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Articles from 2016 In May


USDA streamlines crop reporting portal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that farmers and ranchers filing crop acreage reports with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and participating insurance providers approved by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) now can provide the common information from their acreage reports at one office, and the information will be electronically shared with the other location.

This new process is part of the USDA Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI). This interagency collaboration also includes participating private crop insurance agents and insurance companies, all working to streamline the information collected from farmers and ranchers who participate in USDA programs.

"If you file your report at one location, the data that's important to both FSA and RMA will be securely and electronically shared with the other location," FSA administrator Val Dolcini said. "This will avoid redundant and duplicative reporting, and we expect this to save farmers and ranchers time."

"Accuracy in crop reporting is a key component for crop insurance, because an error in this information can affect premiums or claims. This is going to greatly improve efficiencies and reduce mistakes," RMA administrator Brandon Willis said.

Since 2009, USDA has been working to streamline the crop reporting process for agricultural producers, who have expressed concerns with providing the same basic common information for multiple locations. In 2013, USDA consolidated the deadlines for submitting these reports to 15 dates, down from the previous 54 dates at RMA and 17 dates for FSA. USDA representatives believe farmers and ranchers will experience a notable improvement in the coming weeks as they approach the peak season for crop reporting later this summer.

More than 93% of all annual reported acres to FSA and RMA now are eligible for the common data reporting, and USDA is exploring the possibility of adding more crops. Producers must still visit both locations to validate and sign acreage reports, complete maps or provide program-specific information. The common data from the first filed acreage report will now be available to pre-populate and accelerate completion of the second report. Plans are underway at USDA to continue building upon the framework with additional efficiencies at a future date.

Dolcini also reminded farmers and ranchers that they can now access their FSA farm information from the convenience of their home computer. "You can see your field boundaries, images of your farm, conservation status, operator and owner information and much more," Dolcini said.

The new customer self-service portal, known as FSAFarm+, gives farmers and ranchers online access to securely view, print or export their personal farm data. To enroll in the online service, producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for details. Find a local FSA office at http://offices.usda.gov.

NCC seeks mandatory labeling on frozen chicken products

In an effort to ensure safe eating experiences and address potential consumer confusion, the National Chicken Council (NCC) petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) for mandatory labeling of raw, stuffed chicken products that may appear cooked and ready to eat (RTE). These raw chicken products, typically sold frozen, include items such as breaded, pre-browned chicken cordon bleu, chicken Kiev and chicken stuffed with broccoli and cheese.

Specifically, NCC is requesting that the agency take the following actions:

  • Conduct a rule-making to adopt a regulation requiring that not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) stuffed chicken breast products that appear RTE be prominently and uniformly labeled to clearly inform consumers that the products are raw, with instructions on how to properly handle and cook the products.
  • Publish a compliance guideline explaining how to validate cooking instructions for NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that appear RTE that incorporates NCC’s “Best Practices for Cooking Instruction Validation for Frozen NRTE Stuffed Chicken Breast Products.”

These science-based recommendations for mandatory labeling and validated cooking instructions are supported by both the National Advisory Committee on Meat & Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) and National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF).

“NCC increasingly is aware that some consumers may be uncertain of the proper handling and cooking methods for NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that may appear RTE, and the proposed measures are necessary to ensure proper handling and cooking of these products,” NCC president Mike Brown said in the petition. “This labeling would clearly inform consumers that these products are raw and require proper cooking while providing specific and uniform instructions on how to cook the products.”

NCC research demonstrates that the proposed label regulations would be successful in increasing consumer awareness that these products contain raw poultry and must be cooked for safety. “It is necessary for FSIS to adopt these proposals via mandatory regulation both to ensure that products bear consistent and uniform language and display methods that have been proven effective and to avoid inconsistent messaging that may cause further consumer confusion,” Brown added.

“The health and safety of consumers is our number-one priority,” Brown concluded. “Making these labels mandatory and providing validated cooking instructions on every package of raw, breaded, stuffed chicken will give consumers one more tool to ensure a safe eating experience for them and their families.”

Honeybees pick up pesticides from non-crop plants

Honeybees pick up pesticides from non-crop plants

A Purdue University study shows that honeybees collect the vast majority of their pollen from plants other than crops, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans, and that pollen is consistently contaminated with a host of agricultural and urban pesticides throughout the growing season.

Purdue professor of entomology Christian Krupke and then-postdoctoral researcher Elizabeth Long collected pollen from Indiana honeybee hives at three sites over 16 weeks to learn which pollen sources honeybees use throughout the season and whether the pollen is contaminated with pesticides.

Purdue researchers found that honeybees collect pollen from a wide range of plants, even in areas dominated by corn and soybeans. Credit: Purdue University/Tom Campbell.

The pollen samples represented up to 30 plant families and contained residues from pesticides spanning nine chemical classes, including neonicotinoids — common corn and soybean seed treatments that are toxic to bees. However, the highest pesticide concentrations found in bee pollen were pyrethroids, which are typically used to control mosquitoes and other nuisance pests.

"Although crop pollen was only a minor part of what they collected, bees in our study were exposed to a far wider range of chemicals than we expected," Krupke said. "The sheer numbers of pesticides we found in pollen samples were astonishing. Agricultural chemicals are only part of the problem. Homeowners and urban landscapes are big contributors, even when hives are directly adjacent to crop fields."

Long, now an assistant professor of entomology at The Ohio State University, said she was also "surprised and concerned" by the diversity of pesticides found in pollen.

"If you care about bees as a homeowner, only use insecticides when you really need to, because bees will come into contact with them," she said.

The study suggests that overall levels of pesticide exposure for honeybees in the Corn Belt could be considerably higher than previously thought, Krupke said. This is partly because research efforts and media attention have emphasized the harmful effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators and their ability to travel and persist in the environment, while few studies have examined how non-crop plants could expose bees to other classes of pesticides. Looking at midwestern honeybees' environment through this wider lens and over an entire season could provide more accurate insights into what bees encounter as they forage, Krupke said.

Krupke and Long collected pollen weekly from May to September from hives placed in a non-agricultural meadow, the border of a corn field planted with neonicotinoid-treated seeds and the border of a corn field planted with non-treated seeds. They waited to begin their collection until after growers had planted their crops to avoid the heavily contaminated dust that arises during the planting of neonicotinoid-coated seeds.

The samples showed that honeybees collect the overwhelming majority of their pollen from uncultivated plants, particularly the plant family that includes clover and alfalfa.

The researchers found 29 pesticides in pollen from the meadow site, 29 pesticides in pollen from the treated corn field and 31 pesticides in pollen from the untreated corn field.

"These findings really illustrate how honeybees are chronically exposed to numerous pesticides throughout the season, making pesticides an important long-term stress factor for bees," Long said.

The most common chemical products found in pollen from each site were fungicides and herbicides — typical crop disease and weed management products.

Of the insecticides, neonicotinoids and pyrethroids were the most common in the pollen samples and pose the highest risks to bees, Krupke said. While both are toxic to bees, they differ in their relative risk levels. Neonicotinoids are more poisonous to bees but are primarily used on agricultural land. Conversely, pyrethroids are typically used where pollinators are likely to be — near homes and gardens with a diversity of flowering plants — potentially exposing bees to higher levels of chemicals and on a more frequent basis.

The study showed distinct spikes of pyrethroids in August and September — months when many homeowners spray these chemicals to knock out mosquitoes, hornets and other nuisance pests. Pollen from all three sites also contained DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellants.

Krupke said little is known about how these diverse pesticides interact with one another to affect bees. The toxicity of insecticides, for example, can increase when combined with certain fungicides that are harmless to insects.

The researchers did not assess colony health in this study.

Markets trade mostly lower as exports disappoint: Podcast

Grain futures were mostly lower in mid-morning trade, faltering at the open as outside markets provided pressure.

Disappointing export inspections for corn and lack of new soybean shipments to China hurt prices somewhat, although beans found support from firm crude oil futures.

Wheat inspections were better than expected, but year-to-date totals are below the U.S. Department of Agriculture's forecast, which should increase beginning stocks for the 2016 crop marketing year that begins Wednesday.

Bryce Knorr, senior grain market analyst for Farm Futures, reporting. Farm Futures is a sister publication to Feedstuffs.

Vietnam pork prices up, spurring demand for U.S. DDGS

China’s recent pork shortage is reverberating around the world, especially in its southern neighbor, Vietnam, according to Kevin Roepke, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) regional director for South and Southeast Asia. This has contributed to record pork prices and an increasingly insatiable appetite for U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) in that market, he said.

Pork is considered the main source of protein for Vietnam. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), Vietnam consumes almost 30 kg per capita, compared to 22.2 kg per capita the U.S. In fact, Roepke noted that many analysts have predicted Vietnam to have the world’s highest per capita pork consumption.

However, he said China is seen as being on a pork buying spree worldwide, facing increased environmental regulations, sow herd cullings and poor piglet survival rates.

“Recent Asian media reports quote wholesale Chinese pork prices at an astonishing $4.08/kg, and the country is importing more than 100,000 metric tons a month, primarily from Europe, the world’s largest exporter,” Roepke said.

He noted that the timing is good for Europe as it struggles with lower prices after losing Russia as an end market, but the U.S. has also been a beneficiary: Accumulated pork exports to China for the calendar year as of May 19 total more than 68,300 tons, an increase of more than three times the same period last year.

As a result, margins have swelled by as much as $100 per head in Vietnam and $180 per head in China, according to Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd. To fulfill the deficit, Roepke said Chinese traders are reportedly moving to south Vietnam to source more and more live hogs — transporting them back into China for as long as three days.

“Vietnamese hog producers are reaping the benefits from this cross-border trade, and their appetite for DDGS shows it,” he said. “In the most recent trade data released, first-quarter imports of the corn co-product were up an incredible 26% year over year. The second quarter of the year has been Vietnam’s lowest import quarter by volume in four out of the last six years, so it will be interesting to see how the second quarter this year unfolds.”

Roepke said USGC has been aggressively promoting higher inclusion levels of U.S. DDGS in swine diets in Vietnam, encouraging pelleters to include the maximum levels they can while still maintaining a suitable pellet durability index. Additionally, the introduction of the ingredient to more exotic sectors like pangasius catfish and prawn farming also remains a focus for USGC programs in 2016 and beyond.

Cargill opens $8.5m animal nutrition plant in Vietnam

Cargill officially inaugurated an $8.5 million animal nutrition plant in Vietnam's Nghe An province during an opening ceremony at the plant location on May 28.

This brings Cargill’s total number of animal feed mills in Vietnam to 11.

The new facility will provide animal feed for livestock and will have a total capacity of 66,000 metric tons per year. It will incorporate Cargill’s approach to feed safety, ingredient quality and product integrity. The company aims to provide customers with safe, trusted feed that maximizes the performance of their operations, which, in turn, helps improve food safety across Vietnam’s supply chain.

“Vietnam is one of our best-performing markets in our animal nutrition business globally,” said Sarena Lin, president of Cargill’s global feed and nutrition business. "This has been possible thanks to the hard work of our local Cargill team and by working very closely with the government, our customers and suppliers, the provincial authorities and the farming communities around Vietnam. Our success in Vietnam is an invigorating story of how we are able to grow our business in a country and, at the same time, contribute to the development of agricultural practices and improve the livelihoods of thousands of farmers."

Growth plans

According to the announcement, Cargill is on track with its investment strategy in Vietnam. The addition of a new production line in Dong Thap was completed during the first quarter of 2016, and construction of its 12th animal feed mill in Vietnam, in Binh Duong, will be completed in the second half of 2017.

The $8 million expansion in Dong Thap increased production of specialty aquatic feed and enhanced Cargill’s aquaculture animal nutrition offering in the country. The $30 million facility in Binh Duong will have a total capacity of 260,000 metric tons per year and will incorporate the latest technologies currently available in the industry.

“In the face of a general slowdown in the Southeast Asia region, Vietnam’s economy continues to perform very well, and foreign investments, along with exports, are on the rise. The agricultural sector is currently suffering from a terrible drought, but in the long run, we, at Cargill, see good growth potential in the industry. We will continue to invest in our animal nutrition business, and the opening of our plant in Nghe An is testament of our commitment,” said Jorge Becerra, country representative and managing director of Cargill’s feed and nutrition business in Vietnam.

Erysipelas emerging as disease in organic poultry, pigs

Erysipelas is a severe infectious disease caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. EryPoP, a new project led by researchers with the department of animal science at Aarhus University in Denmark, will provide novel information to enable science-based guidelines for preventing future erysipelas outbreaks.

Following the change in housing for laying hens in Europe, erysipelas has become an emerging disease in several countries, with high-mortality outbreaks occurring in layer flocks in indoor aviaries and free-range/organic production, according to the announcement from Aarhus University.

Erysipelas is an acute disease in pigs and a suspected cause of arthritis and considerable economic losses in organic pigs. Erysipelas is difficult to prevent in "animal-friendly production systems" for pigs and poultry, such as organic and free-range systems, Aarhus said. Moreover, E. rhusiopathiae infections constitute an occupational hazard for people since they are considered a zoonosis.

Although erysipelas is a well-known disease, vital basic knowledge, particularly on infection in chickens, is lacking. Hence, in EryPoP, the epidemiology, infection dynamics and immunity development in poultry and pigs will be addressed in the field and by experimental infections through a multidisciplinary and transnational approach and cooperation.

The project has five main subtasks:

1. To define transmission routes of E. rhusiopathiae by use of molecular epidemiology;

2. To identify risk factors for outbreaks;

3. To define the role of wild boars as potential reservoirs and sources of infection;

4. To establish an assay for detecting antibodies to E. rhusiopathiae in chickens, and

5. To study the pathogenesis and immune responses to E. rhusiopathiae infections in chickens.

Samples and metadata for analysis will be collected from poultry, domestic pigs and wild boars in Sweden and Italy, the announcement said.

A model for experimental infections in chickens will be established and used in studies of chicken immune responses to E. rhusiopathiae. These studies will provide information that will be vital to developing diagnostic methods and improving future prophylactic measures such as vaccines.

EryPoP will provide novel information that, taken together, will enable science-based guidelines on prophylactic measures to prevent future erysipelas outbreaks and secure animal welfare in the growing area of animal-friendly poultry and pig production.

Expert offers tips on handling cattle in hot weather

Cattle producers are urged to take precautions to minimize the heat stress placed on cattle. As summer approaches, it's important for cattle producers to make plans to help reduce stress on cattle during hot weather, according to Nebraska Extension educator Rob Eirich, who directs the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program.

Cattle producers can determine the risk in cattle handling by referring to the temperature-humidity index, or heat index.

"It’s important to understand the relationship between temperature and humidity," Eirich said, adding that cattle producers "need to be aware of the risk based on weather forecast of heat stress."

Eirich said additional guidelines to consider during summer hot spells include:

* Handle cattle early in the morning, before temperatures get too high. Plan to handle cattle before 8 a.m. and never during daylight hours after 10 a.m. The animal's core temperature peaks about two hours after the environmental temperature peaks and takes four to six hours to return to normal. Handling cattle in the early morning and evening will reduce the risk of heat stress.

* When processing cattle during high heat seasons, work cattle in smaller groups so they are not standing in holding areas for much longer than 30 minutes. Cattle producers should consider facilities that are shaded and have good airflow to help reduce heat. A sprinkler system may help cool the area, if the water droplet size is large. Never overcrowd working facilities. Work cattle slowly, and use low-stress handling techniques. Processing cattle in any temperature elevates the animal's core temperature.

* Move cattle only short distances during hot seasons. Strategic planning of pen movements can help reduce unnecessary movement and potential heat stress. Moving heavier cattle closer to loading facilities throughout the feeding period can help minimize heat effects.

* When planning or improving cattle handling and feeding facilities, cattle producers should consider airflow, shade and sprinkler systems for cooling livestock.

Additional resources can be found here.

Grupo LALA to acquire certain dairy brands in U.S.

Grupo LALA S.A.B. de C.V., a dairy company in Mexico, announced May 31 that it has entered into an agreement to acquire from Laguna Dairy S. de R.L. de C.V. certain assets related to Laguna's branded business in the U.S. for $246 million in an all-cash transaction.

This acquisition is in line with Grupo LALA's strategy of expanding in value-added branded categories in high-growth markets in the Americas.

According to Grupo LALA, the branded business will sell approximately $200 million in 2016 and has achieved double-digit growth for the past two years. The branded portfolio includes products in high-growth segments such as mainstream drinkable yogurt under the LALA and Frusion brands and specialty milks under the Promised Land and Skim Plus brands. In the U.S., LALA is a leading brand in the adult drinkable yogurt category, and Promised Land and Skim Plus are highly recognized regional super premium milks. The U.S. brands had been distributed by Borden Dairy Co., although Borden has not commented on the transaction.

The acquisition includes three production plants and five-plus brands. This transaction will also provide a local platform to expand the presence of LALA's authentic Mexican product line in the large U.S. Hispanic segment.

Grupo LALA chief executive officer Scot Rank said, "This acquisition represents a unique opportunity to enter high-growth dairy categories in a key market in the Americas. Through this transaction, we are obtaining modern production facilities, growing businesses in value-added categories and a local platform for future growth in the world's largest dairy market."

The related party transaction has been approved by Grupo LALA's independent audit committee and board of directors. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory clearances.

Grupo LALA has more than 65 years of experience in producing, revitalizing and marketing milk, dairy products and drinks with high quality standards. The company has 22 production plants in operation and 166 distribution centers in Mexico and Central America, with more than 33,000 team members.

Groups ask DOJ to challenge Dow-DuPont merger

In a letter sent to principal deputy assistant attorney general Renata Hesse, the American Antitrust Institute (AAI), Food & Water Watch (FWW) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) urged the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division to challenge the proposed merger of Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co.

The letter details the groups' analysis of the proposed merger that would create the largest biotechnology and seed firm in the U.S. The deal would further consolidate an already highly concentrated biotechnology industry and would likely curtail innovation, raise prices and reduce cultivation choices for farmers, consumers and the food system, they said.

AAI, FWW and NFU urged DOJ to critically review the implications of the pending deal. The letter unpacks three major areas of concern, including eliminating head-to-head competition in the corn and soybean markets, reducing vital innovation competition and creating a large, integrated “platform” of traits, seeds and chemicals that would make it harder for smaller biotech rivals to compete.

The groups pointed out that aggressive consolidation in agriculture, specifically in the agricultural inputs sector, has changed the landscape for independent crop input companies as well as for independent producers. The current rumored or announced deals — including Dow-DuPont, ChemChina-Syngenta and Bayer-Monsanto — would be a third wave of consolidation. Two previous merger waves eliminated the majority of small to medium-sized biotech research and development (R&D) firms to create the "Big Six": Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, Dow and BASF.

“Any consolidation among the Big Six firms should raise significant antitrust concerns. We encourage the DOJ to move to stop it, as it has in other recent and unfixable mergers that would leave only a few large players,” economist and AAI president Diana Moss explained.

Investor documents note that eliminating duplicative R&D programs will contribute to the $1.3 billion in cost synergies produced by a merger of the Dow and DuPont agricultural assets, but competitive R&D investments have been “crucial for driving innovation in an industry where the probability of commercial success is relatively low due to the time and cost associated with bringing a trait from research to market,” the letter explains.

FWW executive director Wenonah Hauter said DOJ "must block this biotechnology mega-merger that would raise farmers’ prices and severely limit the choices for farmers, consumers and rural communities. Today’s wave of agribusiness and food company mega-mergers is surrendering our food system to a corporate cabal that thwarts our efforts to build an fair and healthy food system.”

The proposed merger would create a powerful duopoly between Dow-DuPont and Monsanto. Together, the two companies would control 76% of the market for corn and 66% of the market for soybeans, giving them the power to charge farmers higher prices and effectively decide which seeds farmers could plant.

“Seed costs are the highest input expense for farmers. While some of the cost can be attributed to more sophisticated technology, we have seen time and again that consolidation and market restructuring have increased the cost of crop inputs. In a lagging farm economy with multi-year trends of low commodity prices, additional cost increases for crop inputs could cripple a lot of family farms in this country,” NFU president Roger Johnson said.

The groups concluded that the proposed Dow-DuPont merger “would be difficult, if not impossible, to remedy.” The letter points to accumulating evidence on failed remedies in other mergers, the difficulty of finding viable buyers of to-be-divested assets and the ineffectiveness of divesting assets to other members of the Big Six firms.