Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has put together an emergency task force consisting of most of his cabinet as well as Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain to find a strategy that would mitigate Pilgrim’s Pride’s decision to close its northeastern Louisiana operations and lay of 1,300 people. The top priority for the team is to find a buyer for the properties, including processing and protein conversion plants in Farmerville, hatcheries in Choudrant and Athens and a feed mill in Arcadia. Almost 300 independent growers would also be affected if those facilities are shut down, and Pilgrim’s has previously announced it will shut down operation in northeastern Louisiana within 60 to 75 days, reports theMonroe News Star.

“We’ve got a full-court press on doing everything we can,” Strain said. He added Pilgrim’s chief executive Don Jackson told him the company would accept between $65 million and $70 million for the northeastern Louisiana plants.

Earlier this week, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said a group of buyers were interested in acquiring Pilgrim’s El Dorado plant, which is also scheduled to be closed down. However, the poultry processor stated that it had not received any ‘meaningful’ offers. Strain believed the buyers offered just $10 million for the plant. “The company isn’t going to have a fire sale for pennies on the dollar and then face a new competitor,” Strain said.

Another possibility, Strain noted is that the growers may form a co-op and buy the plant themselves, but that would require the state’s participation in financing.

Source: Monroe (La.) News Star

USDA Awards $11 million for animal genomics research

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded more than $11 million in grants to 15 states to support research, education and outreach in animal genomics that will enhance the protection and safety of agriculture and the food supply.

“President Obama understands that to remain globally competitive in the livestock business and to continue to produce safe, nutritious products from livestock requires the application of cutting-edge genetics and breeding programs,” Vilsack said. “Investing in good basic and applied research will help pinpoint genetic differences that result in superior animal products of the best quality for the consumer.”

Successful application of this research will reduce the number and severity of animal disease outbreaks and decrease dependence on the widespread use of antibiotics. The Fiscal Year 2008 projects were awarded through USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) National Research Initiative Animal Genome Program which seeks to develop sound, practical, science-based knowledge that can be shared with other researchers, farmers and consumers of U.S. animal products.

Fiscal Year 2008 animal genome grants were awarded to: Auburn University ($725,000); University of California, Davis ($550,000); University of California, Davis ($10,000); University of Southern California ($711,884); University of Delaware ($125,000); University of Georgia ($449,575); Iowa State University ($10,000); Iowa State University ($909,439); Iowa State University ($749,345); University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ($449,421) USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS)/Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Md. ($625,000); University of Maryland ($906,098); USDA, ARS/Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL), Mich. ($875,000); USDA, ARS/ADOL ($448,552); University of Minnesota ($549,999); University of Minnesota ($447,633); University of Missouri ($125,000); Texas A&M University ($313,516); Texas A&M University ($125,000); Utah State University ($629,471); Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University ($585,613); Washington State University ($450,000); University of Wisconsin, Madison ($10,000); University of Wisconsin, Madison ($401,651)

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Consumers confident about beef safety

According to the results of a national survey released today, consumers are confident in the safety of their ground beef, steaks and roasts despite a rise in their overall concern about food safety in recent months. More than eight in 10 of those respondents agreed that the entire beef industry is working together to ensure safe and wholesome food.

More than two-thirds of consumers in this survey say they believe the number of food recalls and food-borne illnesses is on the rise, especially on the heels of recall news related to peanut products. Just 49 percent of consumers answered in the same way in November 2008.

When asked specifically about the beef industry’s efforts to improve beef safety, 81 percent agreed that the entire beef industry – from farmers and ranchers to processors and retailers – is working together to provide consumers with safe, wholesome food. 78 percent of consumers also agreed that safeguards developed by beef industry scientists have made ground beef safer than ever.
The national survey of 1,023 Americans had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent and was funded by The Beef Checkoff. The survey results were released in conjunction with the sixth annual Beef Industry Safety Summit, held this week in San Diego.

“We’re pleased that consumers recognize the work the industry is doing to protect food safety,” said James O. Reagan, Ph.D., chairman of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo) and senior vice president of research, education and innovation for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “At the first Summit, we pledged to tackle the challenge of eliminating food-borne pathogens from the beef supply, and we remain committed to that promise.”

Source: The Beef Checkoff
By Sam Gazdziak