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August 19, 2013
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Ag Notebook: Tyson surprises industry, USDA predicts record corn production

Tyson suspends use of drug; others not following or quiet

Tyson Foods Inc. announced this month it will no longer buy animals fed a supplement designed to bulk them up before slaughter — a move that’s raised concerns from industry experts because it could increase prices for consumers.

Tyson is one of four companies that control 82 percent of the U.S. beef supply and is the first company to make the move away from the controversial feed supplement, Zilmax.

Cargill and JBS are among the four major U.S. beef-packers.

Cargill has already announced it won’t follow Tyson’s action.

A JBS representative said that “JBS doesn’t have a comment at this time” regarding its competitor’s recent move, or whether or not the company is considering any similar actions.

Zilmax has been available in the U.S. for cattle since 2007, and until now, all four of the nation’s big beef producers have bought cattle fattened on the feed additives.

Should all major meatpackers stop buy Zilmax-fed cattle, retail and wholesale prices of beef would rise because there would be less beef available, agriculture economist told the Associated Press.

USDA forecasts record-high corn production in 2013

U.S. corn growers are expected to produce a record-high 13.8 billion bushels of corn in 2013, according to the Crop Production report issued this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The forecast production is up 28 percent from drought-hit 2012.

The early planting season was not very favorable for corn growers this year, as they were hampered by abnormally wet and cold spring weather.

By April 28, only 5 percent of corn had been planted.

In mid-May, however, the weather became more favorable, allowing producers to speed up their planting pace and tie the previous single-week planting record by getting 43 percent of the total crop in the ground during the week ending on May 19.

U.S. growers wrapped up planting corn by mid-June, with 97.4 million acres planted to the crop. Also, with 64 percent of U.S. corn crop rated in good to excellent condition as of August 4, corn crop condition remains significantly higher than at this time last year.

Based on these conditions, NASS forecasts this year’s corn yield at 154.4 bushels per acre, the third-highest yield on record.

U.S. soybean production is forecast at 3.26 billion bushels in 2013, up 8 percent from last year.

NASS forecasts 76.4 million acres of soybeans for harvest this year.

If realized, this will be the second largest harvested acreage on record.

The Crop Production report is published monthly and is available online at

Bacon prices responding to swine disease outbreak

A devastating swine disease new to the United States hasn’t shown up in Nebraska yet, but it’s already forcing bacon prices nationwide to new highs.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center stands ready to test piglets for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, said Dr. Bruce Brodersen, assistant professor in the center and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea – PED for short – has been around since at least the 1970s but first showed up in the U.S. this summer.

Brodersen said he expects PED to turn up in Nebraska eventually, but swine producers can take steps to avoid it coming to their facilities.

Surveys show PED may be spread when trucks gather anywhere there are common loading and unloading chutes such as buying stations. From those common areas, the virus can be tracked back to individual operations.

Brodersen urged producers to be very careful to clean their trailer or truck before they go home.

Piglets infected with PED experience diarrhea and vomiting violent enough to kill them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed only about 400 cases of the disease in the lab, but its toll has already been estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

As a result, pork price futures have risen to historic levels, with hundredweights of pork going for about $105 in recent trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The USDA reports that the same amount of pork went for $78 in March.

Fox Business News reported that the prices for pork bellies, which are cured into bacon, have risen particularly fast.

On Tuesday, the wholesale price of a hundred pounds of fresh pork belly topped $189, 5 percent more than it was five days earlier and apparently at or near all-time highs.

Retail prices for bacon don’t track one-to-one with belly prices, Fox Business News reported, but they also have risen.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the price of a pound of bacon in urban supermarkets at $4.92 in June — up 14 percent from June 2012 and another all-time high.

NREL, Colombian oil firm unlocking ag waste feedstocks for biofuel

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is working with Ecopetrol, the largest oil company in Colombia, to process the residue from sugar cane and palm oil harvesting into fuel ethanol for blending with gasoline.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between NREL and Ecopetrol aims to optimize the conversion process for bagasse (the material left over after the sugars are removed from the sugar cane) and to analyze the economic case for commercial production of biofuel from these materials.

The CRADA will also include some limited study on palm rachis — the material left over after palm oil production.

The $2.3 million 18-month project is being funded by Ecopetrol, which turned to NREL for its expertise on conversion of biomass, its compositional analysis and techno-economic analysis capabilities, and NREL’s unique facilities.

NREL has a pilot plant at its Golden, Colo., campus that has conversion capabilities from lab scale to pilot scale, processing up to one ton per day of biomass – everything from corn stover to switchgrass and poplar trees.

Colombia has an abundance of biomass in the form of sugar cane.

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 02:41PM Published Sep 16, 2013 09:54AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.