Japanese Announcement Triggers Industry Response
This morning’s announcement that Japan would halt U.S. beef imports has set the industry abuzz, as different sectors prepare for the consequences of a recently discovered shipment of U.S. beef containing the backbone, or vertebral column. (See “Japan Halts U.S. Imports.”)
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has released additional comments, stating, “I have talked with Ambassador Kato, and I expressed our regret and informed him of our actions. I also offered to provide, in writing, an outline of our actions and the results of our investigation into this matter.”
Johanns announced that he is requiring all U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) beef inspectors to undergo additional training to ensure they are fully aware of all export agreement requirements. USDA staff are also coordinating a meeting of representatives from all U.S. processing plants that export beef to review export requirements.
“While this is not a food safety issue, this is an unacceptable failure on our part to meet the requirements of our agreement with Japan,” Johanns stated. “We take this matter seriously, recognizing the importance of our beef export market, and we are acting swiftly and firmly.”
Terry Stokes, chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), also released a statement today, saying, “As beef producers, we take the matter of beef safety and trade protocol very seriously, and we insist this situation be fully investigated. We support USDA in taking the immediate necessary steps to see that this violation is addressed and that every assurance is given to Japanese government and consumers that U.S. beef remains safe.
“It’s important to remember what’s being investigated is a technical violation, not a beef safety issue,” Stokes added. “The bottom line for our consumers around the world remains the same: U.S. beef is safe. The world’s leading scientists, medical professionals and government officials agree that BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is not a public health risk in the United States.”
Singapore Reopens Market to U.S. Beef
Secretary Johanns announced yesterday that Singapore will resume the import of U.S. boneless beef products from animals under 30 months of age.
It remains uncertain whether actions taken today will affect Singapore’s decision to lift its ban.
According to USDA, the United States exported $5.9 million of beef and beef products to Singapore in 2003, with boneless beef exports accounting for nearly $4 million.
Tyson to Offer Certified Angus Beef® Natural
Tyson Foods Inc. and Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) are teaming up to provide Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) Natural beef, the two organizations announced earlier this week.
Tyson will also soon begin offering Star Ranch Natural Angus Beef.
“Consumer demand for natural beef is increasing, and we believe there’s an opportunity for us to grow with it,” said Noel White, group vice president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “While we have every confidence in our traditional beef products, we also believe in giving our customers a choice.”
According to Tyson, the beef products will come from cattle that have never received antibiotics or hormones and have been given a 100% grass and grain diet. They will be black Angus, source-verified to birth and fed in “natural”-designated feedyards. The Beef Marketing Group (BMG), a cooperative of Kansas and Nebraska feedyards, is the first cattle-feeding organization to participate in the initiative.
Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly known as IBP Inc., became a licensed CAB packer in 1992. It is the leading supplier of CAB products to U.S. and international foodservice and retail industries.
“The joint commitment by BMG, Tyson and CAB to produce CAB brand Natural raises the bar for production standards and product quality for all natural beef brands,” Jim Riemann, CAB president, said. “This joint effort gives consumers a choice that will exceed their expectations for natural beef products.”
Tyson-supplied CAB brand Natural and Star Ranch Natural products will be available to retail and foodservice customers on a limited basis beginning in February. The products are expected to complement the traditional offering in the retail meatcase and also meet the demands of natural foods retailers.
USDA Continues Efforts To Safeguard the Food Supply
UDSA announced Tuesday additional efforts in collaboration with states and private industry to protect the nation’s food supply from terrorist threats.
“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply remains a top priority for President Bush and USDA,” said Richard Raymond, USDA undersecretary for food safety. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our federal, state and private sector partners so that we can keep our agricultural commodities safe.”
According to a USDA release, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will conduct five critical food defense exercises this year, to be completed by September’s end. The exercises are designed to practice reporting a non-routine incident while coordinating with all levels of government, non-governmental agencies and the private sector in an incident command system structure. These exercises will challenge all participants to collaborate more closely and become better prepared to keep the food supply safe.
Additional information about agrosecurity can be found at www.usda.gov/homelandsecurity.
USDA Offers Cost Offset for Completion of EQIP Practices
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner yesterday announced $40 million for one-time payment adjustments that will allow eligible Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) participants to complete conservation practices that have been delayed because of recent increases in energy prices.
“There are many conservation practices that farmers and ranchers have put on hold because of increasing energy prices,” Conner stated. “This adjustment will help our producers to fully implement those practices, which will increase the protection of our natural resources and, in some cases, lessen the impact of high energy prices by reducing producers’ need for energy and energy-related inputs.”
The assistance is part of USDA’s effort to mitigate the effects of high energy costs on agricultural producers. The USDA energy strategy was announced on Dec. 7, 2005, in response to concerns raised during the nationwide USDA Farm Bill Forum tour.
The one-time adjustment will apply to participants who signed EQIP contracts in 2004 or earlier. The increase in payment will apply to specific practices that have been most affected by spikes in the cost of concrete, steel, plastic pipe and other construction materials. The increase will only be paid for practices that are completed between March 1 and June 30, 2006, and will focus on specific practices that have escalated in price by 20% or more because of rising energy costs.
For more information on this one-time adjustment, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov or visit a USDA Service Center.
compiled by Crystal Albers, associate editor, Angus Productions Inc.
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