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National Pork Board Discusses 2014 Budget


The National Pork Board will hold its next meeting Nov. 18-20, 2013, in Des Moines, IA. Pork Board President Karen Richter, a farmer from Montgomery, MN, will preside over the meeting as the board finalizes the 2014 budget.

“We have a number of challenges ahead this next year from sustaining the momentum of our Pork. Be Inspired. campaign to helping producers facing new swine diseases find the answers they need to keep their pigs healthy. The budget that we've put together will help us meet these challenges head-on,” Richter says.

In addition to finalizing the Pork Checkoff 2014 budget, the agenda for the board meeting includes the following  issues:

  • Reviewing Pork Quality Assurance Plus program developments;
  • Providing updates on Pork Checkoff-funded research; and
  • Addressing producer education outreach on porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus.

The board of directors will also discuss an innovative program that could help producers during future swine disease outbreaks.

Meetings of the National Pork Board are open to the public. Those wishing to attend are asked to contact Jamie Lowrey Byrnes at, or (515) 223-2600.




Pork Leadership Team Tours Promising Panama Market

Pork Leadership Team Tours Promising Panama Market

The pork industry of one of the United States’ most recent free trade agreement partners, Panama, was on full display last week for a group of 20 young pork producers from the United States as the Pork Leadership Institute (PLI) visited one of Central America’s fastest-growing markets for U.S. pork exports.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), working in cooperation with the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council, hosted the team from the PLI for a day as part of an ongoing program to help develop future leaders for the U.S. pork industry.

One of the more affluent countries in the Central America region with low unemployment and double-digit gross domestic product (GDP) growth, Panama has seen a dramatic increase in imports of U.S. pork over the past year since the Panama-U.S. Free Trade Agreement took effect.  Through the first seven months of 2013, U.S. pork sales to Panama are up 138% in volume and more than 125% in value vs. 2012, reaching 5,540 metric tons (12.2 million pounds) valued at more than $14 million, according to the Global Trade Atlas. 

The totals represent both a substantial increase in Panama’s pork imports from all sources (up 24.6% in volume and 44.3% in value), as well as the U.S. industry’s capturing of significant market share from its international competitors.

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“Importers are really excited about working with U.S. pork products,” said Gerardo Rodriguez, USMEF director of trade development for Central America and the Dominican Republic.  “Before the FTA, there was a 65% to 70% duty on U.S. pork.  Those duties were replaced with a quota with increasing amounts every year.”

Rodriguez noted that the initial market for U.S. pork was the Panamanian processing sector.  Over the past year, USMEF has made significant inroads with both the retail and foodservice sectors.  This week, in fact, USMEF is launching a promotion with Supermercados El Rey, one of Panama’s largest retailers, utilizing five cuts of U.S. pork adapted to the local cuisine.

“One of the most popular cuts right now is pig feet,” said Rodriguez, who said they are marinated and cooked, then eaten chilled.  The other items included in the promotion are bacon, ribs, pork chops and chorizo.

The promotion, which is being funded with support from the Pork Checkoff,is part of USMEF’s educational approach to the market to help raise the perception of pork as a commodity product to a valued protein.

“It has been very interesting and refreshing to see work that has been done to bring together information for the people of Panama,” said Oklahoman Cathy Vaughan of Murphy-Brown, LLC, the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc.  One of the Pork Leadership Institute members, Vaughan was impressed by the retail exhibits she saw, as well as the use of chefs to prepare product samples in local cuisine styles for consumers to try.

“There was no question for consumers that this was pork from the United States,” she said.

Vaughan and the PLI group also enjoyed a visit to a specialty meat retailer, known as a “meat boutique,” which was started by the founding family as a meat importer and eventually expanded into distribution, foodservice and retailing.  Pretelt Exclusive Meats has worked closely with USMEF for several years, expanding its menu of U.S. pork cuts to include baby back ribs, tenderloin and St. Louis ribs.  Pretelt recently added another store in Panama and its first store in Colombia.

Just two years ago, the United States trailed Canada in the volume of pork exports to Panama, with 33% of the import market share vs. 36.7% for Canada and 24.7% for Denmark.  The United States and Denmark were in a virtual tie for the value lead with just over 35% market share while Canada trailed with about 22%.

So far this year, U.S. pork holds a commanding 68.9% market share when measured by volume (21.7% for Denmark and 4.2% for Canada) and a 61.4% of the value of pork imports vs. 28.9% for Denmark and 2.9% for Canada.

“The visit by the PLI team was a good opportunity for these pork industry leaders to see their Checkoff dollars at work,” Rodriguez said.  “The entire Central America region is one of the fastest-growing areas for U.S. pork exports (up 32% in volume and 29% in value through the first nine months of 2013), and Panama offers the potential to be one of the brightest stars in the years to come.”

USMEF has been associated with the PLI team for many years, noted John Hinners, USMEF assistant vice president for industry relations.

“This program has helped educate many future leaders of the pork industry,” he said.  “It is important for them to get exposure to the international markets that are buying about 25% of the total U.S. pork production.”

Agricultural Exports Reach a Record in FY ’13

U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year 2013 hit a record $140.9 billion.  The period 2009-2013 is the strongest five-year period for U.S. agricultural exports.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Congress needs to pass a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to continue the trade promotion programs that helped American agriculture achieve these results. These trade promotion efforts return $35 in economic benefits for every dollar invested.”

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Conservation Leaders Support Conservation Compliance

The former chiefs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are supporting conservation compliance for  all programs including crop insurance in the farm bill. 

In a letter to the farm bill conferees the seven former chiefs said, “As you take steps to modernize our farm safety net, we urge you to make sure that compliance provisions cover all income support, including eligibility for crop and revenue insurance premium subsidies.”  They also indicated that for the widest participation possible that crop insurance should be available at the “same cost” to all producers regardless of income. 

The chiefs served in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.


Senators Send Plea to Farm Bill Conferees: "Don’t Cut Food Stamps"

Thirty-nine senators sent a letter to the farm bill conferees, urging them not to agree to any provisions that would cut eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamp program. 

The senators said, “While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance.”  Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) organized the letter.

Congressional Budget Office Proposes 103 Options to Cut the Federal Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) proposed 103 options that if implemented could be used to cut the federal deficit.  The policy options included both cuts in mandatory and discretionary programs and revenue proposals.  The recommendations included options for agriculture, defense, energy, education, social security, etc.  The options for agriculture would save approximately $130 billion over 10 years.  These included:

·       Conservation – Llimit enrollment in USDA’s conservation programs.  Prohibiting new enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program would save $8 billion from 2015 through 2023.  Prohibiting new enrollment and reenrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would save $5 billion from 2015-2023.

·       Crop insurance – Reducing the federal government’s subsidy to 40% (currently 60% on average) would save $27 billion.  Also, the report recommends limiting USDA’s reimbursement to crop insurance companies for administrative expense to 9.25%

·       Direct payments – Eliminating direct payments would reduce farm program spending by $25 billion between 2015 and 2023. 

·       Food stamps – The report recommends tightening eligibility and determinations of income for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would save $50 billion. 

·       School lunch – The report recommends eliminating subsidies for school meals served to students from households with income greater than 185% of the federal poverty level.  This is estimated to save $10 billion.

Hagen Stepping Down

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elizabeth Hagen announced she would be leaving USDA mid-December.  In a statement, Hagen said, “USDA and FSIS have successfully made preventing foodborne illness a real priority. The steps we have taken, from modernizing the agency, strengthening oversight of industry and increasing outreach to consumers has led to safer food and fewer foodborne illnesses.” 

EPA Cuts Renewable Fuel Standard Requirements

EPA Cuts Renewable Fuel Standard Requirements

EPA is proposing the first cut in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) requirements in the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply.  This year’s renewable fuels hit 16.55 billion gallons and had been scheduled to reach 18.15 billion gallons in 2014.  However, EPA is proposing the 2014 requirement at 15 billion to 15.52 billion gallons.  This would be approximately what the mandate was in 2012. 

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This will be the first year-to-year reduction in the RFS mandate since Congress created the program in 2005 and expanded it in 2007.  Conventional renewable fuel (corn based ethanol) would be reduced from the statutory level of 14.4 billion gallons to 13 billion gallons.  EPA said it was taking this action because of “market conditions” that include a slowdown in the demand for gasoline and the ethanol supply could be greater than demand.  There will be a 60 day comment period on the proposal.  

Take Time to Update Sow Diets

Take Time to Update Sow Diets

Gestating sows have different nutritional requirements as they go through pregnancy, but all too often, pork producers don’t make the necessary adjustments.

So says Ron Ball, a retired professor from the University of Alberta, in an address at the Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference held in mid-September in Indianapolis, IN. He presented research about the amino acid requirements during the different phases of gestation.

Intensive genetic selection has changed the underlying biochemistry and metabolism of the pig, Ball says. This process has resulted in increased heat production, increased rate of protein turnover, and increased energy and amino acid requirements.

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“We’re living with greater-costing sow herds than we need to,” he says. “That’s because our knowledge of sow nutrition has not kept pace with the rate of changes in sow productivity.”

There’s little fetal growth until about 70 or 80 days of gestation, when the fetal protein requirements increase tenfold, starting at 20 grams and moving to more than 200 grams, research shows.

In terms of amino acid requirements, lysine and threonine increase from early gestation to late gestation.

“The key message here is, because those requirements are so different, you cannot take the same diet you fed in early gestation and feed more of it in late gestation to meet those requirements without a whole lot of waste,” Ball says. “You need a second diet if you are really going to meet the requirements properly without overfeeding.”

According to Ball, there are three solutions to consider to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant sows:

The optimal solution is to use parity-segregated phase feeding. Formulate two diets. One diet should meet the minimum requirements of sows during gestation, and the other diet should meet the maximum requirements. Each sow should receive a blend of the two feeds that meets her specific nutritional needs. This approach works best for hog operations that use electronic sow feeders (ESF), with two feed lines.

The second-best solution is to formulate a “low diet” and a “high diet.” The low diet should be fed during early gestation. Around Day 85 of gestation, the sows should be fed the high diet to minimize overfeeding and underfeeding.

The third possible solution is to feed a low diet, and then topdress the sow diet with some extra feed for sows in late gestation.

Following one of these management options to supply the correct amount of nutrients for pregnant sows results in better body condition when entering lactation, better rebreeding success after the first litter, increased sow longevity and reduced feed costs — to the tune of almost $10/sow/year.

“We need to make the effort and the investment to change our feeding programs for sows,” Ball says.

Ball’s presentation was excerpted from the American Society of Animal Science Taking Stock e-newsletter found at

Evaluating ‘Air Cleaning’ Technology

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota recently concluded analysis of preliminary data on the effectiveness of electrostatic particle ionization (EPI) technology on decreasing artificial infectious aerosols.

The research team included Carmen Alonso, DVM, Montse Torremorell, DVM and Peter Davies, DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine; and Pete Raynor, School of Public Health.

Specifically, the objectives of the study were to determine the impact of the EPI Air on particle-size distribution and quantity of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus.

In the study, EPI Air was installed at three different levels — 1, 2 and 3 meters (1 meter equals 3.3 ft.) — from the ground along the length of an isolation unit at the University of Minnesota.

Air samples were collected with the EPI Air on and off for 30 minutes, and analyzed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for PRRS.


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A total of 144 air samples was analyzed in the study. Results indicated a decrease in the total number of viral particles from the air when the EPI Air was on.

“Removal efficiency was significant for some ranges of particle sizes analyzed, and efficiency also varied with distance of the EPI lines from the ground,” the researchers said.

In conclusion, “the results of this study indicated the potential of the EPI system in reducing the amount of viral particles from the treated air under the experimental conditions, being this reduction was significantly higher for the largest particles.”

Distance to the source of ions also played a role in the virus removal efficiency of the system.

The researchers suggested further studies are needed to demonstrate whether EPI Air is effective at reducing virus particles generated by infected pigs.

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