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Articles from 2005 In October


Japanese Commission Finally Moves Forward on Beef Trade Resumption

Monday Japan's Food Safety Commission made a positive decision on the safety of U.S. beef that could move Japan significantly closer to reopening its market to imports of U.S. beef.

A subcommittee of the Food Safety Committee completed its deliberations on the
safety of U.S. beef, and the Food Safety Committee will put out the subcommittee's report for public comment for a period of four weeks. The Japanese government could make a final decision following the comment period.

According to press reports, the Japanese market could reopen in December. Even if
Japan does resume imports of U.S. beef, it will permit only the importation of beef from cattle aged twenty months or younger.

"Today's action isn't the final step in the process of reopening Japan's market, but it may turn out to be important toward getting where we should have been a long time ago," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over international trade. "I'm frustrated that this process has become so drawn out, but I hope the end is in sight. The science behind the safety of U.S. beef is sound, and there's no reason that Japanese consumers should continue to be denied access to the beef that we Americans eat every day."

Japan's movement Monday comes a week after another decision was delayed after four members of the Commission did not show up for the vote. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators also proposed legislation calling for sanctions on Japanese products if the beef ban was not lifted by Dec. 14, 2005.

Susan Duckett chosen for endowed chair at Clemson

Clemson University officials have announced the selection of animal science researcher Susan Duckett for the Ernest L. Corley Jr. Trustees Chair in the department of animal and veterinary sciences.

An animal science expert at the University of Georgia, Duckett's research focuses on livestock nutrition and meat quality. She is a nationally recognized scientist and author on the benefits of grass-fed cattle.

"We are very pleased that Susan Duckett will be joining Clemson University in January," said Calvin Schoulties, dean of Clemson's College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. "Her work on improving the health impacts in meat consumption and enhancing consumer appeal will help South Carolina's cattle industry. She is a perfect fit with Clemson's land-grant mission of research, education and economic development in service to our state."

Duckett grew up in northeast Iowa on a small farm, raising beef cattle and sheep. She received her B.S. in animal science from Iowa State University, M.S. in ruminant nutrition and Ph.D. in animal science from Oklahoma State University.

She was employed as an assistant professor in meat quality at University of Idaho from 1994 to 2000. In 2000, Duckett joined the faculty of the animal and dairy science department at the University of Georgia.

Ernest L. Corley, a 1949 dairy science graduate who became one of the top officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture always credited Clemson University with opening the door to his success. The Saluda native expressed his gratitude in 2000 by funding the Ernest L. Corley Jr. Trustees Chair in bovine livestock production. The endowment is expected to total $1.5 million when it is fully funded.

"Corley's gift represents a vital contribution to the college," said Schoulties. "It allows us to recruit an outstanding faculty member who enriches the lives of our students and livelihoods of our farmers. We are extremely grateful to him for his generosity and confidence in Clemson's commitment to the agricultural community."

Duckett, who is looking forward to coming to Clemson, said, "The college and department of animal and veterinary sciences have well-earned reputations, and I am honored to be part of it. I hope my work can play a part in Clemson's mission to serve the economy and people of South Carolina."

Duckett's research activities examine the factors affecting fresh meat quality, yield and taste. Researchers in three states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say Appalachian forage-finished beef is ideal for nutrition-conscious consumers. U.S. beef cattle typically grow up grazing grass or other forages. But they "finish," or gain their last 400 pounds or so, eating corn or other grains in feedlots.

In a three-year research project, cattle were raised on forages in Virginia and West Virginia. The meat was then sent to Duckett's lab to be analyzed. Duckett compared the forage-finished beef with grain-finished beef in quality, composition, tenderness, palatability, juiciness, flavors, fat coloring and marbling. She found the fat content of the forage-finished steaks to be 40 percent lower than that of grain-finished steaks. It also had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acid and a better ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3. Forage-finished beef was higher in fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin E and beta carotene and had double concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid, a cancer-fighting compound in products like milk, ice cream, butter, beef and lamb.

"It all comes down to the fact that forage contains a lot of these things," Duckett said. "And when the animals consume this diet, they're able to deposit these valuable phytochemicals into the meat."

Farmers in Argentina raise forage-finished cattle and sell their beef for premium prices in specialty markets. They also supply U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and health food stores.

"Appalachian beef could capture some of this market and increase the net income of the farmers in this area," Duckett said.

Tennessee tobacco production practices continue to advance

Despite the declining number of tobacco producers resulting from the Federal buyout of quota, the traditional crop remains among the top cash-producing commodities in Tennessee and other states known for their tobacco production.

Land-grant institutions, including the University of Tennessee, continue to assist producers’ in their efforts to successfully grow and market tobacco.

With support from tobacco companies, including Philip Morris USA (PM USA), researchers with the UT Agricultural Experiment Station and UT Extension are working to meet producers’ and manufacturers’ needs for high-quality tobacco crops.

A luncheon celebrated the continuing partnership between PM USA and UTIA. The company honored the UT research and Extension personnel participating in approximately $145,000 of new research and education efforts designed to ensure that producers remain successful.

Brian Leib, associate professor of biosystems engineering and soil science, Hubert Savoy, UT Extension soil fertility specialist, and graduate student Eric Caldwell were among those attending the luncheon.

The team is working on a two-year, $91,000 grant examining the use of fertigation to provide better control of soil nutrient levels throughout the growing season. Fertigation refers to applying fertilizer through the use of an irrigation system.

Building on UT research that supports irrigation as a means to stabilize tobacco production levels, Leib believes fertigation can reduce the uncertainty involved in standard fertilization practices. “We believe fertigation will require less nitrogen to produce a high-yielding tobacco crop,” he says.

Leib predicts that an added benefit to fertigation will be reduced nitrosamine levels and higher quality tobacco leaves. Tobacco-specific nitrosamine (TSNA) is one of the major groups of chemical carcinogens linked to consumer tobacco use and cancer. “Fertigation reduces the risk of excess soil nitrogen while irrigation prevents drought stress. Both can cause extra nitrate in tobacco leaves at harvest,” Leib says.

Less fertilizer and a consistent, high-quality product should lead to greater profits for tobacco producers. Fertigation should also reduce non-point source pollution associated with tobacco production, Leib says.

Other members of Leib’s research team were also honored at the luncheon, including Paul Denton, a tobacco specialist in the department of plant sciences, and research site superintendents Barry Sims and Rob Ellis, of the UT Highland Rim and Greeneville Research and Education Centers, respectively.

With the remaining funds from the grant, PM USA is sponsoring work to develop a kit that farmers could use to test plant nitrate in the field as well as two internships at the UT Highland Rim and Greeneville Research and Education Centers. The interns will work in both crop and animal production operations.

Over the years, the company has also provided significant support for UT’s tobacco breeding program, which is directed by plant scientist Bob Miller, who now holds a joint appointment with UT and the University of Kentucky.

David Conner, manager of agricultural programs for PM USA, represented the company at the luncheon. He says the company is pleased to continue its partnership with UT’s research and Extension resources as part of the company’s efforts to provide high-quality tobacco products.

Also recognized at the luncheon were scientists and students participating in other Philip Morris-funded projects. Justin Bryant, a graduate student in plant sciences, is examining cover crop management in conservation tillage tobacco. Michael Waynick, also a graduate student in plant sciences, is working on the effects of nitrogen fertilization rates and timing on tobacco yield and TSNA content. These projects are sponsored through the PM USA Tobacco Extension Training Grants and directed by UT Extension tobacco specialist Paul Denton.

Lasseter to head Farm Service Agency

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has appointed Teresa Coarsey Lasseter, a former county Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service director in Georgia, as administrator of the Farm Service Agency, the ASCS’ successor organization.

“Teresa Lasseter’s experience at the local, state and federal levels, combined with her personal involvement with agriculture, provide her with tremendous insight and an ability to lead the Farm Service Agency into the future,” said Johanns. “Her commitment to service fits perfectly with the agency’s long tradition of serving America’s farmers and ranchers.”

She replaces FSA Administrator James Little, who resigned after USDA announced it was beginning a “modernization” program that could result in the closure or consolidation of 713 of FSA’s 2,355 county offices. USDA now says the plan will not be implemented.

Johanns announced the appointment prior to hosting the Georgia Farm Bill Forum, the eighteenth hosted by Johanns and the thirty-fourth in a series of farm policy listening sessions, at the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga.

As FSA administrator, Lasseter will oversee farm programs, farm loans, commodity operations, conservation programs, disaster assistance and field operations at FSA offices in all 50 states.

A Georgia native, Lasseter served at FSA from 2001 to 2003, first as state executive director in Georgia and later as associate administrator for farm programs in Washington.

She served as executive director of the Georgia Agrirama Development Authority from 1993 to 1999 and also worked for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, FSA’s predecessor, in several positions from 1977 to 1993, culminating as a county executive director for Lee County.

Lasseter was the recipient of the USDA's Unsung Hero Award and the Athena Award, and she received the Farm Service Agency Administrator’s Award for outstanding work specifically for implementing the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, the 2002 farm bill.

Her community service includes serving in leadership roles with the Tifton Rotary Club, Tift County American Cancer Society, and Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce. Lasseter and her husband, Willard, have two children.

Lasseter is an honor graduate from the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with an associate degree in business administration.

Hispanic farmers represent a growing sector of U.S. agriculture

Farmers of Hispanic origin are a significant and growing part of U.S. agriculture, according to data from the 2002 Census of Agriculture.

The 2002 census revealed major increases not only in the number of U.S. farms operated by Hispanics, but in the value of the products produced on those farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The number of farms with Hispanic principal operators grew 51.2 percent between 1997 and 2002, from 33,450 to 50,592. Of those farms, Hispanic women, the largest group of minority women principal operators, operated 10 percent.

“Hispanic farmers and ranchers are the largest group of minority farm operators in the United States. There are at least twice as many Hispanic farmers and ranchers as any other group of minority operators,” noted NASS Administrator R. Ronald Bosecker.

Hispanic-operated farms comprised more than 20.8 million acres of farmland throughout the United States in 2002, up 23.8 percent from 16.8 million acres five years earlier. The value of agricultural products sold also grew by 39 percent, or $1.3 billion.

In 2002, Hispanic principal operators sold a total of $4.67 billion in agricultural products, including $3.07 billion in crops and $1.6 billion in livestock, poultry and their products.

NASS conducts the Census of Agriculture every five years. It is the only source of consistent, comparable and detailed agricultural data for every county in America. For the statistics reported, Hispanic operators are individuals of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin.

“NASS is committed to providing accurate and detailed data on all minority farms and farm operators and we are working closely with minority farm organizations to improve our outreach efforts,” Bosecker said in a release dated Oct. 13.

Beef, row crops Of the 50,592 total Hispanic-operated farms, more than a third, 17,756, were beef cattle ranching and farming operations. The second largest type of operation was “other crop farming” with 8,101. This category includes hay, peanuts, grass seed and farms where no single commodity provided the majority of the income. Third was fruit and tree nut farming with 7,739 operations.

In 2002, Texas led the nation in the number of Hispanic farm operators and acres, followed by California, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Michigan.

Data from the 2002 Census of Agriculture revealed some common characteristics among Hispanic principal operators and operations. The percent of Hispanic principal operators who were full owners of the farms they operated was 72.4, and nearly all Hispanic principal operators, 92.4 percent, owned at least part of the land they operated.

More than 90 percent of Hispanic-operated farms – 45,692 – are family or individually owned, rather than partnerships or corporations. More than half of all Hispanic principal operators were between the ages of 45 and 64 years, with 63.2 percent having worked on their current farm for at least 10 years.

The 2002 Census also provided the first facts on computer and Internet use by farmers and ranchers on a county-by-county basis. Census data revealed that 33.7 percent of Hispanic-operated farms use computers for business and 41.7 percent of all Hispanic operations have access to the Internet.

Column: Spin it any way, FSA offices are on the chopping block

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says he’s “opening a dialogue” with state and congressional leaders to determine how best to “modernize the Farm Service Agency to ensure it meets the needs of farmers and ranchers in the 21st century.”

That’s a nice way of putting that Johanns is about to engage in what’s almost become a rite of passage for agriculture secretaries: Proposing to reduce the number of county FSA offices by one-fourth or one-third or whatever amount the powers that be have decided is politically palatable.

Johanns did not give a number in the press release USDA issued on Sept. 28, but earlier reports said FSA is planning to close 665 or about 28 percent of its 2,351 county offices nationwide.

Rather than spelling out reductions, the release said state FSA directors were working with farmers and local, state and congressional leaders to develop proposals that will “help us chart the course for the agency’s future.

“My hope is that we can agree on a plan that will make it possible to invest in equipment, technology and our employees,” said Johanns. “We want to ensure that top-notch service is provided to our farmers and ranchers long into the future.”

Those conversations must just be getting started because two Democratic congressmen, Ike Shelton of Missouri and Marion Berry of Arkansas, complained that they had received little information about USDA’s plans to “downsize” USDA.

Dotson Collins, state FSA director for Arkansas, said he’s been told he must close or consolidate 22 of his state’s 62 FSA offices.

Johanns reeled off some interesting numbers to justify the prospective round of closings. More than 400 of FSA’s 2,351 offices now have two or fewer full-time staff. Nearly 500 offices are within 20 miles of the next nearest office. The cost of delivering services in each office varies from 1 cent per $1 to $2 per $1 of benefits.

Some offices may also be located in counties that have very little agriculture or the types of agriculture that involve little participation in USDA’s commodity, disaster, farm loan or conservation programs.

Johanns’ nice words about modernizing FSA might be given more credence if the administration hadn’t already shown a propensity toward drastic cuts in agricultural spending. Last February, President Bush proposed reducing farm programs by $9 billion and his subordinates have tried to block new ag disaster and conservation funding.

Congressional Republicans have also begun floating a plan for cutting farm program payments to help pay for the cost of rebuilding the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Among the possibilities: 1) Freezing the 2007 federal budget for one or two years and 2) Dropping the acreage eligible for farm payments from 85 percent to 84 percent.

If you’re a fiscal conservative who believes government should be downsized, you probably think those proposals are good ideas. If those payments could make the difference in whether you farm next year, you probably won’t.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Animal disease study needs more producer participation

COLLEGE STATION - The initial phase of a new animal disease study has begun, but more producer participation is needed, said a researcher from the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense at Texas A&M University.

The study, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, will focus on the control and prevention of foreign and emerging diseases in cloven-hoofed animals, such as beef cattle, swine, sheep, goats and deer.

"Beginning mid-September, we mailed more than 500 surveys to producers and operators in a nine-county area of Central Texas, requesting information vital to our research," said Dr. Bo Norby, primary investigator for the study. "So far, only a little more than 90 of the surveys have been filled out and returned."

Researchers are asking those who received the survey to fill it out and return it by mid-November so the study can proceed on schedule. Surveys have been sent to producers in Uvalde, Medina, Bandera, Real, Edwards, Kinney, Maverick, Zavala and Frio counties. Participants are asked to provide operational information such as acreage, number of animals, property characteristics and number of employees.

"It's very important that we get as many responses as possible from these producers," said Norby. "They are closest to the situation and can provide the most valuable data from which to learn about how animal diseases may be transmitted."

Animal disease outbreaks, such as the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom, are cause for concern from both a social and economic standpoint, he said.

"The foot-and-mouth outbreak cost the agriculture industry in the U.K. more than $5 billion," he said. "And while very different, BSE, more commonly called 'mad cow disease' and the recent concern with avian flu also demonstrate the importance of getting the best possible data for analyzing and preventing the spread of animal diseases."

A follow-up survey has been sent to producers who responded, Norby said.

"This second survey asks for additional information related to where their livestock came from and the livestock travel distance to and from their ranches," he said. "It will only take five to 10 minutes to fill in."

The study will help us determine the frequency of animal contact, the density and distribution of animal populations, seasonal changes in livestock management and other possible factors in disease transmission, Norby added.

"That way we can produce better disease models and more effective methods of prevention and control," he said. For more information, producers in the study area can call a local Extension agent, Dr. Brandon Dominguez at (979) 845-4194, or Norby at (979) 845-3135.

Robinson: Indian cotton coming on strong

Cotton producers in India have made huge strides forward in cotton production, increasing their average yields from 294 pounds per acre nationally to 391 pounds per acre over the last three seasons, a 33 percent increase. As a result, Indian cotton production rose from 10.6 million bales in 2002-03 to 19 million bales in 2004-05. The huge 2004 crop produced 4 million bales of excess supply.

This upsurge in production was due to a combination of great weather and of Bt technology’s ability to reduce risks and costs and save Indian cotton producers from the worm invasions that used to frequently destroy their crops.

The great weather was shared across almost the entire planet in 2004 and the yields produced will likely go down in history as a once in a lifetime happening.

Technology’s impact on cotton production in India and around the world is still evolving. The International Cotton Advisory Committee estimates that 27 percent of world cotton area was or will be planted to officially approved biotech varieties in 2005-06, up from 2 percent in 1996-97. That 27 percent contributes to 36 percent of world production and exports.

Meanwhile, world average yield has climbed from 534 pounds per acre in the 1990s — before Bt technology — to a surprising 652 pounds per acre in 2004-05.

For individual growers, higher yields can have the effect of lowering break-even costs, which makes these farmers competitive at lower prices.

It’s sort of a double-edge sword.

According to the ICAC, the world’s most efficient cotton producers are producing cotton at below 55 cents per pound in several countries.

The consequence of increasing efficiency in world production could be a run of lower prices over the next decade compared with the 70-cent average of the last 30 years, according to Gerald Estur, ICAC statistician, speaking at the ICAC’s 64th Plenary meeting in Liverpool, Sept. 27.

India is a country to keep an eye on, as it could start to export more cotton as their yields increase. In 2002, India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee approved the commercial release of three hybrid Bt cottons. Indian farmers took to the new technology quickly because of increased financial returns. According to a report from the ICAC, the illegal use of Bt cotton seed is decreasing, and the percentage of Bt cotton acres is rising.

Indian farmers have found that Bt cotton has provided consistent yield and fiber quality. While Bt cotton is only produced in hybrid varieties in India, there is a movement to place the technology in conventional varieties. Meanwhile India’s imports of raw cotton have decreased from 1.95 million bales in 2001-02, to around 800,000 bales in 2004-05.

Currently, India is responsible for roughly one-fourth of the planted cotton area in the world with about 22 million acres planted to cotton. If its yields keep moving toward the world average, the country could become a big player in world trade very quickly.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

Be on lookout for fire ants in flooded areas

BATON ROUGE, La. — Fire ants can be a serious problem after hurricanes — particular in flooded areas, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.

“When the waters rise, the fire ants are forced out of their underground nests and float in a mass on top of floodwaters,” said LSU AgCenter entomology associate Patricia Beckley. “For example, we saw that firsthand recently when people were unable to leave the New Orleans Superdome (after Hurricane Katrina) because of the masses of floating fire ants.”

Even worse, once the flooding recedes, fire ants can be found almost anywhere — including inside your home or in debris piles — so extra precautions should be taken, LSU AgCenter experts say.

“In all areas of Louisiana infested with the red imported fire ant, these ants and their colonies can present a potentially serious medical threat to people and animals during and after times of flooding,” said LSU AgCenter entomologist Dale Pollet, adding, “Floodwaters will not drown fire ants. Instead, their colonies will actually emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until they reach a dry area or object that they can crawl up on.”

Floating fire ant colonies can look like ribbons, a mat or an actual “ball” of ants floating on the water, according to the experts, who say these writhing masses of ants contain the entire colony — worker ants, eggs, larvae, pupae, winged males and females and queen ants.

As the floodwaters recede, these floating fire ant colonies will cling to any structure that they come in contact with and are attracted to anything that might give them shelter until a mound can be re-established in the soil, Pollet and Beckley explain.

“This means debris piles from the floodwaters or piles of items from flooded homes are potential nesting sites for fire ants,” Beckley said. “So you need to be cautious and be aware that fire ants can be under anything.”

The LSU AgCenter experts also offer these tips on avoiding fire ant bites when cleaning up after flooding:

• When debris is picked up, pay attention to what is on, under or in it, especially if the debris has been sitting in one area for several days.

• Keep in mind that fire ants love to get under furniture, carpet strips and old wood to re-establish their colony.

• If using shovels or other tools, spread talcum or baby powder on the handle. Fire ants cannot climb onto vertical surfaces dusted with talcum powder unless the surface gets wet or the powder is rubbed off.

• If fire ants are seen in a pile of debris that must be handled, use a shovel or other tool to avoid ant contact, or consider treating the pile with a fast-acting household or lawn and garden insecticide.

Recommendations on treating for fire ants after a storm differ from the usual ones that call for the use of baits that are carried back to the colony and eventually kill it.

“At the time of flooding or right after flooding, general preventive treatments for controlling the fire ants are out of the question,” Pollet said. “Ant colonies or ants encountered now need to be dealt with quickly.”

The experts say aerosol spray products containing pyrethrins or pyrethrum derivatives (tetramethrin or allethrin) or Bengal’s Deltramethrin dust labeled for use on “ants” or “crawling insects” can yield a quick knockdown of the insects and will break down quickly.

“Spray or dust as many of the ants as possible,” Pollet advised, cautioning, however, to avoid waterways, since pyrethroids can be quite toxic to fish and crustaceans. “Just spray or dust surfaces, cracks of infested objects and debris. Then return after the treatment has had time to work.”

Although much of the flooding the state has seen this year has receded, the LSU AgCenter experts point out that ants are particularly dangerous during flooding.

They say to avoid floating mats of fire ants during a flood and to be careful not to let ants come into contact with oars if you are in a boat, since that would allow ants to cling to the oars and move into your boat. They also say to wear protective clothing, such as rubber boots, rain gear and cuffed gloves, that can help prevent ants from reaching your skin when working in floodwater.

“While ants are ‘rafting’ (floating in water), they will inject more than two times as much venom,” Beckley cautions. “Remember, if ants contact the skin they will sting.

“You should try to remove any ants that get on you by immediately rubbing them off. But ants can cling to the skin if submerged and even a high-pressure water spray may not dislodge them.”

For more information on fire ants and a variety of other topics related to storm cleanup and recovery, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

Tom Merrill is News Editor for LSU AgCenter Communications. (225–578–5896 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu)