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Articles from 2014 In February

Further investigation into Rancho Recall

While there is no outbreak or illness involved in the Rancho recall and shutdown, there is an ongoing federal investigation involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney Office that has most sources of government information on the case refusing to comment.

Marin Sun Farms told local media outlets it has purchased Rancho Feeding.  In addition, Marin Sun Farms submitted an application to USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service to operate a new federal establishment at the current Rancho Feeding location. 

As result of the ongoing investigation from the U.S. Attorney Office, which normally involves criminal allegation, Marin Sun Farms and Rancho Feeding declined to elaborate on the acquisition or to provide any further details.

AAFCO seeks comment on monograph pilot project

At the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the AAFCO board of directors approved a "Monograph Pilot Project" to investigate the feasibility of adopting a monograph system as an enhancement to the AAFCO Ingredient Definition Program.

Many of the current AAFCO feed ingredient definitions are very general and arguably are not sufficient to establish an ingredient's standards for purity, safety and utility, AAFCO said.

Monographs are intended to provide a more robust, detailed description of feed ingredients. AAFCO believes a feed ingredient monograph can play a role in fulfilling the goal of the Food Safety Modernization Act and facilitating global trade.

The goal of the Monograph Pilot Project is to develop three feed ingredient monographs to help evaluate the feasibility of developing a comprehensive monograph system for all feed ingredients.

In developing the three feed ingredient monographs, AAFCO is seeking public comment on the content of the proposed monographs, the overall concept and the developmental process. Public comment will assist in ensuring that the monograph is appropriate, accurate and useful and that the process for development is thorough, credible and timely.

Please note that the proposed monographs are for ingredients for a specific use in animal feed.

The team selected to work on this project consists of representatives from the industry and regulatory community, including representatives from the American Feed Industry Assn., National Grain & Feed Assn., AAFCO, the Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

To help both the commenter and the Monograph Pilot Project team, three questions have been developed for each of the proposed monographs. The questions will help evaluate:

1. The accuracy of the information in the three monographs,

2. The value of the monographs and

3. The credibility of monograph evaluation process.

The proposed monographs and directions for submitting comments, which are due March 14, can be found on the AAFCO website at www.aafco.org/GeneralInfo/MonographProject.aspx.

Joint publication on climate change released

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Royal Society, the national science academy of the U.K., released a joint publication Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C., that explains the clear evidence that humans are causing the climate to change, and that addresses a variety of other key questions commonly asked about climate change science.

"As two of the world's leading scientific bodies, we feel a responsibility to evaluate and explain what is known about climate change, at least the physical side of it, to concerned citizens, educators, decision makers and leaders, and to advance public dialogue about how to respond to the threats of climate change," said NAS president Ralph J. Cicerone.

"Our aim with this new resource is to provide people with easy access to the latest scientific evidence on climate change, including where scientists agree and where uncertainty still remains," added Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society. "We have enough evidence to warrant action being taken on climate change; it is now time for the public debate to move forward to discuss what we can do to limit the impact on our lives and those of future generations."

"Climate Change: Evidence & Causes," written and reviewed by leading experts in both countries, lays out which aspects of climate change are well-understood and where there is still uncertainty and a need for more research.

The publication is available to download for free at www.nap.edu and as an interactive website at http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/events/a-discussion-on-climate-change-evidence-and-causes/.

Cobb, Roslin partner to advance broiler genetics

A three-year research agreement between Cobb-Vantress Inc., a global industry leader in poultry genetics, and the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute will facilitate collaboration on avian disease resistance, genome analysis and genome preservation.

Cobb is putting almost $1 million into avian research programs at The Roslin Institute to identify innovative ways to improve avian health as well as developing unique technologies to understand and preserve the current and heritage poultry genomes.

The investment creates a strategic partnership between Cobb and The Roslin Institute that leverages each entity's strengths.

Mitch Abrahamsen, Cobb vice president of research and development, said, "This research partnership provides a wonderful opportunity for Cobb to continue a close collaborative relationship with The Roslin Institute and their new National Avian Research Facility (NARF).

"The continued financial investments by The Roslin Institute in people and infrastructure demonstrate their commitment to making significant contributions toward improving poultry health and capitalizing on the opportunities afforded by the ever expanding understanding of the chicken genome," he added.

The National Avian Research Facility recently opened a state-of-the-art facility with its focus in poultry research.

One of the applications of this joint partnership is an effort to develop new technology enabling pedigree or heritage lines to be maintained without the need to physically maintain the bird stock. In addition, several projects will investigate DNA markers in the genome, targeting some of the more difficult to select for traits such as avian immunity, disease tolerance and disease resistance.

"These are exciting new areas which we hope will lead to major breakthroughs in avian health and preservation," Dr. Christine Daugherty, chief technology officer at Cobb, said. "Cobb has an extensive gene pool and to be able to better understand the poultry genome will be critical to meeting future demands for poultry products. We're always striving to breed more robust chickens that will withstand disease and environmental challenges. We're looking for birds with greater immunity to diseases or with the ability to tolerate disease without affecting their performance.”

The collaboration will support research by graduate students and is for an initial three years, with potential for renewal. The agreement with The Roslin Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, is one of more than 30 research projects that Cobb has been supporting in 18 different universities across the globe over the past five years.

Land O'Lakes Inc. reports record annual sales and net earnings

Land O'Lakes Inc. recently announced record annual sales of $14.2 billion, up 4.4% from the prior year, and record net earnings of almost $306 million, a 27% increase over the prior year. The strong 2013 results continue a trend of significant growth during which the farmer-owned, Fortune 200 food and agriculture cooperative has more than doubled annual sales and grown net earnings by more than 330 percent% over the last seven years.

"Our strong 2013 performance builds on our success of the last seven years," said Land O'Lakes Inc., president and chief executive officer Chris Policinski. "The record-setting year in Dairy Foods, combined with the continued strong performance of WinField, exemplify our commitment to delivering the products, programs and services that provide the greatest value for our customers and members alike."

Overall results for 2013 also included a record return of $147 million to members, representing a 30% increase in patronage compared to 2012. This is the fifth consecutive year cash to members has exceeded $100 million, bringing the seven-year total to more than $750 million.

The favorable year-end results were mainly attributed to a 101% year-over-year growth in Land O’ Lakes Dairy Foods’ pretax earnings. Additionally, the company said Crop Inputs had greater than $200 million in pretax earnings for the second consecutive year, and Feed reported a 12% annual sales growth in Companion Animal and a $25 million annual sales increase in Lifestyle Feed compare to 2012.

For the quarter ending December 31, 2013, Land O'Lakes delivered net earnings of $108 million, a 19% increase compared to Q4 2012. Fourth quarter pretax earnings were driven by a 306% increase in Feed, and a 421% increase in Layers compared to Q4 2012.

Land O'Lakes, Inc. Businesses
Dairy Foods generated record pretax earnings of $75 million on sales of $4.5 billion, up 8% from 2012. Land O’ Lakes said Dairy Foods’ highest earnings ever were driven by improved margins on milk powders and butter in Global Dairy Ingredients along with records in sales volume and earnings in its Retail Foods and Foodservice businesses.

Crop Inputs, operated through WinField Solutions, delivered $218 million in pretax earnings on sales of $4.76 billion. The performance in Crop Inputs resulted from the company’s focus on key business segments with strong margins such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides; seed treatments, adjuvants, micronutrients and plant growth regulators; and corn and alfalfa seed.

Feed, operated through the Purina Animal Nutrition business, delivered $18 million in pretax earnings on sales of $4.77 billion, a 5% increase over 2012. While unfavorable commodity markets and trading results resulted in a decline in year-over-years pretax earnings, Purina's overall volumes in the Lifestyle business increased, including strong advances in the Companion Animal business.

Layers, run by Land O’ Lakes subsidiary Moark LLC, recorded sales of $259 million. Pretax losses of $25 million in 2013 represent a $14 million year-over-year performance improvement compared to 2012. Land O’ Lakes said that while challenges related to supply issues and high feed prices relative to egg prices impacted its Layers business, an extensive focus on cost savings and improved operational efficiency drove the financial improvements in 2013.

Canada to implement national pig traceability

After extensive industry consultation, Canada announced Feb. 26 that it is enhancing its capacity to track animals from farm to slaughter through a mandatory national pig traceability system. The related amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations have been published in Canada Gazette, Part II.

The regulations come into force on July 1 for all domestic pigs that are farmed for food production, including those that die on farm and cannot enter the food chain. Effective July 1, 2015, the regulations will be extended to also include farmed wild boars, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The federal government has amended the Health of Animals Regulations to require pig farmers and other pig industry custodians to keep records and report all movements of pigs, from birth or import to slaughter or export. The regulations also detail how farmed pigs and farmed wild boars are to be identified, CFIA said.

The amendments are based on a series of consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including swine industry associations, provinces and territories and other federal departments.

CFIA noted that in Canada, mandatory identification systems are already in place for the cattle, bison and sheep sectors.

The amended regulations brings national consistency in the pig sector by building on what is already in place in some provinces, such as Alberta's Swine Traceability System that was launched in 2011.

"For many years, the Canadian hog industry has enjoyed an excellent herd health status. Animal health and foreign animal disease preparedness are key priorities for our industry and these new measures will strengthen our industry's ability to respond to any future disease outbreaks," said Oliver Haan, chair of the Canadian Pork Council's traceability implementation committee.

FDA proposes nutritional label overhaul

It’s been over 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration has updated the Nutrition Facts label found on food packaging. Thursday the agency proposed a significant step towards providing improved and simplified nutritional information to empower consumers to make better choices for their diets.

“For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”

The proposed updates are intended to reflect the latest scientific information about the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.  The proposed label would also replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with the amount consumers actually eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes. 

Calorie levels will be made more prominent on the label, a senior FDA official said. Historically fat levels have been the focus, but the shift in science and nutritional understanding of what’s important revealed that calories are more important than fat, especially with the many good and bad fats in the marketplace today.

The proposed label will also require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product. The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. A senior official explained that chemically FDA cannot distinguish added sugars from naturally occurring, however, FDA can verify through normal inspections the amount of added sugars. Another official added that companies would be required to maintain records for 2 years on sugar levels.

The senior official noted that FDA feels “very confident” on the basis for including added sugars as a separate subcategory of the sugars listing. Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans determination that calorie intake from added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced, FDA said. 

Another change centers around the four nutrients required on the labels. Today Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron are required. As science has shifted, the new labels will require calcium, iron, potassium and Vitamin D as required nutrients. Vitamin D is crucial to bone health and potassium plays an important role in reducing the risk of hypertension, a senior official stated.

The current wordy footnote is also under consideration to have changes made to it, further making the label more simple and readable, officials explained.

Serving size

Serving size categories are also being proposed to be updated. For instance the current serving size for soda is 8 ounces, although a can is typically 12 ounces. A 20 oz. bottle is also a normally consumed size in the marketplace and calories should be labeled as what would typically be consumed with the product.

Particularly FDA plans to change the serving size for some dairy favorites. For instance, the serving size for ice cream looks would increase from ½ cup to 1 cup. However, the current serving size of yogurt of 8 oz. will be reduced to 6 oz. which more accurately reflects the standard size on the market today.

An FDA official explained that there are over 167 serving size food categories, and the agency plans to change 27 or 17% of the categories. They’re also adding another 25 food categories that data suggests should have a specific serving size associated with it.

Timeline and impact

The proposed rule starts the final chapter of many years of working with stakeholders and proposing advanced rulemaking notices, FDA officials said.

Once the comment period closes and comments reviewed, a final rule could be published by 2015. FDA officials said they plan to allow a “more generous than usual implementation of two years to give ample time to make label adjustments and to avoid undue costs.”

One analysis indicates that significant benefits in the range of $20-$30 billion can result over the next 20 years from label changes. These benefits are associated with the overall utility of the labels as well as improved health with the reduction of chronic disease impacts and obesity.

It is estimated that the industry would bear $2 billion in costs associated with implementing changed labels.

Better livestock diets combat climate change

The projected transition of livestock systems from pure grazing diets to diets supplemented by higher-quality feeds will cut greenhouse gas emissions from land use change globally by as much as 23% by 2030, while improving food availability and farmers' income, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.

Livestock production is responsible for 12% of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from land use change and deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture, as well as methane released by the animals themselves, with a lesser amount coming from manure management and feed production.

"There is a lot of discussion about reduction of meat in the diets as a way to reduce emissions, but our results show that targeting the production side of agriculture is a much more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said IIASA researcher Petr Havlik, who led the study.

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that within the current systems, farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems — where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher-quality feed — rather than in pure grass-based systems. This development would lead to a 23% reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy.

Cows, sheep and goats grow more quickly and produce more milk when they eat energy-rich diets that include grain supplements or improved forages. This means that more livestock can be raised on less land, and with fewer emissions per pound of meat or milk produced.

The new study projects that the increasing cost of land and continued yield increases in the crop sector will lead to shifts to richer animal diets in the future. Such diets are efficient not only from the perspective of greenhouse gas reduction, but also from farm profit maximization and food production, the announcement said.

At a moderate price of $10 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, livestock system transitions within a given region, together with international relocation of production to regions with the most-efficient livestock systems could also reduce the total emissions from agriculture and land use change by 25%. Most of the savings would come from avoided land use change.

Havlik said, "From the livestock sector perspective, limiting land use change seems the cheapest option both in terms of the economic cost and in terms of impact on food availability."

Previous work by the group produced a detailed database highlighting the differences in the efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of different livestock production systems.

The new study adds to this by examining the economic potential for a transition to more efficient systems as a mitigation measure and which policies would be the most effective for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while also maintaining food availability, IIASA said.

The new study also introduces a new metric for measuring the costs of climate measures for agricultural systems, the "total abatement calorie cost," which complements the pure economic metric known as "marginal abatement cost" while also capturing the impacts of mitigation measures on food security.

Mario Herrero, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization, IIASA's Australian national member organization, said, "Applying current metrics could lead to mitigation, but also food insecurity in developing countries, because it ignores the social cost of policies that focus just on greenhouse gas abatement. So, we developed a new metric that tells you how consumption would be affected as a result of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions."

Changing livestock production systems remains a challenge. The researchers said policies to provide education and market access are the keys for enabling change. In addition, they noted that safeguards are needed to insure that the intensified agricultural production does not lead to environmental damage or reduce animal well-being.

The article is available at www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1308044111

USDA announces $3m for new pollinator health program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production.

The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

"Expanded support for research, combined with USDA's other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America's beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30% of their bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of 10-15% overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.

This assistance will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.

Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for more than 65% of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

Applications are due March 21.

For more information on this program, visit the NRCS website.

Bell Aquaculture to open new feed mill in 2014

Bell Aquaculture announced plans Feb. 25 to open a feed mill to supply feed for the local and national aquaculture industry. The new mill, located at Bell Farms in Albany, Ind., will be the first of its kind to locally produce feed to service the aquaculture industry on a mass scale using local Indiana ingredients.

Scott Nelson of Integral Fish Foods, recently purchased by Bell, will be the head of operations for the mill. He brings 30 years of experience in fish feed production, and will provide Bell with the expertise to produce feeds specific to fish species and key periods in the life cycle of the fish, the announcement said.

The mill is expected to begin production this April with a production capacity of 2.2 million lb. per month, sourcing 50-60% of ingredients locally.

In 2005, Bell Aquaculture was founded in Redkey, Ind., as a solution to a problem: the fish in Lake Michigan were contaminated. Bell has invested more than $20 million in an aquaculture research and development center and built a state-of-the-aquaculture facility located in rural Indiana to provide a toxin-free supply of fish to meet the demand. Bell offers trout, salmon, perch, feed and fertilizers that are derived from fish.