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Articles from 2020 In June


DIRECT Act allows state-inspected meat to be sold through e-commerce

Getty Images/Sean Gallup Closeup of pork cuts

U.S. Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions Act. This legislation will allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, allowing small producers and processors more options to directly market to consumers.

"As a result of COVID-19, meat processing plants across the country have been forced to close or slow operations and as a result we've seen a renaissance in small processors," says Johnson. "Many states, including South Dakota, have inspection standards that are at least equal to what the federal government requires. This bill cuts through red tape and allows producers, processors and retailers to sell state-inspected meat and poultry direct to consumers through online stores across state lines."

"America's meat industry has been hit hard by financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic," says Cuellar. "The bipartisan legislation will open up new markets for meat producers and processors by allowing meat inspected by the state to be sold online and across state lines. As a senior member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to fight for the men and women who work every day to keep food on our table during these unprecedented times. I want to thank Congressman Dusty Johnson for his commitment to supporting our meat industry."

The DIRECT Act will:

  • Amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of pork, 27.5 pounds of lamb) of state-inspected meat online to consumers across state lines.
  • Allow new direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets.
  • Maintain traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall.
  • Allow retail sales to consumers, minimizing the risk for further processing in export, keeping equivalency agreements with trading partners intact.
  • Allow states operating under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping system to ship and label as they are currently.

This bill is supported by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, U.S. Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Pork Producers Council and South Dakota Farm Bureau.

"The bill that Rep. Johnson is introducing is a step to opening up more markets for our local state inspected locker plants," says Craig Andersen, president of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. "Through the last few months these plants have gone to extraordinary levels to help keep pigs in the food chain. They are in need of extra market access for the product they produce. This bill should also make it easier for producers to harvest and give product to local charities."

Source: Congressman Dusty Johnson, 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.

4 lessons learned as a swine nutritionist during COVID-19

National Pork Board Market hogs eating at a feeder in a pen

On the left side of my desk is a running log of all the feeding program changes made in the past three months in response to the logistical complications caused by COVID-19. Under that running log is the stack of all the production flow changes, performance and financial projections, and diet sets created in the past three months.

As I look at that foot-high stack of material and attempt to process all that has occurred within our system and beyond since early March, it is clear to me that I have learned just as much in the past three months as I did in my first three years in this role.

Thus, to build off the last column "Lessons learned as a production system's first nutritionist," this column will pass on the four biggest lessons learned over the past three months from working as a swine nutritionist during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lesson 1: Trust your knowledge basis and scientific foundation
Over the past three months, swine nutritionists have been forced to create feeding programs to limit weight gain in late-stage finishing pigs that were unable to be marketed. Basically, we had to unlearn everything our profession has discovered about maximizing weight gain over the past century. I was never asked through the course of all my graduate school classes, tests, preliminary exams or defenses, "How would you best feed finishing pigs to achieve a lower market weight, regardless of feed cost economics?" Despite not being asked that direct question, my graduate training provided me a strong foundation on how best to feed pigs for this unique scenario.

In graduate school, I had formulated fat-free and nitrogen-free diets that were fed for extended periods of time to determine endogenous losses through the digestive tract. I had formulated and fed diets that were composed of nearly 99% of a certain ingredient to determine its digestibility. These experiences provided me not only average daily gain and feed efficiency data to use in performance and economic projections, but the confidence and reassurance that feeding a low-nutrient density diet would not result in a large occurrence of vices or mortalities.

Furthermore, we have peer-reviewed information on the maintenance requirements for each stage of production, what amino acid ratios should be when dried distillers grain with solubles are not available, what is the minimum amount of crude protein that can be fed, data on maintaining gilt weights for breeding projects, etc. While we wish we had more and or updated data in each of these areas to apply to our feeding programs, we did not have to start from scratch or fill too many holes in our understanding of how the pigs would react and perform when fed these unique feeding programs.

During our implementation of these feeding programs we also had academic and industry research efforts occurring concurrently to validate our growth and economic projections. These difficult times have truly proven how valuable our academic and allied industry partners are to swine nutrition/production and that these research efforts must continue to be supported.

Instead of hesitating to implement lower SID lysine/net energy or a 98% corn feeding program, I trusted published data and my scientific experiences to formulate diets and create predictable outcomes. This allowed our system and customers to navigate the space and financial difficulties more successfully.

Who knows what may be thrown at us next in our careers in the swine industry? However, when the next challenge arises, COVID-19 was a great reminder that we have data and experiences to aid our industry through it.

Lesson 2: Play offense with your thought process and communication
For a lot of us, COVID-19 meant no more travel, face-to-face meetings or even going to the office. As a result, a lot of the casual (non-email, report or phone conference) communication was halted over the past three months. Prior to COVID-19, these casual office/hallway/pre- or post-meeting conversations would be my format for going over potential changes in our feeding program that were a couple of weeks to a month down the road. However, since these conversations were no longer occurring, I now needed to play offense and relay these potential changes even though they may never go in to affect.

Let me provide an instance of how I best played offense with my communication during COVID-19, in setting the expectation for growth, financial outcomes and other potential complications of feeding a 98% corn-based diet. There was some uneasiness within our system around feeding a low nutrient density diet causing increased tail biting or other unwanted social behaviors. I needed to lay out what I expected (i.e., 1.1 ADG, 6.5 FCR, little to no vices), why I expected these outcomes (see Lesson 1), and what was the plan if vices do occur or if weight is decreased too much (go back to the previous diet).

Like everyone else during these unprecedented times, I used Zoom, Teams, email, etc., to relay these outcomes and plans. Moreover, I tried as best as possible to use personal communication like texting or direct phone calls to have the same impactful communication as we had previously in the casual conversations that occurred prior to COVID-19. This advanced communication provided the team confidence that there was a plan in place and their feeding program needs were being taken care of at a time when every team member had an increased workload and stress level.

Secondly, it provided us time to answer any questions or go over specific farm variables for how to best execute the feeding strategy. Due to this communication, the buy-in to the multiple changes we made over the past three months was high. Everyone — from our leadership team to our growers — knew what to expect and what the road map would be if the unexpected occurred.

Going forward, I have learned it is important to play offense with your thought process and communication. Set expectations for how the feeding program will perform. Let people know what the next steps are if certain events occur. Be proactive by providing information and communicating.

Lesson 3: React and adapt to market changes promptly, but don't overreact either
COVID-19 caused rapid changes to ingredient availability and pricing as well as market pig value and harvest capacities. AMVC Nutritional Services oversees pigs fed across 28 feed mills, in nine states and under several different price discovery contracts. Furthermore, pig harvest capacity was reduced at different rates and times at each of the respective packers over the past three months.

As a result, our feeding programs and diet formulations often needed to be changed weekly, but differently for each scenario. We needed to limit growth as much as possible in some situations, as there were no loads available for several days and the price allotted to those pigs via their respective price discovery was poor.

In other situations, some loads were available and price discovery or futures coverage was enough to where growth needed to be increased from where it currently was. In fact, at several mills, both scenarios were occurring and required two different sets of dietary formulations.

In making these adjustments, we needed to move swiftly but responsibly. If a plant reported COVID-19 cases and closures, we needed to go through the math of how many pigs we had on feed, what our space was, what the current weight of each of those groups were, and what our target market weight is based on the current (or expected) market value. All of these were important factors to determine whether we needed to make a further dietary program change.

Furthermore, if the cutout value, cash market or futures responded in a dramatic way (positive or negative) we needed to take note but understand we can only change diets and get them implemented, delivered and consumed within a certain time frame. Thus, we made our decisions in accordance to how often we could change our feeding program (weekly) instead of calling for changes by the second.

For aspiring swine nutritionists, I would encourage you to understand how each segment of pork price (cash markets, futures contracts, cutout values, etc.) discovery works and is determined. I would also encourage you to understand how swiftly a diet change can be formulated, uploaded at the mill, manufactured, delivered and then consumed by the pig. This knowledge will allow you to critically evaluate if a change is feasible in the time frame you have.

Lesson 4: Find ways to get away from the stress and think
COVID-19 also created a lot of stress away from work. My wife is a neurotrauma intensive care unit nurse who cares for COVID-19 positive patients. We have a 19-month-old son who we worry about. Then add to it that I am working on diet formulations and growth projections for multiple situations until the late hours of the evening … stressful!

Make sure you are taking a good self-evaluation of your mental health and stress level on a regular basis and take action to ensure that you can be as effective and successful as possible both at home and at work. I know alleviating stress for some of my peers was tough. Most had to work from home. Then once their workday was completed, they couldn't leave home either.

I was lucky enough to be in west central Iowa where I could work from my office. Once our son was asleep, I could work on my mediocre golf game or sit around a firepit in the evenings and relax for a bit. My extended family set up a Sunday evening trivia night via Zoom, where we could catch up on what was occurring from the upper west side of New York City to the Cimarron Grasslands of western Kansas. Those periodic breaks allowed me to reset and look at the challenges we were facing with a fresh mindset. Even when the challenge is great if you are overwhelmed or overstressed your likelihood of success is greatly diminished.

Several years from now, there will be a lot I will remember from the spring and summer of 2020. I will remember how great it was to see everyone's children, husband or wife interrupt our Zoom calls. Once again, no need to apologize for trying to best balance work and home. I will remember how weird it was to not look forward to a sporting event or the next industry conference.

I will remember waiting for 2 p.m. on June 25 for the Hogs and Pigs Report to be published, knowing I may have a long night of work in front of me. I will remember the first time I saw a 98% ground corn diet in a feeder. I will also remember these lessons and to the best of my ability try to apply them going forward.

Source: Trey A. Kellner, 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. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

Groups petition USDA to ban incineration, mass burial

National Pork Board Midwestern U.S. farm with a hog barn

Conservation, environmental justice and public health groups filed a legal petition Monday calling for the USDA to ban on-site incineration and unlined burial of farm animals depopulated during the COVID-19 emergency. The legal action seeks to compel the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to "protect communities and the environment from dangerous pollution resulting from under-regulated and poorly monitored animal disposal during the pandemic." 

The petition was filed by Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of 14 organizations. Petitioners also urge the USDA to create a publicly accessible, online database that tracks federal assistance for mass carcass disposal and provides people living near carcass-disposal locations with the information they need to protect themselves from pollution.

The petioners say the "USDA has acknowledged that burial in unlined pits and on-site incineration pose significant threats to air and water quality and to the safety of surrounding communities. Mass burial can contaminate the surrounding environment with pollutants, including nitrates, ammonia and chloride, as well as disease-causing agents and pharmaceuticals fed to the animals just before death. Burning animal carcasses releases air pollution and potentially contaminated ash."

The groups also cite that "banning on-site incineration is especially vital given growing evidence that particulate air pollution worsens COVID-19 outbreaks and contributes to increased COVID-19 deaths. On-site incineration of pig carcasses generates approximately three pounds of particulate air pollution per animal, compounding the potential health risks faced especially by communities of color, which are disproportionately harmed by both air pollution and COVID-19."

Other groups joining the petition include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Association of Irritated Residents, Cape Fear River Watch, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Environmental Working Group, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, MountainTrue, Sound Rivers and Waterkeeper Alliance.

In response, the National Pork Producers Council issued the following statement.

"This baseless petition has no merit and is an attempt by anti-livestock agriculture activist groups to use an unprecedented crisis to pile on hard-working farmers during a very challenging time. Pork producers follow all appropriate human health and environmental protocols for safe disposal and have been working with federal and state authorities to address this crisis since it started. Please also consider the following:

  • We're not aware of any incinerations of depopulated animals.
  • If a producer applies for National Resources Conservation Service funding (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), any burial site must be approved by the conservation agent. 
  • As an example of state support: Minnesota set up central composting sites using protocols developed by USDA and in conjunction with their Department of Natural Resources.
  • Some estimate that up to one million market hogs have gone into rendering, which would be a significant proportion of depopulated animals."

Living in COVID-19 times, let's not make it ASF times too

GettyImages/iStockphoto nhf-gettyimages- asf-europe.jpg

Sixteen weeks ago, and before COVID-19 became the "new normal," I attended the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting in Atlanta where I had the opportunity to hear Clayton Johnson's top five biosecurity strategies for preventing African swine fever. At that time, the director of Health at Carthage Veterinary Service Ltd. warned the audience that as ASF gets closer, it's important U.S. pork producers do not become complacent.

Now as communities and states start to open back up from COVID-19 quarantines, I hear health experts warning people to not get too complacent with their own "biosecurity" protocols in protecting themselves and others from coronavirus. Whether we are talking about animal or human health, it always seems to come back to the people, the protocols and consistent implementation or simply, not letting your guard down.

With COVID-19 drowning out other news today, I am thankful for organizations such as the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Swine Health Information Center and AASV that are keeping us on our toes and up-to-date with the latest pork industry information, especially regarding ASF. Because, as Johnson pointed out way back in March, half the world's swine population has been wiped out due to ASF. And according to the latest Pork Checkoff Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Bulletin, ASF is continuing to make a dent in India, Poland, Asia and beyond.

Authorities in India officially reported ASF to the World Organization for Animal Health last month after tests confirmed pigs on several farms were positive for the disease in the far northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In all, the official OIE report showed 10,920 infected pigs in the affected districts of both states and deaths of 3,701 pigs with 4,199 cases. The report further showed a mortality rate of 34% and a fatality rate at 88% due to ASF.

On June 15, the Polish Central Veterinary Inspectorate reported 23 pigs and one sow on a backyard farm were confirmed ASF-positive by the country's National Veterinary Institute, the National Research Institute in Puławy. The animals were found on a farm near the village of Ratowice, which is about 13 miles east of the closest known cases of ASF in wild boar. This is 78 air miles from the border with Germany, the European Union's largest producer of pork and the second largest EU pork exporter to non-EU countries after Spain.

German officials and producers have been quite worried with their eastern neighbor's ASF status and rightfully so. ASF has been confirmed in wild boar as close as six miles from the German border.

The German states of Brandenburg and Saxony have both built fences along the border with Poland to prevent wild boars from entering. Saxony also recently heightened measures for hunters, who must now report every wild boar found dead and any wild boars that have been killed.

In mainland China, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and nearby nations, ASF continues to cause issues in both domestic and wild pig populations. Recent reports indicate 4,000 pigs have been culled this year in Vietnam due to ASF. Officials place the blame on poor biosecurity and the failure to report sick pigs to the proper authorities.

However, the FAD Preparation Bulletin did offer a bit of good news from Asia — the OIE has reported known ASF cases in Mongolia, Cambodia and Myanmar have been resolved.

While we wait for a bit of good news on the COVID-19 front, let's not let our guard down on ASF. The U.S. pork industry needs to continue to remain vigilant in efforts to protect farms and to prevent the spread through all ports of entry.

Ag groups urge border inspection funding


The National Pork Producers Council led a coalition of more than 150 agriculture, trade and related groups in urging lawmakers to fund border inspection of ag products.

The organizations sent a letter to Congress on June 29 warning of a funding shortfall that could weaken agricultural inspections at U.S. ports of entry. The letter urges lawmakers to appropriate funds to address what could be a $630 million COVID-19-related shortfall through fiscal year 2021.

The funding shortfall comes as user fees have fallen as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a downturn in international travel and lowered cargo imports. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service collects the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection user fees that pay for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections. Due to the recent economic downturn and travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, there has been a significant reduction in the collection of these user fees and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service user fee reserve fund is expected to be depleted by the end of Fiscal Year 2020.

"We urge Congress to ensure that the essential work of CBP agriculture inspectors continues uninterrupted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter reads. "We depend on AQI to ensure that America’s agriculture sector remains safe from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases. It is inconceivable that Congress would risk widespread damage to U.S. agriculture and the overall economy by not funding these inspections."

Agricultural Quarantine Inspection plays a critical role in protecting U.S. agriculture from plant and animal pests and diseases, the groups said.

"CBP and USDA agriculture inspectors are our first line of defense to ensure African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases remain outside the United States," said NPPC President Howard "AV" Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis. "Lapsed vigilance of these inspections would have devastating consequences for U.S. pork producers and all of agriculture, the backbone of the American economy. It is vital that Congress address this significant funding shortfall, allowing U.S. pork producers to maintain a healthy U.S. swine herd."

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

Near-term disruption, long-term optimism for pork

GettyImages/iStockphoto nhf-gettyimages-protein-world.jpg

Is the glass half-full or half-empty for the U.S. pork industry outlook? Christine McCracken, executive director of Animal Protein with Rabobank, says depending on how you look at it, it could be both.

"These are some of the toughest hurdles the industry has ever faced, but it continues to clear every one and has some out stronger," says McCracken, who kicked off the ninth annual Iowa Swine Day, this year a five-part webinar series. "Changes in the supply chain and export markets will force the industry to respond more quickly than in the past and if we don't, we may not survive. We need to reassure consumers not only that supplies of pork will be available in their outlet of choice, whether that is online or in store, but that they are safe and affordable. This has been made more complex in the last few years as so many of these sales are now outside the United States and face an increasingly challenging maze of challenges. Now more than ever we need to work with our export partners to make sure these channels remain open."

During her presentation, "Global influences affecting the outlook for U.S. pork," McCracken not only highlighted opportunities and issues ahead for the U.S. pork industry, but also for global pork production, which is expected to be down 8% by the end of 2020 due to herd losses in China and Southeast Asia from African swine fever

While the United States is seeing an overhang on supply, demand sluggish at foodservice and slow production cutbacks, other corners of the world are dealing with their own setbacks, McCracken says.

In Brazil, the pork sector is seeing rising feed costs, and soft local demand due to a spike in COVID-19, together with plant disruptions which are pressuring local hog markets. As a result, analysts expect local hog production to slow in the second half of 2020 and into 2021. In Southeast Asia where production is rising after significant losses in the last year due to ASF, hog and pork prices remain high. Even while the herd has been slow to recover, analysts have seen prices fall as imports help soften the blow. This market could see even more downside as COVID-19 has effectively stopped tourism, which will ultimately dampen economic growth and slow meat sales.

The European pork industry is facing many of the same issues as the United States. Demand is weaker due to COVID-19, which is creating a protein oversupply, and right in the middle of all of this the government is changing industry regulations.

"That's only increasing," McCracken says. "I do think with a few exceptions, they will continue to reduce production in areas like Germany, where that regulatory burden is becoming really problematic, and other areas."

The European region also continues to report outbreaks of ASF in Poland, some very close to the border with Germany. McCracken says she is increasingly convinced that a case of ASF in Germany is unlikely to disrupt trade with China as it continues to make progress on a regionalization agreement that would limit the impact. While the risks of ASF are still threatening EU producers, the loss of domestic demand due to COVID-19 is a far greater concern near-term.

"For the EU, the loss of foodservice has a much smaller impact than in the United States, as its overall exposure is less than 20%," McCracken says. She expects slower retail sales and a disappointing tourist season to be much more disruptive to the industry in the near-term.

She says the other key risk area for Europe is exports. Seventy-one percent of Europe's exports went to China in April, and with the recent decision by China to start blocking imports from plants with COVID-positive employees, McCracken says this could quickly become a serious issue for export-dependent European plants.

"This is a serious issue for Germany, where we've already seen a large plant delisted, but any country that relies heavily on exports to China would have similar risk. Spain, which supplies an estimated 18% of China's imported pork, is of particular concern although there has been limited disruption in its plants thus far," she says.

"European producers are responding to the weaker demand outlook by slowing production growth. In countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK where we had expected to see 3 to 4% growth, we are beginning to see more modest expansion plans. Spain seems to be the exception, which may reflect their export focus as well as previous investments to modernize facilities. Spain also faces a slightly more favorable regulatory environment relative to some of its European neighbors, which might also be a factor."

In China, COVID-19 has had a more severe impact on beef and seafood markets, as they have the most exposure to foodservice, McCracken says. Where there was some disruption in terms of rebuilding the herd and some supply chain disruptions early on, the pork sector has not been affected as much as the other proteins.

However, China is still recovering from ASF herd losses. Rabobank analysts are forecasting a 15 to 20% decline in pork production in 2020.

"The herd recovery was a little slower in the early days, but we have seen China make great progress this year," McCracken says. "These farms are larger and have invested in biosecurity, which is accelerating the move toward conventional diets. This is speeding the move away from backyard production much faster than many expected. That will affect their ability to rebuild and how quickly they can get back to kind of normal pork production in China."

McCracken says there has been a surge in terms of protein imports in China, especially from the United States which is now the largest exporter to China. "Just for context, imports had been only 2% of China's pork supply before ASF, but they now make up nearly 10%," she says.

"In addition to COVID and the impact of ASF, we also expect currency and trade to play a critical role in the outlook for global pork markets for the next few years. Asia remains short of pork and this should remain an important market for U.S. exports, but political tensions remain high and there are no guarantees these markets will remain open."

Foreign animal diseases also remain top of mind, McCracken says, and can't be overlooked while the market is distracted with COVID-19.

"While the near-term disruption from COVID and the economic weakness that's likely to come as a result may be a set-back for the industry, U.S. pork producers are resilient and should be able to emerge stronger," McCracken says. "Global demand for pork will recover as markets stabilize, and when it does, the U.S. pork industry will be ready and able to supply it."

Farm Progress America, June 30, 2020

Max Armstrong looks at a continued food supply challenge due to COVID-19 – a shortage of butter. Beth Ford, CEO, Land O'Lakes, shares how the changing demand picture in the grocery store has even reduced the varieties of butter the cooperative produces. Ford shares that they've not been able to store butter for the winter. And this year's sales will hit a new record.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: slobo/iStock/Getty Images Plus

CAST releases report on COVID-19 impact on food, agricultural markets

JosieN/GettyImages nhf-josien-gettyimages-covid-meat.jpg

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology and the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association have partnered together on a new paper, Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Food and Agricultural Markets. This publication contains insights from 31 experts and is now available for download.

COVID-19 disrupted nations around the world in 2020. People have had to alter their typical lifestyle, and the measures put into effect to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have had an immense impact on economic activity, employment, food consumption and workplace environments.

The paper's authors discuss the following topics: macroeconomics, trade, supply chain, consumer behavior, food service/grocery, meat processing, forestry and wood products, local food systems, food waste, food insecurity, major commodity crops, agricultural finance, agricultural labor, rural health care, and research and outreach priorities.

Keith Coble, the department head for agricultural economics at Mississippi State University, says, "Between food producers and consumers lies a complex and often-ignored food supply chain. It is ignored in part because it has consistently provided safe and plentiful food supplies." Most of the time people's attention is on food-borne illnesses instead of looking at shutdowns that could affect the labor supply.

"The COVID-19 crisis has also shown us the danger of disregarding scientific knowledge. There is a need to reassess the regulation of new technologies in the United States and globally," says David Zilberman, a professor in the agricultural and resource economics department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Many countries shut down large segments of their economies, with most employees working remotely if possible. Doing so "led to a sharp and significant loss in gross domestic product and a rapid rise in unemployment and underemployment," says Jeffrey Dorfman, an agricultural and applied economics professor at the University of Georgia. "The challenge is to restore as much economic activity as possible while maintaining some measure of control and mitigation of the novel coronavirus."

Task force authors are:

  • Jayson Lusk (chair), Purdue University and AAEA past president
  • John D. Anderson (chair), University of Arkansas
  • Diane Charlton, Montana State University
  • Keith Coble, Mississippi State University and AAEA president
  • Alison Davis, University of Kentucky
  • Adam Dewey, Feeding America
  • Jeffrey H. Dorfman, University of Georgia
  • Brenna Ellison, University of Illinois
  • Emily Engelhard, Feeding America
  • Allen M. Featherstone, Kansas State University
  • Jason Grant, Virginia Tech
  • Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois
  • Monica Hake, Feeding America
  • Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois
  • Scott Irwin, University of Illinois
  • Ananth Iyer, Purdue University
  • Sarah A. Low, University of Missouri
  • Trey Malone, Michigan State University
  • Josh Maples, Mississippi State University
  • Jill J. McCluskey, Washington State University and AAEA past president
  • Brandon McFadden, University of Delaware
  • Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr., University of Arkansas
  • Timothy J. Richards, Arizona State University
  • Bradley J. Rickard, Cornell University
  • Lee Schulz, Iowa State University
  • Ian Sheldon, Ohio State University
  • Shaun M. Tanger, Mississippi State University
  • Dawn Thilmany McFadden, Colorado State University
  • Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University
  • Norbert Wilson, Tufts University
  • David Zilberman, University of California, Berkeley and AAEA past president

CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies and nonprofit organizations. Through its network of experts, CAST assembles, interprets and communicates credible, balanced, science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector and the public.

Source: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, 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.

Smithfield partners with Granular to offer satellite imagery tool

Smithfield Foods Smithfield Foods released the Environment section of its 17th sustainability report.

Smithfield Foods, Inc. has partnered with Granular, a leading farm management software platform, to help growers in its grain supply chain boost farm sustainability and efficiency while improving crop yields. The offer will be available to grain farmers in North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia who sell their grain to Smithfield.

With more than 13 billion pounds of feed consumed by Smithfield's animals each year, maximizing grain production efficiencies is a key way the company is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025 throughout its entire supply chain. This offering complements Smithfield's existing efforts to help farmers incorporate more efficient farming practices while increasing their bottom line.

"Over the last several years, we've focused on working alongside grain farmers in our supply chain to provide information and advice about strategies to improve fertilizer usage and crop production," says Stewart Leeth, vice president of Regulatory Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer at Smithfield Foods. "With Granular Insights, we'll be able to partner those recommendations with a technology-driven solution to help drive farm profitability with fewer environmental impacts."

Granular Insights with Directed Scouting uses high-frequency, high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor fields, allowing farmers to mitigate in-field pests and resolve other yield-diminishing problems before they spread and require additional resources.

"Smithfield growers now have access to Granular Insights, and will be able to not only easily and accurately manage their inputs, but also have an edge over pests and weather - the keys to protecting yield and increasing sustainability," says Emma Fuller, PhD., director of Sustainability Science at Granular. "With the data sets that drive profitability and optimize sustainability efforts at their fingertips, Smithfield growers will be able to take a holistic look at data from across their operation and combine it with satellite imagery and profit map overlays. And when farmers know more, they are able to do more with less time, energy and resources."

To learn more about Smithfield's sustainability initiatives and its support for local farmers, read the company’s 2019 Sustainability Impact Report.

Source: Smithfield Foods, Inc., 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.

Merck Animal Health invests $100 million in DeSoto facility expansion


Merck Animal Health has announced an investment of $100 million in facility expansion and enhancement efforts in its U.S. manufacturing site in DeSoto, Kan. Investments to the site include a technological expansion of the vaccine production facility, which will come on line this year, plus an additional investment of $66 million that will provide for added enhancement capabilities to be realized over the coming years.

The DeSoto site develops and manufactures a broad portfolio of vaccines for swine, cattle and equine with key technologies in research and development, manufacturing and quality operations. Particularly, the site houses large-scale fermentation and cell culture, blending and filling operations and packaging, along with monoclonal antibody manufacturing for Companion Animals.

"Merck Animal Health continues to be a strong source of innovation and growth in Kansas and are a leading force in vaccine production and research in the Animal Health Corridor," says Governor Laura Kelly. "The upgrades to these facilities will lead to more advancements in animal health and reinforce the importance of supporting biotechnology companies in the state."

"We are excited about the opportunity to bring capital improvements, expansion in our manufacturing capacity and capabilities and advanced technology to our DeSoto facility, thereby, strengthening our footprint in the state and increasing our ability to fulfill customer demand for our portfolio of products," says Pamela Stoops, executive director, DeSoto Operations, Merck Animal Health. "Our Merck Animal Health business is making great strides in building our business for the future. That means we need to ensure our place as a leader in animal health with a substantial and sustainable U.S. facility footprint, which includes investment and expansion in our key facilities. As a leader in delivering innovative pharmaceuticals and vaccines to advance animal health and meet customer needs, this investment reflects our commitment in producing a range of animal health vaccines and pharmaceuticals for animal health diseases."  

Because of the company's strong growth, broad product portfolio and enhanced manufacturing capacity and capabilities, Merck Animal Health continues to explore ways in the United States and globally to improve existing facilities with upgraded equipment or technology, further expand its facilities with advanced technology platforms and increase capacity and capabilities in manufacturing to meet the rapidly growing demand and flexibility for its vaccine and biologic products.

"We continually seek new ways to improve and enhance our production and manufacturing capacity at our facilities to meet the growing needs of our animal health customers," says Scott Bormann, senior vice president, North America Commercial Operations, Merck Animal Health. "Our investment in DeSoto positions us for strong long-term growth and enables us to remain a valued partner to our loyal customers through reliability and responsiveness to their needs."  

Vaccines play an important role in protecting animal and public health. Timely and effective vaccination reduces the incidence and severity of disease, enabling efficient production of food animals. Vaccines also have had a significant impact on the health of pets, preventing serious illnesses and helping them live longer and healthier lives. The company continues to invest in expanding its manufacturing and distribution facilities in Millsboro, Del.; Ames, Iowa; Worthington, Minn.; and Elkhorn and Omaha, Neb. 

The health and well-being of animals is the first and foremost priority of Merck Animal Health. The company strongly supports the responsible use of enhanced vaccine and pharmaceutical production platforms to improve and maintain the health of animals, as well as discovery of new tools to prevent, treat, and in some cases, even eradicate diseases.

Source: Merck Animal Health, 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.