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News Update

August 16, 2011

West Texas Beef Conference Slated for Aug. 20 in San Angelo Cancelled

The West Texas Beef Conference and Trade Show, originally slated for Aug. 20 at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo Fairgrounds Sale Pavilion, has been cancelled due to very low pre-registration numbers, organizers said. The conference was to be conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

The cancellation does not affect the Big Country Beef Conference set for 8 a.m. Aug. 25 on the Taylor County Expo Center grounds in Abilene. Individual pre-registration for that conference is $10 by Aug. 19 and $20 thereafter. The fee includes the entire program and noon meal. To pre-register and for more information, call the AgriLife Extension office in Taylor County at 325-672-6048.

USDA Announces Directive to Improve Humane Handling Enforcement Measures

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a directive with new instructions to its inspectors that will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities. FSIS will train its personnel to ensure they are prepared to carry out these new instructions.

“USDA is deeply committed to ensuring the humane treatment of livestock at federally inspected establishments,” said Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen. “We are honoring that commitment with clear guidance and better training for our inspection program personnel.”

This directive provides new instructions for inspection program personnel to ensure that treatment of livestock during handling and slaughter minimizes the animal’s amount of excitement, pain, injury or discomfort. Notably, this directive includes a definition for “egregious inhumane treatment.” Under this definition, an egregious situation is any act or condition that results in severe harm to animals, which includes the excessive beating or prodding of disabled livestock, stunning animals and allowing them to regain consciousness, or any treatment causing unnecessary pain and suffering.

During the past two years, FSIS has implemented a number of measures to strengthen humane handling enforcement. On Dec. 22, 2010, FSIS issued new instructions to its inspectors to condemn and promptly euthanize all nonambulatory mature cattle. On March 14, 2009, the USDA issued a final rule to amend Federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of nonambulatory cattle for use in human food. FSIS also created 24 new humane handling enforcement positions, including 23 in-plant personnel and a headquarters-based Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator.

FSIS has announced a variety of new measures to safeguard the public from foodborne illnesses over the past two years in concert with the Food Safety

Working Group (FSWG) created by President Obama in 2009. The FSWG developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. Since that time, USDA has:

In addition, in late June, USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to debut Food Safe Families, the first joint public service campaign to help families prevent foodborne illnesses in the home. This campaign reminds Americans to clean kitchen surfaces, utensils and hands while preparing food; separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards; cook foods to the correct temperatures; and, chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

For more information on Directive 6900.2, which will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities, contact FSIS’ Office of Policy and Program Development at 202-205-0495.

Online Challenge to Help Kentuckians
Become Healthier, Wealthier

The University of Kentucky (UK) Cooperative Extension Service is unveiling an online challenge to help Kentuckians better themselves physically and financially.

The Kentucky Fall 2011 Small Steps to Health and Wealth Challenge is a free, four-week program that allows participants to daily track the good choices they make related to nutrition, physical activity and saving money. The program begins Sept. 4 and runs through Oct. 2.

“Becoming aware of your current behaviors with regard to health and personal finance is the first step in making a successful change,” said Jennifer Hunter, UK assistant extension professor for family financial management in the UK College of Agriculture.

As they input data, participants will be able to see their daily point totals in each of 10 categories plus a bar graph comparing their progress to other participants.

The challenge is part of the national Cooperative Extension’s Small Steps to Health and Wealth program, which is aimed at motivating Americans to take actions to simultaneously improve their health and wealth.

“As individuals work toward improving both their health and personal finances, it is important to realize that small changes do make a difference; adopting only one of the 10 recommended daily practices is a step in the right direction,” Hunter said. “The more SSHW Challenge activities participants are able to adopt, they should notice more positive results.” Registration is open now for the program and will remain so through Sept. 10. Participants can register online at or contact their local extension office.

The top finishers will receive prize packs. The first 150 people to complete the challenge and a follow up evaluation form will receive a UK water bottle.

Training the Next Generation of Young Livestock Exhibitors

For about the cost of a couple of afternoon movie tickets and concession snacks, parents can give their children a two-day learning experience they’ll benefit from for the rest of their lives, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent.

And parents can have a mini-vacation themselves, said Aaron Low, AgriLife Extension agent for Cherokee County and one of the program planners for the East Texas Show Star Series.

Set for Oct. 22-23, the program will be at the Nacogdoches County Expo Center at 3805 NW Stallings Dr., Nacogdoches. The purpose of the weekend event is to educate youth new to showing livestock, especially those just starting out showing steers, heifers, lambs and goats, Low said.

“Showing livestock can be an expensive venture, especially if you have to learn things the hard way, by mistakes,” he said. “We want to get them started off on the right foot.”

To prevent parents from having to absorb the cost of expensive mistakes, Low and a group of East Texas AgriLife Extension agents started the first show series three years ago. The event has grown since then, he said, with a fine-tuning of the trainings and the bringing on board of livestock experts from throughout the state.

“We try to keep it as cheap as possible especially with the economy the way it is,” Low said. “We know everybody is tight on funds.” Thanks to agribusiness sponsors, they have been able to keep registration costs down, he noted.

The registration fee for each youth contestant is $50. The fee for an accompanying brother or sister is $40. For attending parents, guardians or agriculture teachers, the fee is $30. The fee covers everything, including lunch and supper on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday, and the use of stalls and lighted outdoor corrals, Low said.

The registration fees barely cover the costs of the meals, which, considering the quality of the facilities and the years of experience represented by the instructors, makes the program a really good deal, Low noted.

Registration may be done online by going to and entering “star” in the keyword search box.

The expo facility includes a 78,000-square-foot arena, covered stalls and more than 60 recreational-vehicle hookups and shower facilities in four of the restrooms. Contestants will have to pay for the RV spaces and hookups if they use them, and go through the Expo center to do so, Low noted.

Instructors include AgriLife Extension agents from throughout the region, regional and state AgriLife Extension livestock specialists, and local agricultural science teachers. Topics will include lessons on showmanship, daily animal maintenance, the Quality Counts program and more, with breakout sessions tailored for the different species and animal classes, he said.

The full training program is extensive and can be found at

And it’s not all work, as the program is designed with kids in mind, which means they get to have fun, too, Low said. On Oct. 22, the program will begin with sign-in at 8 a.m., and trainings in the morning. Later during the first day, there will be a showmanship contest where participants can exhibit the skills they learned earlier in the day.

“We organize the kids into small groups and work with them one-on-one, with lots of hands-on training,” Low said. “We feed everybody really well and hand out lots of door prizes.”

On Sunday, after an optional Cowboy Church service, there will be a two-ring show, he said.

“Everybody, regardless of what animal they have — a steer, a heifer, lamb or goat — is going to get to go in two different rings with two different judges and compete for additional prizes there,” Low said.

As of Aug. 10, sponsors for the event include ACCO Showmaster Feed, Bayer Animal Health, AgriLife Extension District 5 Agricultural and 4-H agents associations, Shelby County Farm Bureau, Cherokee County Farm Bureau, Nacogdoches County Farm Bureau and the Heritage Land Bank. As more sponsors come on board, they will be noted on the show’s blog spot, Low said.

For more information, contact Low at 903-683-5416,

USDA Officials Hold White House Rural Roundtable

Top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials hosted a White House Rural Roundtable in Minnesota Aug. 15 with businesses and community leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Wright was joined at the roundtable by Brandon Willis, senior advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The roundtable is part of a series of meetings that are being held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials.

“The White House Rural Council is focused on creating good-paying jobs in Minnesota and across America that help businesses grow and communities thrive,” said Wright. “The best ideas come from the American people, so this Rural Roundtable gives me an opportunity to hear directly from Minnesota residents about their ideas on how we can put people back to work and expand the rural economic base here and across the country.”

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Secretary Vilsack, and a series of working group meetings have been hosted in recent weeks to advance the Council’s objectives. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, providing affordable health care, promoting innovation and expanding the production of renewable energy. In the long term, these investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.

Secretary Vilsack is working to coordinate USDA programs across the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities. Monday’s event served as an opportunity to educate participants about USDA programs and other resources across the federal government that can help rebuild and revitalize America’s rural communities.


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