BEEF bits

Nov 30, 2009
by WLJ



Pilgrim’s Pride returns to profitability

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. reported a net profit of $82.7 million, or $1.07 per share from continuing operations, on quarterly net sales of $1.7 billion in its fourth fiscal quarter which ended Sept. 26. That compares with a net loss of $802 million, or $10.79 per share on net sales of $2.2 billion for the same period in 2008. For the year, Pilgrim’s Pride posted a net loss of $151.6 million, or $2.06 per share on net sales of $7.1 billion in 2009 compared with a net loss of $998.6 million, or $14.31 per share on net sales of $8.5 billion for the full year in 2008. Pilgrim’s Pride filed its financial results with the Securities and Exchange Commission last Monday. The Pittsburg, TX-based poultry processor still is working its way through bankruptcy; it has agreed to sell a majority stake to JBS S.A.

ICE prepares enforcement action

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said last week that it is preparing to inspect employment forms at more than 1,000 employers across the U.S. The inspections will review I-9 forms and hiring records to verify that employers have properly met with U.S. employment verification laws. ICE said in a release that it is targeting businesses associated with critical infrastructure, such as those with ties to public safety and national security. The names of the businesses have not been released. “ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces,” said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton in a release. “We are increasing criminal and civil enforcement of immigration-related employment laws ... to even the playing field for employers who play by the rules.” It is the second such wave of audits by the agency since the Obama administration announced a change in employment eligibility verification tactics.

AMI supports interstate shipping rules

The American Meat Institute (AMI) recently submitted comments to USDA in support of proposed rules which would allow small, state-inspected meat plants to participate in interstate shipping of meat products. AMI officials said the proposed rule would not impose any additional burden on companies and, by participating, these facilities are, of their own volition, agreeing to the stringent regulatory requirements imposed by the statute which will meet or exceed federal standards for meat inspection. Additionally, the comments point out that AMI also supports the proposed enforcement provisions that would require selected establishments to provide the Food Safety and Inspection Service officials with “access to all establishment records required under the act and the implementing regulations in this chapter.”

National Beef profits rise

National Beef Packing Co. posted a 13 percent increase in profit this year as a result of declining cattle purchases and additional cost cutting measures. For the fiscal year ending Aug. 29, the Kansas City, MO-based company said net earnings were $149.2 million, compared with $124.5 million in fiscal 2008 which was one week longer than this year’s reporting period. The profit came despite a decrease in sales to $5.45 billion, some $400 million less than total revenues in 2008. Adding to profitability was a sharp drop in cost of sales, to $5.19 billion in 2009 from $5.62 billion in 2008. Operating income was $174.7 million for fiscal year 2009, a 12.9 percent increase over 2008 primarily resulting from increased profitability from sales of commodity beef products, exports and valueadded products. Improved profitability in commodity beef sales primarily resulted from better demand relative to the price of cattle, the company said.

WTO will examine COOL dispute

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will proceed with the establishment of a dispute settlement panel to examine the legality of the U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations. The panel was requested by Mexico and Canada earlier this year on the grounds that COOL violates the North American Free Trade Agreement and has unfairly hurt sales of beef and cattle into the U.S. from the two nations. Organizations in Canada and Mexico claim that U.S. packers are unfairly reducing prices paid for their cattle because of the added costs of segregating those cattle in packing plants. “Our assessments are showing us that COOL is having a negative impact on Canadian farmers and livestock producers,” Stockwell Day, Canada’s minister of international trade, said in a statement. “We continue to stand up for the rights of Canadian producers during the dispute settlement process and make the case that the U.S. should lift these onerous requirements.” The group should rule sometime in mid- to late-2010.