Beef Bits

Apr 12, 2013
by WLJ

Canada talks sanctions

Canada is considering imposing sanctions of up to $980 million a year against the U.S. unless it complies with a WTO ruling requiring changes in how it labels meat, according to media reports. Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters last Tuesday the country would consider “extensive retaliatory measures” against the U.S. over country-of-origin labels (COOL) introduced in 2009, Reuters reported. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Ritz said the rules are costing Canadian beef and pork producers C$1 billion ($980 million) a year in lost sales, and Canada would look to recoup that amount.

EPA’s data recall

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking environmentalists to return the confidential data it released on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the request is “too little, too late.” The EPA said the data on the CAFOs was turned over to environmentalists under a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year. In a statement, the EPA said “the majority of the data was already publicly available through state databases, websites and federal and state permits, or is required to be released under federal or state law.” In response to concerns from the agricultural industry, the agency has deleted personal information from the data it previously offered environmental groups. “EPA is providing the organizations with this new version of the data and requesting they return the data,” the agency said. According to EPA’s statement, the information that was changed only included 10 of the 29 states that have submitted CAFO data. Several Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently sent a letter objecting to the practice, arguing that “EPA has shown no regard for the privacy and safety of private citizens and businesses.”

R-CALF seeing red

R-CALF USA sent out another scathing press release following USDA’s report clearing the national beef checkoff program of wrongdoing. While the Office of Inspector General (OGI) found no issues with the beef checkoff between 2008 and 2010 and says the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and its contractors, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) “were in full compliance with the rules that govern the checkoff,” it’s no surprise R-CALF isn’t ready to let it rest. R-CALF filed a formal complaint Friday, April 5, with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong calling the OIG report a “colossal whitewash of monumental proportions.” An R-CALF news release says the OIG concluded that NCBA had properly expended all checkoff funds “despite the OIG’s acknowledgment that the NCBA had miscoded and improperly submitted expenses of more than $216-thousand to the beef checkoff fund.” R-CALF USA is calling for the two officials to denounce the report and “permanently suspend the NCBA’s eligibility as a checkoff contractor.”

Cargill third quarter loss

Cargill reported net earnings of $445 million in the fiscal 2013 third quarter ended Feb. 28, down 42 percent from $766 million in the same period a year ago.

Nine-month earnings totaled $1.83 billion, up 66 percent from $1.1 billion in the prior year. Third-quarter revenues edged up 1 percent to $32.2 billion, which brought nine-month revenues to $101.2 billion. “Cargill’s earnings were below last year’s record third quarter,” said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer. “The current quarter demonstrated the balance that comes from Cargill’s diversified portfolio. In North America, our meat processing businesses were pressured by the drought-related high cost of feed ingredients. Even though many of our global food ingredients businesses experienced higher input costs, they nearly matched their strong performance in last year’s third quarter.” Among Cargill’s five business segments, earnings in agriculture services were down largely due to the prolonged impact of last year’s drought-reduced crops in North America. Animal nutrition results were affected by Venezuela’s currency devaluation in February and by difficult economic conditions in meat and dairy production in several regions.

Healthy school lunch

Tyson Foods is the latest company to team up with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, including making pricing pledges for leaner proteins that comply with federal nutrition standards affordable for schools. Tyson Foods joined other leading school meal manufacturers pledging to set prices for healthier items at a cost no more than 10 percent higher than traditional, comparable products. Similar to the other participating manufacturers, Tyson has committed to increase sales of its compliant products to at least 50 percent of the company’s entire school sales within five years. Tyson is now one of 16 leading school meal manufacturers, group purchasing organizations and technology companies collaborating with the Alliance, founded by the American Heart Association and Clinton Foundation.