Future Looks Bright with Young Cattlemen’s Club

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Group Educates Fellow Students About Cattle

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

If their attendance at the California Cattlemen’s Association’s 100th Annual Convention was any indication, the future is bright for the next generation of cattlemen and cattlewomen. We spoke to Veronica Staggs, a junior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, about why she’s a member of the Young Cattlemen’s Club and what they are doing to educate students about the cattle industry.

Veronica Stacks, member of the Cal Poly San Luis Obisop Young Cattlemen's Club
Veronica Staggs, member of the Cal Poly San Luis Obisop Young Cattlemen’s Club

The club, which is a chapter of the California Young Cattlemen, has about more than 50 members, with both those who grew up on cattle ranches and many who just have a passion for livestock agriculture, Staggs said

Staggs, who is studying animal science at Cal Poly with the goal of becoming a livestock veterinarian, is one of those who doesn’t haven’t a background in cattle.

“I actually love cattle, but it’s a great industry to go into and to be a vet for because the people you work with are just so nice, and so genuine, and they’re so easy to work with,” Staggs said.

The prospect of working with cattle ranchers was a main reason that drew her to studying animal sciences.

“I just think that cattle ranchers are super easy people to work with,” Staggs said. “They’re super genuine. You can work well with them. They treat you like family, so I think being a vet for cattle ranchers would just be a super great job.”

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is well-known for a great agriculture program in general. The Young Cattlemen’s Club does their part to get to engage fellow ag students about the cattle industry.

“We do a lot of networking with people not a part of agriculture to show them what’s going on,” Staggs said. “And most of them are pretty receptive to it, and actually get interested in what’s going on and seeing how their food reaches their table.

Recently, the club even brought a calf into the student union to let people meet the animal and to educate the public about food animals. The Young Cattlemen also use social media to get their message across.

“We try to put a lot of information out there for them, because we think that it’s important for everyone to understand how food reaches their table and that it’s not just from a super market,” Staggs said.

USDA Designates Imperial County as Primary Natural Disaster Area

Drought-Ridden Imperial County Named Primary Natural Disaster Area 

TODAY, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Imperial County in California as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

“Our hearts go out to those California farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling California producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Imperial County, CA
Imperial County, CA

Farmers and ranchers in Riverside and San Diego Counties in California also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

Farmers and ranchers in La Paz and Yuma Counties in Arizona also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas TODAY, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Secretary Ross Signs Landmark Trade Agreement

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross signed a cooperative trade agreement with officials from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) in Mexico City. This agreement is a follow-up to the Governor’s Trade Mission that occurred earlier this year.

The trade agreement includes a number of trade priorities that address such diverse issues as cross-border trade delays, technical dialogue related to beef and organic trade, agricultural cooperative extension outreach, and climate change collaboration.

SAGARPA Mexico

“Mexico is a vital partner for California agriculture,” said Secretary Ross. “Further collaboration between our countries will enhance the opportunities within the agricultural sector for farmers and ranchers in both of our nations.”

The agreement follows months of dialogue between CDFA and SAGARPA that culminated in a meeting between Secretary Ross and Secretary Enrique Martinez at the Produce Marketing Association trade show in Anaheim at the end of October.

California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation, with more than $18 billion in food and agricultural exports. Mexico is California’s fifth largest export destination valued at $888 million. Over the last ten years, agricultural exports to Mexico have increased three-fold.

Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

California and Mexico – a win-win relationship

By: Karen Ross, California Agriculture Secretary

It speaks volumes that during our meetings in Mexico, the notion of “ganar-ganar,” or a “win-win” relationship was mentioned more than once. Our discussions have focused not only on building stronger trade relationships between our two markets, but in also in capitalizing on the shared resources of our people, climate and economy. A strong and growing Mexican market is a win for California and a win for Mexico.

In our meeting with Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food  we discussed the great opportunities for cooperation between our two markets that can have long lasting benefits for both of our economies. Working collaboratively to solve cross-border trade delays that impact businesses on both sides of the border is an issue that can be resolved. Further, we wish to explore opportunities that jointly leverage our resources and production capacity.

We can no longer consider a California/Mexico divide. We need to see how cooperation can benefit us both in the long-run. I’ve committed to SAGARPA that within the next 60 days we will have progress in moving forward with a collaborative relationship that involves the public and business sectors finding solutions to cross-border issues that benefit both markets and producers.

Following our meetings with SAGARPA we had the pleasure of meeting with Walmart Mexico and Central America. The company also stressed cooperation and a “win-win” relationship that California and Mexico can share.

In celebrating the successes of the 20th Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we should also celebrate the ongoing trade benefits of this relationship. Demonstrating this success, Walmart shared that their imports of U.S. produce has increased more than 10 percent each year for the last three years. This underscores that Mexico’s economy is growing and California is benefiting.

I look forward to furthering our trade relationship and cooperation with Mexico. It can be a “win-win” relationship like no other.

Legislation Update

The National Pork Producers Council reported today:

 

HOUSE POSTPONES ACTION ON AGRICULTURAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL

The House this week began considering the fiscal 2015 funding bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, but postponed a final vote on it so that Republicans can sort out their leadership issues in the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to step down from his post after losing his primary election for the Virginia 7th Congressional District seat. The legislation includes $20.9 billion in discretionary money, which is equal to the fiscal 2014 level, and $121.3 billion for mandatory spending for federal food programs. NPPC helped secure in the House Appropriations Committee-approved bill language that prohibits USDA from implementing certain burdensome provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill related to the buying and selling of livestock under the Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Act. Additionally, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, requested and was able to include funding for research on porcine endemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) funding to better understand the transmission of the disease. NPPC is thankful of Rep. Latham and Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., for the inclusion of these important funds.

 

LIVESTOCK HAULERS RECEIVE ONE-YEAR EXEMPTION FROM DOT ‘HOURS OF SERVICE’ RULE

The U.S. Department of Transportation last Friday granted truck drivers hauling livestock and poultry a one-year exemption from an hours-of-service rule that took effect last July 1. The regulation requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of service. For drivers transporting livestock and poultry, the hours of service included loading and unloading animals. NPPC hailed the move as a victory for animal welfare, as summer temperatures can cause livestock health problems, particularly for pigs, which do not sweat. NPPC is also appreciative of Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for recognizing the importance of the issue for livestock farmers and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his efforts to secure the exemption. Click here to read the rule.

 

HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING AFTER COMMENT EXTENSION GRANTED

NPPC Chief Environmental Counsel Michael Formica drafted a petition signed by 72 other agricultural groups in support of an extension. Under EPA’s proposal, the agency would redefine the term “waters of the United States” to include intermittent and ephemeral streams, and expand jurisdiction into farm fields and farm drainage. This would significantly impact agricultural operations, requiring permits and giving activists and regulators authority to dictate farm production practices. Prior to issuing these extensions, NPPC hosted EPA representatives at the World Pork Expo to meet with the NPPC Board of Directors and learn firsthand about farming. EPA visited farms in North Central Iowa to better understand farmers’ concerns regarding the apparent impact of these proposals and the need to work together with farmers to clarify EPA’s intent and minimize the unintended impacts on farmers and ranchers who have worked their families land for generations.

 

SMALL BUSINESS EXPENSING LEGISLATION APPROVED

The House Thursday approved on a 277-144 vote H.R. 4457, the “America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014,” which would permanently extend the tax code’s small business expensing provision – Section 179 – at a level of $500,000. Since 2003, Congress increased the amount of investment that small businesses can expense from $25,000 to $500,000. Legislation expanding and/or extending the provision was enacted eight times, but the expensing limits were temporary, and, beginning in 2014, the amount reverted to $25,000. NPPC joined dozens of other agricultural and business organizations in urging House lawmakers to approve the tax legislation. In a June 9 letter to bill sponsors Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Ron Kind, D-Wis., the groups said permanent extension of Section 179 would increase investment and jobs, reduce tax complexity and paperwork and alleviate uncertainty for business owners, farmers and ranchers.

 

SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS

The Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday held a hearing titled “A National Priority: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs to our Nation’s Health, Much of the discussion focused on the military turning away recruits and discharging service members because of poor health (known as the “Too Fat to Fight” epidemic) as well as on how reduced school lunch programs help students perform better in school. Witnesses included U.S. Air Force (Ret.) General Richard Hawley; National Parent Teacher Association President Otha Thornton; Dr. Stephen R. Cook, associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Francis Scott Key Middle School Principal Yolanda Stanislaus. Click here to read testimonies and watch the hearing. Congress is in the beginning stages of reauthorizing the national school lunch program, and NPPC continues to promote pork as a lean healthy protein that should continue to be included in school lunches.

 

HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS TRADE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS AGRICULTURE TRADE HEARING

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Wednesday held a hearing titled “Advancing the U.S. Trade Agenda: Benefits of Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports.” In his opening remarks, Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., voiced his concern that Japan was not being held to the standards that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation free trade agreement (FTA) of Pacific Rim countries, set out to meet. “If any countries insist on retaining tariffs, then we must complete the negotiations without them and allow them to rejoin when they can commit to full tariff elimination,” said Chairman Nunes. Japan continues to demand certain products, including pork, be excluded from tariff elimination. In addition to being the largest value market for U.S. pork exports ($1.89 billion in 2013), Japan is the fourth largest market for the rest of U.S. agriculture, which shipped $12.1 billion of food and agricultural products to the island nation in 2013. A final TPP agreement that does not eliminate all tariffs and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork products will negatively affect U.S. pork exports for the next 20 years, meaning billions of dollars less in U.S. pork sales and tens of thousands fewer U.S. jobs. For NPPC to support a final TPP agreement, Japan needs to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork and pork products NPPC expressed its concerns to the subcommittee in written testimony. To read testimonies from the hearing, click here.

 

DR. GAMBLE PARTICIPATES IN CODEX WORKING GROUP

Dr. Ray Gamble, president ex officio of the International Commission on Trichinellosis, traveled to Tokyo, Japan, May 28-30 to participate in meetings as part of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene’s physical working group tasked with drafting a document on parasites in food. Dr. Gamble provided invaluable expertise to the US Delegation which was led by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Currently, some trade partners such as the European Union and South Africa impose unnecessary trichinae mitigation steps on the United States’ pork industry.  According to Dr. Gamble’s studies, there is virtually no risk for trichinae in the United States. A Codex document that creates counterproductive international standards on parasites would be burdensome on the U.S. pork industry. NPPC looks forward to working with FSIS as this document develops.

 

NPB’S LARSEN TRAVELS TO FINLAND

Steve Larsen, National Pork Board’s Director of Pork Safety, traveled to Kirkkonummi, Finland, June 4-6 to participate in an informal scientific colloquium of researchers/university academics, industry and government officials to hear how countries use Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) and their issues. The committee is planning to propose a new work item aimed at updating the Codex Alimentarius’s General Principles of Food Hygiene, more specifically its Annex on HACCP. The group of HAACP experts will draft a discussion paper on if there is a need to make revisions and will present their findings at the next CCFH meeting this November.

Ranchers Concerned About Invasion of Medusahead Weed on Foothill Rangeland

Source: Jeannette E. Warnert

One of the worst rangeland weeds in the West is aptly named after a monster in Greek mythology that has writhing snakes instead of hair.

Medusahead, an unwelcome transplant from Europe, is anathema to the cattle living off rangeland grass. The weed’s three-inch-long bristles poke and sometimes injure the animals’ mouths and eyes.

The weed is also low-quality forage for livestock. When medusahead takes over rangeland, it reduces the forage value by 80 percent.

When Fadzayi Mashiri, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Mariposa, Merced and Madera counties, was appointed in 2013, she became the first natural resources and rangeland expert to hold the position since the retirement of Wain Johnson more than a decade before.

She polled local ranchers to determine their most pressing problems. They said weed management, and in particular, medusahead.

Medusahead is relatively easy to identify on the range. It has distinctive stiff awns and a seed head that does not break apart as seeds mature. Patches of medusahead are obvious when spring turns into summer.

“Medusahead stays green after most of the annual grasses have dried off,” Mashiri said.

Medusahead has high silica content, making it unpalatable to cattle. The silica also protects the plant from decomposition, so a thick thatch builds up on the rangeland, suppressing more desirable species, but not the germination of the next year’s medusahead seedlings.

Over the years, UC scientists have discovered a number of medusahead control strategies:

  •  Corral cows on medusahead before the plant heads out or employ sheep to graze medusahead patches. It’s not sheep’s favorite forage either, but they will eat if left with no other option.
  • Prescribed burning in late spring or early summer. However, this strategy poses air quality and liability issues.
  • Apply nitrogen fertilizer to medusahead to improve palatability before it flowers, which is showing promise for controlling the weed and boosting the value of infested rangeland.
  • Chemical control.

In spring 2014, Mashiri conducted a demonstration field trial in Mariposa County of medusahead control with the herbicide Milestone, which was developed by Dow AgroSciences mainly to control broadleaf weeds like yellow starthistle.

The trial followed rangeland weed control research done by scientists including Joe DiTomaso, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. DiTomaso found that the density of medusahead in treated areas declined and concluded that Milestone prevents medusahead seedlings from thriving.

Unfortunately, Milestone treatment of large rangeland areas is expensive.

“But if the value of forage declines, the productivity of livestock is compromised,” Mashiri said. “When you look at it that way, the chemical treatment might be useful.”

Meat Price Trends Point to Increase in Poultry Sales

By: Ching Lee; Ag Alert

The Memorial Day weekend usually kicks off the summer grilling season, and Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, said he expects shoppers will look more to chicken and other poultry products this year as less expensive protein alternatives to beef and pork.

“The barbecue season is a big time for chicken,” he said. “We think prices will probably go up for chicken, but not at all like we’re seeing in beef and pork.”

With the U.S. cattle herd at its lowest in more than 60 years—made worse in recent years by drought-related downsizing—and the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus lowering U.S. pork production, market analysts say poultry meats are poised to fill that market gap.

The bright outlook for poultry producers is expected to continue into 2015, as U.S. beef production is forecast to drop by nearly 6 percent this year, while pork production will also fall by as much as 7 percent, according to the Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory division.

William Sawyer, an analyst with Rabobank, said although overall U.S. meat consumption has declined in recent years—even before the recession—chicken consumption has stayed relatively stable and is now growing.

“That’s been largely driven by the fact that beef prices have risen significantly more than chicken has,” he said.

With the price of ground beef eclipsing that of chicken breast, Sawyer noted that fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s are taking advantage of poultry’s lower price points by offering more new menu items featuring chicken.

Given how expensive it is to raise cattle compared to chicken in terms of feed cost, Sawyer said he expects chicken will continue to gain market share.

“Once consumers have the appetite for value, which is what we’ve seen in the growth in the chicken sector, it’s unlikely that beef is going to regain that per-capita consumption that it’s lost in the last seven or eight years,” he added.

Sawyer said consumers who buy specialty products such as organic, free-range or antibiotic-free are much less sensitive to price changes anyway, so producers who raise birds for these markets are not as impacted by current price trends in the conventional market.

Although USDA projects U.S. pork production will bounce back from the PED virus next year with a growth of 2.9 percent, beef production is expected to continue to decline, as ranchers retain their heifers in an effort to expand their herds.

That means meat prices will likely remain strong—and with lower corn prices, poultry producers will still have incentive to increase production, Sawyer said.

In addition, U.S. chicken exports, which take up 20 percent of total production, are expected to continue to grow, particularly to Mexico, and that will also help to support higher chicken prices, Sawyer said.

“So the outlook is very positive and very profitable,” he added.