Plains Ag Notebook: Nebraska's livestock expansion outlined, ag groups express foot-and-mouth disease concerns

UNL Report Outlines Potential for Livestock Expansion in Nebraska

A new report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln outlines the potential for expansion of the state’s livestock industry.

The 24-page report, prepared by faculty in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s agricultural economics department, notes that the “Nebraska advantage,” a reference to the state’s unique mix of crop, livestock and biofuel production, has served the state well. However, the report notes, in some respects Nebraska’s livestock industry has fallen behind those in other states.

The report, prepared in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, outlines potential expansion scenarios in beef cattle, dairy cattle, pork and poultry. It outlines potential obstacles and benefits.

The report concludes: “At this juncture it would appear that the livestock component of this unique system has considerable potential for further expansion. In fact, the long-term economic sustainability of the total crop/livestock/biofuel system and its ability to thrive in the future may hinge upon such expansion as global demand for food products, especially protein-based products, rises. The market forces, both domestic and global, are well positioned to allow investment in and expansion of this state’s animal industry in the coming decade.”

“As the state’s land-grant university,” Green said, “we are hoping to use this report as a way to start a statewide conversation about this potential, understanding that all Nebraska citizens have a stake in this matter.”

55 Groups Ask Congress to Help Stop USDA from Introducing FMD Into the U.S.

In a letter, 55 organizations asked a bipartisan group of five U.S. Senators for help in stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) from going forward with plans to relax the nation’s protections against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

On Dec. 23, 2013, APHIS proposed to relax U.S. disease protections to allow the importation of fresh beef from Brazil, a country where, according to the group’s letter, FMD is still considered endemic.

“We are concerned that APHIS is disregarding its responsibilities under the Animal Health Protection Act (AHPA),” the groups told the Senators.

The groups want Congress to require APHIS to suspend consideration of its Brazilian rule until after the agency updates its 2003 Final Report for the Animal Disease Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Control Act of 2001.

Citing USDA trade reports indicating that the U.S. has been importing fresh beef from China and fresh pork from Colombia, even though both countries are banned from exporting either beef or pork to the U.S. due to FMD, the groups are also asking Congress to conduct an immediate investigation to determine if U.S. import controls have already been undermined.

The bipartisan group of Senators that received the group’s request include Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

2014 Commodity Classic Breaks All Records

With more than 7,300 total attendees, the 2014 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in San Antonio, Texas, shattered previous records for the landmark event.

“We knew it was the biggest event ever, but the numbers really surprised us as we saw them rolling in over the course of the event,” said Commodity Classic Co-Chair Rob Elliott. “San Antonio was such a perfect venue for our growers, and Commodity Classic had so much to offer this year. We’re thrilled with the numbers and the great feedback we had from our growers.”

Total attendance was 7,325, representing an 18 percent increase over last year’s record-breaking number of 6,214. Other records broken were the number of growers, at 3,874, a 16.5 percent increase over 2013’s record-breaking number of 3,324; and the number of first-time attendees, at 1,261. Additionally, the trade show featured an all-time high of 301 participating companies, representing a record 126,200 net square feet of booth space.

EPA Lists Cattle as Primary Methane Source

A new draft report on greenhouse gas emissions lists “enteric fermentation,” primarily in cattle, as the leading cause of methane emissions. The report also, however, shows agriculture overall produces a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions and provides significant sequestration of carbon.

National Farmers Union: Trade Agreements Must Address Currency Manipulation

Last month, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson voiced support of recent remarks on currency manipulation by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich.

“It is encouraging to see two seasoned and respected congressional leaders reinforce NFU’s long-held trade policy: every future trade agreement must address issues such as the trade-distorting effect of currency manipulation,” said Johnson.

According to an Economic Policy Institute study, two TPP members, Malaysia and Singapore, are among the world’s major currency manipulators and a third, Japan, has announced its intent to intervene in the exchange market to lower the value of the yen.

“Currency manipulation distorts the value of imported and exported goods and increases the likelihood that our existing trade deficit will only continue to rise,” said Johnson. “U.S. negotiators must affirm a goal of decreasing the enormous U.S. trade deficit, which harms our economy and destroys U.S. jobs. I urge our congressional allies to continue their stance against currency manipulation and reject any attempt to pass misguided agreements that reinforce the inequality of our trade playing field.”

Sen. Brown and Rep. Levin stated during a Feb. 26 telephone press conference that Congress would not grant the president trade promotion authority or approve a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement unless it includes disciplines on currency manipulation, an issue still National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

4th Annual Best Burger Contest Underway

Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers along with the Nebraska Beef Council have announced the launch of the 4th annual Nebraska’s Best Burger contest. A new format to the contest will determine the winner based on a combination of online votes and the scores from a panel of judges.

Online nominations will be accepted from March 1st through March 15th on the Nebraska Beef Council website or through their Facebook page. On March 15th, the top five nominated restaurants will be announced. From March 15th through March 31st, the public will be asked to vote again for one of the 5 finalists. During the final voting period, a panel of judges will also score the top five contestants. The overall contest winner will be determined by the highest combined total from the online vote and judges’ scores.

Another change to this year’s contest is that past winners will now be eligible to win again. Last year, the Peppermill Restaurant in Valentine, Neb., claimed the top prize.

Ukraine and Turbulent Commodities

After the rapid overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last weekend, tensions have been rising as Ukraine struggles to carve out new political leadership. As a former Soviet Republic, Ukraine had been closely tied with Russia, but is considering closer economic alignment with the European Union. This has resulted in internal and international conflict as different groups vie for dominance.

Furthermore, if the conflict between Russia, Ukraine, and the West should escalate, other commodities markets could be drawn into the turmoil. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of both crude oil and natural gas and has used its control of these vital energy sources as a diplomatic weapon in the past. As a result, energy traders are closely watching events in Kiev and Moscow.

Despite these looming threats, neither wheat nor crude oil made major moves this week; wheat had a moderate 15-cent decline to $5.97 per bushel, while crude had a minor 30-cent rally $102.50 per barrel.

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The Fence Post Updated Mar 17, 2014 12:21PM Published Mar 8, 2014 08:59AM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.