Sheep and goats getting more popular on southeast MN farms

The sounds of sheep and goats on southeast Minnesota farms are becoming a little more common than most residents realize. The last couple of years have seen increasing interest in raising the smaller breeds of livestock for a variety of reasons.

sheep and goats

Sheep and goat numbers are picking up on farms across southeast Minnesota, due in part to the smaller size of the animal, especially when it comes to 4H competition.

As sheep interest continues growing in both Houston and Fillmore counties, the Extension Service will host a couple of sheep-related workshops this summer. A sheep producer workshop is set for Rushford on June 16th, with a sheep workshop for area 4H members on the 17th in Preston. Extension Educator Michael Cruse said many area residents might not know that sheep and goat numbers are on the rise.

“Sheep and goats are on the increase in Houston and Fillmore counties,” Cruse said, “especially for 4H projects. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary reason is they’re smaller animals and easier to handle for 4H kids.”

He said the sheep producer meeting in Rushford is a unique opportunity for area livestock farmers. The University of Minnesota Extension Service recently hired a Sheep Specialist named Travis Hoffman, who the U of M is sharing with North Dakota. After talking with Hoffman over the winter, Cruse wanted to put together a couple of events to maximize his time if he made the trip to southeast Minnesota.

sheep and goats

Houston and Fillmore County Extension Agent Michael Cruse is putting on Extension programs for sheep farmers and 4H kids that want to exhibit sheep and goats at local competitions. (photo from bluffcountrynews.com)

“That’s why we put together a two-day event, starting on June 16th from 2-5 pm,” Cruse said, “Hoffman will be here to do a producer meeting in Rushford and talk about everything from lamb marketing to production management to economics, with a pizza supper at the end.

“A lot of the raising and marketing of sheep is similar to other types of livestock,” Cruse added. “But with sheep, there are a lot of products you can get from them. You can market the wool, the meat, or market them as show animals. There’s a whole range of avenues you could take, and that doesn’t even take into account the organic and grass fed categories that beef is also subject to.”

He said producers would have a chance to visit with both Hoffman and Cruse after the meeting. Then, the attention turns from sheep producers to 4H kids the next day from 8 till noon at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds.

“It’ll be a rotational type of educational event with three or four sessions for the youth,” Cruse said. “Showmanship will be one of the educational sessions as Travis (Hoffman) was also a state judge for sheep. The kids will be allowed to bring one of their own 4H-registered sheep to this event in order to practice showing their sheep, learning to get their feet in the right spot, and how to answer a judge’s questions professionally.”

He said this is a great opportunity for area 4H kids to learn, providing they can get enough people signed up.

Cruse said there are a number of reasons for the growing interest in sheep and goats across the area. First and foremost, there are marketing opportunities for sheep and sheep products, especially in Iowa. There’s also an immigrant population in Rochester and the Twin Cities that prefers both sheep and goat meat.

The other side of it is the animals themselves. They’re much smaller and don’t require as much land to raise, especially for 4H families. Sheep and goats don’t need as much space as a beef cow or larger hog.

“It’s a lot easier to get three or four ewes onto a piece of property than a full-grown dairy steer, for example,” Cruse said. “It’s also easier for the younger children in a farm family to handle the animals too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s next regarding NAFTA?

American agriculture will have a hard time succeeding without a solid trading relationship with other countries. Now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is off the table, new President Donald Trump and his administration are now turning their attention to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It’s the first time an administration took a serious look at renegotiating at least parts of the deal since it was signed during the Clinton administration.

NAFTA, Free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico

The Trump Administration still has a goal of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to make it more favorable for America. (photo from CNN Money)

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently held their winter policy conference in Washington, D.C., and trade was one of the biggest topics of conversation. Nathan Bowen is the Director of Public Policy at NASDA. He says that NAFTA has been a very good thing for agriculture for a long time.

“U.S. agriculture depends on export opportunities for our livelihood,” Bowen said. “With the new administration, there’s a lot of talk about what’s going to happen on the international trade front.”

Bowen says NAFTA has been very important for U.S. farmers and ranchers, who depend on the markets in Canada and Mexico for significant parts of their livelihood. NASDA wants to make sure as the administration looks at redoing NAFTA, agriculture has a place at the table.

“We are working to make sure that agriculture keeps the gains they’ve made under NAFTA,” Bowen said, “and that we do take opportunities that are there to strengthen the agreement. Farmers send a whole range of commodities to markets in both Canada and Mexico.”

He says NAFTA has been good for a whole list of Ag sectors, including beef. U.S. beef exports to Mexico and Canada have almost tripled since the beginning of the agreement. It was a little over $600 million dollars back in 1994, rising to $1.9 billion as recently as 2015.

“The access that U.S. beef has enjoyed in both of those markets has really been important for the industry,” Bowen adds. “The same could be said for corn, with significant gains in that sector, and pork is another really good success story.”

Bowen adds that there really isn’t a timeline for negotiations between the three countries to begin but he’s hopeful it will start as soon as possible so that agriculture will know where it stands with market access to Canada and Mexico.

Here’s the complete conversation with Bowen:

Cattle feedlot labor pains getting worse

Labor pains are a good way to describe the work situation in production agriculture, but it’s not a shortage of jobs that are the problem. More and more sectors in production agriculture are having a hard time finding help and the problem runs from coast to coast. Reports abound of crops left rotting in the fields because of a shortage of available labor to get out and harvest. The labor shortages aren’t just limited to crops, either. Feedlots across the country are having a hard time finding people to work with their livestock. The labor pains have gotten progressively worse in feedlots during the past decade.

“It is a problem,” said Gary Ruskamp of Ruskamp Feed Yards in Dodge, Nebraska. “I finally just got my crew filled in again. They kind of come and go after a couple of years and then you must find new people. I’ve got all good guys now, but it’s tough.”

Labor pains cattle feedlots

Labor pains are growing in the cattle feedlot industry as qualified help is getting harder and harder to find. (photo from silverspurranches.com)

Ruskamp has a stack of applicants every time he has an open position. But the problem is almost none of the applicants are qualified to do the job. The labor shortage is real in feedlot country and there are some good reasons behind it.

“I have a son that’s a partner with me in the feed yard,” Ruskamp said, “but a lot of families have kids that don’t stay on the farm. Plus, there’s less number of kids born on the farm. If you hire someone that didn’t grow up on a farm, you have to train them. They often don’t have the ability to work with livestock and the equipment we work with.”

He added, “There’s nobody that grows up on a farm anymore. It’s changed. Fewer farms. Fewer children on farms. They go to the city to work. The kids don’t come back out here and work in feedlots. There are a few family feed yards where the son might come back and work with them, but not a lot of that is going on.”

Ruskamp tries to hire local folks for open positions but occasionally has had to cast his net far and wide for employees. However, there’s a challenge when hiring people who aren’t from the area.

“I try to stay local,” he said, “because when you hire someone from further off, they usually want to get back home at some point. They don’t usually stay as long as somebody local.”

The labor shortage is worse in some counties than others. In the northern part of Cuming county, there’s a lot more feedlots that are closer together. He said workers can skip from feedlot to feedlot, working at one for two or three years.

“If they get 50 cents an hour more,” Ruskamp said, “they’ll skip to another feed yard. Eventually, they’ll come back to the first feedlot they were at.”

The struggle for labor isn’t hitting every feedlot in the plains. Ron Coufal runs a feedlot 14 miles west of West Point, Nebraska. He has a lot of family working in the business with him so the labor situation is in good shape there. However, that’s the exception rather than the rule in most feedlots.

“Our operation consists of all family members,” Coufal said. “My sons, my brothers, and a couple nephews all work here. All told, there are nine families that make a living out of this operation. We farm quite a bit of ground and we also feed quite a few cattle.”

Coufal said it’s always a problem hiring people, specifically the right ones for the job. It can be hard to pay people what they’re worth in agriculture these days with low cattle prices. That makes it tough for would-be employers because Coufal said you need to be able to pay people in order to hire the right people for the job.

“The right kind of people are typically in business for themselves or working for corporations somewhere else,” he said. “You can always hire a body but it can be hard to find one with the brain that allows them to do the job.

“If you want to work in the livestock industry,” Coufal said, “you have to be there every day. If 8:00 in the morning is when we feed cattle, I want them fed right at 8:00 in the morning. If it’s 10:00 in the morning, then I want them fed at ten. I want them on a schedule.”

Coufal said they did hire outside help before his sons came back from college. It took a lot of work to find good people. He enjoyed the staff he worked with before it became a family operation again, but did note that good help is getting harder to find.

If you know someone that’s possibly interested in working on a livestock operation, this is what it entails. There are opportunities there for people willing to work hard and learn the trade:

 

 

Grains Council Encourages Focus On Expanding Ag Exports

Grain exports are a bright spot in the current farm economy and can grow even further through outreach to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside U.S. borders, leaders of the U.S. Grains Council said at the at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) convention this week in Kansas City.

US Grains Council Trade Exports

The US Grains Council says American farmers are producing another record grain crop and with 95 percent of the world’s population outside the US, it’ll take trade opportunities to move that product.

As newly-elected national leaders prepare to take office, Chairman Chip Councell, a farmer from Maryland, and President and CEO Tom Sleight told reporters that strong trade policies and robust overseas market development are critical to helping farmers seize these opportunities for growth and greater profitability.

The United States is on track to produce a record amount of corn this year according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data out this week, with record exports also expected for feed grains in all forms, a measure that includes corn, sorghum and barley as well as products made with these grains like beef, pork, poultry and ethanol.

U.S. corn exports in September of this year increased 89 percent, to 6.3 million metric tons (248 million bushels), from year ago levels, with shipments to Japan, South Korea, Peru and Taiwan more than doubling. (See more analysis here.)

“Ag exports count for our farmer and agribusiness members and are counted on by customers who rely on the United States for a reliable supply of high-quality commodities and food products. Sales overseas are a bright spot in an otherwise tough ag economy and are something we can all work toward together,” Sleight said.

Though it now seems highly unlikely to get a vote in Congress, the Council also voiced support for the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as an opportunity to reduce tariffs, address vexing non-tariff challenges to U.S. market share and build a platform for future multilateral trade pacts.

“Regardless of the future of TPP, after this election cycle that has made so many here and abroad question the United States’ commitment to open trade, we urge our leadership to champion trade policies and the farm policy programs that help us develop the markets they offer,” he said.

“Doing so will not just help ensure farmer profitability but also help to restore faith in ag trade’s contribution to global food security and our country’s national security.”

The Council is an export market development organization for U.S. corn, sorghum, barley and related products including ethanol and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), operating programs in more than 50 countries with the support of farmer and agribusiness members as well as funds from the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Minnesota Cattle Industry Convention Registration Open

The Minnesota Cattle Industry convention is an event that brings together producers and beef industry partners for educational opportunities, policy discussion and development, and a cattle focused trade show.  The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, along with the Minnesota Cattle women and the Minnesota Beef Council, will host the Minnesota Cattle Industry Convention and trade show December 1st – 3rd, 2016 at the Double Tree Hotel in Bloomington, MN.

Minnesota Cattle industry convention

The Minnesota Cattle Industry Convention is coming up on December 2 and 3 at the Double Tree Hotel in Bloomington, MN (Pic provided by the MN State Cattlemen’s Association)

The convention will kick off with “Mom at the Meat Counter” Janeal Yancy –PhD Meat Scientist and professor at Arkansas State University, mom and beef industry advocate blogger speaking about consumer engagement and the need for science based facts.

National association leadership will also be joining us in welcoming everyone to the convention, including NCBA President Tracey Bruner – Ramona, KS and ANCW President Penny Zimmerman – Foley, MN. 

The 2016 Cattlemen’s College speakers will focus on the need for self and third party evaluations as part of an increased need for on farm transparency.  These speakers will include Josh White – NCBA Director of Producer Education – Denver, CO, IMI Global – Castle Rock, CO and Wulf Cattle or Morris, MN.  

Friday will also include a public grazing workshop featuring a team of speakers from the Minnesota DNR and the USFWS, along with Cody Nelson of Prairie Creek Seeds discussing strategies for integrating livestock into cover crops.  

Friday’s events will round out with the 2016 Best of Beef Banquet highlighting many of the successes from 2016 and recognizing the best of the best from Minnesota’s beef industry.  The entertainment for the night will be Jerry Carrol: Farmer, Comedian & Agriculture Speaker from Raleigh, NC.  The evening will wrap up the MSCA’s annual live auction.

Saturday’s events will include the 2016 Breakfast Briefing featuring MSCA’s and NCBA’s policy work in 2016 and set the stage for policy priorities for 2017.  This session will feature Bruce Kleven – MSCA Legislative Advisor and Colin Woodal – Sr. Vice President of Government Affairs, NCBA – Washington D.C.

The convention will round out with a Beef Market Status Round Table featuring Jeff Stolle – Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association Marketing Program Manager – Lincoln, NE, Micheal Klamm – USDA-NASS – Washington D.C. and Brad Kooima – Kooima and Kaemingk Commodities, Inc. – Sioux Center, IA.

Registration and room reservation information is available at www.mnsca.org or in the November edition of the Minnesota Cattleman newspaper.  The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Convention and Trade show block will be held until November 10th, 2015. Exhibitors and vendors are also encouraged to attend, sponsorship opportunity details available at www.mnsca.org or call 612-618-6619 with questions.

We look forward to you joining us in December!

2016-2017 Minnesota Beef Ambassador Team Announced

The Minnesota Beef Industry is proud to announce that Katie Moller of Princeton, daughter of Scott and Julie Moller, Abbey Schiefelbein of Kimball, daughter of Don and Jennifer Schiefelbien, and Zach Klaers of Arlington, son of Pat and Sandy Klaers were chosen as 2016-2017 Senior Minnesota Beef Ambassador Team Members. The 2016-2017 Junior Minnesota Beef Ambassador team includes: Emilee White of Wadena, daughter of Don and Tonja White; and Bailee Schiefelbein of Kimball, daughter of Don and Jennifer Schiefelbein.

Beef Ambassadors

The Minnesota Beef Industry is proud to announce the Minnesota Beef Ambassador team comprised of (left to right): Bailee Schiefelbein, Emilee White; Jr. Beef Ambassadors, Katie Moller, Sr. Beef Ambassador Team Lead; Zach Klaers and Abbey Schiefelbein, Sr. Beef Ambassadors. The Beef Ambassadors will work throughout the state to assist with various promotion and education programs related to beef. (Photo from Minnesota Beef)

Contestants from all over the state of Minnesota competed for a place on this year’s Beef Ambassador Team and a chance to win cash prizes sponsored by the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and the Minnesota Cattlewomen’s Association, with additional sponsorship funds courtesy of the Beef Checkoff Program.

The contest took place during the Minnesota Beef Expo held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.During the contest all contestants were required to prepare a written blog or social media post on a beef industry topic.

Contestants were scored by judges on their ability to incorporate beef industry information and the relatability of the message with consumers. Throughout the contest, contestants also were judged on their “elevator speech, “a short, to the point, statement outlining his/her message to consumers and what he/she wants consumers to know about the beef industry.

Additionally, contestants competed in a mock radio interview, which observed the contestants ability to “Tell the Beef Production Story and present beef and farming in a positive light, a mock consumer promotion, which observed the contestants ability to educate the consumer about beef and the beef product, and a written response, which observed the contestants ability to thoughtfully answer and identify misinformation about beef.

About the Minnesota Beef Ambassador Program

The Minnesota Beef Ambassador Program provides an opportunity for youth ages 13-19 to educate consumers and students about beef nutrition, food safety and stewardship practices of beef farmers and ranchers. The Minnesota Beef Ambassador Program is funded through support from the Minnesota CattleWomen’s Association, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and the Beef Checkoff Program. 

 

CoBank Report Predicts Easing Of U.S. Protein Glut

DENVER, Colo. (January 21, 2016) —The supply glut that plagued U.S. beef, pork and poultry protein markets last year and ratcheted down margins is expected to ease in 2016, according to a new research report from CoBank.

The bank, a major agribusiness lender, says leading indicators point to animal protein supplies moving toward a state of equilibrium, with protein stocks more in line with overall levels of demand.

Meat Protein supplies expected to ease this year.

Trevor Amen is a protein specialist at Cobank. He expects improving market conditions for US beef, pork, and poultry producers in 2016.

“It’s clear that in the coming year, the headwinds and adverse conditions created by excessive protein stocks are clearing,” said Trevor Amen, animal protein economist with CoBank. “Surprisingly strong U.S. consumer demand helped lay the groundwork for improving market conditions in the coming year, meaning the net trade balance is expected to shift toward growing exports and fewer imports.

“This is welcome news for U.S. beef, pork and poultry producers.”

On the Horizon
In the first half of 2016 protein exports are expected to remain somewhat of a challenge. “But conditions are predicted to improve over depressed 2015 levels due to a variety of economic factors,” added Amen.

Meanwhile, imports of lean beef should slow significantly and domestic consumer demand for beef, pork and poultry is anticipated to remain strong and supportive of prices. Supply imbalances have already begun the correction phase, with supply and demand expected to achieve equilibrium by about mid-year. The strength of consumer demand going forward will impact how much and how soon U.S. meat prices change.

For instance, meat demand in the restaurant sector continues to grow. The Restaurant Performance Index and the Expectation Index each indicate positive restaurant business conditions. Combined with lower gas prices, current consumer attitudes indicate a willingness to spend more at restaurants versus in-home meals during 2016.

Price outlooks are mixed:

  • Pork and chicken prices have an upside potential compared to last year’s low levels, based on adjustments made for future production.
  • Beef prices will likely remain under pressure for the next two years, however, as the industry is coming off cyclical highs of 2014.

Of course, optimism for 2016 should be tempered by the oversupply lessons of 2015.

“Total red meat and poultry production set an all-time high in 2015,” said Amen. “Combined with fewer exports and more imports, total domestic meat supplies surged by 4.4 percent, the highest year-over-year increase in 40 years.” That increase in supply translated to an additional 9 pounds of protein per person—historically, protein supplies rose an average of 0.8 pounds per person per year from 1960 to 2015.

As the market works through the recent protein oversupply hangover, the long-term outlook remains positive, especially with continued global middle class growth. “The increasing demand for a higher-quality diet likely provides domestic protein producers with significant opportunities in the next decade,” concludes Amen.

A synopsis of the 2016 Protein Demand Outlook Report is available at www.cobank.com. The full report is available to media upon request.
Meat Protein supplies expected to level off in 2016, thanks in part to surprising domestic demand and improving exports.

About CoBank
CoBank is a $110 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 75,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

For more information about CoBank, visit the bank’s web site at www.cobank.com.

Proposed changes to the Beef Checkoff

Many of the major American agriculture groups came together earlier this year to sign a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a proposed change to the national beef checkoff. The discussions were contentious at times, and at least two of the groups dropped out of the discussions due to disagreements.

The discussion included more than how to raise the checkoff from 1 to 2 dollars per head sold. Several major proposals to enhance the checkoff came out of the discussions as well.

“We came to a point in the discussions where we wanted to know what else we could do to enhance the checkoff,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Past President Scott George. “It took a lot of compromise across the board to get things done. We focused in on 4 main areas.”

Scott George

Scott George is a dairy farmer and beef producer from Wyoming, and he served as the President of the NCBA in 2013. (photo from BeefMagazine.com)

“If you debate a hundred different things,” said George, “you’ll never get agreement on all of them.”

The first discussion item was the biggest one, and it was how much to actually increase the checkoff.

“There were people that argued strongly that Australia is charging $5 a head on their checkoff,” said George. “Canada is charging $4 a head. These countries are competitors, and there were people in the room saying we need to collect $5 a head to compete with these folks.

“Others were saying to get back to par we need to collect $2.20,” said George, “but $2.20 is not easy for people to figure out. Let’s say you’re selling 137 head of cattle. A checkoff collector would have to multiply 137 by $2.20, and that’s not simple.”

When the group was putting the proposal together, representatives from the Livestock Marketing Association and the National Livestock Producers Association, which are both auction market associations, were involved in the process. George said they wanted to keep this process as simple as possible.

George said, “In the end, the group said let’s raise it at least a dollar. Let’s go to 2 dollars, because it’s simple and clean. Everyone can understand it. So the group compromised on the money.”

Beef cattle in Sale Ring

For each head of livestock sold, beef producers currently pay $1 per head to the national checkoff. A new proposal would change that to $2 a head, but have a refund available for producers who don’t want to pay the extra dollar. (Photo from angusbeefbulletin.com)

George said raising the checkoff amount requires an act of Congress. The group came up with an idea to make the process a little simpler.

“We proposed a change in the referendum process,” said George, “in which you can petition to change the checkoff amount in the referendum process, rather than requiring an act of Congress. So, we compromised on the dollar amount, and going forward, if in 5 to 10 years we feel like we need to raise more money, we do it through the referendum process and producers have the final say.”

George said when you talk about enhancing a program like the checkoff, there are a lot of costs that go into it. The idea of cost to producers led to talk of a refund policy.

“We decided the second dollar would be refundable,” said George. “If you don’t like it, you can get your money back. We thought of putting requirements in the agreement, like maybe they should have at least 10 cows. After all, it costs money to do a refund. Someone has to sit down, do the paperwork, and mail the money back to you. We also talked about charging producers a fee, but in the end, we said that’s not fair.”

George added, “If a person wants a refund, they should get the full amount, whether it’s a dollar for 1 head, or 10 dollars for 10 animals. A big selling point to this is we have people in Congress that don’t like checkoff programs, and the fact that constituents can get their money back for any reason might help us with Congress as well.”

He added that the initial $1 collected today would remain as it is with no refund allowed. This would maintain financial stability for the state Beef Councils and at the national level they can plan on a certain amount of money to run a program.

“In this Checkoff Enhancement Working Group,” said George, “some strongly advocated for a mandatory referendum every 5 to 7 years. But to do a referendum would cost the checkoff into the millions of dollars.

“Some members of the group strongly objected, saying they weren’t paying into the checkoff to spend millions of dollars every 5 years to see if they want to keep the program.”

The group then looked at several different checkoff programs as potential models of what they’d like to see. Currently, there are 19 different checkoffs with varied models in use.

“The checkoff that the group liked the most was the soybean system,” said George. “In the soybean model, the Secretary (of Agriculture) designates a certain time period every few years. During a certain month, the Secretary will say everyone can go to their government agency office to verify they are a producer who’s qualified to do this, and sign a petition for a referendum.

“If 10 percent of the producers sign the petition,” said George, “then the Secretary will hold a referendum.”

One of the big reasons for changing the petition process is consistency.

“There was a petition drive a few years ago,” said George, “and there were 3 different reprimand letters issued by the USDA because people were holding drawings for things like hats and boots. People were signing up thinking they were just registering for a drawing. In reality, there were signing a petition for a referendum.

“The USDA had to go back and hire an outside firm to take all these signatures that had been submitted and verify that they were producers,” said George. “When many of the people were called, they said ‘we don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ve never owned cattle in our life.’

The US Department of Ag had to verify producers knew they were signing up for a referendum when they were told it was just registering for giveaways.  (photo from commons.wikimedia.com)

The US Department of Ag had to verify producers knew they were signing up for a referendum when they were told it was just registering for giveaways. (photo from commons.wikimedia.com)

George said, “This is one of the issues we’re trying to address. By having producers go to an FSA office or Extension building, setting aside a set period of time, and having it every 5 years, we thought this would be a good compromise.”

The Checkoff will still bear the cost of the referendum, but the USDA would help bear the cost of gathering the signatures. Producers could petition for getting rid of the checkoff, or even increasing the amount of the checkoff through the process too.

George added, “If, in 5 years, during the month of January 2020, the Secretary will say the beef producers can go in, sign up, and if ten percent of them go in and say they want to increase the checkoff to $2.50 a head, they’ve then petitioned for a referendum. The process allows you to step forward for an increase, or to eliminate the program as well.”

He said this was yet another compromise in the process.

“Under our current law (the 1985 act), if 10 percent of the producers sign a petition at any time, and request a referendum,” said George, “the Secretary of Ag will hold a referendum. We thought that was a good safeguard; so let’s leave that one in there as well. So, if producers get upset with the checkoff for any reason and ten percent sign the referendum, then bang, the Secretary will have a referendum and we’ll have a vote.”

George said it was important to the Group to give the producers the final say in whether or not the checkoff will continue.

“Under this whole process, we’re talking about working through Congress to get it passed, get the President to sign it, and then get the Secretary to write the order,” said George. “But before it would be enacted, it will all have to go before the producers in a referendum. The producers need to have the final say. The Group was unanimous on that declaration. Nobody needs to force this down someone’s throat.”

The last thing the Board did was deal with some confusion over the involvement of industry groups in the checkoff.

“The checkoff benefits every cattle producer in the country,” said George. “I don’t care what segment of the industry, be it cow/calf, stocker, feeder, or dairy. I don’t care if they raise bucking bulls or roping steers. In the end, it brings value to every single segment.”

He added, “It’s not political. Just because NCBA does some of the checkoff programs, it doesn’t mean only buy cattle from NCBA members. It’s fallacy to think that. But there are other industry organizations that want to be involved.”

George said it’s important to remember that the group that has authority over the checkoff is the 20 member operating committee, which has ten Federation seats and ten Beef Council seats.

“Right now, the Beef Board has a separate nominating committee that interviews candidates for the Beef Board seats. The Federation (of state Beef Councils) has a separate nominating committee to interview candidates for their seats. So we came up with a compromise in the interview process.”

He said the Beef Board nominating committee has 7 seats, and the Federation nominating committee also has 7 seats.

“What we’re proposing is 7 additional seats be given to industry organizations that want to participate,” said George. You’ll have a 21-member nominating committee to interview candidates for the Federation and the Beef Board seats. They will have to receive a two-thirds majority vote to move that candidate forward.”

One group in particular didn’t like that suggestion, but George said there were good reasons for it.

“They said ‘we just got all the policy people kicked out of here,’” said George. “But other groups said having industry organizations sitting in the room looking at the quality of candidates and helping with the decision gives them ownership and involvement. It can’t help but educate the people about who they are interviewing and what we’re trying to accomplish with the checkoff.”

The goal of this process is to get qualified candidates for the Beef Operating Committee.

“This idea was a compromise, just like the others,” said George.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candidates sought for four Minnesota commodity councils

MDA-logoThe Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will conduct a mail ballot election to fill board vacancies of four commodity research and promotion councils. Candidates are selected through mail ballot elections set for March 2015.

The Barley, Beef, Corn and Soybean Councils are seeking candidates. The candidate registration deadline is February 5, 2015. These farmer/leaders serve three-year terms directing the investment of their Research and Promotion Councils’ check-off programs.

 

Those interested in running for an opening should contact the council listed below to be referred to their nominating committee chairs. Open positions include:

 

 

Barley Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Beltrami, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Roseau

 

District 2: Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen, Norman, Polk

Barley Research and Promotion Council office:  800-242-6118 or 218-253-4311

 

Beef Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Becker, Clay, Clearwater, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau

 

Districts 2, 3: Beltrami, Cass, Cook, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, St. Louis

 

District 5: Benton, Carver, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Renville, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Beef Research and Promotion Council office:  952-854-6980

 

Corn Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 4: Becker, Beltrami, Big Stone, Cass, Chippewa, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Roseau, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

Districts 3, 5, 6: Anoka, Aitkin, Benton, Carlton, Carver, Chisago, Cook, Crow Wing, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Lake, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Ramsey, Renville, Sherburne, Sibley, St. Louis, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, Wright, Scott

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Corn Research and Promotion Council office:  952-233-0333

 

Soybean Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 3: Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, St. Louis, Cook, Lake

 

District 4: Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Lac Qui Parle, Ottertail, Pope, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Soybean Research and Promotion Council office:  888-896-9678 or 507-388-1635

 

Farmers who voted last year will receive ballots by mail, but those who did not vote last year can request a ballot from the above commodity council offices by February 5, 2015.

Is it beef or Pink Slime

One of the largest defamation lawsuits in American history revolves around something known as “pink slime,” and that term is at the center of a dispute between ABC News and Beef Processors Inc., of Iowa.  Over one billion dollars is at stake, depending on the outcome of the case.   According to examiner.com, the lawsuit is a result of a series of ABC News investigative reports on how one of the nation’s biggest meat producers prepares its products for the marketplace.  What ABC News characterized as pink slime is what the beef processor calls “lean, finely textured beef.”

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on "Pink Slime"

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on “Pink Slime” (Photo by Chad Smith)

Carissa Nath is a meat scientist with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, which specializes in finding new uses for agricultural products and technology, with the goal of expanding business and employment opportunities.  She explained what Lean, Finely Textured Beef is: “When carcasses are fabricated (cut; broken down) into steaks, roasts and other retail cuts there is always some amount trim left over.  This trim is mainly fat, but often times there will be a good amount of lean that could still be salvaged from this trim.  Due to the fact that carcasses are fabricated manually (by human hands), it is impossible to capture all this lean at the time of fabrication.  This trim can then be slightly heated and spun rapidly (think of a large salad spinner) to remove all the fat and retain all the lean.  The resultant product (beef lean tissue) is LFTB, 100% beef. LFTB is then used in the beef industry by adding it back into other trimmings (ground beef) to make varying levels of lean to fat ratios (85/15 (85% lean 15% fat); 90/10 (90% lean 10% fat), etc, to meet consumer demands.”

Mark Malecek is a cattle farmer from Redwood Falls, Minnesota, and said the goal is to “make the nation’s beef supply go farther, and make beef more affordable for the consumer at the grocery store. They’ve been using this process since 1990.”   The controversy arises when the separated beef is processed, heated, and treated with a cloud of gaseous ammonia to kill E. Coli and other bacteria.  In 2001, the Food Safety and Inspection Service okayed the process, and agreed that the ammonia was a “processing agent, and didn’t need to be listed on the ingredient label.”

According to Reuters, Dr. Gerald Zirnstein was a microbiologist at USDA, who sent an email to fellow scientist, first using the term “pink slime.”  In the email, he said he was “disgusted by the process and USDA’s approval of it,” and coined the term pink slime.  He said “USDA undersold it to the public and the meat industry soft-sold it to consumers.”

The issue came back into the public eye thanks to British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, devoted an episode of his television show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” to Pink Slime in 2011.

ABC News then picked up the Pink Slime story and ran a series of reports in 2012 about the product.

 

According to the Pink Slime Wikipedia page, as a result of the series run by ABC News, grocery chains, restaurants, and even school districts announced they would no longer be purchasing beef with the Lean, Finely Textured, beef product.   The beef industry was hit hard by the Pink Slime controversy.

On May 8, 2012, Beef Processors Incorporated announced it would be closing three of its four processing plants in the Midwest.  On April 12, another producer, AFA Foods, a ground-beef processor, announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Beef prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit a three and a half month low.  Malacek said the cattle prices on the Mercantile “went down about three and a half dollars per hundredweight, which is a significant chunk of the local cattlemen’s profit.”  Malecek said prices have returned to where they were before the controversy became news headlines across the country.

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

As a result of financial losses, BPI announced on September 13, 2012, that it had filed a 1.2 billion dollar lawsuit against ABC News, claiming damages as a result of the pink slime controversy.  ABC News denied the allegations, and tried to get the case moved from state court to federal court.  In June 2013, a federal judge sent the lawsuit back to state court.   According to Reuters.com, on December 17 of last year, lawyers for ABC News asked South Dakota State Judge Cheryle Gering took under advisement oral arguments from both sides in the case, and will issue ruling in the near future as to whether or not the case will proceed to trial.