USDA prepares for June surveys: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is gearing up to contact farmers and ranchers across the country to gather information about this season's crop production, supplies of grain in storage and livestock inventory. During the first two weeks of June, NASS will gather information about U.S. crops and livestock through several surveys focusing on agricultural acreage, crops produced and stored and the hog inventory. "Cool and wet soil conditions continue to impede planting progress and delay spring fieldwork in some parts of the country, while others are still dealing with the impact from last year's drought," Bob Bass, director of the NASS National Operations Center, said. "As we move into the crop production season, there is still a sense of uncertainty about how it is shaping up across the country. Responses to the June surveys will help ensure that decisions affecting producers and their operations are based on the facts, straight from the source." Producers will receive either a survey form to complete or be personally interviewed by a trained enumerator. NASS representatives will contact farmers and ranchers who do not respond to the survey. The information collected in the surveys is kept strictly confidential.
Vet aid in Oklahoma: Shortly after the devastating tornado hit Moore, Okla., Dr. Rod Hall, state veterinarian for Oklahoma, extended a formal invitation to the American Humane Assn.'s (AHA) Red Star Animal Emergency Services to officially deploy to the disaster area. This includes two large "Big Rig" rescue vehicles that serve as mobile veterinary hospitals and triage centers for animals and also transport crates and medical supplies. The rigs also provide lodging for AHA staff and first responders. Other groups that will be instrumental in ensuring animal care and well-being in the storm's aftermath include the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter, both of which are accepting donations to aid in their relief efforts, as is AHA. In addition, certified American Veterinary Medical Assn. veterinary teams are standing by to assist in caring for large and small animals.
BASF to develop protease enzyme: As part of three separate transactions strengthening its technology footprint in industrial enzymes, BASF announced that it has signed a research and development collaboration agreement with Direvo Industrial Biotechnology GmbH of Cologne, Germany, to develop a highly efficient feed enzyme for animal nutrition. The collaboration will jointly develop a protease for swine and poultry. Proteases are increasingly used in animal nutrition to improve the digestibility of soybean meal, BASF said. The protease will complement its feed enzyme portfolio and is a further step for BASF in extending its position in animal nutrition.
Egg center requests research proposals: The Egg Industry Center announced that it is seeking pre-proposals to fund up to $100,000 for research projects pertaining to egg production. "Food safety, changes in housing, animal welfare, environmental impact and production economics — all of these are important to the center's board," said Hongwei Xin, director of the center and an Iowa State University professor. "At a time when government research funds are tightening, the Egg Industry Center plans to help the industry expand its research in 2014 and beyond." The Egg Industry Center was established at Iowa State in 2008 to add value to the egg industry by facilitating research and learning for egg producers, processors and consumers through national and international collaboration. The deadline for pre-proposals is June 21. Researchers and other interested applicants can find pre-proposal information at www.eggindustrycenter.org.
NRCS chief: A total of 20 agricultural groups and stakeholders have written to President Barack Obama in support of Jason Weller's nomination to be chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Weller has been serving as acting chief since December. In the letter, the parties noted that "it is important for NRCS and for farmers' and ranchers' conservation efforts that his appointment as chief be finalized as soon as possible. There is much to be done in support of conservation in agriculture, and we are ready to work with Mr. Weller to this end." Weller previously served as acting associate chief for conservation and as chief of staff at NRCS. He also worked for the House appropriations and budget committees.
Cabinet changes: The Senate continues the process of considering nominees for Cabinet-level positions. Ernest Moniz, a physics professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was confirmed as energy secretary. Gina McCarthy, an Environmental Protection Agency official nominated to be head of the agency, was approved by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, although her nomination faces a hold on the Senate floor. Nomination hearings were held during the week of May 20 for President Barack Obama's selection of Charlotte, N.C., mayor Anthony Foxx for transportation secretary and businesswoman Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary.
Online market: Value-Added Science & Technologies (VAST) launched an online market for weaner pigs, feeder pigs and facility spaces to help swine producers better manage pig flow and asset utilization. The ePigflow market will connect participants in the swine industry to make it simple, transparent and secure to buy and sell weaner or feeder pigs and rent facilities. VAST said ePigflow provides four services to help producers manage their pig flow and maximize asset utilization: (1) Spot Market Sales, which allow producers to post and buy weaner and feeder pigs through the ePigflow market, including facilitating all necessary aspects of the buying and selling process; (2) Long Term Contract Listings, which let producers post groups of pigs they'd like to sell under a long-term arrangement; (3) Facility Space Listings, which allow users to post available facilities for rent, including detailed information about the facility, and (4) Payment Assurance Service, which facilitates sales between parties by handling the sales transaction and collections and managing the discount sheet settlement process in a streamlined and secure manner. Producers can sign up for a free account at www.epigflow.com.
Reformulated starters: Purina Animal Nutrition LLC launched a newly reformulated line of the UltraCare pig starter feed products. The company said the new UltraCare pig starter feed products include: an improved MpD-class palatant for added palatability; exclusive nutraceuticals for increased palatability, gut immunity support, feed digestibility and absorption and optimized nutrient formulation. These added benefits are included in all UltraCare feed products, created for nursery pigs from birth through 65 lb. Two new products, UltraCare 600 and UltraCare 700 feed, have also been added to the pig starter feed program to focus on feed efficiency and strengthen performance through the growing stage.