Japan is analyzing the safety of meat from cattle older than 20 months amid U.S. calls to normalize the trade, reports Bloomberg news. Japan had formerly been the largest importer of U.S. beef, but it has restricted imports from cattle aged 20 months or younger since lifting its ban on beef in 2005, after the case of mad cow disease in the U.S. in 2003.

Japan’s Food Safety Commission must rule that any change in policy won’t increase human health risks, in order for imports of older cattle to resume.

“We have to collect enough data before submitting a request to the Food Safety Commission for risk assessment,” Minoru Yamamoto, director at the international animal health affairs office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said in an interview in Tokyo. “We are seeking information from the U.S. and waiting for their replies.”

Susumu Harada, senior director at the Tokyo office of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said that Japan’s level of beef imports may return close to pre-ban levels if the age limit is raised to 30 months.

“The change would remove obstacles in the beef trade as U.S. products for overseas shipments are mostly from cattle aged up to 24 months,” Harada said in an interview.

Source: Bloomberg

Tyson plant shut down after FSIS inspection

The USDA’s Fod Safety and Inspection Service has shut down the Zemco Industries Buffalo, N.Y., plant operated by Tyson Foods, following an inspection. Inspectors following up from an August recall of 380,000 pounds of deli meat due toListeriacontamination fears found vionations.

The Buffalo News reports that the shutdown was triggered by the results of sampling that the federal inspectors conducted during a food safety assessment, the agency said. That assessment was linked to the USDA’s activities at the Perry Street plant since the deli meat recall, said Gary Mickelson, a Tyson spokesman.

It was not known how long the shutdown would last. The suspension of operations affected approximately 480 of its 560 workers, the company said.

Source: Buffalo News

FSIS issues draft guidelines on in-plant video monitoring

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued draft guidelines to assist meat and poultry establishments that want to improve operations by using in-plant video monitoring.

The purpose of the draft guidance, Compliance Guidelines for Use of Video or Other Electronic Monitoring or Recording Equipment in Federally Inspected Establishments, is to make firms aware that video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment may be used in federally inspected establishments where meat and poultry are processed. Establishments may choose to use video or other electronic recording equipment for various purposes including ensuring that livestock are handled humanely, that good commercial practices are followed, monitoring product inventory, or conducting establishment security. Records from video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment may also be used to meet FSIS' record-keeping requirements.

"Today's action fulfills a recommendation from the November 2008 USDA Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) report that called for FSIS to determine whether video monitoring would be beneficial in slaughter establishments," said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. "In agreeing to that OIG recommendation, FSIS committed to issuing compliance guidelines for using video records and a directive clarifying FSIS' authority to access establishment video records. FSIS recognizes the importance of this resource."

FSIS is publishing the draft guide while pursuing Office of Management and Budget approval of its use under the federal Paperwork Reduction Act. Once FSIS receives OMB approval, it will issue the final guidelines. At that time, FSIS may also make changes to the guidelines based on comments received on this draft guideline.

The draft guidance can be found at: www.fsis.usda.gov/Significant_Guidance/index.asp. FSIS seeks comments on or before Tuesday, December 14, 2010, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to: Docket Clerk, FSIS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, George Washington Carver Center Room 2-217, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD, 20705. All comments submitted must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2010-0016. Comments will be available for public inspection and posted without change at www.regulations.gov.

Source: FSIS

NCBA calls for action on Death Tax

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and 49 other organizations representing small businesses sent a letter to the House and Senate regarding the failure of Congress to take action on the estate tax, commonly known as the death tax, prior to adjourning for the November elections. The organizations signing the Oct. 12 letter represent the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition.

The Coalition emphasized in the letter that family businesses, including farms and ranches, need resolution now because at the end of 2010 the estate tax rate will revert back to the pre-2001 level of 55 percent and the exemption amount will fall to $1 million. NCBA President Steve Foglesong said allowing the estate tax to revert back to the 55 percent level would essentially represent passing a death sentence to family-owned operations.

“Taxing family farmers and ranchers out of business will have serious impacts on all Americans, not just in our rural communities,” said Foglesong. “This is not a tax on the ‘wealthy elite.’ The wealthy can afford accountants and estate planners to help them evade the tax. This is a death warrant for small-to-medium sized family businesses. Farmers and ranchers are often forced to sell land, equipment, or the even the entire ranch just to pay off tax liabilities. This is money that could otherwise be reinvested to grow the family business and hand it down to future generations.”

The goal of the Coalition has always been full repeal of the estate tax. However, members of the Coalition expressed strong support of an amendment by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to bring meaningful and permanent reform to the estate tax. The group also issued support for a similar bill (H.R. 3905) in the House introduced by U.S. Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas.). These bipartisan proposals increase the exemption level to $5 million and reduce the rate to 35 percent. These proposals also ensure that any relief related to the exemption is tied to inflation and that stepped-up basis is included. The Coalition stated that the higher exemption level and reduced rate will lessen the burden of the estate tax and provide family businesses and farms with more capital to create much needed jobs and invest in their business.

“For far too long, farmers and ranchers have faced uncertainty when it comes to planning ahead for the future of their estates,” said Foglesong. “Congress must act when they get back to Washington for the lame-duck. If not, this Congress must be held responsible for the ruin of many family operations and officially preventing young people from taking over the family farm.”
Foglesong said the estate tax disproportionately hits agriculture. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 98 percent of American farms and ranches are owned and operated by families, and the tax is considered one of the leading causes of the breakup of multigenerational family farms and ranches. Farm and ranch estates are five to 20 times more likely to incur estate taxes than other estates. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, one in 10 farm estates (farms with sales of $250,000 or more annually) were likely to owe estate taxes in 2009.

Source: NCBA