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Articles from 2020 In May

This Week in Agribusiness, May 30, 2020

Part 1

Note: The video automatically plays through all show parts once you start.

Max Armstrong starts off hearing from Steve Moest from High Plains Pork about the struggles his business faces currently. Mike Pearson is on the desk and chats quickly with Greg Soulje previewing the weather report. Dale Durchholz of Grain Cycles joins the show to talk about the weather’s impact on the 2020 crop and how ethanol’s return is lifting the market. Next they turn some attention to livestock.

Part 2

Dale Durchholz of Grain Cycles rejoins Mike to discuss the challenges with international trade. In the Colby Ag Tech segment Chad Colby is chatting with Matt Foes who’s describes how tech is helping out with cover crops and tillage.

Part 3

Max is talking to Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture to discuss the Iowa hog industry and the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program.  

Part 4

Max Armstrong checks in with Polly Ruhland of the United Soybean Board where they are developing many new uses for soybeans, including asphalt and tennis shoes. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje joins Max and Steve to look at the forecast for the week ahead.

Part 5

Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje returns to take a look at the long-range weather picture.

Part 6

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max is teasing us with a peak at the tractor for next week’s broadcast. Mike Pearson profiles Woodbury FFA in Woodbury, Connecticut, way out of the corn belt they produce maple syrup and raise tilapia. Member Aiden Usher tells us about their greenhouse program’s “Peddle it Forward” program. In Samuelson Sez, Orion Samuelson say that the “natives are getting restless” and is responding to viewer e-mails as he looks towards a return to whatever normal is.

Part 7

Max chats with Lisa Safarian of Bayer Crop Science who tells us how COVID-19  has challenged her work, both on a personal level and across the Bayer Crop Science.


SwineTech SmartGuard garners Producer's Choice award

SwineTech Inc. nhf-swinetech.jpg
SwineTech SmartGuard was named the Producer's Choice Award winner after online voting during the 2020 New Product Tour.

Animal welfare and saving piglets is important for any hog operation and apparently it's also important to those who followed along to this year's New Product Tour, as SwineTech's SmartGuard technology garnered the Producer's Choice award.

SmartGuard provides the technologies necessary to automate and augment farrowing management, allowing for reduced labor and energy costs as well as sow and piglet mortalities. This is accomplished by leveraging voice recognition and smart cameras, as well as environmental and behavioral sensors that constantly monitor a designated farrowing environment.

SmartGuard has been proven to reduce piglet crushing by 30% and overall piglet mortalities by 25.3% on a large commercial sow farm in Iowa.

After learning that his company was chosen as the 2020 Producer's Choice winner, Matthew Rooda, SwineTech CEO and president, says "I am very proud of the SwineTech team and thankful for the support that we have received from our customers in the U.S. and Canada. It means a lot to receive this award, however our work doesn't stop here. We are continuing to build innovative tools to improve the way we approach sow farm management. "

SmartGuard was one of nine products featured during the New Product Tour portion of the 2020 Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference earlier this week.

"It means a lot (earning Producer's Choice) because it is difficult bringing something new to market. It's not just about saving the piglets, it's about the sow welfare and the people taking care of them," Rooda says. "It's about making the lives of people working in the farms better and more efficient. We're just trying to figure out how we can use technology to improve the overall experience of working in a sow farm, allowing caregivers to offer the very best care to the pigs."

Rooda says market development continues for his company's product, "we are currently interested in working with all pork producers in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, we are currently evaluating what other countries we will expand to over the next couple of years."

As with most of the world, COVID-19 has not left SwineTech untouched, but in a good way for producers as Rooda says potential customers should inquire about a deal for producers. Check out the SwineTech website for more information.

USDA APHIS updates African swine fever response plan

Farm Progress Customs and Border Protection agent and a beagle check luggage at Chicago's O'Hare airport

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service updated its African swine fever strategic plan and expanded it into a full response as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen response capabilities in the event of an outbreak. The USDA APHIS USDA Response Plan: The Red Book May 2020 elevates preparedness activities in the United States should ASF enter the country. ASF is an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks.

Among provisions, the response plan provides: a comprehensive feral swine response; an outline of USDA authorities and APHIS guidance specific to an ASF response; specific response actions that will be taken if ASF is detected; updated USDA APHIS National Stop Movement Guidance and changes to surveillance guidance. The agency anticipates there will be updates to the ASF Response Plan as new capabilities and processes become available.

The National Pork Producer Council says it supports USDA's efforts to ensure ASF isn't spread to the United States. NPPC continues to work with Customs and Border Protection, which along with USDA, are the first line of defense to prevent ASF.

In March, President Donald Trump signed into law legislation that authorized funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports, as well as 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new canine teams. NPPC is working with CBP to ensure sufficient funding on this effort, and to date has helped the agency receive an additional $19.6 million in the FY2020 budget.

Source: National Pork Producers Council, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

What’s ahead for hog prices, profitability in 2020?

During National Hog Farmer's Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference on May 27, David Bauer of Provimi and Dennis Smith of Archer Financial, provided their insight on what’s ahead for the hog market in regard to prices and profitability. They shared a bit of their insight and then the floor was open for questions. Take a listen.

Ann Hess, Editor, National Hog Farmer (moderator)
David Bauer, market analyst, Provimi, and voice of Feedstuffs Precision Pork podcast
Dennis Smith, National Hog Farmer market columnist and analyst with Archer Financial


ISU scientists receive grant to advance human immune model in pigs

Courtesy of Christopher Tuggle nhf-isu-humanstudy-pigs.jpg

The strict regulations that govern medical research with human subjects often slow down the study of the human immune system. So generations of researchers have used models of various designs to simulate human systems. Scientists at Iowa State University are poised to take a significant step forward in this arena by transferring a human immune system into pigs.

The research will allow biomedical researchers to study realistic human cellular and tissue responses in a wide range of applications without the use of human subjects. The project recently received a nearly $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the technology over the next four years. The research could pave the way to new treatments for a wide range of health problems, from cancer to severe burns, says Christopher Tuggle, a professor of animal science and member of the research team.

"These pigs are a very good model because the genetics and physiology of pigs are very similar to humans," Tuggle says. "What's unique about them is they don't have a big part of their immune system that allows them to reject cells from other species. The advantage of that is that they can serve as a biomedical model for human cell growth or human cell biology."

The pigs are born with severe combined immune deficiency. The research team breeds the pigs from a genetic line from the ISU herd to have virtually no immune systems of their own. That means the researchers must go to great lengths to raise the pigs in a specialized biocontainment facility to prevent disease exposure. Close collaboration between Tuggle and his group with ISU's Laboratory Animal Resources staff has made these unique "pig bubbles" a reality.

The pigs provide highly realistic models for studying how to make human cells respond to skin grafts and ways to treat a range of cancers. The researchers also will study regenerative medicine in the pigs, or the possibility of repairing damaged tissues with a patient's own cells, rather than replacing them. An important question in this field is the safety of such human stem cell derivatives, which could revert to cancer-like, fast-growing stem cells from which they were created. To that end, the research team will use the SCID pig to test the safety of such cells, provided by collaborators at the Mayo Clinic.

"The idea is to create something that you can give back to the patient to help them repair whatever damage they have," Tuggle says. "If it comes from your own body, there's less chance of immune rejection. Our work can help show such cellular therapies are safe in an animal model."

Jason Ross, Lloyd Anderson Endowed professor in Physiology and director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, has created cloned pigs from genetically modified cell lines to further suppress the immune system development of the pigs. Ross says he and his colleagues will produce SCID pigs as needed for the research, which likely will not require more than 10 pigs at any given time.

Ross said the project will generate new opportunities to explore intriguing biological questions beyond those immediately relevant to human health.

"This model is going to give us a better understanding of immune cell differentiation in the pig, for instance," he says. "There's a lot of basic science value in that regard."

Daniel Thomson, chair in animal science, says he expects the research will spark collaborations with scientists across the globe.

"Iowa State University is an international leader in animal genetics, physiology and health," Thomson says. "This research by Dr. Tuggle, Dr. Jack Dekkers and Dr. Ross will lead to human lifesaving discoveries utilizing the SCID pig model. We are excited about the future partnerships that will develop with collaborators around the world with our department and university."

In addition to the National Institutes of Health, the SCID pigs research has received support from the ISU Vice President for Research's office and the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Source: Iowa State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

Food supply protection legislation introduced

Getty Images Meat cutters on an assembly line

The "Food Supply Protection Act" introduced by the Democratic members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, would provide protective equipment for farmworkers and employees working in small to mid-sized processing plants and expand anti-hunger efforts.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says, "The COVID-19 crisis has tested the strength of our nation's food supply chain, creating a ripple effect that's harming our families, farmers and workers. This bill will help strengthen our food supply by redirecting food to families and helping farmers and processors retool their operations."

The bill would:

  • Support food banks and nonprofits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs, and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure.
  • Strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families. Through grants and reimbursements, the bill will support new partnerships to make purchases of excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools and nonprofits. These partnerships will promote innovative collaborations with chefs and restaurants and focus on the needs and creative solutions in local communities. They will allow for a diverse variety of purchases and include many areas and products left out of the USDA's current food box program to ensure more people in need and agricultural producers of all sizes and types can access support.
  • Protect workers and retool small and medium-sized food processors. Through grants, loans and loan guarantees, the bill will support upgrading machinery, temporary cold storage, purchasing personal protective equipment and test kits, and cleaning. This funding will assist farmers and small and medium-sized food processors in protecting their workers and help them cater to new markets so they can continue operations and alleviate bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Products eligible for the program would include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, seafood, fruits and vegetables.

Groups endorsing the bill include Feeding America, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, United Fresh and United Farmworkers Foundation.

This bill will be considered when the Senate moves forward on its next coronavirus assistance package.

Withdrawal from WTO urged
Hawley (R-MO) has introduced a joint resolution for the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization.

Hawley says, "The coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep, long-standing flaws in our global economic system that demand reform. International organizations like the WTO have enabled the rise of China and benefitted elites around the globe while hollowing out American industry, from small towns to once-thriving urban centers. We need to return production to America, secure critical supply chains and encourage domestic innovation. Pulling out of the WTO is a good first step."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is opposed to Hawley's efforts. Grassley believes the WTO needs to be reformed but "withdrawing from the WTO would only leave a vacuum for China to fill and diminish America's position of strength."

A number of critics to Hawley's approach point out that withdrawing from the WTO would hurt U.S. agriculture and industries. Countries that remain in the WTO would not be required to offer the U.S. lower tariffs or abide by the trade rules they agreed to as WTO members. U.S. agriculture would face higher tariffs on exports to a number of major trading partners.

The United States has won over 80% of the agricultural cases it has brought to the WTO.

A provision in the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreement Acts allows Congress to vote on continued membership in the WTO every five years. The last time Congress voted on a withdrawal from the WTO in 2005 failed overwhelmingly.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Support small meatpackers working overtime
Many small meat plants are working overtime as a result of the closure or reduced capacity at large plants due to the impact of coronavirus. This has resulted in increased costs for these small plants because USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service charges overtime fees for food inspectors.

U.S. Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Angie Craig (D-MN) have introduced the "Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act" to provide assistance for small plants working overtime as a result of COVID-19.

Under the legislation, meatpacking plants with fewer than 10 employees would be required to pay 25% of overtime and holiday fees and the FSIS would pay the additional 75%. Plants with 10 to 500 employees would be required to pay 70% of overtime fees with the FSIS paying the additional 30%.

Producer groups oppose interstate shipment of state-inspected meat
Producer groups sent a letter to Congress opposing legislation that would permit the interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry. The groups feel that the legislation would raise concerns internationally and was addressed by Congress 12 years ago.

The letter states, "Allowing interstate shipment of state-inspected meat could also hurt international trade. State-inspected product could find its way to processors as an ingredient in processed product that is exported, despite strict prohibitions. Or, more likely, another country would use the fear of state-inspected product being exported as an excuse for establishing non-tariff trade barriers against U.S. meat or poultry. The risk of damaging U.S. meat and poultry exports is real and too great to allow interstate shipment of state-inspected product."

This issue was addressed by Congress in the 2008 farm bill when it established the Cooperative Interstate Shipment program which allows small- and medium-sized state-inspected plants to ship product in interstate commerce "if they satisfy the same rules their federally inspected counterparts meet." Only six states currently participate in the CIS program.

The letter was signed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and North American Meat Institute.

Food prices projected to increase
USDA's latest "Food Price Outlook" is forecasting grocery prices will increase 2-3% this year. Prices are projected to increase in 18 of 22 food categories. The largest increase is in eggs at 8-9%. Other increases include beef at 3-4%; pork at 2.5-3.5%; poultry at 2-3%; dairy products at 2.5-3.5%; and fish and seafood at 1-2%.

The historical 20 year average increase is 2.3%.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


It's been a busy few days since the last Feedstuffs Precision Pork podcast, starting with the gateway holiday to summer last weekend that highlighted a mixture of reopening of parks, communities and lakes across the country, waving American flags, World War II flyovers and a chance at history with the Falcon Nine launch that ended up being canceled due to bad weather. Also, throughout the week, China caught the headlines with an early week purchase of soybeans and a midweek purchase of U.S. corn, but was the move by China mostly PR motivated? Dave Bauer, market analyst for Provimi, gives his thoughts.

The events in Hong Kong this week and fear of mounting tensions between the U.S. and China continued to create doubt and volatility in U.S. price trends. Although there was some really positive news this week, there have been challenges as well, creating larger problems in the way of downside pressures on both futures and domestic cash markets. We take a look at what that may mean.

On the hog side, even with chain speeds ramping up, the growing backlog of hogs will take months to work through and cash and futures trends are reflecting this. The measure of profitability, or the lack of, only comes if you can get hogs slaughtered. Yes, the daily harvest is growing but the range in returns for producers is varied depending on plant and the market those hogs are being priced on. What should we be thinking about for next week?

These are uncertain times and it will pay dividends to be well-prepared. If you have questions on this week’s recap or want to discuss something not covered, feel free to ASK DAVE at Plan today for tomorrow’s success.

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Where are U.S. pork primal cuts, variety meats going?

Getty Images A vendor in China sell a variety of pork cuts

As Ron Plain, University of Missouri professor emeritus, pointed out in his column earlier this week, limited slaughter capacity is the bad-news pork industry story of 2020 and international trade is the good-news story. In the first quarter of the year, pork exports were up 39.9% (577.4 million pounds). During January-March, exports equaled 27.2% of U.S. pork production up from 21.1% a year ago, with 7.8% of production going to China.

U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom cautions that April and May exports could be down due to U.S. pork processing facilities being temporarily closed and running at reduced capacity, but his outlook for 2020 remains positive. With pork processing capacity currently down 18% due to COVID-19 challenges and U.S. consumers seeing pork supply shortages at retail, it begs the question what parts of the pig are we shipping and where?

USMEF has put together a detailed, item-specific guide to the major destinations for U.S. pork cuts, U.S. pork variety meat, U.S. beef cuts and U.S. beef variety meat, and the estimated percentage of these products that is exported.

This information may be downloaded, either as a PowerPoint slide deck or PDF document, but in the meantime, here are some key facts.

Share of pork primal exports

  • 6% of belly goes to Northern Asia
  • 10% of loin goes to Northern Asia
  • 13% rib goes to Latin America, China
  • 32% of butt goes to Northern Asia
  • 33% of leg/ham goes to Mexico, Canada and South America
  • 60% of picnic goes to Northern Asia, South America, Mexico and Canada
  • Additionally, 2% of 2019 production was exported as boxed carcasses, mainly to China

The majority of edible pork variety meats are exported.

  • Variety meat exports equated to 8.4 pounds per head in 2019 with a value of $7.75 per head
  • China/Hong Kong and Mexico accounted for over 80% of total U.S. pork variety meat export volume in 2019
  • Feet are the top item to China/Hong Kong and feet exports to China/Hong Kong averaged $1.50 per head and 2.2 pounds per head

As Neil Dierks, CEO of the National Pork Producers Council, pointed out earlier this month it's a short-run situation at home. U.S. pork needs these export markets.

"A lot of people just look for simple answers and they don't realize the fact that our export business has been built on finding value for products that typically Americans don't value, particularly those kinds of things we call variety meats — organ meats, snouts or pigs feet, things in this order," Dierks said. "There's a lot of material in our export numbers that are included that are delicacies in other parts of the world."

Improving Pig Survivability project launches PigX Podcast

National Pork Board Nursery Piglets

Organizers of the Improving Pig Survivability project are excited to announce the upcoming launch of PigX, a monthly podcast developed to share information from the national project with pork producers and other decision makers in the swine industry. The goal of the PigX podcast, which launches June 1, is to bring together experts in the swine industry to discuss practical, science-based strategies that pork producers can use to improve survivability in all phases of production.

Each podcast session will include different speakers, each focusing on specific information and knowledge aimed at improving pig survivability. The initial session speakers include project team members, Jason Ross and Joel DeRouchey, describing the survivability project itself; Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the National Pork Board, and Tim Kurt CEO of Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the entities that funded the $2 million project.

Swine industry members can listen to the preview and subscribe now to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher.  PigX podcast updates also will be available on the project website.

Now in its second year of multi-institutional collaborative work with university faculty and staff, swine producers and allied industry partners, the Improving Pig Survivability project continues to involve pork producers, allied industry representatives and university faculty and staff in a variety of research studies and programs.

An upcoming component of the project is the International Conference on Pig Survivability set for Oct. 28-29 in Omaha, Neb. Registration is now open on the conference website.

Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Nebraska researchers to tackle swine disease with differing approaches

Craig Chandler | University Communication University of Nebraska Ciobanu Vu.jpg
University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers Daniel Ciobanu (left) and Hiep Vu have received $1 million in grant funding to continue research that could lead to the development of vaccines and genetic-selection tools to fight some of the world’s costliest swine diseases.

Two University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers have received $1 million in grant funding to continue research that could lead to the development of vaccines and genetic selection tools to fight some of the world’s costliest swine diseases.

The university announced that Daniel Ciobanu and Hiep Vu have each recently been awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA). It is the third NIFA grant for each.

Ciobanu, an associate professor of molecular genetics in the University of Nebraska department of animal science, is working to identify the role a pig’s genes play in resistance to viral diseases. His research mostly focuses on porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2), a pathogen found in global swine populations that costs U.S. pork producers more than $250 million annually.

Vu, an assistant professor in the Nebraska Center for Virology and department of animal science, is engaged in developing vaccines to protect pigs against viruses such as swine influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, which affect swine production worldwide.

Ciobanu noted that his and Vu's research may seem to go against each other in some ways, asking: If the gene variant that makes an animal susceptible to a viral disease can be identified and, over time, eliminated from the swine population, is a vaccine even needed? However, he said their research actually is complementary.

“Hiep and I will have totally opposite kinds of objectives, but they tie together way more than other people believe,” Ciobanu said. “You can use both vaccination and host genome profiling to provide a better immune response. You can vaccinate only certain animals that are susceptible, and you don’t need to vaccinate everyone. This is valid in humans and could be valid in animals as well.”

Ciobanu’s research will build on data he began collecting eight years ago from more than 1,000 pigs infected with PCV2 at the university’s Animal Science Complex. After genotyping the pigs with 60,000 data markers and conducting extensive DNA and RNA sequencing, a breakthrough discovery was made. The team has identified a gene called Synapogyrin 2 that is associated with resistance to PCV2, the smallest virus that infects mammalian cells.

Early identification of pigs susceptible to the virus would improve the general health and welfare of swine populations worldwide, Ciobanu said, with potential benefits for other livestock species and even people.

“If the swine industry can use this gene variant or mutation as a DNA marker to select for disease resistance, then they can assess its impact in cattle and other livestock and even in humans,” Ciobanu said.

The next phase of Ciobanu’s work will be done in vitro using cell lines engineered with different mutations of Synapogyrin 2. Ciobanu and his team will test the different cell lines to see if the gene affects susceptibility for viruses other than PCV2.

Vu will use his grant to utilize molecular methods in his efforts to engineer a vaccine that could broadly protect against multiple, if not all, variants of swine influenza virus, the university said.