The USDA has responded to calls from Congress, many leading agriculture organizations to extend the comment period to the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed rule on livestock marketing. The proposed rule, announced June 18, suggests major changes to the way producers can market their cattle. The comment period will be extended for an additional 90 days.

“Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were very clear about the critical need to extend the comment period to allow stakeholders to thoroughly analyze the potential impacts of the rule,” said Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “While it’s unfortunate USDA didn’t extend the comment period for a full 120 days as we requested, we’re pleased that stakeholders will have some additional time to further analyze this complex rule and its potential implications on the beef sector, which is the largest segment of the food and fiber industry.

“On the surface, this rule has the potential to take the beef industry back 30 years by stifling the innovative efforts of U.S. cattle producers to add value and enhance the quality and safety of their products for consumers in the United States and abroad,” Woodall continued.

Steve Foglesong, president of NCBA and an Illinois cattle producer, sent a letter to GIPSA Administrator J. Dudley Butler earlier this month to stress the need for additional time to thoroughly analyze the rule’s potential legal and economic impacts on U.S. cattle producers. In the letter, Foglesong referred to language used by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding the proposed rule.

“The Secretary of Agriculture referred to this as one of the most sweeping reforms of the Packers and Stockyards Act,” stated Foglesong. “As such, it’s extremely important that we thoroughly understand the rule and both its intended, and unintended, consequences on the U.S. cattle community.”

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard issued a statement commenting on the pressure exerted on Congress and USDA by the meat industry, criticizing the extension of the comment period.

”The swift and decisive political pressure exerted on Congress and USDA by the meatpacker lobby, and the misinformation they spread to achieve their desired outcome should be a wake-up call for every U.S. livestock producer and consumer,” he said. “The meatpacker lobby represents a select group of meatpackers and a select group of preferred livestock suppliers that are opposed to GIPSA’s competition rule because it would require them to begin operating in full compliance with the nearly 90-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (PSA). Congress passed the PSA to protect independent livestock producers from unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practices of the meatpackers, but for nearly 90 years, GIPSA did not promulgate regulations to properly administer or enforce the PSA. Last week, 66 organizations representing independent livestock producers, consumers, rural and rural development organizations from across the U.S. sent a joint letter to Congress to express their strong support for GIPSA’s competition rule.

“GIPSA’s competition rule would protect and preserve competition in the market where the highly concentrated meatpackers purchase slaughter-ready cattle from independent cattle feeders. The U.S. already has lost over 30,000 independent cattle feeders just within the last 14 years, which has severely reduced competition in the U.S. livestock industry – not just in the market where cattle feeders sell to the meatpackers, but in the market where cow/calf producers sell their cattle to feedlots, as well. The meatpacker lobby does not want GIPSA’s competition rule to protect and preserve the cash market because the competition in the cash market is what stands in their way of exerting price-depressing control over the entire livestock production chain.”

Sources: NCBA, R-CALF

USDA gives approval for 27 facilities to begin Russian poultry exports

The USDA has given approval to 27 U.S. poultry processing and storage facilities to resume shipments to Russia after a 7-month ban. The complete list of plants has become available, and more facilities are expected to become eligible soon, reports Dow Jones newswires.

Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods, said it was pleased and expected to have more of its plants approved for chicken exports to Russia.

"We've already received some customer orders from Russia and have started processing and packing chicken for them again," he said. "We hope to ship the products soon."

The list of plants can be found at:

Sources: Dow Jones Newswires, The Denver Post, USDA

Uncle Charley's expands presence at Heinz Field

This season Pittsburgh Steelers fans will be able to taste a wider range of Uncle Charley's Sausage products, including the company's Sausage Burgers, formed sausage patties that are low in fat and carbs.

The Sausage Burgers, along with Uncle Charley's famous Hot and Sweet Italian Sausage with peppers and onions, will be available at the Steel Pit Grill and five additional locations behind the seating in Heinz Field.

At the exclusive Uncle Charley's Steel Pit Grill, located inside Gate A in the South Plaza, in addition to Uncle Charley's links, fans can purchase fresh Smoked Kolbass for that perfect football Sunday griller.

"The Pittsburgh Steelers organization is pleased to be able to expand the availability of Uncle Charley's sausage products," said Tony Quatrini, Steelers director of marketing. "Teaming up with a quality hometown product like Uncle Charley's translates to more quality food options for our fans,"

"Making more of our fresh sausage available to Steelers fans is a reflection of our commitment to producing a premium product that tastes great," said Uncle Charley's Sausage Company Founder Charles S. Armitage. "They expect a winner every year, and their options for grilled sausage should be best of class as well."

Source: Uncle Charley’s Sausage

Luby's completes acquisition of Fuddruckers

Luby's Inc. has completed the purchase of substantially all of the assets of Fuddruckers Inc., Magic Brands LLC and certain of their affiliates for approximately $63.5 million in cash. The transaction was financed with proceeds from the company's recently amended credit agreement and cash on hand.

"We are pleased to add Fuddruckers to our portfolio of restaurants," said Christopher J. Pappas, Luby's president and CEO. "We believe that the Fuddruckers brand is strong and has a great deal of customer appeal and opportunities for growth. Hamburgers remain very relevant to consumers today. We like the model and delivery system and believe that, along with its geographic overlay both in Texas and nationally, Fuddruckers is a brand that will become even more successful when paired with Luby's.

"With 59 company-operated and 129 franchise locations, Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo brands both diversify our restaurant base and enhance our opportunities for growth. We have already established transition teams to integrate our operations. We will continue to operate the acquired restaurants under their existing names and formats. Over time, we seek to enhance their guest experience, store level operations, facilities, and ultimately, their unit level financial performance."

Source: Luby’s Inc.