BEEF bits

Sep 25, 2009
by WLJ



WBC staff attends checkoff “kickoff”

Wyoming Beef Council (WBC) staff member Mary Neese was among some 90 beef council executives and staffers who were in Denver, CO, last week to learn about and help “kickoff” 2010 checkoff programs in a meeting themed “Coming Together to Drive Beef Demand.” State kickoff is a traditional September event when beef council executives and state staff gather with national staff to learn about specific research, promotion and educational program strategies and tactics to be implemented in the next fiscal year. Understanding national priorities allows state beef councils to align their own program initiatives with national efforts to “extend” program power and impact at the grassroots level.

Cold Storage Report shows declines

USDA’s Cold Storage Report, released last week, showed declines in chicken and beef stocks during August and pork stocks came in lower than expected. USDA reported 517.9 million pounds of pork in cold storage, up just 3 percent from a year ago. USDA reported beef stocks in cold storage on Aug. 31 at 426.4 million pounds, down 3.3 percent from a year ago and down 4 percent from July 31. Chicken stocks totaled 642.3 million pounds, down 15 percent from a year ago and down 6 percent from a month ago.

ConAgra Foods raises outlook

ConAgra Foods last Tuesday reported a 63 percent drop in its fiscal first-quarter profit due to the absence of last year’s gains from the sale of its trading operations, but strong sales of brands, including Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s, prompted the Omaha, NE-based company to raise its forecast for the fiscal year through May. For the quarter ended Aug. 30, ConAgra earned $165.9 million, or 37 cents per share, compared with $442.4 million, or 94 cents per share, for the year-earlier period. Revenue dropped 3 percent to $2.96 billion due to lower sales in ConAgra’s commercial foods segment. The consumer foods segment fared better, with sales up 1 percent thanks to strong sales growth and market share gains for brands such as Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s and despite an approximate 2 percent negative impact from the plant accident at the Garner, NC, Slim Jim facility. ConAgra said it expects full-year earnings per share for fiscal 2010 to approach $1.70, up from June’s outlook of $1.63 to $1.66 per share.

Japan trade poised to move ahead

The new Japanese prime minister has announced his incoming cabinet, including Hirotaka Akamatsu as the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In remarks to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) members two weeks ago—the day before the announcement—U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack indicated that talks with Japan could not move forward until a new agriculture minister was in place. Now that the announcement has been made, NCBA is urging the Obama administration to re-engage in trade talks with Japan which, understandably, had been on hold since the weeks leading up to the Japanese elections last month. NCBA and groups like the Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association are looking forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to increase access to this critical market. There are concerns among many in the industry that the new administration may be opposed to expanding beef trade with the U.S. farther.

U.S. and China sign trade agreement

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last Tuesday he and China’s minister of agriculture, Sun Zhengcai, renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on bilateral cooperation in scientific research and agricultural trade. The original MOU signed in August 2003 established a Joint Committee on Cooperation in Agriculture (JCCA) which meets at least once every two years, alternately in the U.S. and China. “Since China joined the WTO [World Trade Organization] in 2001, it has become our fourth largest market for agricultural exports,” said Vilsack. “With two-way agricultural trade reaching nearly $15 billion, it is not surprising that there are issues that require coordination. The renewal of this MOU is an indication of the importance that both countries place on cooperation and working together. The MOU solidifies the JCCA to develop and guide future collaboration between (USDA) and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.”

USDA: Retail meat prices mixed

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, retail prices paid for beef, chicken and turkey increased during August with broiler prices showing the largest gain at 1.1 percent. Turkey prices grew by slightly less during August while the all-fresh beef price, which includes both Choice and Select grade product, increased by 0.5 percent from July. Pork prices declined by 0.8 percent during the month. The average retail prices for both beef and pork in August were 6.9 percent lower than a year ago for beef while the retail pork price was 2.8 percent lower. Turkey prices in August were 13.4 percent higher than in August 2008.