The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was recently notified that Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) attorneys have filed a lawsuit against USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). This lawsuit seeks to divide the beef industry against itself by opening old wounds and weakening the beef checkoff as HSUS drives toward its ultimate goal of ending animal agriculture.
The lawsuit, filed by HSUS lawyers, seeks the release of documents related to two OIG audits of the beef checkoff and its contractors, including NCBA. Both audits found that producer investments in the checkoff are protected by the firewall, which prevents beef checkoff dollars from being used for policy activities. Two OIG full audits and multiple random audits by USDA have found contractors, including NCBA, to be in full compliance with the laws which protect checkoff funds. “Those findings haven’t satisfied the extremist animal rights activists at HSUS or its partners at OCM,” said NCBA CEO Kendal Frazier. “Instead of working to better our industry, these two organizations and a small handful of cattlemen have chosen a devil’s pact in an effort to weaken the checkoff, which will in turn, weaken beef demand and our entire industry.” The lawsuit is another attempt by HSUS to drive a political agenda. It diverts attention from beef promotion activities and wastes precious resources at a time when cattle prices and the profitability of the beef industry are under tremendous pressure. As part of an effort to protect the beef industry and stop the frivolous and divisive work of HSUS, NCBA will seek intervenor status in the lawsuit against OIG.
One of Canada’s largest cattle feeder operations is shutting down, blaming market forces currently rocking the feedlot sector as well as what it calls Alberta’s “poor political and economic environment.” Meanwhile, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry says he was surprised by the move, expressing disappointment at the looming job losses but insisting the industry remains strong. President and CEO Dave Plett said in an interview that the majority of Western’s approximately 85 employees will eventually be laid off, and the company has “teams working now to assist them with transition.” He said all of Western’s equipment will be shuttered, stored and maintained in functional condition. “Should circumstances change going forward, there may be opportunities to do something to activate it — but that’s not the case at this time,” Plett said. Minister Oneil Carlier said it’s the job losses he’s most worried about. “It’s really unfortunate,” Carlier said. Western, which started in 1958, has been hit hard by recent volatility in the cattle markets. Alberta cattle prices surged to record heights in 2014 and 2015, but have since plummeted — meaning feedlot owners bought animals at high prices and now have no choice but to sell them at a major loss.
Strong second-half U.S. pork production, coupled with increases in beef and poultry supplies, is expected to result in lower hog prices, pressuring producer margins despite lower feed costs.
Ohio attorneys were assured by the state's high court they could assist medical marijuana clients under the new law. A non-binding advisory opinion issued in August suggested Ohio lawyers couldn't advise medical marijuana businesses and patients under the state's professional conduct standards because the substance remains illegal federally.
The European Commission authorized 11 varieties of genetically modified maize produced by Syngenta Crop Protection for use as food or feed. The authorization, which does not cover cultivation, is valid for 10 years and any products with the GM maize strains are subject to labeling and traceability rules. The Commission stepped in with a decision after the EU’s member states failed to produce an opinion. The European Food and Safety Authority had given a favorable assessment. The authorization covers Syngenta product Bt11 x MIR162 x MIR604 x GA21 and 10 related types of GM maize. Although authorized for food and feed, in practice the EU-approved GM strains are exclusively used in animal feed. Most GM products are insect-resistant or tolerant to certain herbicides.
Legislation to fix an unintended consequence of a law enacted earlier this year to modernize the horse racing industry that has held up Pennsylvania Breeders Fund payouts to the thoroughbred horse breeders and owners won House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approval. House Bill 2303, sponsored by Rep. Martin Causer, R-McKean County, is expected to be put to a vote by the full House next week. The fix is needed because the law passed in a rush to prevent the shutdown of horse racing in the state changed the eligibility requirements for payouts from the breeders fund to permit payments to go to horses sired in Pennsylvania but foaled out of state. This drew opposition from the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, which represents the interests of the state's 500 horse breeders. The association claimed the changes that allowed money to flow to out-of-state breeders denigrated the purpose of the breeders program which is to support and incentivized horse breeding in the commonwealth. As a result, payouts from the fund that as of last month totaled $6 million due to breeders and owners have been held up until the wrinkle created by the new law got ironed out.
U.S. produce suppliers risk being left behind in key emerging markets if Congress fails to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership, a leading trade official told industry leaders.
Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, spoke Sept. 13 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference and urged attendees to lobby hard for the trade agreement on Capitol Hill. Given the political rancor over the value of trade agreements, Vetter said the fresh produce industry has a story to tell about how international trade provides jobs and supports communities.“It is so very powerful and it is (a story) one we don’t hear enough of,” she said.While speaking mainly on the Trans Pacific Partnership, Vetter said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership also remains a goal for U.S. officials. Vetter said Europe’s tariffs are roughly twice those of the U.S., and U.S. negotiators are also seeking to put in place science-based decision making processes for trade relative to biotechnology, minimum pesticide residue levels and other regulatory barriers that hinder U.S. exports.
“Any solution in a free trade agreement that provides new opportunity for agriculture will have to address both the regulatory and tariff side, and we’re very much looking at those negotiations in that vein,” she said.
As was forecast, working capital on farms decreased during 2015. Given 2016 income prospects, further decreases in working capital should be expected. At the end of 2016, most of the working capital reserves built during high-income years from 2007 to 2013 will be gone. Working capital levels will again be at levels comparable to 1996 through 2006. In 2015 and 2016, working capital reserves were used to fund cash flow shortfalls coming from operations. If prices remain low through 2017, means other than reducing working capital likely will be needed to address cash shortfalls.
Big corporations are having a hard time competing. And it’s costing them money. Now they need to consolidate. I feel so bad for them. Speaking as a farmer I know how tough it can be when returns don’t total enough to pay expenses. And I know Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, BASF, and Bayer have my best interests at heart. That’s why they kept raising prices on their patented seeds and pesticides even after prices of wheat corn and soybeans had sunk below green into red. Perhaps it was meant to give me hope–and some heavy expenses I could write off my taxes. Either way, they’re the only game in town. If my biggest suppliers could make money running their competition out of business, then I suppose whether I like it or not, I should too. Anyhow, I need corporate innovation to keep me on the cutting edge. But these days the cutting edge seems like a meat grinder making farmer burgers of me and my neighbors. We’re on the menu while corporate agriculture is eating high on the hog. Even though Monsanto delivered “solid” performance in 2015, the end must be near with profits in 2016 down nearly 25%. Speaking as a farmer, I wish I had hope for any 2016 profits at all let alone 75% of last year’s. And Monsanto is blaming my equity-losing situation for its own inability to earn more than a few billion dollars this year. Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina say this is the result of too much government regulation. Maybe they should get a real job outside Washington. I’d be happy to sell them mine. Tax free of course. But Senator Chuck Grassley, a farmer in his own right, says farm profits are dwindling among higher seed prices and all these corporate mergers. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson noted that three very large companies could soon control 80% of corn-seed sales in the US and 70% of worldwide pesticide sales.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA) have released the results of surveys each organization conducted with their members about the levels of new and used agriculture equipment inventory currently on the market. AEM's data results revealed that, since 2014, the ag equipment manufacturers surveyed believe that new and used inventory levels are decreasing overall. This trend is consistent with EDA's ag equipment dealer survey results for the second quarter of 2016. In the second quarter of 2016, 79 percent of manufacturers felt that inventory levels (new and used combined) were stable or falling. Approximately 75 percent of dealers felt the same. However, perceptions on dealer inventories differ between the two groups. Currently, 43.1 percent of manufacturers believe that dealer inventories are "about right," and 36.2 percent believe that dealer inventories are too high. In contrast, the majority of equipment dealers believe, despite the apparent down-trend in inventory levels, that both their new and used inventories are too high. 62 percent of dealers believe new inventory is too high and 59 percent believe used inventory is too high.