News Update
December 16, 2005

FSIS confirms significant decrease in E. coli rates in raw ground beef

Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) officials reaffirmed previously published numbers showing a dramatic, sustained decrease in the rate of E. coli O157:H7 positive test results on raw ground beef, Meat AMI reported.

FSIS confirmed its previous estimate of a 54% reduction in the rate of E. coli positives for raw ground beef samples from fiscal year (FY) 2003 to FY 2005. Further analysis of the numbers proves they are accurate, the article continued.

In a letter to the editor of the December Journal of Food Protection, FSIS said it believes the decreased rate of positives likely resulted from policy changes and industry actions, instead of annual variation in rates.

Idaho may lose its brucellosis-free status

Idaho animal health officials have depopulated two eastern Idaho beef cattle herds due to brucellosis infections and are awaiting word from federal officials as to whether the state will lose its brucellosis-free status, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Animals from the second herd were traced to the herd that first tested positive for brucellosis (Bang’s disease), the article notes. Idaho, which has been brucellosis-free since 1991, would lose its brucellosis-free status if the herds were counted separatley, John Chatburn, Idaho’s deputy administrator for animals industries, said.

In October, the Idaho Department of Agriculture quarantined a herd of more than 40 animals in Swan Valley, eight of which were later determined to be brucellosis reactors. A traceout from that herd found six other animals that had left the herd and were sold through livestock markets. One of those animals sold was a brucellosis reactor and had been placed in a feedlot with 17 other cattle. Animals in the Swan Valley herd, those identified through the traceout and those identified at the feedlot were all depopulated.

“We haven’t heard from USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) whether that (the feedlot pen of 17) will qualify as a second herd,” Chatburn said.

FAPRI says WTO plan is good news for livestock producers

The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) has analyzed the U.S. proposal for the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks and produced a report on how it might affect U.S. farmers if it becomes the blueprint for the agriculture portion of the talks, reported.

“What the United States wants is more market access and less subsidized competition,” FAPRI analyst Pat Westhoff said. “What other countries ask is that the U.S. sharply reduce domestic price and income supports to our farmers.”

Returns to U.S. beef producers are virtually unchanged with reduced domestic supports. However, with increased exports, beef producers gain $31 per head on market-weight steers, the article said.

“Livestock producers clearly gain the most under the trade scenarios,” FAPRI analyst Scott Brown said. “Higher livestock income translates into increased production — and in the end, increased domestic demand for crops that are fed to livestock.”

USDA to conduct cattle herd survey

Statisticians from USDA will soon be taking a count of the nation’s cattle herd. Staff of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will conduct the 2006 Cattle Survey this winter to gather data about the cattle inventory in all states, reported.

Cattle operations will be asked to provide information on their livestock during the reporting period, from Dec. 29 to Jan. 12.

The herd information allows USDA and the cattle industry to be more responsive to the American and international public, increase consumer understanding and awareness, and establish an appreciation for the safety and health benefits of U.S. beef, the articles said.

NASS says that all survey responses are kept confidential, and data from individual operations will not be disclosed.

NASS will publish the 2006 Cattle Report with state and national estimates of cattle operations in January 2006. Copies of the report will be available at or by calling 1-800-727-9540.

— compiled by Meghan Soderstrom, Angus Productions Inc.

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