August 2017
Ag Insight

Ag Insight

Brazilian Beef Imports Suspended

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the suspension of all imports of fresh beef from Brazil due to recurring concerns about the safety of products intended for the American market.

The suspension will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action that U.S. Department of Agriculture finds satisfactory.

Since March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving in the United States from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products. That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of 1 percent of shipments from the rest of the world.

Since implementation of the increased inspection, FSIS has refused entry to 106 lots (approximately 1.9 million pounds) of Brazilian beef products due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues. None of the rejected lots made it into the U.S. market, USDA officials emphasized.

The Brazilian government had pledged to address those concerns, including self-suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the United States. The USDA action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension.

 

Bee Colony Numbers Up Despite High Mortality Rates

 

Public attention in recent years has focused largely on mortality rates for bee colonies, but overall colony numbers have increased since 2006, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

The increase doesn’t erase the fact that honeybee mortality has remained high over the past decade. In 2006-07, approximately 30 percent of honeybee colonies were lost during the overwinter period (Oct. 1-April 1).

The overwinter loss rate has since diminished (22 percent in 2014-15), but over-summer losses have grown. The net result is that about 44 percent of colonies perished in 2015-16, compared to 36 percent in 2010-11.

Intensified beekeeper management practices, including splitting colonies, adding new queens and offering supplemental feeding, have contributed to the overall increase, the ERS said.

About one-third of the world’s food crop production depends on pollinators such as managed honeybees and over 3,500 species of native bees. These pollinators face a variety of stressors such as insect pests, pesticide exposure and habitat changes that can impact their health.

 

U.S. Beef Sales to China Resume

For the first time since 2003, the United States is shipping beef and beef products to China.

Resumption of the exports stems from talks between U.S. and Chinese officials and the resulting 100-day action plan announced earlier this year.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has posted the requirements for its export verification program for U.S. firms shipping to China, enabling packers to apply for approval to send products there. USDA’s FSIS also has updated its online export library specifying China’s requirements for certifying U.S. beef shipments.

China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. However, the United States has been banned from China’s market since 2003.

The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of over $5.4 billion in 2016. Until the ban took effect, the United States was China’s largest supplier of imported beef, providing 70 percent of that nation’s total intake.

 

Commodity-Price Declines Dominate After Years of Increases

 

Although prices for agricultural commodities have generally moved higher in the past decade, declines in both crops and livestock prices have dominated the farm scene in recent years.

In these aggregate measures, 2014 price indices for crops were over 35 percent above their 2006 levels, while those for livestock rose over 75 percent from 2006 to 2014.

Prices for both crops and livestock have fallen since 2015 (crop prices began falling earlier in 2013), as U.S. and global markets responded to higher prices by increasing production. While the aggregate prices received for all agricultural production dropped 17 percent, livestock and its related products fell by 26 percent since 2014.

The fall in prices for livestock coincides with declining input costs for feed commodities such as corn and soybeans. Additionally, this reflects the beginning of the recovery in the cattle and beef industry that had seen production declines since 2010.

 

Urban Workers’ Earnings Outpace Those in Rural Areas

 

An analysis by USDA’s Economic Research Service confirms that workers in urban areas have higher overall annual earnings than those in rural communities.

The gap between rural and urban earnings was largest in the producer service sector – including industries such as finance, insurance and real estate; information; and professional, administrative and related services.

For example, rural information workers earned about $20,000 less than their urban counterparts in 2015.

Contributing to the difference is the fact producer-service firms in urban areas employ more professional and managerial workers.

The rural-urban earnings gap was also relatively large in manufacturing, where rural areas have long been associated with lower skill and less technically advanced operations. Still, median earnings in rural manufacturing are above those for any other rural sector except mining.

The relatively high earnings in manufacturing jobs explain the continued emphasis many rural stakeholders place on attracting or retaining these jobs.

 

Hazlett to Lead USDA’s Rural Development Agencies

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named Anne Hazlett as head of USDA’s rural development agencies.

Formerly chief counsel to the majority on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Hazlett, whose title will be assistant to the secretary for rural development, will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service and the Rural Housing Service within USDA and report directly to the secretary.

The appointment is in keeping with a realignment of USDA Perdue announced earlier this year and represents an elevation of rural development, previously in the portfolio of an undersecretary, who in turn reported to the deputy secretary of agriculture.

An Indiana native, Hazlett has worked in both the U.S. House and Senate on agriculture and rural issues for over 15 years. In addition to her public service in Washington, she was the director of agriculture for her home state and was an advisor to former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on agriculture and rural issues.

Outside of public service, Hazlett was in private law practice where she advised clients on agriculture and environmental regulatory matters.

 

Alabama Receives Farm to School Grant

Alabama’s Department of Agriculture and Industries is one of 65 agencies nationwide that will receive USDA’s annual Farm to School Grants designed to increase the amount of local foods served in schools.

Ranging from $14,500 to $100,000, the grants will support a wide range of activities, from training, planning and developing partnerships to creating new menu items, establishing supply chains for local foods, offering taste tests to children, buying equipment, planting school gardens and organizing field trips to agricultural operations.

Alabama will use its $100,000 grant to assist farmers with certification in good agricultural practices, revise the state’s farm-to-school website, develop a statewide promotional campaign and support school garden curriculum development. The Druid City Garden Project will utilize funds to facilitate building mobile cooking units for schools to engage students in cooking demonstrations with produce grown in school gardens.

According to a recent study, schools with strong farm-to-school programs report higher school meal participation, reduced food waste and increased willingness of students to try new foods such as fruits and vegetables. During the 2013-2014 school year alone, schools purchased over $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers.