BEEF bits

May 28, 2010
by WLJ



USDA will change poultry contracts

Following a meeting with poultry growers recently, USDA announced it will soon crack down on the writing of contracts between poultry growers and packers. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that the new rules will be announced in June. The new rules are expected to favor poultry growers who complained during a competition workshop in May that current regulations and contracts favored packers. The proposed rules, which were mandated by the 2008 farm bill, will prevent packers from favoring large producers and also provide poultry producers more leverage in sales contracts. However, industry sources have repeatedly said that the current contracts help keep food prices low by generating production efficiencies. Subsequent studies have found little harm to competition is created by production contracts. It is expected that beef contracts will also be a focus later this year.

EPA cracks down on feedlots

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 has taken a series of civil enforcement actions against six beef feedlot operations in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska for violations of the Clean Water Act as part of an increased emphasis aimed at ending harmful discharges of pollutants from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) into the region’s rivers and streams. “EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made it clear that the protection of America’s waters is an enforcement priority for the agency,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. Of the six enforcement actions, two include penalties where CAFOs failed to comply with their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. The causes of the violations were addressed in previously issued administrative compliance orders. The two proposed penalty settlements with the CAFOs listed are each subject to a 40-day public comment period before they may be finalized.

FSIS changes air inflation rules

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said it is proposing changes to federal meat inspection regulations that would allow slaughterhouses to inflate carcasses and parts with air if they implement controls to ensure the procedure does not cause insanitary conditions or adulterate product. In a notice posted last Monday in the Federal Register, FSIS said it would require establishments to include such controls in their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) or other prerequisite programs. Additionally, FSIS is proposing to eliminate the requirement that plants submit requests for approval of air-inflation methods not listed in the regulations and to remove the approved methods. Establishments using approved procedures could continue to do so, but would have to incorporate them into their HACCP, SSOP or other prerequisite programs, the agency said. FSIS is looking for comments on the proposed rule by June 23. If the rule is made final, the agency will verify that establishments are complying.

Asian markets surge in early 2010

Increasing sales in Asian markets helped boost firstquarter exports of U.S. beef by 25 percent over the comparable period in 2009, according to a recent report by USDA. Sales have been particularly strong in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the agency said. First-quarter 2010 exports to Japan and South Korea, for example, improved by a respective 30 percent and 9 percent compared with year-ago numbers. A combination of strengthening Australian and New Zealand currencies and strong U.S. marketing campaigns has shifted some of the market share away from those primary competitors. U.S. market share increased 54 percent in Japan and 31 percent in South Korea year-over-year. Meanwhile, beef exports to Hong Kong jumped 143 percent. The Canadian market, the second largest for U.S. beef exports, saw a roughly 20 percent increase from year-ago levels which was facilitated by the U.S. dollar’s decline against the Canadian dollar. USDA forecast U.S. beef exports to all countries for 2010 at 2.1 billion pounds, up more than 10 percent from last year.

JBS halts shipments of beef to U.S.

JBS S.A. has stopped shipments of cooked beef to the U.S. after the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) found unacceptable levels of Ivermectin in product shipped from Brazil’s Sao Paulo state. Last week, FSIS announced in a recall notice that since March 15, samples taken from cooked beef products made by a plant the agency identified only as “Brasil 337 S.I.F.” have resulted in a dozen instances in which Ivermectin levels exceeded FDA’s limit of 10 parts per billion in beef muscle. JBS said in a statement it will stop shipments from its Lins plant until company officials determine how product containing excess Ivermectin entered the supply. The company said other JBS plants would continue to ship to the U.S. during its investigation, and that products made at the Lins plant would continue to be exported to other markets.