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NLPA News Brief
February 10, 2016
Livestock and Ag Credit News

Are Cattle Really the Major Producers of Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Farm & Ranch Guide, 02/07/16— It's not the approximately 140 oil refineries around the United States, it's not the 15.5 million trucks that travel an estimated 430 billion miles every year, but it's the cattle industry, yes the cattle industry, that's being targeted as one of the United States' biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions by those outside the agriculture and livestock sectors.

There have been various numbers released to how much the livestock industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, some ranging up into the 18 percent area, but are these numbers fact or myth? Here is the truth: cattle are not the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States as some have suggested. Additionally, according to statistics released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the industry's contribution is much less than previously suggested.

According to a 2011 EPA study, agriculture can be credited with 6.9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; livestock at 3.1 percent; methane from livestock at 2.8 percent; and methane from beef cattle at 1.5 percent.

In comparison to other industries, electricity generation across the country is responsible for 33 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; transportation at 26 percent; industrial use at 11 percent; with residential and commercial use coming in at 8 percent. To date, the beef industry is on the right path, demonstrating a 7 percent improvement in environmental and social sustainability from 2005 to 2011, after two years of data collection and research involved with the LCA. In that time greenhouse gas emissions decreased 2 percent during that span.

A common corrective action that has been suggested by those who operate under the assumption that the beef industry is majorly responsible for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is for grain–fed cattle should be switched to a grass–fed diet. This action would suggest that a grass–fed diet would lead to a lesser amount of greenhouse gas emissions being released than a grain–fed diet, but that is in fact untrue as well.

Judith Capper, a Washington State University researcher, found that grain–fed cattle produce a third less methane than grass–fed cattle because of how they digest different feeds. Her research was later validated by a similar study out of Australia.

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Livestock and Ag Credit News

Fresh & Tasty Meat Products – From Animal Stem Cells!

The Ring of Fire, 02/09/16— A San Francisco company has successfully produced the first meatball cultured from bovine stem cells – and according to all the media reports, it's actually quite tasty and just as nutritious as one that comes from the slaughterhouse.

The corporate motto of Memphis Meats is, "The Future of Food Has Arrived." Memphis Meats is not the first company to attempt growing meat in a lab. Last year, a university researcher in the Netherlands successfully produced a hamburger patty from stem cells. However, it was a very costly meal; the price tag was a whopping $325,000. Since then, researcher Dr. Mike Post has managed to get that down to $11.

However, the process is still energy–intensive, requiring 34% more than what is required for traditional beef production. Memphis Meats, Inc. faces similar challenges. Currently, the company's beef is approximately $18,000 per pound, meaning people won't be heading down to their local grocer to stock up on it in the immediate future. Still, Valeti is confident. The goal is to have Memphis Meats' products on grocery shelves within the next five years. Valeti says, "We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured."

Mixing Crops With Livestock Could Make Climate–Adaptation Cheaper

Environmental Research Web, 02/08/16— On a global scale, mixing crops with livestock–production systems can substantially reduce climate–adaptation costs, and slow down deforestation by lowering agricultural land requirements. That's according to a team from Austria and Germany, who says that livestock production – the world's largest user of land and biomass – is an important risk–management strategy for vulnerable communities, but its adaptation options are still under–examined.

Simulating the effects of climate change on crop yield and rangeland vegetation indicates that adaptation will require around 3% of total agricultural production costs in 2045. Shifting towards mixed crop–livestock systems could cut adaptation costs to 0.3% of the total, as well as reducing deforestation by about 76 million hectares worldwide.

"Public policy is often focused on improving the climate resilience of crop production, thereby neglecting the pivotal role of livestock within agriculture," Isabelle Weindl of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, told environmentalresearchweb.

Should Animal Abuse Be a Class A Felony? And Who Defines "Abuse?"

By Amanda Radke, BEEF Magazine, 02/09/16— Livestock owners, pet lovers and animal enthusiasts beware — animal cruelty is now considered a Class A felony, and the FBI has agreed to elevate the status of this crime to its own category and will track this data just as they do for other serious crimes like homicides.

At first glance, this might seem like progress in animal welfare and care. After all, we certainly don't want people who purposely abuse their animals to go unpunished. It's been shown that many of the most violent criminals began their series of abuse with animals before moving onto people. So yes, in those extreme cases, I can see how this could be beneficial information to have.

However, what concerns me is this: Who is defining "abuse?"

The FBI defines cruelty to animals as: "Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment."

Unfortunately, this definition is open to interpretation. Is castration and dehorning in cattle considered "mutilation?" What about spaying and neutering? How about confinement buildings in the dairy, poultry, pork and veal industries? What about in the case of major blizzards or hurricanes, where cattle are outside in the elements? How about in situations where a baby calf fails to thrive? If a calf is sick, is it abusive to give it antibiotics? Is it abusive to let it remain sick and refuse to give that animal medication?

You can see where the definition of what constitutes abuse becomes a slippery slope. The people behind the creating and enforcing of laws like this might have little to no experience in animal care and animal husbandry, and I fear they might have outside influences like animal rights activists in their ears telling them what to do.

Suggested Complete Elimination of Antibiotics from Livestock Production Raises Animal Welfare Concerns

By Dr. Leigh Rosengren, Farmscape Online, 02/09/16—The level of public interest and concern over antibiotic resistance has increased dramatically over the past couple of years fuelled by reports on the issue from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, the White House and Canada's Auditor General as well as an increase in the promotion by food retailers of products raised without antibiotics.

Dr. Leigh Rosengren, an epidemiologist with Rosengren Epidemiology Consulting, says livestock producers have dramatically reduced their use of antibiotics but suggestions that they be prohibited from using antibiotics is a major animal welfare concern. Dr. Rosengren says consumers need to understand that all meat in Canada, including eggs and dairy, is antibiotic free in the sense that none of it contains antibiotics, whether it's raised conventionally or raised under an antibiotic production scheme.

She says producers are very good at observing withdrawal times between the time that an animal is treated and the time it goes to slaughter and so there's no antibiotics in the meat.

How Long Will Beef Expansion Last?

By Krissa Welshans, Feedstuffs, 02/02/16—The industry is two years into beef cow expansion, but according to Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt, the question now is how long the expansion phase will last.

Historically, he said beef cattle expansions lasted five to six years, but history is not likely to be a very good guide on this particular cycle, for numerous reasons.

First, Hurt said the current expansion has already been quick and of a large magnitude. Second, the profit outlook for brood cow operations is already providing much less incentive than a year ago. Third, beef production in the rest of the world is also expanding, so other countries are able to ship increasing supplies of beef to the U.S. and to other foreign buyers. Finally, U.S. pork and poultry supplies are expanding rapidly, providing heightened competition.

"My best guess is that U.S. cow numbers will continue to rise for only one or two more years, making this a relatively short expansion phase of three or four years," Hurt said.

Mcdonald's Confident It Is Now Serving 'Verified Sustainable' Beef

By Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Farmer, 02/04/16— McDonald's says it is now selling 'verified sustainable' beef — but is holding off on saying it has fulfilled the pledge it made to consumers two years ago. "We're confident that we are sourcing verified sustainable beef because we have completed 82 full verifications," said Jeffrey Fitzpatrick–Stilwell, senior manager of sustainability with McDonald's Canada.

In January 2014, McDonald's pledged it would start using sustainable beef and chose Canada as the site of its pilot project. It then worked with the Canadian beef sector to create 40 "indicators" — which cover areas such as animal care, environmental stewardship, and food safety practices — to rate an operation. To qualify as verified sustainable beef, every step of the supply chain an animal passes through must be verified, from the cow–calf operator, to the backgrounder, to the feedlot, to the slaughter plant.

Global Livestock News

Australian Beef Not Linked to Chipotle Scandal

By Colin Bettles, Queensland Country Live, 02/08/16— Australian officials have rejected misleading media reports alleging Australian beef exports to the US are to blame for a crippling food safety outbreak at Mexican fast–food retail chain Chipotle. In an apology statement, Chipotle Chair and founder Steve Ells said the E.coli outbreak that sickened 52 people – and a norovirus outbreak that claimed 140 victims at a single Chipotle restaurant in Boston – "have shown us that we need to do better, much better".

But the incident escalated after recent media reports – alleging the E. coli outbreak was most likely linked to Australian beef – incited official rejection from Australian authorities this week. A spokesperson for the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources cited the CDC report to say there was no evidence linking Australian beef exports with the recent cases of food borne illness, associated with Chipotle.

CCA Report: Positive Signs on Trade Front

By Dave Solverson, Canadian Cattlemen, 02/09/15— The Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) participated in a roundtable with Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland in Edmonton in January as part of her consultations with provincial leaders, industry representatives and academics on the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) and on international trade.

The timing coincided nicely with a letter CCA sent to the minister detailing the importance of the TPP to Canada's beef industry and the need for the federal government to ratify the agreement. In addition to the sheer value of the trade agreement to beef producers, being a founding member of the TPP would give Canada a say in the terms of entry for additional countries that may want to join the TPP in the future.

Global Livestock News

Will the Trans–Pacific Partnership Rally Cattle Markets?

By Wyatt Bechtel, Drovers CattleNetwork, 02/05/16— Trade has been top of mind for beef producers this past year as export volumes dropped and cattle prices have fallen. A rally could be around the corner with the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) being signed by 12 member countries on Thursday.

The trade agreement might be one of the biggest opportunities to turn–around a sliding cattle market.

"When you look at the downward pressure we've had in the markets over the tail end of 2015 and now into 2016, we're trying to find all the value we can," says Colin Woodall, vice president of government relations with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

EPA Edicts Hurt Rural America

By Rep Bob Gibbs, (R–Ohio) The Hill, 02/08/16— Later this week, the House Agriculture Committee will have the opportunity to examine the regulatory agenda of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its effects on Americans living in rural areas. The most obvious and dangerous example of the EPA's effect on the rural economy is the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS).

This rule is a federal power grab that expands the EPA's jurisdiction well beyond "navigable waters." It encroaches on private property rights and creates confusion and uncertainty regarding what does and does not fall under EPA jurisdiction as prescribed in the Clean Water Act. Since it was written and signed into law, the Clean Water Act has been a compact intended to strengthen and empower the federal–state partnership in protecting our natural resources. The new WOTUS rule breaks this partnership, encroaching upon state jurisdiction — which is why 32 states are suing the EPA to stop the rule.

It's not just states that are fighting this harmful rule. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Farm Bureau Federation and several state or regional groups filed a lawsuit to stop the EPA.

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