, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "Like the FDA, we pay close attention to food safety matters, and we are committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Americans from unsafe foods." 

PCA's Blakely plant was a peanut roasting facility where PCA roasted raw peanuts and produced granulated peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut paste; PCA sold these peanut products to its customers around the country. 

The charging documents charge that Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Lightsey and Kilgore participated in a scheme to manufacture and ship salmonella-contaminated peanuts and peanut products, and in so doing misled PCA customers. As alleged in the indictment, those customers ranged in size from small, family-owned businesses to global, multibillion-dollar food companies.

As alleged in the indictment, three of the defendants — Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Lightsey — engaged in a multi-year conspiracy to hide the fact that many of PCA’s products were tainted with salmonella. As alleged in the charging documents, on several occasions the four defendants participated in a scheme to fabricate certificates of analysis (COAs) stating that shipments of peanut products were free of pathogens when, in fact, there had been no tests on the products at all or when the laboratory results showed that a sample tested positive for salmonella. 

The indictment said when FDA inspectors visited PCA's plant several times in January 2009, some of the defendants gave untrue or misleading answers to FDA inspectors' questions.

"FDA has a right to get honest answers," Delery said in a press briefing. He said the criminal actions taken help ensure that in the future other food executives "understand the consequences of lying to the FDA."

InVivo NSA opens new pet food plant in Mexico

Present in Mexico since 2008 through its subsidiary maltaCleyton, InVivo Animal Nutrition & Health (InVivo NSA) is a world leader in the field of animal health and nutrition and a major player in the field of animal nutrition and pet food in Mexico.

InVivo NSA opened Feb. 20 a new pet food plant in Mexico's state of Morelos, just south of Mexico City, that will increase the group's production capacity from 75,000 metric tons to 90,000 mt.

InVivo NSA director general Hubert de Roquefeuil said Mexico is a key country for the group both in terms of animal nutrition and health and pet food, an important market and strong growth in Mexico.

Indeed, with more than 26 million dogs and cats, Mexico's pet food market is one of the main growth drivers of InVivo NSA, Roquefeuil said, to the extent that the group is the third-largest player in the Mexican market, with ultra-modern facilities and strong brands such as Ganador Original, Ganador Premium Ganador Duo, Best Choice, Best Choice and Poder Canino.

The new pet food plant covers 5 hectares and represents an investment of $16 million.

France-based InVivo NSA employs 5,600 people in 18 countries and 74 production sites. During 2011-12, InVivo NSA achieved a turnover of 1.4 billion euros.

Essential oils examined for beef cattle rearing

Essential oils examined for beef cattle rearing

*The authors are with the department of health, animal science and food safety at the University of Milan in Italy.

CURRENTLY in beef cattle production, the goal is to pursue maximum production efficiency by limiting any kind of waste as much as possible.

In this view, rumen fermentation represents one of the main critical points on which it's possible to implement interventions to improve the cattle productivity. In fact, the polygastrics establish an essential relationship with the microorganisms in their rumen, providing them with nutrients through which these microorganisms proliferate, starting processes necessary to the ruminant itself, including fiber degradation, production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) and synthesis of water-soluble vitamins and bacterial proteins of high biological value.

This synergy is, however, also characterized by a significant use of energy and nitrogen. In fact, the rumen fermentation of carbohydrates and proteins are accompanied by the loss of methane and nitrogen, respectively. The values stand at between 8% and 12% for digestible energy ingested by ruminants lost in form of methane, and between 75% and 85% for nitrogen, which is excreted in feces and urine daily, and consequently cannot be used for the processes of bacterial protein synthesis.

These energy losses not only reduce production performance but also contribute to the release of pollutants into the environment. The experts in nutrition have long been working to modulate the diverse populations of ruminal microorganisms with the goal of improving the energetic and protein efficiency in the rumen. This objective can be reached through a specific diet optimization, and by adding feed additives that can modify the rumen environment, inhibiting or stimulating specific microbial populations.

Ionophores in ruminant feed have been found contain the energetic and protein losses that characterize the ruminant digestion. However, the use of these products for animal nutrition has met growing disapproval from European consumers, because of the risk of the occurrence of antibiotic-resistance phenomena due to the presence of residues in products of animal origin. For this reason, their use has been permanently forbidden from the European Union, since January 2006 (Directive 1831/2003/CEE, European Commission, 2003).

Therefore, research has been directed toward the identification of active ingredients that are alternative to ionophore antibiotics for the modulation of rumen fermentation, such as yeasts, organic acids, plant extracts, prebiotics and probiotics, paying particular attention to the products of natural origin in line with the expectations of the modern consumer.

 

Essential oils

Plants produce a wide variety of organic compounds that do not seem to have a specific function for their development, but are indeed responsible for smell and color of plants, and perform important functions connected to the interaction with the surrounding environment and also, most interestingly, have a significant antifungal and antibacterial action.

These metabolites are classified into three main groups: saponins, tannins and essential oils.

Among these, the essential oils are assuming increasing importance in livestock nutrition for their multiple actions, such as, in particular, the improvement of ruminal efficiency and the reduction of wasted energy and the release of pollutant metabolites into the environment.

The Food & Drug Administration has declared essential oils safe in 2004 both for the animal and the human nutrition. They consist of a variety of substances of different nature and different functions.

Essential oils have a wide range of beneficial effects on health, such as positive effects on cardiovascular diseases, on the tumors, inflammatory processes and, more generally, in all those diseases in which free radicals are involved. In fact, these properties depend on their ability to inactivate free radicals, inhibit the peroxidation of lipid membranes, chelate metals and play a similar function as antioxidant enzymes. The main function of these compounds remains, however, the antiseptic and antimicrobial one.

Due to their antibacterial properties, essential oils are a valid alternative to the use of auxinic antibiotics in animal nutrition. Studies carried out on other species have demonstrated that the effect of plant extracts administered daily in the diet of pigs and poultry has led to an increase of weight comparable to the one obtained with the addition of ionophore antibiotics.

There are, however, few studies performed in vivo regarding the effects on rumen fermentation of feed addition of essential oils.

Despite the interesting and potential effects of essential oils in livestock production, the related scientific research, after a period of great activity in the early 1960s, has stopped over the next 30 years with the arrival of ionophore antibiotics as growth promoters.

As soon as the use of such substances as feed additives had been banned by the European Union, the study of the essential oil mechanisms of action in the rumen has revived, resulting, in the last 10 years, in lots of in vitro studies, about more than 25 different vegetal extracts (including Achillea millefolium, Arnica chamissonis, Betula alba, Dactylis glomerata, Eucalyptus globulus, Ginkgo biloba, Lavandula officinalis, Lespedeza capitata, Hypericum perforatum, Solidago virgaurea, Fagopyrum esculentum, Equisetum arvense, Salvia officinalis, Pimpinella anisum, Juniperus oxycedrus, Capsicum annuum, Cinnamonum cassia, Syzygium aromaticum, Anethum graveolens, Trigonella foenum graecum, Allium sativum, Zingiber officinale, Origanum vulgare, Melaleuca alternifolia and Armoracia rusticana).

To identify the most effective essential oils to be used in ruminant feed, attention should be directed primarily to those compounds able to select and stimulate the proliferation of rumen microflora, increasing the amount of propionate and reducing the production of acetate and methane, without altering the total amount of VFAs.

The essential oils that have proved in vitro a more active effect towards a positive and efficient modulation of rumen fermentation are garlic, cinnamaldehyde (the most important active compound of cinnamon), eugenol (active compound of the flowers not yet budded and dried of Eugenia caryophyllata, commonly called "cloves"), capsicum (the active compound of red pepper) and anethole (the active compound of anise oil).

From these studies, although conducted in vitro, emerged how the use of essential oils such as cinnamaldehyde, eugenol and capsicum in cattle feeding as modulators of rumen fermentation. This represents an innovative strategy due to their unique targeted antimicrobial activity, ability to increase VFA production and reduce ruminal ammonia nitrogen and methane production with a potential of significant importance both on the environmental impact and economic balance of livestock production.

Considering that there is limited information regarding the in vivo efficacy of essential oils specifically in beef cattle, a study was carried out to verify if their use was capable of improving the growth performance and health status of beef cattle. In addition of antimicrobial ability, essential oils have shown in in vitro studies interesting anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunostimulant properties that could be, therefore, an interesting aid in managing newly arrived beef calves.

 

Field trial

For this purpose, 45 newly received Charolaise beef cattle with an average weight of about 420 kg were divided, within few hours from their arrival from France, in two homogeneous groups fed with the same diet (Table 1) except for the addition in treated group of a mixture containing the combination of three essential oils of cinnamaldehyde, eugenol and capsicum in quantity of 0.8 g per head per day.

All animals were submitted upon arrival to vaccination against infective bovine rhinotracheitis (BHV1), parainfluenza-3 virus, respiratory syncytial virus, bovine viral diarrhea virus and to antiparasitic treatment with ivermectin. The booster vaccination was performed at day 25 only against BHV1. Each animal was weighed on days 0, 25, 53 and 117 to obtain its average daily gain (ADG). On days 0, 25 and 53, a blood sample was collected from 10 animals per group for the evaluation of some blood parameters indicators of the health status such as: titration of antibodies against BHV1 by serum neutralization test, serum bactericidal activity, haptoglobin and reactive metabolites of oxygen (ROMs).

The results show that essential oils of cinnamaldehyde, eugenol and capsicum in beef cattle diet improve growth performance and immune reactivity during the adaptation phase after transport. In fact, treated cattle showed better growth performances than controls with a significantly greater ADG of about 130 g per head per day during the first 53 days and a total of about 90 g per head per day during the whole finishing period (Figure).

The growth improvement can be explained by the optimization of the digestive process induced by essential oils, with an improvement in fermentation activities at ruminal level and specifically with reduction of methanogenesis and energy waste, increase microbial protein production and reduction of ammonia concentrations.

In this regard, it is noted that essential oils have proved to be more effective precisely in beef cattle raised in intensive management systems, since the antimicrobial effect of essential oils is greater in a ruminal pH range between 5.5 and 6.0, conditions that characterize diets of imported beef cattle for finishing.

Regarding the immune response, the administration of essential oils has contributed to a more rapid return to physiological conditions after the stressful event of transport (Table 2).

The serum bactericidal activity at day 25 was found to be higher than the desired threshold of 90% and reported in the literature as physiological in healthy cattle. The immune response to vaccination was also higher. These positive effects, in addition to being the consequence of a functional rumen that was in excellent condition with a consequent increase in dry matter intake, may also result from a direct effect of essential oils on the immune system cells through mechanisms of action that have yet to be investigated.

The concentration of serum haptoglobin, an indicator of the presence of an inflammatory response, has not shown variations between the groups, probably due to the absence of an impairment of the animal health conditions such to induce a representative production and release of inflammatory proteins.

Even with regard to ROMs, a parameter characterized by high sensitivity to numerous factors and for this reason often difficult to interpret, there were no differences between treated animals and controls.

In conclusion, results of the present study showed that the use of essential oils of eugenol, cinnamaldehyde and capsicum seems to be a good strategy both to encourage a more rapid end of the negative effects due to the stress of adaptation phase and for the improvement of growth performance in the finishing stages of beef cattle production with potential positive effects also in terms of environmental impact.

 

1. Composition and diet characteristics (kg/head)

 

Arrival (first 30 days)

Finishing

Corn silage

4.0

6.0

Corn

2.0

3.0

Dry beet pulps

1.2

1.5

Soybean meal (44% CP)

0.7

1.0

Wheat bran

0.5

0.8

Wheat straw

1.4

0.6

Vitamin and mineral supplement

0.2

0.2

As fed, kg

12.6

16.9

Dry matter, kg

8.3

10.8

Mj, kg/DM

1.53

1.65

CP, % DM

12.71

14.11

NFC, % DM

40.53

45.85

NDF, % DM

38.68

31.57

peNDF, % DM

27.89

19.12

Starch, % DM

29.63

34.15

Fat, % DM

2.89

3.05

Calcium, % DM

0.68

0.75

Phosphorus, % DM

0.31

0.34

 

2. Results of blood parameters

Parameter

Day

Control

Treated

P

Serum neutralization (log10(dilution))

0

0

0

25

0.57

0.81

0.04

53

0.90

1.02

0.02

Serum bactericidal (%)

0

87

91

25

87

92

0.01

Haptoglobin (mg/mL)

0

0.36

0.10

25

0.13

0.14

NS

ROMs (mmol hydrogen peroxide)

0

1.28

1.22

25

1.54

1.44

NS

 

Volume:85 Issue:31

OIE to upgrade U.S. BSE risk status

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has recommended that the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) risk classification for the U.S. be upgraded to "negligible."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "I am very pleased with this decision and recommendation by the OIE's Scientific Commission. This is a significant achievement for the U.S., American beef producers and businesses, and federal and state partners who work in coordination to maintain a system of three interlocking safeguards against BSE that protect our public and animal health."

Last year, the U.S. submitted an application and supporting information to the OIE's Scientific Commission to upgrade the U.S.'s risk classification from controlled to negligible. The OIE commission, in turn, conducted a thorough review before recommending that the risk classification for the U.S. be upgraded to negligible, USDA said.

"Being classified as negligible risk for BSE by OIE will also greatly support our efforts to increase exports of U.S. beef and beef products. In recommending that the U.S. receive negligible risk classification, the commission stated that the risk assessments submitted for their evaluation were robust and comprehensive, and that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong," Vilsack said.

Before the OIE's annual General Assembly meeting in Paris, France, in May 2013, delegate countries will have the opportunity to review the commission's recommendation. The U.S. expects that formal adoption of the negligible risk status will occur at the OIE General Assembly meeting in May, when it is considered.

Negligible risk is the lowest risk level under the OIE Code. Countries defined as negligible risk have conducted extensive surveillance and testing in domestic cattle to demonstrate a minimal risk for BSE.

Mexico reports new case of H7N3 avian influenza

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, of which 34,889 died and 53,553 were ill.

OIE said, in addition to the depopulation activities, SENASICA launched a preventive vaccination program in breeder and layer farms in Guanajuato. The epidemiological investigation is ongoing and the first results suggest the introduction of the virus through fomites and biosecurity failures.

Mexico had reported outbreaks of H7N3 avian flu in the states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes in January.

Ag groups unhappy with sequester deal

Senate Democrats, including Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) proposed to eliminate direct payments as a one-year delay of the planned sequestration cuts set to take effect March 1. However, 12 national farm groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposing the proposal.

The proposal would cut $27 billion dollars from agriculture spending, however the cuts would come entirely from commodity programs under Title 1 of the farm bill, a lopsided approach opposed by farm groups. "While we understand the goal of passing legislation to avoid budget sequestration, your proposal takes all of the budget savings from just one section of farm bill," stated the groups in the letter. "The fact that this proposal, if adopted, would simply delay sequestration until January 2014, in hopes that a larger long-term deficit reduction deal could be reached by Congress and the White House has us very concerned that agriculture is the only non-defense budget sector being cut while other sectors are not touched."

The groups pointed out the detrimental impact that cuts from only one aspect of agriculture programs could potentially have. "Your proposed legislation seriously undermines efforts to advance much needed reforms to meet the long term risk management needs of America’s family farms," wrote the groups. "The prospect of multi-year crop disasters coupled with projections of sharp declines in commodity prices over the next few years are widely acknowledged as serious threats to the stability of farm income. With an appropriate level of resources, more efficient and market oriented risk management tools can better address the gaps in protection not covered by crop insurance. Conversely, inadequate funding to restructure the farm bill commodity title will almost certainly eliminate options to reform the farm safety net in a long term fiscally responsible manner."

The groups also highlighted concerns that cuts to farm programs in the bill were proposed not by Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, but by those on the Senate Budget Committee. "We believe decisions on which programs to cut and which to increase are far better made by the Senate Agriculture Committee through thoughtful deliberations on the needs of farmers and ranchers rather than in an omnibus bill," explained the groups. "Agriculture has been willing to accept its fair share of cuts to help reduce our nation’s unsustainable deficits. In fact, last year the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees offered to reduce spending by far more than our fair share under a new farm bill. As you know, the Senate passed a bill last summer that would have provided $23 billion in savings over the next ten years, while the House Agriculture Committee adopted legislation saving $35 billion over the same time period. While the $27 billion in reductions in your bill is in the same ballpark as the cuts achieved by both of those bills, both farm bill proposals spread the pain among various titles rather than requiring all of it be shouldered by just one title of the respective bills."

 

Purdue receives largest single donation in its history

 The Purdue University College of Agriculture announced Feb. 18 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 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, 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 provided the college flexibility in how it will use the money.

"Their wishes are that this future funding be used in the best possible way to build on Purdue 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."

Supreme Court hears Monsanto seed patent case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Feb. 19 in Bowman v. Monsanto, a case that hinges on the extent of control that the developer of genetically modified seed can exert through multiple generations of seed.

A 75-year-old Indiana grain farmer observed as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed arguments over his right to plant and use seeds that he purchased legally. Bowman legally purchased seeds at a grain elevator, which bought them from farmers who had, with Monsanto's authorization, used the genetically modified Monsanto seeds to grow their soybean crops.

Bowman challenged the enforceability of Monsanto’s patent rights after taking the unconventional step of buying soybeans containing the patented technology from a local grain elevator and, from 1999 to 2007, repeatedly planting, cultivating, and harvesting them to create his own supply of soybeans containing the technology. 

Monsanto claims that Bowman infringed its patents on herbicide-resistant plants and seeds by using the grain elevator seeds to grow his soybean crops. Bowman asserts that Monsanto's sales of the original seeds to authorized purchasers exhausted Monsanto's patent rights and therefore Monsanto cannot enforce its patents against second-generation and later seeds that resulted from planting the original seeds.

Monsanto’s arguments to the Court underscored the role that patent rights play in enabling innovation in biotechnology and other fields where breakthrough discoveries require substantial R&D investments that depend upon the protections afforded under U.S. patent law.

William H. Lesser, an expert on intellectual property and patents for plants, seed and animals, and professor of science and business at Cornell University, said, "A decision against Monsanto will have a significant chilling effect on private investment in ag-biotechnology. Because soybean seed reproduces true to type, if seed is saved and replanted, Monsanto would be in losing competition with farmer-saved seed after one or two seasons. Private investment will largely come to a halt."

In the agriculture sector alone, Monsanto and its competitors are investing billions of dollars annually on R&D in agricultural advancements, and pursuing novel approaches through plant breeding and plant biotechnology to make crops higher yielding and more resistant to various environmental stresses.

“One can predict with confidence that the implication for the Monsanto case is similar to an issue which was dealt with in 1930. Prior to that time, it was legal to regenerate and sell asexually propagated plants — roses, tulips, fruit trees — and since they are identical clones, there was little opportunity for breeders to recover their costs. The Plant Patent Act of 1930, the first law worldwide to provide patent protection for plants, was passed to provide breeders the same rights and opportunities as the inventors of mechanical inventions,” Lesser added.

Monsanto said the case highlights the crucial role that patent protection plays in fostering and protecting U.S. innovation across a broad range of industries—including agriculture, medicine, computer software, and environmental science.

A number of independent organizations and individuals filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs urging the Supreme Court to uphold the lower courts’ rulings in favor of Monsanto.  This broad group included leading universities and research institutions; national farm groups representing virtually all of the nation’s corn, soybean, sugar and wheat growers; biotechnology companies; professors of economics and intellectual property; and representatives of the computer software industry. The briefs from the farm organizations highlighted the importance of patent protection in supporting agricultural innovation, which continues to bring about higher-yielding crops that are better equipped to withstand increased environmental stresses.

Johanns to retire after one term

Former Secretary of Agriculture and current Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns has decided he will retire from the U.S. Senate after only one term.

Johanns was Secretary of Agriculture during George W. Bush's second term, before leaving to run for his current Senate seat.

In an email to supporters, Johanns said at the end of this term, he is his wife Stephanie will have been in public service over 32 years. "With everything in life, there is a time and a season…Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times and we have served in eight offices. It is time to close this chapter of our lives."

Johanns joins a growing list of senators who will not seek re-election in 2014 including Sens. Saxby Chamblis (R., Ga.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).

Johanns said he is "confident" that there will be many more opportunities to serve Nebraska and the nation.

Just last week Johanns introduced four bills in the Senate to increase transparency and oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency. He's been an advocate for agriculture since joining the Senate and also was a part of the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan group to encourage movement on improving the current fiscal fiasco.  

Weather forecast 'holds promise' for crops

A La Nina in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which arises from cold water and tends to concentrate drought in the central and western U.S., was responsible for the 2012 drought and is lingering off the West Coast -- a phenomenon that could mean continued drought this spring and summer, according to Dr. Art Douglas.

It has shown the "classical La Nina pattern" that associated with drought in the Corn Belt and Plains, displacing moisture there into the eastern U.S., said Douglas, a meteorologist at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

It will continue at least through February, he said.

However, there is "a trigger of warm water in the western Pacific" that could resurface in the eastern Pacific this spring as an El Nino and "take the edge off the drought conditions in the middle of the country," he said.

Douglas spoke to the CattleFax market outlook at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention & Trade Show in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 8.

Douglas said he believes that an El Nino will reform.

He referred to 11 climate indices that have been developed over the last 62 years and said when the indices are inserted into a cluster map, 2013 falls between an El Nino and La Nina, suggesting that the Pacific is transitioning from the latter to the former.

He said this spring will be characterized by normal and slightly above normal precipitation and warm weather in the Midwest that will support early field work, although cooler and wetter weather in late spring may slow planting that remains to be done.

The Southwest will be dry and warm this spring.

He said this summer's outlook is a bit uncertain as the El Nino's strength is not yet known, but he said he does not suspect La Nina to return, which "holds promise" that the midwestern summer won't be dry and hot like it was last summer.

He said the central Plains and Southwest will be drier and warmer than normal this summer but will escape severe drought conditions.

Accordingly, he said the weather picture suggests that farmers can plant and harvest the record corn crop that livestock and poultry producers require to meet costs of production.

CattleFax marks its 45th year this year of providing market analysis and information for cattle producers.