BEEF bits

Jul 24, 2009
by WLJ

BEEF bits

USDA provides $50 million for biofuels

USDA announced it is accepting applications for up to $50 million in projects to promote the continued production and use of biofuels. The $50 million in 2008 Farm Bill money will advance two USDA efforts: The agency will provide $20 million as financial incentive to bio-refineries to replace fossil fuels, used to produce heat or power at their facilities, with renewable biomass, and $30 million to provide payments to eligible advanced biofuel producers to encourage the increased production and use of biofuels.

Restaurant traffic down sharply

According to market research firm NPD Group, restaurant traffic declined by 2.6 percent in the three months ended May 31 from year-ago levels. The drop marks the sharpest decline since 1981, according to the firm which conducted the study. Still feeling the impact of rising unemployment and thrifty consumers, restaurant traffic was down 2 percent at quick service restaurants, marking seven of the last nine months with declining customer counts. Casual dining declined 4 percent, and midscale restaurants were down 6 percent. While checks increased by 2 percent in the period, the rate of increase failed to offset the decline in traffic, yielding a 1 percent decline in consumer spending at commercial foodservice in the three-month period.

Regulation nominee gets go-ahead

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, told AgriTalk news last week that he has lifted his hold on the nomination of President Barack Obama’s regulation czar after a series of meetings. During those meetings, Chambliss said the nominee, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, assured the senator that he won’t advocate animal rights positions he has written about in the past, including an animal’s right to sue a human. Sunstein has also, in the past, advocated a ban on hunting, and other radical animal rights agendas. “I have lifted my hold after securing what I think is a pretty strong statement on his part that he is not going to interfere with the production agriculture of farmers and ranchers,” said Chambliss during the interview.

World beef production falls

According to USDA, global beef production during 2008 fell 0.6 percent to reach 58.54 million metric tons. The drop is the result of production declines in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, China and the European Union (EU). The decline in EU production has turned the economic zone from a net exporter to a net importer of beef products for the past six years and production continues to decline. However, despite the EU zone’s status, the 26 member nations are having difficulty reaching their full potential as a destination market for beef exporters due to stringent regulations and bans in place against most major beef exporting countries, including the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. During 2008, exports of beef to the EU from all nations were down 37 percent.

Wal-Mart bans beef from northern Brazil

In response to pressure from activists at Greenpeace, Wal-Mart has said it will no longer sell beef from the Brazilian state of Para, in the northern portion of the country, in its Brazilian stores. Greenpeace placed pressure on the company as a result of growing practices in the Amazon rainforest which the group claims are leading to deforestation. Prior to the ban, the Para region was a large supplier of beef for sale in nation’s Wal-Mart stores, supplying an estimated 12-13 percent of the product to the company. Wal-Mart said it would create an auditing process to monitor all of its suppliers in Brazil in an effort to ensure compliance.

Japan takes action on U.S. shipments

The JBS/Swift plant, Packerland, in Green Bay, WI, will be allowed to resume shipments to Japan following an eight-month ban after the company was unable to provide verification that product shipped to Japan was derived from cattle younger than 21 months old. Shipments were allowed to resume as of July 21. Meanwhile, Japan banned shipments from Creekstone Farms after two packages of beef containing vertebral column were found in a 16-ton shipment of beef flanks and other cuts sent from the company’s plant in Arkansas City, KS. In addition to age and other restrictions, all specified risk materials must be removed from beef products shipped to Japan, including spinal column.