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Articles from 2014 In November

USTR Appeals COOL Ruling

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it was appealing the October World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) rules on beef and pork were non-compliant with international trade obligations. In October the WTO said that the U.S. requirements of labeling meat where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered violated global trade rules because livestock from Canada and Mexico received “less favorable treatment than that accorded to like U.S. livestock.”

The National Farmers Union, the leading proponent of COOL said, “American consumers have been crystal clear that they want to know where their food comes from and family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide it. The decision by the USTR to appeal the WTO’s erroneous finding demonstrates full support for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers.” Canada’s Ministers of International Trade and Agriculture said in a joint statement, “With this delay, the United States is yet again preventing both of our countries from enjoying the benefits of freer and more open trade and is hurting farmers, ranchers and workers in the United States and Canada.”

Canada has released a list of products that it would impose over $1 billion in tariffs once the WTO process if finalized. It is expected that the United States will lose the appeal and this issue will have to be resolved legislatively next year. 

EPA Delays 2014 RFS Requirements

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was delaying implementation of the 2014 RFS requirements. The EPA said, “The proposal has generated significant comment and controversy, particularly about how volumes should be set.” The agency will issue the 2014 standards in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 rule. The EPA originally proposed the rule in November 2013 which would lower the 2014 blending requirements to 15.21 billion gallons, a reduction in the Congressional mandate by about three billion gallons. Reaction to the EPA’s announcement was mixed among various stakeholders.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said, “Today’s announcement by EPA shows the administration recognizes the proposed rule was inherently flawed and based on an unworkable methodology. We will continue to work with EPA to ensure that the 2014 and 2015 renewable fuel requirements are consistent with what Congress set forth in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).” The American Meat Institute said, “EPA’s decision to once again delay the final 2014 RFS rule breeds uncertainty in the marketplace and demonstrates compliance challenges related to the current rigid RFS mandate.”

The RFS standard will be an issue in the 114th Congress. It is expected that next year legislation will be introduced to either reform the RFS or eliminate the RFS.

Calorie Information in Restaurants and Vending Machines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized rules that will require calorie information to be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments and vending machines. The FDA said, “Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead healthier lives.” The menu labeling rule will apply to restaurants that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations; doing business under the same name; and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines will have to provide calorie information for food sold from vending machines. The FDA gave examples of “restaurant-type” foods that would be covered:

  • Food for immediate consumption at a sit-down or quick service restaurant;
  • Food purchased at a drive-through establishment;
  • Take-out and delivery pizza;
  • Hot pizza at grocery and convenience stores that is ready to eat;
  • Pizza slice from a movie theater;
  • Hot buffet food, hot soup at a soup bar, and food from a salad bar;
  • Foods ordered from a menu/menu board at a grocery store intended for individual consumption (e.g., soups, sandwiches, and salads); and
  • Self-service foods and foods on display intended for individual consumption (e.g., sandwiches, wraps, and paninis at a deli counter; salads plated by the consumer at a salad bar; cookies from a mall cookie counter; bagels, donuts, rolls offered for individual sale).

Foods not considered “restaurant-type” foods include:

  • Certain foods bought from bulk bins or cases (e.g., dried fruit, nuts) in grocery stores;
  • Foods to be eaten over several eating occasions or stored for later use (e.g., loaves of bread, bags or boxes of dinner rolls, whole cakes, and bags or boxes of candy or cookies);
  • Foods usually further prepared before consuming (e.g., deli meats and cheeses); and
  • Foods sold by weight that are not self-serve and are not intended solely for individual consumption (e.g., deli salads sold by unit of weight such as potato salad, chicken salad), either pre-packed or packed upon consumer request.

Stop Chinese Chicken in School Lunches

Consumer and food safety groups are asking Congress to not allow processed poultry from China in school meals by denying U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds to purchase the product. This effort by the groups is a result of the USDA approving four Chinese facilities to export processed poultry products to the United States.

In a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, the groups said, “While the raw poultry that these four facilities can process must come from approved sources – namely, from slaughter facilities in the United States, Canada or Chile – this announcement is not supported by strong system of ‘boots-on-the-grounds’ FSIS food inspectors in China to verify compliance.”

Those signing the letter included the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, STOP Foodborne Illness, and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.


Deadline for 113th Congress Fast Approaching

With the Dec. 11 deadline fast approaching, Congress is trying to finalize the 2015 appropriations to avoid another government shutdown. Another major issue is the various tax extenders (biodiesel tax credit, research and development, etc.) that need to be extended. Most tax extenders expired last December. The 113th Congress is expected to end on Dec. 11. 


Nanoparticles Show Promise as Biosecurity Tool

Photo 1 left shows a ldquohealthyrdquo Salmonella bacteria The black mass around the cell edges is zinc oxide nanoparticlesPhoto 2 right shows a deactivated Salmonella cell with ruptured cell membrane and large vacuoles formed inside the cell
<p>Photo 1 (left) shows a &ldquo;healthy&rdquo; Salmonella bacteria. The black mass around the cell edges is zinc oxide nanoparticles.</p> <p>Photo 2 (right) shows a deactivated Salmonella cell with ruptured cell membrane and large vacuoles formed inside the cell. </p>

When it comes to porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), the word that is currently trending is “biosecurity,” especially when transporting pigs. In response to this threat, producers are becoming increasingly conscientious about the sanitization of trucks and trailers transporting pigs. Challenges arise from attempts to avoid contracting the virus from the less obvious, often overlooked points of contact, like the hidden crevices in the trailer, the truck cab, the loading dock or even the roadways. The agricultural engineers at the Prairie Swine Centre, located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, have developed a sanitizing option. Their solution involves the use of nanoparticles.

Wait, what is a nanoparticle?

Nanoparticles are powderlike materials comprised of particles that are about one-billionth of a meter in size. At this size range, these very tiny particles exhibit unique properties that are not observed in materials of the same composition but comprised of larger particles. For example, zinc oxide nanoparticles have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, which were not observed in bulk-sized zinc oxide powder.

How does a nanoparticle kill bacteria and viruses?

Researchers at the Prairie Swine Centre in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan have shown that when nanoparticles come into contact with bacteria or cells hosting viruses, a reaction is triggered that results in the breakdown of the cell membrane, eventually killing the cell.

So how exactly will nanoparticles prevent the spread of PEDV?

Experiments are being conducted to assess the effectiveness of various types of nanoparticles and the optimum treatment application to deactivate the PED virus. Ultimately, the goal is to apply this technique to prevent PEDV transmission from surfaces that are hard to clean or disinfect using traditional techniques. Rapid detection techniques are also being developed that can be used to confirm the presence of the PED virus on farm surfaces and other organic matrices commonly found in pig barns that may carry the virus, such as feed and fecal materials, as well as to evaluate the impact of traditional disinfecting chemicals and the nanoparticles on the PED virus.

Finally, though this current research is focusing on PEDV, this treatment can also be applicable to other bacterial and viral infections that have long since been faced by the swine industry.    

Finland Considers Wild Boar Eradication to Stop Entry of African Swine Fever

Finland Considers Wild Boar Eradication to Stop Entry of African Swine Fever

Finland is considering drastic measures to stop the entry of the African swine fever pest into that country in order to safeguard continued exports of pork.

The existence of wild boars in Finland is a risk and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Jaana Husu-Kallio told national broadcaster Yle on Nov. 25 that eradication of the Finnish wild boar population is not ruled out.

“If the swine pest enters Finland, then we could forget the visions of exporting Finnish pork to areas outside the EU,” she said. “Even one confirmed infection in the wild boar population would have a decisive impact.”

African swine fever has spread rapidly in recent years to Poland, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania. There have been some cases in Estonia, but none in Finland. Finnish pork producers are looking for new markets outside the EU, in the wake of Russian restrictions.

African swine fever is caused by a virus and there is no current cure, but the infected pigs perish. However, the natural hosts of the virus such as wild boars may show no signs of the infection. The virus is not contagious to humans.

There are at least 500 wild boars in Finland. They are hunted as a sport. The population is densest in southeastern Finland, near the Russian border. The hunters’ organizations oppose a total eradication.

Belarus’ Government Dissatisfied with Pork Production Restoration Efforts

Belarus’ Government Dissatisfied with Pork Production Restoration Efforts

The Belarusian government is unhappy with the efforts of several regions to restore pork production, Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich said at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers on Nov. 25, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency has learned.

“Unfortunately, several regions have nothing to be proud of. Some have not even bothered to discuss the matter at sessions of oblast executive committees and just made one-time instructions. Well, if it is your working style, I am OK with it. What matters most is the result,” the Premier underlined.

The work done in Vitebsk Oblast and Mogilev Oblast was called unsatisfactory. These regions produced 31,200 tonnes (55.2% as against 2013) and 27,800 tonnes (79.6%) of pork (live weight) respectively in January to October. Vitebsk Oblast was hit the worst by the African swine fever in 2012.

The efforts to restore pork production are constantly monitored by the government. The relevant instructions were given by the head of state. “The government has made the necessary decisions. The pig production in the first quarter of 2015 should make up 124,300 tonnes. Thus, the task set by the president should be fulfilled in order to restore pork production up to the level of the first quarter of 2012,” the Premier said.

The head of government listed the major areas of focus. Thus, one of the ways to restore pork production is to increase the pig population. In the first quarter of 2015 the growth should make up 110,000 tonnes. Pork production will also be increased by means of higher production efficiency.

In January-to-October 2014 pork production (live weight) in Belarus was estimated at 322,800 tonnes, or 83.5% as against the same period in 2013. In Vitebsk Oblast and Mogilev Oblast the production declined by 500 tonnes in October compared to August 2014. In Gomel Oblast and Grodno Oblast the production volume remained the same. In Brest Oblast and Minsk Oblast the production grew by 100 tonnes and 600 tonnes, respectively.

In 2014 Belarus will commission a total of eight new pig breeding complexes at Borisov Meat Processing Plant, Bolshevik-Agro (Soligorsk District), Zhabinka Feed Mill, Slutsk Meat Processing Enterprise, Pribuzhie (Brest District), Agrokombinat Zhdanovichi, Zabolotsky (Luban District), Danprod (Volozhin District). The construction of five pig breeding complexes in Korelichi District, Narovlya District, Lelchitsy District, Postavy District and Smolevichi District will be finished in 2015.

By Jan. 1, 2016, the pig population in Belarus is expected to exceed 3.3 million head; the gross production of pigs (live weight) is to amount to 485,000 tonnes. This will be done by using vacant places at existing pig breeding farms and commissioning new farms. The daily gains are to be increased by at least 1.37 lb. by means of using of efficient granulated combined feed.

U.S. Breeding Stock Needs USDA-Approved Eartags as of Jan. 1

U.S. Breeding Stock Needs USDA-Approved Eartags as of Jan. 1

As of Jan. 1, individual identification of breeding stock headed to harvest will transition from backtags to the use of official, U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved eartags, according to the National Pork Board.

The eartags, called official premises identification number (PIN) tags, must be applied on the farm to individual breeding swine being marketed into harvest channels to link the animal to the sending premises. PIN tags are not required for feeder pigs, growers or market hogs.

In support of the Swine ID Plan, most major U.S. packers and processors will require PIN tags as a condition of sale for breeding stock beginning Jan. 1. To date, packers that will require the tags include Johnsonville, Hillshire Brands, Calihan Pork Processors, Bob Evans Farms, Wampler’s Farm Sausage, Pine Ridge Farms, Pioneer Packing Co., Pork King Packing and Abbyland Pork Pack.

“The official PIN tags are a significant improvement over backtags that are not imprinted with a premises identifier and are prone to come off,” says Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health for the Pork Checkoff. “When used in breeding stock, the official PIN tags will enhance preharvest traceability and national disease surveillance.”

Sows and boars entering harvest channels are often commingled, sorted and shipped with animals from other sources. Individual identification is essential for targeted surveillance and rapid and accurate traceback for diseases that could affect trade and commerce, such as pseudorabies or foot-and-mouth disease.

“If there is a disease issue, PIN tags could expedite the investigation, identify the site and aid officials in quickly containing the outbreak to help limit potential damage for the producer and the rest of the industry,” Webb says. “The official PIN tags demonstrate to our trading partners that we have a valid pre-harvest traceability system. With more than 25% of U.S. pork production going to foreign buyers, that assurance helps keep export markets viable. ... The official tags also play a role in the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance programs, providing an excellent way to identify sows and boars during production and to keep accurate treatment and movement records.”

A premises identification number will locate a specific animal production site. The standardized PIN is a USDA-allocated, seven-character alphanumeric code, with the right-most character being a check digit. For example: AB23456. Note that PINs are not the same as location identification numbers administered through a state’s or tribe’s internal system.

Learn more about the Swine ID Plan and PIN requirements at

Hormel Foods Achieves Record Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results

Hormel Foods Corp. reported on Nov. 25 that the company had a record performance for the fiscal year 2014 fourth quarter and full year. All comparisons are to the fourth quarter or full year of fiscal 2013.

Fourth quarter results showed record diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.63, up 9% from $0.58 per share; segment operating profit increased 9%; record dollar sales of $2.5 billion, increased 9%; volume up 3%. The Grocery Products segment operating profit was down 21%, while volume was down 5% and dollar sales were down 3%. Refrigerated Foods segment posted an operating profit up 10%, though volume up only 1%, but dollar sales showed a 9% increase. Jennie-O Turkey Store’s operating profit was up 45%, with volume up 7% and dollar sales up 11%.

Specialty Foods’ operating profit was down 14%, with volume up 15% (volume down 7% excluding sales of CytoSport Holdings Inc. [“CytoSport”] products); dollar sales up 31% (dollar sales down 4% excluding sales of CytoSport products). CytoSport acquisition-related charges, including transaction costs and inventory adjustment to fair market value, were approximately $9.3 million. “International and Other” operating profits were up 3%, thanks to volume and dollar sales up 6% and 13%, respectively.

For the fiscal year, there was a record diluted EPS of $2.23, up 14% from diluted EPS of $1.95. Segment operating profit was up 16%, thanks to record dollar sales of $9.3 billion, up 6%. Volume was up 1%.

The Grocery Products segment operating profit was down 9% and volume was up 3%, with dollar sales up 3%. Refrigerated Foods had an operating profit up 45%, with dollar sales up 9% though volume was flat. Jennie-O Turkey Store’s operating profit was up 23% on flat volume, but dollar sales up 4%.

Specialty Foods’ operating profit was down 20%, with volume down 5% (volume down 10% excluding sales of CytoSport products) and dollar sales down 3% (dollar sales down 11% excluding sales of CytoSport products).

International & Other operating profit was up 19%, volume up 15% and dollar sales up 19%.

The company reported fiscal 2014 fourth quarter net earnings of $171.3 million, up 9% from net earnings of $157.3 million a year earlier. Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $0.63, up 9% compared to $0.58 last year. Sales for the quarter were $2.5 billion, up 9% from the same period in fiscal 2013.

For the year ending Oct. 26, net earnings were a record $602.7 million, up 15% from net earnings of $526.2 million last year. Diluted net earnings per share were $2.23, up 14% from diluted net earnings per share of $1.95 last year. Sales for the year ending Oct. 26 totaled a record $9.3 billion, up 6% from last year.