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Articles from 2014 In April


Note to Congress: Hog Farmers Facing Challenges

Pig disease issues and the potential impact of a retaliatory tariff weigh on the hog industry
<p>Pig disease issues and the potential impact of a retaliatory tariff weigh on the hog industry. </p>

Problems both domestic and international are taking their toll on America's hog producers, according to the National Pork Producers Council. The group, testifying before a House Agriculture subcommittee, outlined two key issues impacting the industry - a deadly pig disease and the threat of trade retaliation against pork products.

During a hearing held by the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit, NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a Cambridge, Iowa farmer and veterinarian, outlined effects on hog farmers of two key issues - U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).

Hill explained that the COOL requirement to label meat with information about where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered has caused the Canadian pork industry to reduce production as U.S. hog farmers sought to avoid the law's costs and complications. He adds that the statute prompted Canada and Mexico to bring trade cases against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is expected to rule this summer.

If WTO rules against COOL, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to place retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products and NPPC is urging Congress to consider a legislative fix to the law.

PEDV, says Hill, has already killed 7 million pigs in 30 states since last April and could add up to a 10 percent slaughter reduction this summer.

Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics, Adel, Iowa, and a regular contributor to National Hog Farmer, notes that reduced slaughter could push up pork prices by as much as 15 to 25 percent and force consumer prices higher too.

NPPC's Hill notes there's a broader economic impact to PEDV too. With reduced hog numbers that means less feed consumption, less medicine purchased, fewer veterinary services bought and less hours at packing and processing plants.

NPPC is calling on USDA to conduct a thorough investigation on the pathway PEDV and other viruses used to gain entry into the U.S. swine herd, to conduct research on viral propagation of the diseases and to commit more resources to determining pathogenesis of and ways to control the viruses. During testimony, the pork industry also urged USDA to "take a thoughtful and measured approach" to developing the PEDV reporting program announced recently. Hill says hog farmers need a program that is "practical, working and that can be successful."

Smithfield Foods Awarded for Environmental and Workplace Safety Performance

Smithfield Foods recently announced that the company's facilities across the United States received a total of 74 awards this year from the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation for their environmental and worker safety performance.

The awards were announced during AMI's annual conference on Worker Safety, Human Resources and the Environment which was held in Kansas City, Mo.

"This is another exciting year to have so many of our companies and facilities recognized by AMI, because it continues to demonstrate that our environmental and workplace safety commitments are truly an integral part of all levels of our organization," said Dennis H. Treacy, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer.

AMI Environmental Recognition Awards is a four-tier, voluntary environmental management system toolbox. The program begins in Tier 1 with simple environmental compliance policies and culminates with an ISO 14001 EMS as Tier 4, the most complex program.

AMI recognized 35 Smithfield Foods facilities with Environmental Recognition Awards, all in Tier 4.

Tier 4

Environmental Recognition Award Winners

814 Americas, Inc.

Elizabeth, New Jersey

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Crete, Nebraska

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Lincoln, Nebraska

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Martin City, Missouri

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Milan, Missouri

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Farmland Foods, Inc.

Wichita, Kansas

John Morrell Food Group

Cincinnati, Ohio

John Morrell Food Group

Junction City, Kansas

John Morrell Food Group

Mason City, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Peru, Indiana

John Morrell Food Group

San Jose, California

John Morrell Food Group

Sioux Center, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Sioux City, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

John Morrell Food Group

Springfield, Massachusetts

John Morrell Food Group

St. Charles, Illinois

John Morrell Food Group

St. James, Minnesota

Patrick Cudahy, LLC

Cudahy, Wisconsin

Premium Pet Health, LLC

Denver, Colorado

Premium Pet Health, LLC

Sioux City, Iowa

Premium Pet Health, LLC

Smithfield, Virginia

Saratoga Food Specialties

Bolingbrook, Illinois

Smithfield Packing Company

Carroll, Iowa

Smithfield Packing Company

Charlotte, North Carolina

Smithfield Packing Company

Clayton, North Carolina

Smithfield Packing Company

Clinton, North Carolina

Smithfield Packing Company

Cumming, Georgia

Smithfield Packing Company

Denison, Iowa

Smithfield Packing Company

Kinston, North Carolina

Smithfield Packing Company

Middlesboro, Kentucky

Smithfield Packing Company

Monmouth, Illinois

Smithfield Packing Company

Omaha, Nebraska

Smithfield Packing Company

Smithfield, Virginia

Smithfield Packing Company

Toano, Virginia

In addition to the Environmental Recognition Awards, AMI also recognized eight Smithfield Foods facilities with Worker Safety Awards of Honor. This award is based on evaluating each facility's actual safety performance, as well as how effectively it implemented various key components of a safety and health program. This is an improvement from 2013 with three more facilities awarded this year.

Award of Honor

Golden Crisp Premium Foods

Sioux Center, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Omaha, Nebraska

John Morrell Food Group

Peru, Indiana

Murphy Brown, LLC

Milford, Utah

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Crete, Nebraska

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Milan, Missouri

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Salt Lake City, Utah

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Tar Heel, North Carolina

An additional 31 Smithfield Foods facilities were recognized for outstanding achievements in workplace safety and received Worker Safety Awards:

Award of Merit

John Morrell Food Group

Cincinnati, Ohio

John Morrell Food Group

Junction City, Kansas

John Morrell Food Group

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

John Morrell Food Group

St. Charles, Illinois

John Morrell Food Group

St. James, Minnesota

Murphy Brown, LLC

Warsaw, North Carolina

Murphy Brown, LLC

Yuma, Colorado

Patrick Cudahy, LLC

Cudahy, Wisconsin

Smithfield Farmland Distribution Center

Clayton, North Carolina

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Denison, Iowa

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Smithfield, Virginia

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Grayson, Kentucky

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Wichita, Kansas

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Wilson, North Carolina

Award of Commendation

Farmland Foods, Inc

Arnold, Pennsylvania

John Morrell Food Group

Mason City, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Sioux City, Iowa

John Morrell Food Group

Smithfield, Virginia

Murphy Brown, LLC

Algona, Iowa

Murphy Brown, LLC

Laverne, Oklahoma

Murphy Brown, LLC

Kenansville, North Carolina

Murphy Brown, LLC

Waverly, Virginia

Saratoga Foods

Bolingbrook, Illinois

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Lincoln, Nebraska

Smithfield Farmland Printing Operations

Independence, Missouri

Certificate of Recognition

John Morrell Food Group

Springfield, Massachusetts

Murphy Brown, LLC

Rose Hill, North Carolina

Premium Pet Health, LLC

Orange City, Iowa

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Carroll, Iowa

Smithfield Farmland Packaged Meats

Kansas City, Missouri

Smithfield Farmland Fresh Meats

Monmouth, Illinois

About Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods is a $13 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook's®, Gwaltney®, John Morrell®, Kretschmar®, Curly's®, Carando®, Margherita®, and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental, and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and www.smithfieldcommitments.com.

 

Smithfield Parent Pulls IPO Citing Not Enough Demand

Smithfield parent WH Group has postponed its already reduced initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange citing deteriorating market conditions that are creating weak demand.

The WH Group said that in light of the trouble with the market conditions and recent excessive market volatility, the company, upon consulting joint sponsors, decided that the global offering will not proceed at this time.

The company had announced last week it would reduce the size of the IPO from its initial $5.3 billion to $1.9 billion. 

WH Group, which last year was known as Shuanghui International, bought Smithfield for $4.7 billion in cash, plus debt assumption. As many as 29 investment banks were working on the deal, which critics said created confusing messages about the offer.

 

Insects Represent an Important Link for Antibiotic Resistance Traits

fly

Those pesky house flies buzzing around your home or invading your springtime picnic could be doing more harm to human health than one realizes.

According to a recent study by Kansas State University, published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal insects carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria from one point to another, including from food animal farms and wastewater treatment facilities, for example, to urban areas.

Ludek Zurek, a K-State professor of microbial ecology and lead author on the published study noted that there are a number of insects that are commonly associated with animals, including house flies and cockroaches. 

The professor added that house flies are common where animal manure is produced, including in cattle, poultry and swine operations. Cockroaches, primarily the German cockroaches, have become a common pest in many confined swine operations.

Zurek and his colleagues collected house flies and cockroaches from food animal production locations, including swine and poultry farms, as well as wastewater treatment facilities that collect waste from multiple sources, including hospitals. The researchers then genetically analyzed the bacteria in the digestive tract of the insects and compared them to the bacteria present in the animal feces and wastewater.

“We found these insects carry the same bacteria found in the animal manure,” Zurek said. “Then we started sampling insects found in surrounding urban areas, including fast food restaurants, and again, we found house flies with multi-drug resistant bacteria.”

The house flies collected from the wastewater treatment plants, likewise, carried the same bacteria found in the waste itself, he said. House flies collected several miles from the wastewater treatment plants in surrounding urban areas had a lower prevalence of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those examined from the facilities themselves, but the bacteria still existed in those urban house flies.

The study led the researchers to conclude that insects, primarily house flies, can pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria and disseminate them to surrounding areas. How serious that link is still needs to be investigated, but the potential is clearly there, Zurek said.

“Cockroaches and house flies are highly mobile, and they are attracted to residential areas,” he said. “They are attracted to our food and drinks. They have great potential to move multi-drug resistant bacteria to urban areas.”

In addition, Zurek’s team showed that bacteria in the house fly digestive tract can exchange antibiotic resistance by horizontal gene transfer. The resistant strains multiply in the fly and can be left behind on food by fly regurgitation or spitting, and defecation. 

Antibiotics, since their discovery 70 years ago, have saved millions of lives, Zurek said.

“Unfortunately, because of the intensive use of antibiotics in human medicine, we pose high pressure on bacteria, and they respond by developing resistance,” he said. “The resistant strains then survive and are selected by antibiotic treatments. Currently, we have situations where people get infections they die from because the antibiotics are not effective anymore. The bacteria that caused the infections are multi-drug resistant.”

According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections in the United States.

Currently, two places where antibiotics are most widely used are hospitals and food animal production facilities, Zurek said. Antibiotics in food animal production are not only used to treat infections in animals but also in helping animals grow.

“Antibiotics in low doses are added as feed additives, primarily in poultry and swine diets,” he said. “The outcome is that the animals grow faster. At the same time, if you use low doses of antibiotics extensively, that poses selective pressure on bacteria in the digestive tract of these animals and results in antibiotic resistance.”

Humans experiencing more problems with antibiotic resistance could be due to many potential reasons, Zurek said, including overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and human connection to antibiotic use in food animals. There are likely many other potential environmental connections as well, so it’s hard to pinpoint specific infections and where the antibiotic resistance originated.

In addition to the insects, Zurek and his research team have also showed that wild birds, such as ravens and crows, carry multi-drug antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Wild birds can pick up the antibiotic resistant bacteria from fields where animal manure was used as a fertilizer,” he said. “We still don’t know how significant these birds are as carriers. We just know there are multiple venues where wildlife can acquire resistant strains and move them around in the environment.”

To help eliminate the potential connection to food animal production, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last December released its first request to antibiotic manufacturers to voluntarily remove antibiotics from the list for animal growth promoters. The plan is to phase out antibiotics as a feed additive for growth promotion in United States in the next three years.

The European Union (EU) took a precautionary step in 2006 to combat human antibiotic resistance. All EU countries banned antibiotic use as growth promoters in food animals.

Lowering the use of antibiotics in animal industry will be another step to lower prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment and in human infections, Zurek said, but because antibiotic resistance in human infections is such a serious global health problem that has led to higher patient mortality rates, prolonged hospitalization and increased healthcare costs, it needs to be tackled from many angles.

He said that pest management and trying to minimize the pest populations on farms, and outside of the farms is one way. House flies aren't just a nusiance, they also carry antibiotic resistant bacteria, which should be taken seriously as a vector.

Speaker of the House John Boehner Visits Ohio Pig Farm

Speaker of the House John Boehner Visits Ohio Pig Farm

Recently, Congressman John Boehner, Speaker of the House visited Wuebker Farms in Versailles, OH. 

Wuebker Farms co-owners, Jeff and Alan Wuebker, their families, representatives from Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio Pork Council were present for the Speaker’s visit and offered him insight on many issues facing today’s pork industry.

Bill Minton, DVM, nationally recognized swine veterinarian from Chickasaw, OH, was also present and was able to provide an update on Ohio’s work to combat porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).​

Jeff Wuebker noted that it was great to have Speaker Boehner on the farm to witness hands-on, what he and his family, as well as all the individuals in the pork industry do every day to produce safe, affordable pork for the American consumer.

He added that his visit served as a good reminder of the many challenges producers face in the swine industry, and how important the federal government is in helping farmers protect the food supply. Agriculture is the number one industry in the Speaker's district, as well as in Ohio with over $100 billion in economic activity each year.

 

Pork Checkoff Makes Updates to its Transport Quality Assurance Program

Pork Checkoff Makes Updates to its Transport Quality Assurance Program

Since 2001, the pork industry's Transport Quality Assurance program (TQA) has promoted responsible practices when handling and transporting pigs. Since then, TQA has undergone five revisions - always striving to offer the most current, science-based information on humane handling, biosecurity and proper transportation of swine.

The mission of the TQA program remains unchanged: to continuously build a culture of protecting and promoting animal well-being through training and certification of animal handlers and transport personnel. In that process, TQA uses the most current industry-proven techniques in an effort to build consumer confidence and understanding of the high-quality pork products delivered to market every day.   

Sherrie Webb, the animal welfare director for the National Pork Board noted that many consumers are hungry for information on how their pork is raised - from the farm to the table.

She added the need for information is about more than what happens on the farm. It extends to how that animal is safely and humanely transported from farm to market, which is why keeping current on transportation trends is so critical.

Staying current on transportation trends requires continuous evaluation and commitment. The Pork Checkoff's pioneering TQA curriculum focuses not only on safe handling, but also emerging diseases such as PEDV and biosecurity. In 2014, each was a major focus in revising the program.

Brad Knadler, who serves as the director of hog procurement at Triumph Foods, noted that everyone involved in pork production, ranging from pork producers, their employees, veterinarians and transporter, needs to develop a biosecurity plan that helps individuals make good decisions, and take sound action that reduces the risk of disease spread at the same time. 

The Pork Checkoff's TQA program, he noted addresses the need for serious biosecurity protocols to be in place and helps the pork industry further fight and reduce the spread of the industry-impacting diseases.

The updated program also provides a new approach to understanding basic pig behavior and body language, and how it contributes to a safe and positive experience for both the pig and the handler. 

"Calm pigs are easier to handle than excited, agitated pigs. Handling will be easier, and pigs less likely to become agitated and bunch together, if handlers use basic pig behavioral principles," said Webb. "An important part of effectively using pig behavior during handling procedures is learning how the pig perceives and responds to the handler in different situations and environments."

Additionally, adapting to changes in weather, especially temperature extremes, costs the U.S. pork industry millions of dollars annually. Handlers and transporters must understand the affect weather can have on pigs during transport, and how best to protect them during extreme weather. The revised TQA program teaches transporters the importance of planning ahead and properly bedding and boarding trailers.

 

Mycoplasmal Pneumonia: Proper Sample Collection is Crucial for Pathogen Detection and Accurate Diagnosis in Live Pigs

Mycoplasmal Pneumonia: Proper Sample Collection is Crucial for Pathogen Detection and Accurate Diagnosis in Live Pigs

The importance of diagnostics for disease detection, surveillance, and monitoring in swine herds is widely appreciated, and has increased the quality of animal health over the years with a significant impact on animal welfare and production.

Every day, diagnostic laboratories process hundreds of samples that have been collected in the field to aid in the diagnostic process.

However, proper and specific sample collection may not always be easy to accomplish.

Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is a swine respiratory pathogen that can affect animals at any age. The disease can be extremely difficult to diagnose at the early and late stages of infection.

M. hyopneumoniae multiplies at a very slow rate within the pig, taking a long time to generate clinical signs, which is characterized by a dry cough. It is localized on the lower sections of the respiratory tract (trachea, bronchia, bronchiole), where it can reside for an extremely long period of time (over 7 months).

While serum samples may be tested for antibodies to M. hyopneumoniae, detection in live pigs during the early stages of infection is challenging, and other type of samples are preferred. The best samples for detection of the pathogen are those collected from the lower respiratory tract, which may imply a somewhat invasive and not-so-simple sample collection process.

However, pig-friendly tools have been designed and developed over the last few years to target sampling for specific pathogens in order to minimize invasion and save time. For example, collection of oral fluids by using rope sampling in pig pens is a common practice with highly successful results when it comes to identifying certain pathogens circulating in swine herds. Unfortunately, sensitivity of the detection of M. hyopneumoniae during early stages of infection is limited when using this technique. Consequently, other types of sampling procedures are recommended to be employed for this purpose during the early infection stage.

Nasal swabs are widely used for detection of M. hyopneumoniae. These samples are fairly practical to collect in the field, and individual animals are sampled this way. However, nasal swabs are not very sensitive for detection of M. hyopneumoniae during the stages when pigs are not showing clinical signs (early or late infection), which means results may seem inconsistent at times.

At the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory of the University of Minnesota we have tested the use of laryngeal swabs and tracheobronchial lavages (in live pigs) for detection of M. hyopneumoniae, along with nasal swabs and oral fluids.

We have found that more infected pigs can be detected as positive for the bacterium when samples are collected via laryngeal swabs. Colleting laryngeal swabs in pigs may require more training for the personnel in order to make sure that the sample is collected in the right location and the pigs are properly handled.

Sample collection can be done extremely fast, actually taking a shorter time to be collected, compared with a blood sample. For laryngeal swabs to be collected, pigs may be restrained simply with a snare, whereas the use of a mouth gag and a laryngoscope (as seen in Figure 1) is recommended for personnel safety and to better visualize the area to be swabbed.

Tracheobronchial lavages, on the other hand, have shown a lower sensitivity compared to laryngeal swabs and require more training and a slightly longer time for collection.

Once collected, samples should be properly stored and transported to the diagnostic laboratory as soon as possible for processing. 

 

 

 

Entire U.S. Court Of Appeals to Hear Meat Groups’ Case Against Labeling Law

A lawsuit filed by meat industry trade groups, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), against USDA’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) scheme will be heard May 19 by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The en banc hearing – all 11 judges presiding – comes after a three-judge panel of the same court in March ruled against NPPC, the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.

The groups had argued – and are arguing – that, in promulgating the 2013 rule, the Agriculture Secretary exceeded the authority granted by Congress in the COOL statute and that the rule violates the First Amendment by compelling speech – labeling of meat.

The case was on appeal from a U.S. District Court. USDA proposed the latest iteration of the rule in March 2013 after a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel in 2011 ruled in response to a complaint by Canada and Mexico that the original (2008) COOL requirements violated the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade agreement.

Despite that ruling, USDA made the 2013 COOL requirements even more complex and discriminatory against foreign meat and livestock. Canada and Mexico filed WTO cases against that rule.

The international trade body is expected to issue a decision on the complaints in June or July.

Should the labeling rule not be compliant, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to impose retaliatory tariffs on a host of U.S. products, including pork.

 

No Agreement Reached with Japan to Eliminate Ag Tariffs

After two days of intense negotiations last week, the U.S. and Japan failed to reach an agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during President Barack Obama’s visit with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Tokyo. 

In a joint statement the two countries said they “have identified a path forward on important bilateral TPP issues” and “there is still much work to be done to conclude TPP.” 

The major issue to be resolved is market access for agriculture and automobiles.  

Prior to President Obama’s trip to Japan, over 60 Congressmen urged the administration to continue to press Japan to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for U.S. agricultural products as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. 

The letter organized by Congressmen Adrian Smith (R-NE), Ron Kind (D-WI), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Jim Costa (D-CA), stated the members’ concern that Japan had not made a comprehensive offer on market access for agricultural goods. 

Japan has been seeking exclusion from the agreement for “sensitive” products, beef, pork, dairy, rice, and wheat. 

The letter stated that excluding certain products from the agreement “could undermine the careful balance of concessions that the other eleven economies have achieved. If Japan is allowed exemptions, other TPP countries could demand similar treatment, and the entire agreement would be at risk of unraveling.” 

The TPP negotiations include the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.  These countries represent nearly 40 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.