News Update
March 10, 2011

Record Attendance at 2011 Beef Industry Safety Summit

More than 240 beef industry leaders, researchers and government officials joined together March 2-4 in Dallas, Texas, to investigate ways of further increasing the safety of beef products. Attendance at the 9th Beef Industry Safety Summit, funded in part by the beef checkoff, was a new record. Participants included those closely involved with producing a safe beef supply and welcomed the venue for learning more about the status of U.S. beef safety and sharing their own ideas and thoughts for how to best minimize human health risks associated with the food consumers eat.

The three-day event included updates on current safety issues and interventions, the latest research findings, forums on emerging pathogens and technical workshops that allowed attendees to candidly share ideas on improving processes that can best reduce safety risks. Included in the program was a keynote address from Elisabeth Hagen, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) undersecretary for food safety, who reminded the group that “everyone wins when food is safe, and no one wins when it is not.”

Among the topics discussed at the event was the emergence of non-O157 STECs, or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Not enough is known about these pathogens, some of which can cause significant human illness. They are not easy to identify in the laboratory, and government officials are expressing more interest in STECs, some of which may be associated with beef.

Packer/processor representatives also discussed sampling processes, what they learned from food safety events and recalls, and procedures to use when validating the effectiveness of a safety system. These sessions offered participants the opportunity to share ideas and suggestions with industry colleagues to improve their operations and the ultimate safety of beef.

For more information about your checkoff investment in beef safety programs, visit

— Release by the Beef Checkoff Program.

NCBA’s Recommended Change to CME Feeder Index Reflects Realities 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) issued a letter Feb. 22 to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group (CME) Commodity Research and Product Development Department to affirm an NCBA policy change relating to the weight specifications of the CME’s feeder cattle futures contract. In order to improve the capability of the CME feeder cattle futures contract as a risk-management tool relating to cattle placements in feedlots, NCBA President Bill Donald said NCBA supports the removal of the 650- to 699-pound (lb.) category from the calculation of the CME Feeder Cattle Futures Index. Donald said the inclusion of an 850- to 899-lb. feeder-cattle category makes sense given the current reality of the marketplace.

“With record grain prices, more cattle are remaining on forage for as long as possible before going to the feedlot,” Donald said. “The realities of the marketplace vary year to year and as a producer, I respond to those changes. The intent is to adjust the index in order to more accurately reflect the realities of the marketplace. We need the CME Feeder Cattle Futures Index to adjust as well in order to serve as a viable risk-management tool.”

According to a CME representative, an adjustment to the index would not be unprecedented. The cash-settled contract has had various changes in weight ranges throughout the last 25 years, including the following: 600-800 lb. from 1986-1992; 700-799 lb. from 1993-1999; 700-849 lb. from 2000-2005; and 650-849 lb. since June 2005. The index is designed to reflect changes in the marketplace.

— Release by NCBA.

USDA Reminds Landowners and Producers of CRP General Sign-up

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack today reminded landowners and producers that a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will begin March 14, 2011, and continue through April 15, 2011. During the sign-up period, farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres. The Secretary announced the sign-up recently in Omaha, Neb., at Pheasant Fest.

“For 25 years, CRP has generated significant environmental improvements,” said Vilsack. “Sound conservation practices encouraged through CRP enrollment preserve the soil, clean our water and restore habitat for wildlife. I encourage all interested farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn more about this opportunity.”

CRP is a voluntary program that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to use their environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolling in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers in exchange for rental payments, cost-share and technical assistance. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP also protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to wildlife population increases in many parts of the country.

Land may be enrolled in CRP provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall covering about 4.4 million acres may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2011.

FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) for environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP. The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits) and cost. Decisions on the EBI cutoff will be made after the sign-up ends April 15 and after analyzing the EBI data of all the offers.

In addition to general sign-up, CRP’s continuous sign-up program will be ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land. For more information, visit

— Release by FSA.

On-farm Energy Efficiency Workshop Coming to Hendricks County

A Purdue Extension issues-based action team will sponsor a workshop March 17 to help farmers learn how to improve energy efficiency in their operations.

Purdue’s energy auditing services will be discussed, as well as how producers can qualify for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) funds. The workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the conference center at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Several Indiana farmers have qualified for USDA programs to help make improvements to their existing systems through the REAP grant and loan programs. 

“On-farm energy efficiency improvements have been gaining much interest in recent years because of the increased energy costs in both fuel and electricity rates,” said Chad Martin, agricultural and biological engineering extension specialist. “In some cases, improvements to grain drying, irrigation and other on-farm systems have shown impressive returns with payback periods of less then five years.”

Guest speakers include:

  • Roberto Lopez, Purdue assistant professor of horticulture, who will give a presentation on greenhouse growing operations and how they can make energy-efficient improvements.
  • Sarah Aubrey, owner of Prosperity Ag & Energy Resources, who will discuss how producers can acquire funding from the USDA REAP grants and low-interest loans.
  • Martin, who will talk about energy auditing services and online tools for producers interested in making energy efficiency improvements.

Also, a local farmer will present energy efficiency improvements he made to his pork production operation.

Purdue Extension’s renewable energy program works with producers in conducting energy audits to evaluate their systems, Martin said.

An online tool for evaluating fuel and electricity consumption of various grain-drying systems is available at

The workshop is free. Register by March 15 by contacting Janet Cunningham at or by calling 317-745-9260.

The Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds are located at 1900 E. Main St. in Danville.

— Release by Purdue Extension.

— Compiled by Mathew Elliott, assistant editor, Angus Productions Inc.

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