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|Thursday, 27 September 2007 19:33|
Aurora Organic Dairy signs consent agreement with USDA
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has entered into a consent agreement with Aurora Organic Dairy in response to a Notice of Proposed Revocation issued earlier this year alleging violations of National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. Under the consent agreement, Aurora’s Platteville, Colorado, facility must meet several conditions in order to continue to operate as a certified organic dairy operation. These conditions include removing certain animals from the organic herd and ceasing to apply the organic label to certain milk products. Additionally, AMS will exercise increased scrutiny over Aurora’s operations during a one-year probationary review period. If Aurora does not abide by the agreement during that time, AMS may withdraw from the agreement and could revoke the organic certification for Aurora’s plant in Platteville, Colorado. (See page 57 of this issue for more discussion about this agreement and organic dairying with Aurora Organic’s Senior Vice President Clark Driftmier.)
Government’s illegal immigrant notices can not go out yet
A federal judge in California recently issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Department of Homeland Security from implementing its new no-match regulations. The order comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the Central Labor Council of Alameda County, along with other labor movements.
The order prohibits the Social Security Administration (SSA) from mailing out no-match letters to more than 140,000 employers advising that certain employees had social security numbers that did not match with the SSA’s database. Enforcement of this new rule was set to go into effect September 14, under which employers would have 90 days to resolve any discrepancies or face penalties.
The temporary order bars any implementation of the no-match regulations until October 1, when a hearing is scheduled to request a permanent injunction to bar the implementation of the new no-match rules. It is not clear when a decision on the rule will be made by the judge following the October 1 hearing or if any other legal action will be taken.(See pages 14-17 of this issue for more discussion about no-match letters and their potential impact on the dairy industry.)
—From DFA press release
Support mounting for Vermont hundredweight assessment proposal
A plan by a group of Vermont dairy farmers to end steep swings in milk prices paid to farmers is gaining support around the country, organizers said recently.
Under it, farmers would pay 15 cents for every hundred pounds of milk they produce into a fund that would be used to market milk internationally and manage the milk supply, which is often blamed for broad price swings.
The California-based Milk Producers Council cooperative said it supported the plan in principle, according to Margaret Huessy-Laggis, of Hardwick, a member of Dairy Farmers Working Together, which is traveling the country seeking support.
“Most of the farmers who we have met with ... they never want to put their families through what they went through in 2006,” she said.
Last year, milk prices plummeted to record lows, and farmers grappled with poor weather and high fuel and feed costs. To help farmers through the crisis, the state agreed to give them $8.6 million through milk check supplements.
Striving to include the price plan in the Farm Bill, the Vermont group has met with farmers and cooperatives in Florida and Wisconsin and will travel to Oregon to pitch the idea.
A similar voluntary program, in which farmers pay up to 10 cents per hundred pounds of milk, has been successful, but the payment was too low to stabilize prices and only about 65 percent of the country’s dairy farmers participate, Huessy-Laggis said. The Vermont plan would be mandatory.
—From AP newswire report
FTC: Milk ads on synthetic hormones not misleading
Federal regulators have turned down a request from Monsanto Co. to take action against dairy companies that advertise milk as free of synthetic hormones.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said recently that the ads it reviewed did not make any misleading claims about the safety of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), a hormone that boosts milk production in cows. The FTC declined to launch a formal investigation or take enforcement action against any company. But FTC associate director Mary Engle said a few small businesses were warned about making unfounded claims about rBST on their websites and told to revise those claims.
St. Louis-based Monsanto, which markets the hormone under the brand name Posilac, had asked the FTC to investigate more than a half dozen companies that advertise milk products.
The company claims the ads mislead consumers into thinking that milk from cows not treated with rBST are healthier or safer than dairy products from cows treated with the hormone.
Monsanto alleges that misleading advertising has created an artificial demand and higher consumer prices for milk from cows that have not been injected with the growth hormone.
Under FDA policy, food companies are allowed to make claims on labels that they do not use rBST, as long they do not “mislead consumers’’ to believe milk from cows without rBST is safer or of higher quality.
—From AP newswire report
Hydrogen sulfide, not methane, killed five on dairy farm
A family of four and a worker killed in an accident at a Rockingham County (Virginia) dairy farm in July died from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, not methane, according to a coroner’s report.
Police had assumed it was methane – an odorless gas that typically gathers in corn silos – that killed Scott Showalter, 34; his wife, Phyllis, 33; their daughters Shayla, 11, and Christina, 9; and Amous Stoltzfus, 24.
Scott Showalter passed out and later died when he went into a manure pit to clear a pipe that had clogged. The remaining victims died trying to rescue him, police said.
—From AP newswire report
USDA projects record U.S. corn crop
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is projecting a potential record corn crop and what would be the second-highest average yield ever. The crop is seen at 13.308 billion bushels, 2 percent larger than the August estimate and up 26 percent from a year ago. Before the report, expectations ranged from 12.767 billion to 13.416 billion bushels, with an average of 13.128 billion bushels. The yield is pegged at 155.8 bushels per acre, up 3 from August and 6.7 bushels more than last year.
Analysts were estimating yield at 153.7 bushels per acre, in a range of 149.5 to 157.1. Harvested area is placed at 85.418 million acres, the largest since 1933, compared to 2006’s harvested area of 70.648 million.
New case of FMD confirmed in UK
A new case of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been confirmed on a Surrey, UK, cattle farm approximately one mile from two recent outbreaks, the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affair recently announced. This announcement prompted the European Union to suspend its decision to declare Britain free of foot and mouth as early as Nov. 9 and to keep in place an export ban on meat, dairy products and live animals that was imposed after the disease was found on two farms in July and August.
Cattle from the farm are being culled, and a 10-kilometer (6-mile) protection zone has been established around the farmland. A movement ban on cattle, sheep, pigs and other ruminants has also been imposed in England and arrangements are being made by the Scottish and Welsh administrations.
Additional restrictions on the movement of animal carcasses, animal gatherings, shearing and dipping will be enforced. There will also be requirements for increased levels of biosecurity on farms, controls on transportation of manure and treatment of animal products to ensure destruction of the FMD virus.
—From American Meat Institute
U.S. to open border for Canadian cattle
The USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, John Clifford, announced recently that effective November 19, 2007, the U.S. border will be reopened to Canadian herd replacements, including dairy heifers born on or after March 1, 1999. The border was closed four years ago after the discovery of BSE case.
It was later reopened to certain cattle and beef exports but not dairy replacements. Clifford stated the USDA believes it is unlikely for BSE to become established in the U.S. from Canadian cattle imports. While they acknowledge BSE exists in Canada and additional discoveries are likely, “multiple safeguards are in place,” should an infected animal be imported. He called the decision “a fair and science-based trade practice.”
—From a DFA news release
Cow manure, fish guts and maggots could be fed to trout
University scientists in Idaho are working on a new maggot-based feed capable of fattening rainbow trout for the dinner table, while simultaneously helping slash growing mounds of manure and fish entrails.
First, manure is gathered in buckets, then seeded with fly eggs imported from a commercial insect grower. About 70 days later, fish guts are added to help enrich the maggots with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The resulting maggots eventually wriggle up specially built ramps – only to drop through holes into waiting buckets.
The maggots are then washed, frozen and ground up to be fed to rainbow trout at a test station along the Snake River.
Black soldier flies, already used in Asia to eat restaurant waste, can reduce manure by 50 percent, turning it quickly to insect biomass. In fact, they are being studied in southern U.S. states, including North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, whose big poultry and hog industries hope to harness the flies’ voracious appetite for manure.
Commercial fish food producers are intrigued, though they say there is no guarantee a marketable product will result.
— From AP newswire report
Ethanol production creates useful feed for farmers
Converting corn into ethanol produces a byproduct called distillers grains, which can be used as high-protein livestock feed. Most are dried so they can be shipped across the country and overseas, but cattle ranchers within 50 miles or so from an ethanol plant can save money by buying wet distillers grains.
Eric Nelson, who operates two feedlots in western Iowa, buys modified wet distillers grains from Little Sioux Corn Processors ethanol plant, which is just down the road from his Marcus, Iowa, feedlot.
Nelson said he started using the grains for 20 percent of his rations but has since upped his mixture to 30 percent. It has worked well for his operation, and the cattle seem to like it, too, he said.
Drying wet distillers grains involves separating the liquid from the mash, partially dehydrating that liquid into a syrup and adding it back into grain. That costs money, so plants can pass the savings and lower shipping charges to farmers and ranchers, said Don Endres, chairman and chief executive officer of Brookings-based VeraSun Energy Corp.
Wet distillers grains are cheaper than dried distillers grains, but they have a short shelf life.
The grains will begin to grow mold within 5 to 7 days in the summer unless they’re in bunkers or silo bags, said Ken Kalscheur, an associate professor of dairy science at South Dakota State University.
Smaller operators who might not be able to use a truckload before the grains spoil can treat them with a moderate level of a preservative, which can extend their shelf life for about a week, Kalscheur said.
Adding wet distillers grains can help ensure consistency in an animal’s diet by helping to bind the mix.
When ethanol plants turn corn into fuel, the process uses only the starch, which is about 70 percent of the kernel. The protein, fiber and oils left behind are concentrated into distillers grains.
—From AP newswire report
Though approved by the FDA, microchip implants linked to cancer in animal studies
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients’ medical records almost instantly. The FDA found “reasonable assurance’’ the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005’s top “innovative technologies.’’
But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had “induced’’ malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.
“The transponders were the cause of the tumors,’’ said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining the findings of a 1996 study he led.
Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for The Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans, said the findings troubled them. Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people.
To date, about 2,000 radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips have been implanted in humans worldwide, according to VeriChip Corp. The company, which sees a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips, insists the devices are safe.
— From AP newswire report
Michigan State University receives $3.5 million grant to develop pasture-based animal program
A “field-to-fork” approach to farming may ultimately offer consumers greater access to environmentally friendly food choices while enhancing the vitality of rural communities.
With the aid of a three-year $3.5 million development grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Michigan State University (MSU) will establish a pasture-based dairy facility at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) in Hickory Corners, Michigan, and develop supply chains and markets for pasture-based dairy products. The dairy facility will be a focal point for research, education and outreach programs that provide farmers with information on dairy management options for moderate to small operations that focus on sustainability from production through consumption. PD
— From ANR Communications