AgDay Daily Recap - February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012 09:25 AM

FEBRUARY 13, 2012

The U.S. Ag Department tallied-up the final numbers and 2011 ended-up as a record year for exports of agricultural products. Total agricultural exports for the 2011 calendar year hit 136.3 billion dollars. That's 20-billion dollars higher than the previous year. USDA says the final numbers really come as no surprise, as the country was on a record pace through-out much of the year. USDA says there was a rise in both the value and volume of ag exports coming from the U.S. A weak American dollar made U.S. ag products attractive to many countries.

Also in 2011, congress finally approved - and the president signed - three free-trade-agreements. While not fully implemented, ag groups say those will help push U.S. ag exports even higher in the coming years. The next hurdle is the "Trans-Pacific-Partnership" trade deal which would open many doors in the Pacific Rim.

USDA says grains were the biggest contributor to the overall record. It was also a big year for cotton, dairy and pork exports.

Much of the success in the overall ag export numbers comes from the livestock sector. On Friday, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said exports of U.S. beef, pork and lamb set new highs across the board in 2011. It reached 11.5 billion dollars for the three products combined. For beef alone, there was a 20% increase in volume from 2010. And for the first time, beef exports climbed above five billion dollars. During the recent Cattlemen's Convention in Nashville, ranchers and trade groups were discussing how to build upon the 2011 success in beef exports. Even though, it's not fully implemented, the free-trade agreement which was signed last fall, will be felt in the beef sector.

Rodibaugh says the U.S. beef industry will benefit even further from exports when Japan eventually agrees to accept beef from animals 30-months or younger in age. Right now, they only accept animals 20 months or younger.

Keeping with trade, China moved into the top spot in 2011. It's the number one market for U.S. ag goods, buying near 20-billion dollars’ worth. This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host top Chinese officials during the first U.S. China Agricultural Symposium. The ag Secretary says strengthening the partnership with China's growing market is integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead. China's Vice President and Minister of Agriculture will attend the event being held in Des Moines, Iowa. Pro Farmer editor Chip Flory says China is key when discussing its impact on grain markets. Chip says China is self-sufficient on corn, but it must continue to import soybeans as the country is only able to provide 20% of what it consumes.

Secretary Vilsack may need start focusing on farm labor. A new study from the American Farm Bureau says the pending labor shortage is putting billions of dollars in jeopardy. AFBF just released an economic analysis. It found American farmers could lose 5 to 9 billion dollars a year if employee shortages can't be filled. A University of Georgia report says that state alone lost nearly 400 million dollars last year due to crop rot. Out in Arizona Kevin Rogers says without changes in Washington farms in his area will be in trouble as well.

An organization dedicated to humane treatment of family pets is calling for an investigation of HSUS. The Center for Consumer Freedom want's the Federal Trade Commission to look into deceptive fundraising. The organization says HSUS runs ads portraying sad looking dogs and cats yet most of its money is used to push an activist animal rights agenda.

Livestock growers in Idaho are paying attention to a new bill making its way through the legislature. Anyone caught abusing animals three times would face felony charges. The cattle group backing the legislation is trying to stem a ballot vote pushed by an animal welfare group. Their plan would make animal cruelty a felony on a first offense.

Brian Doherty

For many local candy-makers, valentine’s week can make or break their year. It's a big challenge for chocolate makers. This week, consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate, ringing up 345 million-dollars in sales. A Missouri small business owner is having some sweet success because of his love of chocolate. Kent Faddis with the University of Missouri Extension has more. There are more than a half million small businesses in Missouri. If you would to learn more about the program that helped that candy-maker, check out Food and Your Family is next.

In Food and Your Family it appears U.S. adults are eating healthier fats. A new study shows blood levels of trans-fatty acids are down nearly 60% since 2000. The findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The CDC compared the trans-fatty acid levels in Caucasian adults from 2000 to 2009. Researchers say the shift may be a result of a mandate that on food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fatty acids on the nutrition label. Doctors say the big drop should improve the risk of heart disease for many adults.

And we've told you about the company that created a genetically modified salmon.
Now some consumer groups want the FDA to take a closer look before it ends up in the food supply. A company called Aquabounty genetically modified Atlantic salmon with genes from pacific salmon and the eel like ocean pout. The fish grows twice as fast as normal and eats about a quarter of the amount of food. Consumer groups want the FDA to consider the salmon like it would a food additive. Right now it's going through the new animal drug process--which regulates transgenic animals. So far approval of the gm salmon is moving forward.

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