Rising Beef Prices in the News
Rising beef prices are making headlines. Stories ran in the Chicago Tribune and Reuters, which may spur additional stories from your local media. According to NCBA Chief Economist Gregg Doud and Cattle-Fax, the reasons for the short-term increase in beef prices are that fewer cattle are going to market, and the cattle that are going to market are going earlier because operator prices are good. Because fewer cattle are going to market and cattle, in general, are going to market sooner, they are not as heavy, which means tighter supplies and higher beef prices in the short-term.
Voluntary U.S. Meat Certification Program Preferable to Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling
A voluntary, U.S. meat certification program is a far better alternative to a costly, burdensome, mandatory country-of-origin labeling program, according to American Meat Institute (AMI) President J. Patrick Boyle. Boyle made his comments in testimony submitted to a Senate Subcommittee on Marketing, Inspection and Product Promotion, held today in Joplin, MO.
Boyle noted that AMI and several other associations one year ago petitioned USDA to create a new, voluntary, fee for service U.S. beef certification program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service. "Under this system, the market would provide for what country-of-origin proponents profess to be the case - that the American consumer will prefer and pay more for meat products from animals born and raised in the United States," he said. "Under this program, those who believe that to be true could enter the market with those products and, if the benefits outweigh the costs, succeed."
He also said that contrary to proponents of country-of-origin labeling, this is not a consumer right-to-know issue, because it applies only to food purchased at retail (not at foodservice) and to some red meat products (not poultry), fruits and vegetables and peanuts (not walnuts, almonds or any other nut).
"It is ironic that proponents assert that the consumer has a right to know the country-of-origin regarding the hamburger he purchases at a retail store, but does not have the same right regarding the hamburger he ate at a restaurant just before going grocery shopping - even though both hamburgers could have come from the same animal. Wheres the logic?" Boyle asked.
Click here for a copy of AMI's testimony.
R-CALF USA Urges APHIS Not to Allow Uruguay to Import Fresh Beef
On February 10, 2003, USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed regulations to allow the importation of fresh beef from Uruguay, a country that had numerous outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2001. In its comments to APHIS dated April 11, 2003, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) wrote, "R-CALF USA strongly urges APHIS not to amend the proposed regulations on allowing Uruguay to import fresh beef into the United States under any conditions."
In information provided by APHIS in support of its proposal, APHIS noted that there was significant evidence of large numbers of confirmed cases of FMD in Uruguay less than a year and a half ago.
Cattle Industry Leaders Make Impact on Top Policy Issues
Members of the National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) left their mark on Capitol Hill during the 2003 Spring Conference, as hundreds of cattlemen from across the country stormed into town and met with key members of Congress and top government agency staff last week.
Although NCBA is currently involved in more than 30 policy issues affecting cattle producers, a brief overview of top priorities follows:
- Death Tax Actions: Cattle producers met with White House staff and Congressional offices from across the country to urge for permanent repeal of the Death Tax, representing generations of rural families across America who are struggling to maintain family ranches built by their forefathers. Cattlemen explained the Death Tax is an unfair tax on American values and the American dream. They urged House members to co-sponsor the Death Tax Permanency Act of 2003, (H.R.57), introduced by Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA). Senators were urged to support S. 13, legislation introduced by Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ).
- Drought Relief Actions: Producers met with and White House staff, USDA representatives and their Members of Congress to re-iterate the urgency of the drought in many states across the country. USDAs new Drought Coordinating Council will monitor ongoing drought conditions, their impact, and coordinate resources to assist affected producers and communities. In addition, the USDA is making available surplus stocks of non-fat dry milk to producers in areas hardest hit by drought. In Congress, NCBA is supporting (S. 252) introduced by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY). The measure defers capitol gains taxes for cattle producers forced to sell livestock due to drought. The House measure passed last month.
- Country of Origin Labeling: More than 50 producers had a 2-hour long meeting with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) staff to discuss current legislation and interpretation of the law. Cattle producers also met with key members of Congress to discuss the legislation in detail. NCBA members want to assure the best possible outcome for all producers across the country, having the least burden and making promotion of U.S. product the number one goal. Coinciding with their Spring Conference, NCBA submitted formal comments to AMS on the Country of Origin Labeling interim voluntary program.
- Public Lands Issues: Members of the Public Lands Council and members of NCBAs Federal Lands Committee discussed the grazing issues, permit renewal, monitoring, and NEPA reform. Showing their support for cattlemen, Senators Burns (R-MT), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), Domenici (R-NM), Hatch (R-UT), Smith (R-OR), and Thomas (R-WY) penned a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality on April 7 urging the development of Categorical Exclusions for grazing permits. The letter urged the livelihood of public land ranchers should not be threatened because a grazing permit is interrupted to complete analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- Food Safety Initiatives: In meetings last week NCBA members and staff met with agency staff from USDAs Agriculture Research Service to discuss the beef industrys need for enhanced food safety research. Cattlemen are urging for a Government-Industry partnership to foster coordinated strategies and research efforts. Food safety priorities were also discussed with Congressional offices. NCBA officers met with USDA Secretary Ann Veneman on Tuesday, and with Under Secretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano and Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety Dr. Merle Pierson on Thursday. On Friday, a group of NCBA members visited with staff at USDAs Food Safety Inspection Service.
- Trade Issues: Cattlemen visited with USDAs Foreign Agriculture Service and USTR officials on Friday to discuss top international trade concerns for the beef industry. Trade issues which are currently of top priority for cattlemen across the nation are the Doha Round of Trade negotiations, concerns over the pending Free Trade Agreement with Australia, safeguard provisions currently being pursued by Japan and Mexico, and Russias new TRQ scheme. These concerns are continually addressed by NCBA policy staff.
- Animal Health: The producers of NCBA held meetings on animal health issues in the Washington office. Members and staff met with Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Bobby Acord, and in a separate meeting, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Steve Sundl of to discuss antibiotic resistance issues, BSE compliance and to urge fast-track of approvals for food safety intervention technologies such as Chlorate.
- Homeland Security and Bioterrorism: Cattlemen are urging APHIS and the Bureau of Customs to work together on security planning to maintain the safety of the U.S. cattle herd and the food supply. Cattlemen met with U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner and APHIS Customs Service Commissioner Robert Bonner to discuss homeland security issues as they relate to transportation, border control, bioterrorism monitoring and emergency preparedness.
- Endangered Species Act: Members of NCBA continued to conduct meetings to discuss reform of the Endangered Species Act and the delisting of the Grey Wolf. Cattlemen met with DOIs Fish & Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams and Natural Resources Conservation Chief Bruce Knight on Friday. Successful implementation of the Farm Bill conservation programs was discussed with the NRCS, as they are responsible for administering the programs.
- Water Quality: A group of NCBA members and staff met with EPAs Administrator of Ag Policy, Jean Mari Peltier on Friday to discuss implementation of the CAFO regulation, which was released in December of last year.
Animal ID May Play Role in Enhancing Animal Surveillance
With the threat of bioterriosm in the United States, USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working to build its surveillance infrastructure. Dr. Valerie Reagan, Assistant Deputy Administrator of Veterinary Services, APHIS, told members of the National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) that although USDA is not ready to implement a mandatory animal identification system, there is a need to determine what level of animal ID is necessary to track cattle and help prevent the spread of animal diseases. Reagans comments were made during the NCBA Spring Legislative Conference held April 9-11.
For years, brucellosis identification tags functioned as somewhat of a trace-back system in the event of an animal disease outbreak. With fewer cattle tagged due to brucellosis eradication efforts, some type of a replacement surveillance system is needed. Reagan said, "Our goal is to be able to trace contact with diseased animals within 48 hours."
Reagan told cattlemen that APHIS is expanding its surveillance programs to include diseases, such as bluetongue, that may impact the marketability of cattle. It is also building partnerships with state veterinarians and collaborating with public health centers on diseases, such as anthrax, which may be transferred from animals to humans.
U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert C. Bonner told cattlemen that creating the department of Homeland Security has increased the efficiency of border protection efforts. He said that where there had once been three government agencies responsible for protecting U.S. borders, now there is one. "The consolidation has led to more than 18,000 inspectors at U.S. ports of entry more than ever before," Bonner added. These inspectors are receiving additional counter-terrorism training to be able to identify potential threats to both livestock and crops.
Beef, Dairy Cow Liquidation Trimming Herd Sizes
Early-year data indicate beef and dairy producers are continuing to liquidate herds by sending more cows to slaughter than they did early last year.
"Through the end of March, total cow slaughter was 10 percent larger than it was a year ago," said Kansas State University agricultural economist James Mintert. "The increase was propelled by a runup in dairy cow slaughter particularly, which was up 16 percent (by the end of March). In contrast, the beef cow slaughter increase was more modest, averaging just 6 percent above last year."
Mintert noted, however, that there were several weeks when beef cow slaughter was significantly greater than it was during corresponding weeks in 2002.
The critical period for beef cow slaughter will occur later this spring as producers evaluate their forage supplies and determine whether they will have to move cattle off of drought-damaged pastures, he said.