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NLPA News Brief
July 20, 2016
Livestock and Ag Credit News

Imagine the US Cow Herd in 2036

By Doug Rich, High Plains Journal, 07/19/16— One thing we do well is produce cattle with tremendous capacity," said Dave Lalman, Extension beef cattle specialist at Oklahoma State University.

Aggressive selection for growth over time increased cattle finish weights by 9.42 pounds per year. If this trend continues, finished cattle will weigh on average 1,561 pounds by 2036. The percent of federally inspected cattle grading USDA Choice and above has increased from 48 percent in 1995 to 78 percent in 2015.

Is this the type of animal the beef industry, consumers and the export market will demand by 2036? Speakers at the 2016 Beef Improvement Federation annual meeting attempted to answer this question.

Tools and benchmarking data are available to monitor changes in post weaning performance, finishing phase profitability and carcass data but documenting production and financial performance of the commercial cow/calf sector continues to be a challenge, Lalman said.

"There is a real need for benchmarking tools and more transparency in the cow/calf industry," Lalman said.

GIPSA NEWS: 07/15/16

Livestock and Ag Credit News

Continued Decline in Farmland Values

By Mark Dorenkamp, Brownfield Ag News, 07/19/16—Farm Credit Services of America reports a continued decline in farmland values for the first half of 2016 in its five state territory. Chief Risk Officer Mark Jensen says a three year trend of lower farm revenues has put downward pressure on real estate in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas.

"Commodity prices took a pretty hard landing over a one–and–a–half year period (with corn prices) over a $6 dollar average into the $4 dollar range, and now just below that. Real estate values have had more of a ratcheting effect, and maybe you could say more of a soft landing at this point."

Farmland values have declined 20 percent in Iowa, 12 ½ percent in Nebraska and just under five percent in South Dakota since 2013. Jensen says demand for farmland varies considerably.

Taking A Closer Look at the Farm Economy

By Meghan Crebner, Brownfield Ag News, 07/12/16— An ag economist says there is increased worry among members of the ag industry because farm incomes have been steadily declining for the past three years.

Scott Brown, assistant professor at the University of Missouri, says farm income in 2016 is projected to be down more than 60–billion–dollars since hitting a record high in 2013. "I think when you look at the average numbers it doesn't really show up," he says. "If you look at a debt to asset ratio that we could get from the USDA on average it shows not much change yet."

He tells Brownfield the distribution of debt is uneven. "We have a lot of very veteran folks who have very little debt at this point," he says. "Yet you have a younger crowd that has been very aggressive in expansion as of late and may face some more difficulties trying to make that all work as we look ahead."

While Brown doesn't think the industry is headed towards another downturn like the 1980's – he says he does have concerns – and producers need to have a better understanding of their bottom line.

Consumers Want Food Suppliers to Be Audited for Animal Welfare Standards

Kaitlyn McAvoy, Spend Matters, 07/15/16— A new survey of U.S. consumers shows shoppers want food suppliers to be audited by independent third parties to ensure animals are humanely cared for. The survey provides insight for food companies and retailers on the increasing demands of consumers today and their growing desire to buy sustainable, ethical food products.

Lake Research Partners carried out the online survey of 1,000 adult U.S. consumers on behalf of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Seventy–eight percent of survey participants said they believe an objective inspector should be checking on the welfare of animals on farms and certify that they are being treated humanely.

Consumers also are interested in having more welfare–certified products available at grocery stores and said they would be willing to pay more for products that meet a higher standard of animal welfare, according to the survey. Seventy–five percent of survey participants said they specifically wanted stores to carry more welfare–certified eggs, meat and dairy products.

Additionally, 67% said they would purchase welfare–certified products even if the price of the product were modestly higher. When dining out, the majority of consumers said they would pay up to $5 more an entree if the food contained welfare–certified animal products.

Beef Checkoff Debate Fires Up Again

By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 07/18/16— The long–running debate over how beef checkoff dollars are distributed and spent is heating up again.

Cattle organization R–CALF USA says two checkoff reform bills introduced in the U.S. Senate will help address its concerns with the close relationship between the national beef checkoff program and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). Among other things, the Senate bills would prevent checkoff programs from using vendors who lobby and would make all federal checkoff programs voluntary.

But NCBA CEO Kendall Frazier tells Brownfield concerns about his group and the beef checkoff are unfounded. "It's audited by third parties continuously to make sure the money is spent well," Frazier says. "The Office of Inspector General did an audit a couple of years ago on it and gave it a clean bill of health.

The Cattlemen's Beef board audits it every year and we have our own independent auditors audit it. So it has multiple layers of scrutiny and accountability and we believe it's working extremely well."

Range Rider Program Seeks to Avert Wolf–Livestock Conflicts

Tim Hearden, Captial Press, 07/15/16—If wolves come on or near his property, rancher Mark Coats wants to know about it.

Coats has received training to be a range rider — a person who goes out several times a week looking for tracks, scat or other signs of wolves or other wildlife that could harm his cattle.

The idea is that a human presence can deter wolves away from cattle or move cattle away from wolves if possible. "When we're out there tracking and looking for scat, we're looking for livestock disposition," Coats said. "Cattle get pretty nervous when there are predators around. Cattle will actually relay that to you in their disposition."

Coats is taking part in a new range rider program offered by the California Wolf Center, which sees such programs as a key tool among nonlethal means of preventing wolf–livestock conflicts.

Solar–Powered Ear Tags Track Livestock Welfare

By Mark Astley, Farmers Weekly, 07/17/16— Farmers could soon monitor the heart rate and body temperature of their livestock through their smartphone using a solar–powered ear tag.

The WM Systems tag – designed by Ollie Godwin, an industrial design and technology student at Loughborough University – records heart rate and body temperature every five minutes, alerting the farmers to potential health problems.

If body temperature or heart rate are detected outside set limits the farmer is alerted.

Location is also monitored, and a pulsating LED on the ear tag allows farmers to visually identify the animal flagged up by the system.

Global Livestock News

Meat Industry Body Set Up to Track Market

By Oscar Rousseau, Global Meat News, 07/19/16—The European Commission has established the Meat Market Observatory (Meat MO) to improve transparency in the meat industry and empower it to plan and prepare for a future crisis.

Brussels has followed through on its April commitment to set up a new non–political Meat MO to provide hard data and analysis on the trends across the European meat industry.

Based on the blueprint for the Milk Market Observatory – a sister body that provided the dairy industry with support during the ongoing milk pricing crisis – the EU Meat MO will provide short–term analysis to the industry. It also has a group of three meat executives who will meet at least three times a year.

"I want the EU meat sector to have a similarly strong support system [to the milk market]," said EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan when he announced the new observatory in Brussels.

"I believe our meat products are the finest and safest in the world, and their export value is already huge, with great potential for further growth."

From Wine to Wagyu, Australian Luxury Produce Brands Court China’s Connoisseurs<

Jing Daily, 07/17/16— With a new free trade agreement and growing Chinese demand for high–end food and beverage imports, Australia's premium agricultural producers are stepping up their efforts to earn the attention of affluent Chinese consumers.

As Australia has positioned itself as a source of premium produce over the past several decades, it has especially benefited from China's growing demand for imported luxury food and beverage products such as wine and high–end meat.

In June, top Australian luxury food and beverage brands gathered to host collaborative VIP dinners in Beijing and Chongqing aimed at showcasing their products to Chinese consumers in a luxury setting. Winemaker Penfolds, Australia's most expensive Wagyu beef brand Mayura Station, and Tasmanian sparkling wine brand Delamere were among the companies who worked together to create an all–Australian fine dining menu complete with expert wine pairings at each course.

Global Livestock News

USDA Awards More than $26 Million for Affordable Farmworker Housing

USDA News Release, 07/13/16— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today $26 million to help provide safe and sanitary housing for farmworkers in nine affordable rental communities in four states. The funding will support 439 rental units in California, Florida, Kansas and Texas. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make the announcement later today during an address to the League of United Latin American Citizens' (LULAC) 87th annual national convention.

"American agriculture is grateful to the individuals working in the fields, day–in and day–out, to grow and harvest the food we eat," Vilsack said. "Since 2009, USDA has invested $268 million to build or repair more than 2,000 affordable homes for farmworkers nationwide. USDA, under the Obama Administration, is proud of its efforts to help ensure farmworkers and their families have safe, adequate housing.

Every year, agricultural workers who are immigrants come to the United States for the opportunity to work, pay taxes and fully contribute to this country's economy, many with a dream of someday becoming American citizens. America's farmers, ranchers and the businesses supporting our rural communities depend on these hardworking individuals to ensure we remain a productive, food–secure nation. That is why we need comprehensive immigration reform today – because a food–secure nation with a thriving, growing economy is a more secure nation."

Today's funding is provided through the Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant program. It will help qualified organizations develop housing for farmworkers, make housing repairs and provide household furnishings.

Bill to Clarify Agriculture Waste Exemptions

By Nicole Heslip, Brownfield Ag News, 07/13/16—New legislation has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that would protect dairy and livestock farms from agricultural waste lawsuits.

The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act reaffirms that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is not intended to govern nutrient management practices. Bill sponsor Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington state says the measure protects farmers from being targeted by citizen litigation.

The National Milk Producers Federation is in favor of the legislation and says it would help end the confusion among farmers about environmental regulations.

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