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NLPA News Brief
November 19, 2014
Livestock and Ag Credit News

DNA Spray–On Technology Could Revolutionize Food Traceability

By James Andrews, Food Safety News, 11/17/14—It sounds like something straight out of agricultural science fiction: a liquid solution containing unique bits of DNA that gets sprayed on foods in order to easily identify information about where it came from and how it was produced in the event of an outbreak or recall.

DNATrek, a Bay Area startup, is hoping to revolutionize the food traceability industry with DNA "barcodes" that can be added to fruits and vegetables via a liquid spray or a wax. The company says the tracers are odorless, tasteless and pose no food safety risk. Founder and CEO Anthony Zografos heard about the DNA tracing technology developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a biodefense tool under a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. Zografos saw an opportunity to apply the technology to the food safety industry to more quickly trace back outbreaks and recalls — a very challenging endeavor with current technology, he said.

"Because of the way food traceability is set up, traceback investigations are very often inconclusive or take weeks or more to complete," Zografos told Food Safety News. "Without being able to figure out the problem, food companies usually issue these massive, expensive, knee–jerk recalls."

The technology works by taking small snippets of synthetic DNA or genetic material from organisms typically not found in the grocery produce section — right now they're using seaweed and other sea organisms — and adding those snippets with trace amounts of sugar in a sprayable solution that goes directly on the fruit and vegetables. If a problem with the produce arises, the DNA on the surface can be swabbed and identified within 15 minutes.

GIPSA NEWS: 11/12/14

Livestock and Ag Credit News

Senators to FDA: Get Data on Antibiotics in Food–Producing Livestock

By Ed Silverman, Wall Street Journal, 11/13/14—For the second time this year, a group of U.S. Senators is pressing the FDA to strengthen its oversight of antibiotics that are used in food–producing livestock. In a letter sent yesterday to the agency, the senators say they want FDA officials to collect data on the extent to which these medicines are used by food producers. At issue is growing concern that humans are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics that are widely used in food–producing animals.

Antibiotic resistance has been blamed for at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which called for minimizing use. More recently, the Obama administration released a game plan for coping with the problem.

NCBA Works on Critical issues Facing TCFA Members

By Jennifer M. Latzke, High Plains Journal, 11/14/14—National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President Tracy Brunner spoke to the members of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association at their annual meeting Oct. 27 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He updated them on current issues the organization is addressing on their behalf. Leading the list is the proposal by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to institute a second checkoff on cattlemen.

Brunner said the 1985 order that created today's Beef Checkoff Program made sure the program is run by cattlemen working for other cattlemen. Every dollar put towards research, promotion, marketing and education efforts has grassroots input from the producer level on up, via state beef councils. "It was designed for cattlemen to have influence over how our check–off dollars are invested in projects that are most beneficial to the beef industry," Brunner explained. "Our current beef checkoff act of 1985 has served our industry very well. Sadly, it is underfunded today because of the undervalued dollar, and it needs an increase in the assessment."

This growing need to review the investment rate of $1 per head brought about the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group. The working group was tasked by Vilsack with bringing together all stakeholders, such as the NCBA, United States Cattlemen's Association and nine others, to review the current beef checkoff. But after three years with still no answers and the withdrawal of the National Farmers Union from the working group, Vilsack came to the conclusion a second beef checkoff program is the answer. Brunner explained to TCFA members that under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act, Vilsack can issue an order for a secondary supplementary national checkoff even with the 1985 act in play.

Pig Farmers Share Stories Through Social Media

By Amie Sitesa, AgriNews, 11/12/14— Pork producers, veterinarians and other swine industry representatives across the country are teaming up to share stories with consumers through Pork Checkoff's social media outreach program, #RealPigFarming. The campaign launched as a way to help answer questions consumers might have about how pigs are raised. The hashtag before Real Pig Farming allows people to easily search social media posts with the same phrase.

"We want farmers and those involved in the industry to tell the real stories about modern pork production," said Claire Masker, public relations manager for the checkoff. "Consumers are so far removed from the farm, but once they get to meet with farmers and have questions answered, they are more confident with how pigs are raised and what pig farmers are doing," Masker said.

Sprouted Grains as Part of Livestock Rations

By Sue Roesler, Farm & Ranch Guide, 11/15/14—Rain and hail in parts of Montana and North Dakota delayed small grain harvest this year, which in some cases lowered the quality of the grain. "We had such a wet August this year while producers were trying to harvest their small grains, and that caused sprouting in some of the wheat and barley," said Rachel Endecott, Montana State University Extension beef cattle specialist, adding reports of sprout damage in small grains were widespread throughout the entire region.

"Wet weather and delayed harvest can cause some small grains to sprout in the head, which can make them unsuitable for traditional markets," Endecott said. "However, these sprouted grains can be an excellent feedstuff for livestock." Livestock studies have shown that sprouting does not reduce the nutritive value of grain. Washington State University data demonstrated that average daily gain (ADG), feed intake, and feed efficiency (pounds feed/pound gain) were not negatively impacted by feeding sprouted grains.

Get Ready for the Good News to be Skewed on Milk Drug Residues

By Lucas Sjostrom, Bovine Veterinarian, 11/10/14—Our United States dairy industry has a track record of a high–quality product free of antibiotics, whether our customers realize it or not. Due to protocols in place on–farm, in–transport, and in–plant we've taken steps to seal up safety holes in our milk supply. Despite that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the initiative to survey farms in 2012 – 900 previous violators of beef residue rules and 900 random farms – in a double–blind study to look for additional residues beyond the beta lactam drugs for which there are routine tests.

The correlation makes sense, but why FDA didn't only pick previous violators to potentially take corrective action against or simply take a representative sample of the nation's milk supply is unknown. If you're a consumer reading this, please know that milk is routinely tested for antibiotics and discarded if any appears – at cost to the farmer. The same is true for beef, and in both cases farms have an amazing track record.

USDA to Survey Sheep Operations

American Sheep Industry Assocation Newsletter, 11/14/14— Starting in late December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will measure sheep inventories and wool production during a nationwide survey. Operators surveyed will be asked to provide information about their sheep inventories, counts of lambs born during 2014 and production and prices received for wool. NASS will contact about 23,000 operations nationwide to request their responses to the survey.

"Accurate date on sheep inventory and production is a critical decision–making tool for USDA and the industry in order to be more responsive to domestic and international markets and consumer needs," said Joseph Prusacki, NASS national operations division director. Survey results will be published in the Sheep and Goats report on Jan. 30, 2015.

Farmers and Scientists Divided Over Climate Change

Drovers CattleNetwork, 11/12/14—Crop producers and scientists hold deeply different views on climate change and its possible causes, a study by Purdue and Iowa State universities shows.

Associate professor of natural resource social science Linda Prokopy and fellow researchers surveyed 6,795 people in the agricultural sector in 2011–2012 to determine their beliefs about climate change and whether variation in the climate is triggered by human activities, natural causes or an equal combination of both.More than 90 percent of the scientists and climatologists surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with more than 50 percent attributing climate change primarily to human activities.

In contrast, 66 percent of corn producers surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with 8 percent pinpointing human activities as the main cause. A quarter of producers said they believed climate change was caused mostly by natural shifts in the environment, and 31 percent said there was not enough evidence to determine whether climate change was happening or not.

Global Livestock News

Shrinking US Herd a Boon for NZ

By Heather Chalmers, NZ Farmer, 11/15/14—Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt said beef prices have risen in response to the cattle herd in the United States – the largest beef producer in the world – falling to a 60–year low following a long–term herd sell–off and prolonged drought. Sheep and beef farmers are achieving better prices than their dairy counterparts this season – but don't expect them to celebrate. "You don't really celebrate until you have the money in the bank. We are only entering the time of the year when most farmers are starting to sell lambs and cattle. We have seen prices high at this time of the year and then drop as greater numbers become available.

Beef Bowl Costs Rise as Japan Imports Priciest Since Mad Cow

By Aya Takada and Keiko Ujikane, Bloombert News. 11/13/14—The cost of U.S. beef for Japanese meat eaters doubled in the past year to the highest in a decade, eroding earnings as the yen weakened and global prices soared. The Bank of Japan's record stimulus sent the yen to a seven–year low against the dollar, boosting import costs in a country that gets 60 percent of its food from overseas. Rising meat prices are one reason restaurant–chain operator Zensho Holdings Co. (7550) forecast losses for the first time since 1982, when the company started serving gyudon, rice topped with stewed beef and onions.

Global Livestock News

USDA and Partners Complete First–of–Its–Kind Sale of Carbon Credits from Working Ranch Grasslands

USDA News Release, 11/17/14—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today said a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has helped initiate a partnership that is improving the environment, creating a market for carbon credits generated on working grasslands. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, recently purchased almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota.

"This announcement is the first–of–its–kind. The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet's purchase of carbon credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road," Secretary Vilsack said. "This public–private partnership demonstrates how much can be achieved with a modest federal investment and a strong commitment to cut carbon pollution."

USDA Announces Karis Gutter as USDA's First Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison

USDA News Release, 11/14/14—U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced Karis T. Gutter, a Marine Corps Reserve veteran and current USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS), as the first USDA Military Veterans Agricultural (MVA) Liaison. The MVA Liaison will coordinate USDA leadership across the Department to provide information, resources and support for active duty military and veterans interested in agriculture. The MVA Liaison will also have authority to facilitate formal relationships between USDA and other government agencies and non–profit organizations to strengthen USDA support for veterans.

"Many of America's veterans come from our rural communities, and are often drawn back to the land upon returning to civilian life," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "Veterans are key to building our future generation of farmers, land stewards and conservationists. USDA already has a number of initiatives to help veterans find meaningful work in agriculture upon returning home, but this new position will help coordinate our efforts and make programs easier to navigate. I look forward to Karis' leadership as we continue to support America's heroes."

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