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News Update

October 23, 2012

United States Trade Representative Announces Implementation of the U.S.-Panama FTA

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced yesterday, Oct. 22, that the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, also known as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), will enter into force on Oct. 31, 2012. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the oldest and largest national organization representing the cattle industry, is greatly encouraged by this news and the ultimate removal of tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, including U.S. agricultural exports.

"The cattle industry has been waiting on implementation of this agreement for a long time and we're looking forward to increased trade opportunities with Panama," said Bob McCan, NCBA vice president and a Texas cattleman. "The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminates the 30% tariff on Prime and Choice beef cuts and all other duties will be phased out over the next 15 years. This is a positive step forward for American cattlemen and women."

Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America with forecasts between 5%-8% annual growth through 2012. This agreement provides U.S. ranchers access to this valuable market. Similar to the FTA with Colombia, the agreement with Panama provides assurances for a stable export market through plant inspection equivalency. Additionally, Panama modified its import requirements related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to be consistent with international standards. With these agreements in place, the United States will have free trade for U.S. beef with approximately two-thirds of the population in the Western Hemisphere.

"NCBA has been an outspoken supporter of this agreement and others like it because they increase market access and provide stable export markets based on internationally recognized scientific standards," McCan said. "We are encouraged by today's news and we appreciate Ambassador Kirk and the USTR's leadership in moving these agreements forward."

New Publication Sheds Light on Agricultural Water Use in Texas

Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts recently released a report, Status and Trends of Irrigated Agriculture in Texas, highlighting the current status of irrigation in Texas.

"Irrigation is critical to our food production and food security and is a vital component of Texas' productive agricultural economy," said Kevin Wagner, associate director of the Texas Water Resources Institute and lead author of the special report.

"Decision-makers need the facts on just how much water agriculture is using, as well as how much food and fiber it's producing with that water," he said.

Wagner said because of drought conditions and water supply concerns, Texans are looking to improve water conservation and management strategies across the board.

The content in the report was drawn primarily from data and reports published by Texas A&M University, AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, the Texas Water Development Board and the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

For more information and the full release, click here.

Exercise Proper Management When Grazing Corn Fodder

Many producers have turned to letting cattle graze corn fodder as a cost-effective feedstuff amid record-setting drought. However, a Purdue Extension animal scientist says there are certain precautions to take to keep animals healthy.

When hungry cattle are turned out on corn stalks with no prior rumen adaptation to starch, they can suffer acute acidosis — a sudden drop in rumen pH caused by rapid grain overload that can lead to illness or death.

"In the more seriously stressed, lower-yielding fields, some producers are reporting ear drop resulting from stalk-quality issues and 'nubbin' ears that are slipping through the stripper plates of the combine head," Ron Lemenager said. "Collectively, this ear drop can create acute acidosis when grazing corn stalks if not managed correctly."

Part of that management is to scout fields before turning out cattle to determine how much corn is there.

"Cows seem to have a homing device, and they will find ears wherever they are in the field," Lemenager said.

If there is a lot of corn, he said producers could feed several pounds of corn grain per cow daily for several days before allowing them to graze. This helps adapt the rumen to starch.

Cattle also should be full of dry hay before turnout so they don't eat as many ears and should be turned out midday to allow corn stalks to dry from morning dew. Dry forage stimulates saliva production and can provide a bit of a rumen buffer to help minimize a sudden pH drop.

Lemenager also suggested limiting grazing to smaller field sections.

For more information and the full release, click here.

National FFA Organization Launches Long-term Plan to Help Eliminate Hunger with Million-Meal Rally

FFA members from all 50 states will take the first swing Wednesday of a long-term fight to help eliminate global hunger.

As a kickoff event of the 2012 National FFA Convention & Expo, more than 10,000 FFA members, teachers, alumni and volunteers will work hour-long shifts from Wednesday through Friday and pack meals during the "Rally to Fight Hunger." The rally kicks off at 12:45 p.m. with public remarks at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Their collective goal: Create 1 million meals by Friday night. Half will be distributed in the Indianapolis area and half will be shipped overseas in coordination with Kids Against Hunger, a humanitarian food-aid organization.

"No one is better positioned to address hunger than FFA members who are tomorrow's leaders [and] who will provide food and nutrition for a growing planet," said National FFA Organization CEO Dwight Armstrong. "Hunger is the right issue for FFA and it is fully aligned with our values and vision. What FFA members learn in Indianapolis at our rally will prepare them to continue fighting hunger in more than 7,500 local communities and beyond, where relief and solutions are desperately needed."

The rally will kick off the National FFA Organization's global "Feeding the World — Starting at Home" initiative, a movement to help students understand the issues and effects of global hunger.

For more information and the full release, click here.

Registration Open for 45th Annual Missouri Cattlemen's Convention

The Missouri Cattlemen's Association (MCA) 45th Annual Convention & Trade Show will be Dec. 11-13, 2012, in Columbia, Mo. Convention registration is now available online, along with an up-to-date schedule of events.

The convention is jam packed with educational and networking opportunities. MCA President Lonny Duckworth said the convention is really about taking ownership in the association.

"The convention truly is about every single member being able to have a say in our association," said Duckworth. "This is a member-driven, producer-run association and it is vitally important for cattlemen from all areas of the state to show up and offer input and ideas. This is where our grassroots policy process comes to life. If you want to change MCA policy, this is your chance."

Duckworth said the "greatest" value in attending the convention can be found in the hallways.

"Networking with other cattlemen and cattlewomen is a highlight of attending this annual event.

Click here to register now or contact MCA Director of Membership Katie Steen for more information at or 573-499-9162.

Beneficial Mold Packaged in Bioplastic

Aflatoxins are highly toxic carcinogens produced by several species of Aspergillus fungi, but not all Aspergillus produce aflatoxin. Some, in fact, are considered beneficial. One such strain, dubbed K49, is now being recruited to battle these harmful Aspergillus relatives, preventing them from contaminating host crops like corn with the carcinogen.

In collaboration with University of Bologna (UB) scientists in Italy, USDA scientists Hamed Abbas and Bob Zablotowicz (retired) have devised a new method of applying K49 as a frontline defense against aflatoxin contamination in corn, which causes an estimated $200 million annually in U.S. losses alone.

K49 is known as non-toxigenic (atoxigenic) because it cannot produce aflatoxin, unlike toxigenic strains of A. flavus and A. parasiticus that do. However, K49 is adept at excluding these aflatoxin-producing (toxigenic) "cousins" from ecological niches and resources that both need to survive. Exploiting this rivalry, called biocompetitive exclusion, offers an effective way to diminish aflatoxin levels in soil and in corn kernels.

Abbas is a plant pathologist and lead scientist with the Biological Control of Pests Research Unit, operated in Stoneville, Miss., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency. This research supports the USDA priority of ensuring food safety.

Unlike the wheat and barley grains now used as carriers to apply commercial strains of biocompetitive Aspergillus molds, Abbas and UB colleague Cesare Accinelli encapsulated K49 in bioplastic granules made of corn starch and other environmentally friendly ingredients.

For more information and the full release, click here.

New Curriculum Coming for Missouri Ag Classes

Thanks to a grant from FCS Financial, agriculture educators across the state will teach from a new curriculum in the fall of 2014. FCS Financial found through a needs survey that a new curriculum was at the top of the list for Missouri's ag teachers. The current curriculum was developed in 1988.

"FCS Financial is committed to Missouri's ag youth," said Daryl Oldvader, FCS Financial CEO. "We are excited to partner with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in providing this much needed curriculum."

The comprehensive goal is to bring together concepts from agricultural economics, management, sales and marketing and personal finance. The nature of today's agricultural industry will be reflected to prepare students for career success.

"The ag industry has seen many changes over the years from technology to marketing," said Oldvader. "The new curriculum will reflect today's agriculture and provide a better foundation for tomorrow's producers."

The Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association (MVATA) will develop the curriculum through a committee composed of 17 people representing school districts, post-secondary institutions, agriculture companies and agriculture economics experts. This committee will provide subject matter knowledge and communicate project updates to their colleagues. Once finished, the curriculum will be available for teachers to download for free.

Ag instructors interested in field testing the curriculum in 2013 should contact Oscar Carter, Northeast District Supervisor, at 573-751-8468 or


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