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USDA Confirms Plans for Pork Checkoff Survey

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) officials have confirmed that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to conduct a survey to weigh support for a referendum on the pork checkoff program, which is administered by the National Pork Board (NPB).

NPPC CEO Neil Dierks confirms that the Request for Referendum is being conducted as a result of a settlement of a lawsuit on Feb. 28, 2001, between USDA and several state pork producer associations.

Under that agreement, it was decided that the NPPC and the NPB should operate independently while the pork checkoff is in effect.

Eligible producers, including contract growers and importers, will be able to participate during a four-week period in 2008, announced by the secretary of agriculture. Dierks says not dates have been announced.

If 15% of the eligible producers and importers want a referendum on the pork checkoff, it would have to be held within one year from the date the results of the Request for Referendum are announced.

Based on data for 2007, from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), there are 69,446 producers and importers who would be eligible to participate in the survey.

Eligible producers can participate through county Farm Service Agency offices that will confirm producer eligibility, canvas and count requests and report the results to AMS.

Importers must fill out customs forms or other documentation, and their eligibility to participate will be determined by AMS.

NPPC Works to Ease Impact On Rodent Control Chemicals

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has successfully deflected the onerous effects of a final rule on chemicals the livestock industry uses to control rodents.

On May 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its “Risk Mitigation Decision for 10 Rodenticides,” which seeks to reduce children’s exposure to rodenticide products in the home and to lessen wildlife exposure to and ecological risks from rodenticides.

EPA initially proposed that all second-generation rodenticides, which are deadly after a single ingestion of bait, be classified as “restricted use.” This would have meant anyone wishing to use rodenticides would need a pesticide applicator’s license, according to the NPPC.

EPA determined there was little risk of misuse of rodenticides by livestock producers, and therefore, under the final rule, no applicator’s license will be required.

However, producers must buy rodenticides in bulk packs of 8 lb. or more from a farm store or directly from a manufacturer. The products, which will be labeled “For Agricultural Use Only,” must be used within 50 ft. of an agricultural structure.

Under the final rule, producers can use loose forms of rodent bait such as pellets, meal or liquids indoors. Use outdoors is restricted to bait stations.

NPPC issued comments earlier this year indicating that EPA’s initial rule would be burdensome on producers, and that the costs of compliance far outweighed the risks of misuse of rodenticides.

“Working with EPA, NPPC was able to minimize the rodenticide rule’s challenges and costs for pork producers,” says NPPC President Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, OH. “It is extremely important that producers be able to easily obtain and use rodent-control products, which help protect our animals from disease and prevent destruction of equipment and feed.”

USDA Projects Record Exports for 2008

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated its quarterly forecast for agricultural exports, projecting a record $108.5 billion for fiscal year 2008.

The projection is a $7.5-billion increase from February’s previous record forecast and $26.5 billion above the final 2007 exports.

“America’s increased export volume in bulk commodities like corn, other animal feeds and soybeans make agriculture the bright spot in the overall balance of trade,” says Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. “U.S. producers are on track to export a record 63 million tons of corn, and set new export volume and value records for pork.”

USDA also raised the pork export forecast to 4.3 billion pounds, more than 37% above export volumes last year. That estimate is based on three factors: a low-valued dollar, plentiful U.S. pork supplies and strong Chinese demand due to reported disease losses of 40 million head and a reported 69% hike in pork prices.

The pork export forecast for 2009, at just below 4 billion pounds, is 7.5% below export expectations for 2008. That reflects the belief that China’s ability to improve its animal health will reduce the need for imported pork.

On the import side, USDA says U.S. packers and feeder pig finishers are expected to set another record by importing 10.4 million head of hogs this year, 5.4% above the previous record number of 10 million head, which was set in 2007.

Next year, live swine imports are projected to drop almost 9% to 9.6 million head.

That reduction in live swine imports from the second half of 2008 through 2009 will be due largely to the contraction of the Canadian hog industry. Agriculture Canada reported 4.58% fewer sows and bred gilts on April 1, 2008, continuing the country’s slow contraction, which began in April 2005. Last month, the major pork-producing province of Ontario showed a decline in its breeding herd of almost 8%, according to USDA.

Kansas State Tabbed to Coordinate National PRRS Research Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a $4.8 million grant to support a comprehensive national program for controlling porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, led by Kansas State University (KSU).

Raymond “Bob” Rowland, KSU professor and virologist, heads up the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) Coordinated Agricultural Project. As part of the project, KSU experts are collaborating with other universities, veterinarians, commodity groups, governmental agencies and pork producers to find answers to the devastating disease.

“Our first step was to lay out a comprehensive road map for the industry,” explains Rowland. “All anyone in the field has to do now is pick a destination and go there.”

The goal of the PRRS project is to effectively coordinate efforts aimed at dealing with the disease through research, education and Extension.

“By eliminating PRRS, we can have a significant impact on animal health and welfare and the economic bottom line of producers across the nation and the world,” Rowland says.

Research efforts will focus on development of new vaccines and how genetics impact treatment. Though much has been learned since PRRS became prevalent in the United States several years ago, Rowland says there is still quite a bit of basic research that needs to be done on the virus.Researchers participating in the project will take a broader look at the syndrome – trying to map out how the virus works, as well as the effects of the environment, for example.

“Overall, we need to gain a better understanding of the virus and disease processes,” he explains. “This project is designed to bring together the scientific resources needed to get the job done.”

Scientific findings will be turned into management strategies that producers can use in their operations.

USDA will fund the PRRS project at KSU at $1.2 million a year for the next four years. Other participants include the Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota and the National Pork Board.

Consider Feed Alternatives When Formulating Diets

As feed costs have risen above historical levels of 65% to 75% of the variable costs of production for many producers, alternative feed ingredients have become more attractive.

To cut feed costs and provide a balanced diet for your pigs, the Alternative Feed Ingredients in Swine Diets brochure online at www.pork.org offers some options.

“This publication offers a very comprehensive list of feed ingredients and may present some opportunities you haven’t thought of,” comments Mark Boggess, director of animal science at the National Pork Board.

The pork checkoff-funded information (available at http://www.pork.org/documents/PorkScience/Alternative%20Feed%Brochure.pdf) covers the many factors affecting the inclusion rate of alternative feed ingredients in swine rations. Ingredients evaluated include alfalfa meal, dried bakery waste, barley, dried beet pulp, corn distiller’s dried grains with solubles, fish meal, flax, oats, wheat and more.

“This information can help you evaluate the cost effectiveness and nutritional value of all available feed ingredients to supply a nutritionally-balanced diet at a minimal cost,” says Boggess.

Iowa State Researchers Find E. Coli 0157:H7 in Swine

The E. coli strain that sickens humans and is generally associated with cattle, has been discovered in swine.

Recent research at Iowa State University (ISU) has shown that E. coli 0157:H7 can be transmitted through the air among swine, even in the absence of direct contact.

Nancy Cornick, an ISU associate professor of veterinary microbiology, who conducted the research for the Food Safety Consortium, previously proved that uninfected pigs sharing pens with infected pigs could also become infected.

Other trials have shown that E. coli 0157:H7 can infect and remain in some pigs’ intestinal tracts for at least two months, signaling that the bacterial organism can colonize swine.

The prevalence of the pathogen in swine remains small, but noteworthy. Cornick says one U.S. slaughter plant recovered E. coli 0157:H7 from 2% of its pigs. The bacterium has also been recovered from healthy hogs in Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) conducted swine surveys in 1995, 2000 and 2006, in which they tested 8,660 fecal samples collected from 343 randomly selected swine farms for the presence of virulent E. coli 0157:H7. All samples were negative.

However, some small-scale studies have shown a very low prevalence of the bacterium in U.S. pigs.

Standard processing techniques and proper handling during storage and preparation will prevent contamination of pork products.

NPPC Calls for New Animal Disease Lab on U.S. Mainland

A new national laboratory for researching and diagnosing foreign animal diseases should be built on the U.S. mainland in an area with small livestock and wildlife populations, says the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in congressional testimony recently.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on a replacement facility for the 54-year-old Plum Island Animal Disease Center located just off the coast of Long Island, NY, where foreign animal disease work is done.

Five sites on the mainland for the new National Bio and Agri-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas are under consideration.

In its testimony, NPPC told the subcommittee that each area should be screened for:

  • Susceptible animal populations that could be exposed to an outbreak should disease organisms escape from the facility;
  • The ability of state and federal governments to quickly control and eradicate a disease;
  • The impact of an outbreak on the local environment and the wildlife population; and
  • The economic consequences to an area’s livestock industry if an outbreak were to occur.

NPPC asked that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Plum Island, coordinate with the livestock industry to define a scope of work for the NBAF.