News Update
March 5, 2007

Scientists Define Universal Pathogen Gene Language

An international group of scientists, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), has expanded the universal language for the genes of both pathogenic and beneficial microbes and their hosts. This expanded “lingua franca,” called gene ontology (GO), gives researchers a common set of terms they can use to describe the interactions between a microbe and its host.

The Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO) consortium and the GO consortium staff at the European Bioinformatics Institute approved and released more than 450 new terms for describing gene products involved in microbial-host interactions. CSREES’ National Research Initiative and the National Science Foundation support the PAMGO project through grants from their joint Microbial Genome Sequencing program.

This new “common terminology” will speed development of new technologies for preventing infections by disease-causing microbes, while preserving or encouraging the presence of beneficial microbes. According to the USDA release, scientists say gene ontology will provide a powerful tool for comparing the functions of genes and proteins in a wide range of disease-related organisms.

The PAMGO consortium is a collaboration between the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI), Cornell University, North Carolina State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Institute for Genomic Research (a Division of the J.C. Venter Institute) and Wells College. Visit for more information about PAMGO.

For more information about CSREES, visit


Groups Urge Country-of-Origin Legislation

A coalition of farm organizations urged Congress last week to enact country-of-origin labeling (sometimes referred to as COL or COOL) legislation. According to Reuters, the legislation would portray which country produced the meat, fruit and other food consumers buy.

Although Congress passed a law requiring mandatory country-of-origin labels for beef and other products, only labeling for fish has taken effect, the article noted. While other foods are scheduled to follow suit in September 2008, the National Farmers Union (NFU) and more than 200 farm and rural groups are urging Congress to implement the law by September this year.


Applications Being Accepted for NCF Scholarship

Applications are being accepted for the W.D. Farr scholarship program, presented by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation (NCF). A $12,000 graduate scholarship will be awarded to each of two outstanding students pursuing graduate degrees in animal science, environmental science or agriculture. All applications must be postmarked by April 4, 2007.

NCF is honoring the successful career of W.D. Farr, 96, of Greeley, Colo., through the scholarships bearing his name. Farr, a third-generation Coloradoan, pioneer rancher, statesman and banker is known for his extraordinary vision. His dedication to improving agriculture, livestock and water development has resulted in significant changes in farming methods that have influenced the practices of ranchers and farmers throughout the nation.

Farr was president of the National Cattlemen’s Association, a predecessor organization of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), in 1970. He was the first president of NCF, and he remains involved in agriculture today.

The scholarship application and criteria can be found online at For more information call (303) 850-3388. The first scholarship winners will be introduced at the 2007 Cattle Industry Summer Conference, to take place in Denver, Colo., July 17-20.

— Release provided by NCF.


Total Red Meat Production at Record High in 2006

Total red meat production for the United States totaled 47.7 billion pounds (lb.) in 2006, 4% higher than the previous year, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, and lamb and mutton. Red meat production in commercial plants totaled 47.5 billion lb. On farm production totaled 139 million lb.

Beef production totaled 26.3 billion lb., up 6% from the previous year. Veal production totaled 155 million lb., down 6% from last year. Pork production, at 21.1 billion lb., was 2% above the previous year. Lamb and mutton production totaled 190 million lb., down 1% from 2005.

Commercial cattle harvest during 2006 totaled 33.7 million head, up 4% from 2005, with federal inspection comprising 98.4% of the total. The average live weight was 1,275 lb., up 19 lb. from a year ago. Steers comprised 52.7% of the total federally inspected cattle harvest, heifers 29.6%, dairy cows 7.1%, other cows 9.0%, and bulls 1.5%.

Commercial calf harvest totaled 711,300 head, 3% lower than a year ago with 98.2% under federal inspection. The average live weight was 345 lb., down 8 lb. from a year earlier.

Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas accounted for 52% of the United States commercial red meat production in 2006, similar to 2005.


— compiled by Crystal Albers, associate editor, Angus Productions Inc.

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