AgDay Daily Recap - February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012 07:17 AM

FEBRUARY 14, 2012

Good morning. The world's largest fast-food chain is taking a stand on the use of gestation crates in U.S. pork production. McDonald's Corporation announced Monday that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls. This move is being applauded by the animal activist group "Humane Society of the United States." In a statement from McDonalds, "the company says it believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future." further, it says "there are alternatives that the company thinks are better for the welfare of sows." McDonald’s says it's beginning an assessment with their U.S. suppliers to determine how to reach that goal of zero gestation crates. The company has told its suppliers to provide plans by May. After that, the fast-food chain says it will assess those plans and develop its own timeline. McDonald’s applauded Smithfield Foods and Cargill which announced plans in 2011 to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of crates. The National Pork Board - which oversees the Pork Check-off program - released a statement regarding McDonalds announcement. It says - in part - "Each housing system, including gestation stalls, open pens, free-access stalls and pastures, has welfare advantages and disadvantages that must be considered by an individual farmer." The National Pork Board says it's willing to share the results of research it has conducted in the areas of animal care and food safety, as McDonald’s begins implementing its decision.

In other news, U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 13.6 million acres of cotton this spring, down 7.5% from last year. That's according to the National Cotton Council's annual early season planting intentions survey. The Cotton Council attributes the acreage shift to more attractive crop options for some farmers, such as corn, soybeans and peanuts.

Last week NOAA reported this has been one of the fourth warmest winters on record in the Midwest. That doesn't come as any surprise to farmers. In fact the dryness that's accompanied those temperatures continues to be of concern, especially with tighter U.S. corn ending stocks showing up in last week's USDA crop report. As AgDay's Michelle Rook reports, this worries many farmers as they gear up to plant what could be a record corn crop of 95 million acres in 2012. Todey says the drought is not tied to La Nina. He says a split flow in the jet stream just kept any storm systems from getting into the northwestern Corn Belt

USDA released its final export totals for 2011 and they reveal a huge increase. Overall U.S. farm exports reached 136 billion dollars, up 20-billion from the previous year. Some of those positive numbers were in the dairy sector. Our reporting partners at dairy today say 2011 - as a whole - will go down as a record year for dairy exports in the U.S. For the year, on a value basis, U.S. dairy exports are up 30% to nearly five billion dollars. As the year ended, exports remained strong. December export values were up 23% over a year ago, and fourth quarter sales were up 28%.

In other dairy news, the lack of a free trade agreement between Australia and China is reducing the Aussie's share of the milk market. And New Zealand is benefitting from it. That’s according to the Murray Golburn Co-op, the largest dairy company in Australia. Australia and New Zealand compete for the same market share. Australia has not negotiated an FTA, so it pays tariffs as high as 15%. New Zealand only pays 6% right now. And the tariffs will phase out to zero in five years. And don't forget, for the very latest news affecting the dairy industry, including production and policy issues, check out

Darren Frye

Whether it's flowers, breakfast in bed or a dinner out at a restaurant, today we celebrate love. And those positive actions lead to positive feelings helped along by a chemical, yes a chemical in the brain. It's called dopamine and the brain releases it as a kind of reward for positive actions. As Clark Powell with Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital reports, now scientists are testing dopamine in the battle against the big C. Nothing like the gift of renewed health on this Valentine ’s Day. Thanks Clark. Researchers hope to test the concept on humans in the near future. Food and Your Family is Next.

In Food and Your Family, are the juices you give to your kids safe? New legislation proposed in congress would require the FDA to establish standards to limit the levels of arsenic and lead allowed in juices. The FDA however says it's been testing fruit juices for decades and ensures the majority of juices are safe. This proposed legislation comes just weeks after a consumer report magazine investigation found high levels of arsenic and lead in apple and grape juice products sold in three northeastern states.

Speaking of kids, are you looking for a source of calcium and whole grains for those growing kids at home? Kraft foods may have a new product that could do the trick. Kraft foods recently introduced the Milkbite, which is a snack bar that combines real milk and whole grain granola. Kraft foods say the Milkbite bars provide the same amount of calcium as an 8 ounce glass of milk. That's 30% of the daily recommended value.

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