Russia halts some beef shipments
Amid the concern over the current flu outbreak, Russia has suspended imports of U.S. beef and poultry, as well as pork. The bans have been placed on shipments originating from plants in states which currently have confirmed cases of the virus circulating. Last week, those states included California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas, where cases of the hybrid flu have been reported. United States Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng described it among the “demonstrated overreactions” of some U.S. trading partners.
U.S. trade rep urges calm
In an effort to quell fears among consumers of U.S. pork, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk last week said he was encouraging all nations to rely solely on scientific evidence which has shown that consumers cannot contract the so-called “swine flu” by consuming pork products. In fact, he pointed out that the virus has yet to be found in any U.S. swine. “Restrictions on U.S. pork or pork products or any meat products from the United States resulting from the recent outbreak do not appear to be based on scientific evidence and may result in serious trade disruptions without cause,” he said in a statement.
Canada resumes COOL suit
Canada has resumed its complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the U.S. mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) law. Last week, Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day said, “I’ve informed Ambassador [Ronald] Kirk that we will move forward with the [WTO] consultation.” Reuters quoted Day with the statement after an official meeting between the two government trade officials. Canadian officials claim that the regulation unfairly lowers the prices being paid for imports of Canadian livestock being shipped to the U.S., a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “The rules are so unclear that production facilities in the United States are actually starting to turn back Canadian products, saying it’s just too confusing to try and meet these labeling provisions,” said Day.
Canadian plant shuttered
A Canadian beef packing plant owned by XL Foods Inc. was closed last week, laying off the entire staff of 200 people at the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, facility. The company said the suspension was temporary and the result of a shrinking supply of available fed cattle in the region. The company said the plant will remain closed into September, explaining that cull and fed cattle supplies have dwindled to a level that makes it unfeasible to run the plant efficiently, according to the Moose Jaw Times Herald. XL said such a shortage is rare and should abate in the next five months.
U.S. red meat production rises
U.S. commercial red meat production increased during the month of March, largely as a result of heavier slaughter weights and one additional slaughter day compared to last year. The U.S. produced a total of 4.14 billion pounds of red meat protein, according to USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report. Beef production increased 2 percent from March 2008 to 2.14 billion pounds from the harvest of 2.73 million head of cattle.
Carcass weights were up 29 pounds from March 2008, averaging 1,305 pounds. Pork production increased slightly to set a new monthly production record of 1.97 billion pounds.
Feed ban rules now in effect
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to keep April 27 as the implementation date of the new feed ban. However, FDA has established Oct. 26 as the compliance date to give renderers additional time to comply with the new regulations. Livestock groups said last week that they are disappointed by the decision to proceed with the new ban, which is not needed. “Proven effective BSE control protocols have been in place for years. FDA has not produced any evidence that the new guidelines will improve upon the existing safeguards,” said Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association in a release. “Instead, anticipation of the new feed ban’s implementation has already caused very serious economic, disposal and environmental problems.”
USDA names MRP undersecretary
Edward M. Avalos has been nominated as USDA undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), USDA announced. Avalos has served with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture for 29 years where he established the New Mexico Specialty Crops Program. This program provides matching funds for the improvement of rural economies and assistance with marketing projects for specialty crops and value-added products. He also spent five years with the Texas Department of Agriculture. Avalos has implemented many trade promotions and trade missions during his career, USDA said. He has worked in Mexico, Japan, China, Canada and Latin America, promoting New Mexican crops and livestock.