AgDay Daily Recap - March 29, 2012

March 29, 2012 08:32 AM

MARCH 29, 2012


Good morning I’m Clinton Griffiths. Lawmakers are coming to the defense of an embattled beef processor over its use of lean, finely textured beef. This morning a coalition of governors will be touring a processing plant owned by beef products incorporated. That South Dakota-based company is at the center of the debate over a ground beef product that's treated with an ammonia-water mist to combat bacteria. Critics call it "pink slime". The industry calls it LFTB. On Wednesday, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad spoke out on behalf of Beef-Products Inc. BPI developed the process to use the treated beef remnants 20 years ago. In the past two weeks, supermarket chains and restaurants backed-off from their use of the USDA-approved beef product. With dwindling demand, the company suspended operations at its plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa. It also cut back operations at its main office in South Dakota. Governors of those states released a joint statement in support of BPI. It says "By taking this safe product out of the market, grocery retailers and consumers are allowing media sensationalism to trump sound science." A group of governors plan to tour BPI's main plant in South Dakota today to show their support for the company and its workers. At a news conference Wednesday, Iowa's governor had harsh words for the non-ag media. Despite the secretary's support for LFTB, his department is now giving school districts the choice to opt out of using the beef product.

Earlier this week, BPI announced it was suspending operations on the LFTB-product line at three plants, including this one in Waterloo. Iowa. So there's no confusion, BPI's operations are located within the Tyson foods complex in waterloo. BPI is a separate company and is not owned by Tyson. On Tuesday, BPI workers spoke-out about their product.

In our Beef Today Report - what long-term impact might there be if lean finely textured beef is not welcomed by consumers? Other beef processors say removing LFTB is equal to 850 million pounds or 1.5 million head of cattle. Simply put, it's going to lower already tight supplies. Part of the reason for the shortages is a shrinking national herd. The U.S. cattle population is at its lowest point since the 1950's. Add in last year's severe drought and numbers took an even bigger hit. But with recent rains, pastures and attitudes are perking up. Demand for stockers and replacement heifers are already driving prices higher. According to recent analysis, nationwide bred heifers are selling for an average of 1,400 dollars.

Rebuilding the herd is going take keeping a close eye on feed costs. In Kentucky a mild winter helped producers manage those expenses. Thanks to the University of Kentucky Extension, many were able to extend grazing thanks to rotational grazing. Jeff Franklin has the story. Thanks Jeff. Greg Reynolds says the keys to rotational grazing success are good fencing and a strong fence charger. The Kentucky grazing school happens twice a year.

Chris Hurt

April begins in just a couple of days. And you better mark your calendars, as April is 'grilled cheese month'. I'm not sure there's a card at the hallmark store to mark such an occasion. So perhaps your next best option would be to visit a restaurant that specializes in that kind of sandwich. Provided by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, we visit a Milwaukee bistro where gourmet grilled cheese is all the rave. Mmmm. Looks good. Food and Your Family is next.

We've got a Farmer's Feeding the World update this morning. The not for profit foundation is not only feeding people around the globe but here at home. This month in Cedar Rapids Farmer's Feeding the World was honored at the Iowa Celebration of Agriculture Dinner. The 26th annual event pays tribute to farmers, ag leaders and agribusinesses. Together the group raised nearly $12,000 for farmer's feeding the world. In turn FFW gave a third of it directly to a central Iowa food bank. Attendees believe its money well spent.

And it might be a little early in the morning, but grain growers may want to know about a booming market. The craft beer business...according to the Brewers Association, is rapidly expanding. While overall beer sales have been flat, craft brewers saw retail sales jump 15% last year. The small batch, independent brewers racked up 8.7 billion dollars worth of business. It now makes up 5% of the beer market's volume...or 11.5 million barrels. As of last month there were 2,000 breweries operating in the U.S.

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