The Taiwan health department’s decision to allow shipments of U.S. bone-in beef and intestines has led to many health groups and opposing political parties to protest the decision, claiming that the country is ignoring health risks and bowing to U.S. pressure.

The country’s ruling Kuomintang caucus demanded that the health minister step down for lifting the ban without the parliament’s consent and threatened to freeze the health department’s budget, AFP reports. The minister, Yang Chih-liang, said he would step down if there was a demand for it.

Taiwan’s premier, Wu Den-yih, said that the country’s government will ensure that the agreement will not adversely affect local cattle producers. "One of our top guidelines in U.S. beef trade negotiations has been that we will not relax restrictions beyond what have been applied in the U.S. proper, the European Union, Canada and South Korea, " Wu argued, adding that the government has not budged from this stance in the whole process.

The Democratic Progressive Party, the opposing political party, has vowed to stop the imports. A spokesman for the party said that the Kuomintang government has ignored public health concerns. 'The decision was irresponsible... once such imports are done, it may have grave impacts on the people's health,' he said. The DPP has threatened to boycott an upcoming budget debate if the ban is not reinstated.

Lawmakers across party lines have demanded that the country’s Department of Health deliver a report on the issue to the Legislative Yuan, according to the Central News Agency. Legislators may reluctantly accept bone-in beef, but import of beef offal, including intestines, brains and spinal cords may not be permitted, despite the agreement with the U.S. stating otherwise.

Sources: AFP, Central News Agency, The Straits Times

Two calls for WTO mediation blocked

The European Union has blocked U.S. efforts to have the World Trade Organization decide whether the EU’s ban on American poultry breaks global trade rules. The EU won’t be able to block a second request, which will likely be next month, Bloomberg reports.

The EU has banned imports of American chicken since 1997 under claims that the U.S. uses pathogen-reduction treatments that are not allowed in the EU. Under the WTO dispute claims, the EU is able to block one attempt at setting up a panel of judges to rule on the complaint, but it can’t block a second attempt. If a WTO panel rules that the EU ban is not allowed, it will either have to drop the ban or face retaliatory tariffs on its own products.

The U.S., meanwhile, blocked Canada and Mexico’s request for a WTO panel to rule on the U.S. country-of-origin labeling law. Similarly to the U.S.-EU poultry dispute, the countries are expected to file a second request next month.

Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters

Sanderson Farms extends stock repurchase program to 1 million shares

Sanderson Farms Inc. announced that its Board of Directors expanded its stock repurchase program to 1 million shares. The Board previously authorized the repurchase of up to 225,000 shares in April 2008. Under the stock repurchase program, shares may be purchased from time to time at prevailing prices in open market transactions or in negotiated purchases, subject to market conditions, share price and other considerations. Sanderson Farms currently has approximately 20.3 million shares of common stock outstanding.

“The expansion of our stock repurchase program highlights the Board’s confidence in the future of Sanderson Farms,” stated Joe F. Sanderson Jr., CEO of Sanderson Farms. “We plan to use our expanded stock repurchase program to offset shares issued through our equity compensation programs. We believe this program represents a good use of corporate funds while minimizing potential dilution related to our equity compensation programs.”

The company has repurchased approximately 13,000 shares under the previously authorized stock repurchase program. The newly authorized program will provide Sanderson Farms with the capacity to purchase approximately 987,000 shares. The stock repurchase program is authorized until April 24, 2012.

Source: Sanderson Farms Inc.

Fire damages Perdue plant

Heated tar from a roof repair led to a fire at the Perry, Ga., processing plant owned by Perdue Farms. The fire that broke out late last week caused about $5,500 in damages to the administrative part of the building, according to theAtlanta Journal-Constitution.

About 200 workers were inside the cooking portion of the plant at the time of the fire, but all of the workers evacuated safety and were able to resume production about an hour after the fire was put out.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Meat scientist Robert Murphy dies

Robert Murphy, a musician, military veteran and scientist who worked extensively in the agricultural and meat industries, died on October 18 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease in Manteno, Ill. He was 82 years old.

After a discharge from the U.S. Army, Murphy went to work with his uncles at a soybean and grain farm in North Dakota. He then entered the meat industry, working for Swift Foods, Beatrice Corp. and ConAgra. During his time in the industry, he helped develop new ways to tenderize beef and breed cattle.

Source: Chicago Tribune