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News Update

December 07, 2011

USDA Awards Grants to Universities
in 13 States to Improve Food Safety

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Michigan State University today to announce that USDA has awarded 17 grants to improve the safety of the food supply in the United States through research, education and extension. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants, totaling $10.4 million, to universities in 13 states to help address a broad spectrum of food safety issues. Michigan State University was awarded three grants in total.

“With millions of Americans contracting food-borne illnesses each year, USDA is committed to supporting research that improves the safety of our nation’s food supply,” said Merrigan. “Primarily, we expect that the research and education spurred by these grants will find solutions to some pressing food safety issues. Additionally, we want to help American consumers, restaurant employees and teachers put new food safety principles into practice. Ensuring the safety of food is a top priority for USDA, and we will continue to work with our public and private sector partners on developing solutions to decrease potential risks.”

NIFA made the awards through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative (NIFSI), which addresses a broad spectrum of food safety concerns, from on-farm production, postharvest processing and distribution, to food selection, preparation and consumption.

A full list of awardees can be found online at:

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is at

Fewer Cows and Calves Will Lead
to Strong Cattle Market in 2012

A classic case of supply and demand is predicted for the cattle market in 2012, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist.

Declining cow numbers due to drought will lead to fewer calves, causing tighter supplies across the U.S., said David Anderson.

“I think we will continue to maintain historically high prices,” Anderson said recently at the Brock Faulkner-Brazos Valley Fall Cattleman’s Clinic in Bryan.

Anderson said his 2012 target prices for 600-pound (lb.) steers are $131-$138 per hundredweight (cwt.) during the first quarter, $136-$144 in the second quarter, $137-$147 in the third quarter and $133-$143 in the fourth quarter.

The historic drought this year marked the biggest one-year decline in Texas cow numbers ever, with more than 600,000 sold by cattle producers, Anderson said.

“What does this mean? We’ve got fewer cows and calves, which means higher prices,” Anderson said.

Cattle on feed numbers are high, which is consistent with a drought, Anderson said. Feedlots have been “staying current,” he said, selling animals to packing operations at a steady clip.

Meanwhile, slaughter steer prices hit a high of $125 per cwt. in April and a low of $105 in June, Anderson said. “They went back up to $119 per hundredweight in October,” he said.

That’s likely the result of buyers making sure enough beef is in grocery stores to satisfy first-of-the-month specials, Anderson said. “Prices shoot forward, then back off as grocery outlets buy what they need, then pull back due to the economy.”

Nationally, a 12% decline in 2011 in beef cow inventory is the second largest decline in history since 1934-1935 (18%), as 550,000 head of cows were sold during that time. In 1996, a decline of approximately 400,000 cows was recorded during that drought year, Anderson said.

“In 2012, beef production is predicted to be down 4%,” he said.

The Choice-Select spread has Choice beef selling for “huge amounts” more than Select because exports are booming, Anderson said.

“We have growing demand for Choice beef,” he said.

Wal-Mart, the largest grocery retail outlet in the U.S., is also selling more Choice beef, Anderson added. Trends of consumer buying patterns indicate during the beginning of the recession in 2008 consumers were trying to “stretch their dollar by buying more hamburger,” he said. “As a result, hamburger, chuck and rounds have reached record prices.”

However, there’s been growing demand for steaks, Anderson said, so “perhaps the economy is not as bad as some might think since there is some willingness to buy more steaks.”

Manure Storage and Getting Through the Winter

Livestock farms under the NPDES permit system are required to have manure storage systems emptied down to the point of having 6 months of available storage sometime between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. This available volume also has to include freeboard and expected precipitation. The storage does not have to be empty, just emptied down enough to have the estimated 6 months of storage, which may mean being empty for some farms.

The concept is good advice for all livestock farms but calendar dates do not provide any promise the weather will cooperate. But the requirement does reduce the need to spread manure during the winter. In general, winter manure is surface applied and surface applications during the winter are vulnerable to random weather conditions; the worst being rain on frozen ground or snow melting so fast that runoff occurs before the ground can thaw and take in the moisture and manure. Winter applications not only have to be concerned with the weather and soil conditions the day of spreading and several days after, but also several months later when thaw occurs.

One way to reduce the risks of manure applications is to avoid winter application. And one way to achieve that is to have manure storage systems emptied down in the fall to the point of having the storage capacity to get through till spring without having to haul manure.

The rain and snow events that have already occurred this fall have made emptying manure storages very challenging, to say the least. Given the wet field conditions across the state there will not be many spreading days left until winter sets in. Those farms needing to haul additional manure before spring do have options.

It is still legal to spread manure in winter in Michigan, as long as it does not reach waters of the state via runoff, rain or snowmelt any time after application. Permitted farms are required to utilize the manure application risk indicator (MARI) to determine which fields are acceptable for winter spreading and which ones to avoid. This spreadsheet can be helpful to any size farm and can be found at and search for MARI. This spreadsheet helps you look at soil type, slope, rate of manure, distance to waters and other factors that are important in estimating and reducing the risk of manure running off in the winter.

Research at the University of Wisconsin has shown that fall applications, ahead of winter snow events, are generally safer for water quality than manure applied in the winter months, and especially manure applied onto snow covered fields. For a recorded webcast on their research, visit

Attorney General Bruning Gives
$100,000 to We Support Agriculture

Attorney General Jon Bruning today presented $100,000 to We Support Agriculture, a coalition that supports Nebraska agriculture producers through coordinated communication, education and advocacy. The donated funds are provided through a Supplemental Environmental Project fund.

“In Nebraska, agriculture is more than a resource — it’s a way of life,” said Bruning. “I’m proud to support efforts to protect the cornerstone of our state economy from the actions of extremist groups like the Humane Society of the United States.”

We Support Agriculture focuses on educating Nebraskans on caring for livestock animals and their connection to Nebraska’s food security, economy and social well-being. Their mission is to provide an understanding that Nebraska agricultural producers are thoughtful individuals who know how to care for their animals.

As the state’s legal representative, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) vigorously defends and enforces the laws protecting Nebraska’s natural resources. When the AGO settles an enforcement case, companies are required to clean up the mess, pay appropriate fines and may agree to fund a court-approved Supplemental Environmental Project.

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