U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk accused Russia of “unreasonably” delaying the resumption of U.S. chicken exports with a last-minute demand for plant inspections. He added that the demand was not acceptable and that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and others were working to resolve the issue, according to AFP reports.

"I hope it's not necessary but we, you know, if necessary we'll be asking the president to intercede again," Vilsack told reporters on a conference call later.

Kirk said Washington wants to help Moscow reach its goal of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), but "it's issues like this, on poultry, that continue to frustrate us, frankly, and make us question their resolve to operate in a rules-based system.

"It's just not acceptable. We have an agreement, we've signed it, we've met that protocol, the USDA put out a list of what the plants were that met the protocol and we're ready to resume shipments now," he added.

Source: AFP

Senator calls for South Korea to fully open to U.S. beef

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said that he might hold up a free trade pact with South Korea unless the agreement fully opens the country’s markets to U.S. beef exports.

"No deal is better than a bad deal," Baucus told U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, adding that "I hear a lot of words, I don't hear a lot of results" on the issue, AFP reports. Baucus’ committee would review the trade pact for full approval by the Senate, and he said that he may not schedule a hearing on it unless Korea opens its markets to “all cuts, all ages” of U.S. beef exports. He noted that Australian and New Zealand beef exports to Korea have grown while U.S. exports dropped.

Kirk, who was appearing at a Senate hearing on agricultural exports, declined to pledge that the accord would meet that goal, telling Baucus "I would love to be able to make that hard promise" and vowing to "reach and move toward" expanded access for US beef.

The free trade pact was originally signed by President Bush in 2007, but neither country has ratified the deal. South Korea has previously rejected claims that it has unfair restrictions on U.S. beef and auto imports.

Source: AFP

Sara Lee brands to co-sponsor BlogHer conference

Sara Lee North American Retail announced that two of the company’s brands, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm, will together serve as Diamond Sponsors at BlogHer ’10, the pre-eminent annual conference for female bloggers. Currently in its sixth year, BlogHer ’10 marks the first time that the conference is being held in New York with a record attendance of more than 2,400 anticipated to be at the sold-out event at the Hilton Hotel from August 6-7.

Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm will together host the largest space on the BlogHer trade show floor, an 80-foot by 20-foot kitchen-themed booth that will bring to life each of their unique brand personas.

BlogHer will serve as a platform for Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm to interact directly with the 2,400 bloggers in attendance and unveil a number of exciting announcements from both brands including new product introductions and celebrity guest appearances. Among the activities, Hillshire Farm will team with Emmy nominated host of “Top Chef,” Padma Lakshmi, to host a sandwich-making contest featuring the fresh taste of Hillshire Farm lunchmeat. Additionally, Jimmy Dean will provide bloggers with a chance to fuel their bodies with hearty and satisfying breakfast foods and an opportunity to meet The Jimmy Dean Sun.

“BlogHer is the leading conference for online female influencers and serves as a unique opportunity to engage face-to-face with virtually all of the top female bloggers, the voices that are driving the conversation and shaping the social media landscape. This event is the perfect platform to fuel brand awareness and further a dialogue among these critical audiences as well as gather valuable insights directly from the bloggers themselves. Additionally, we look forward to unveiling a number of exciting announcements from Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm,” said Laston Charriez, vice president consumer and shopper activation at Sara Lee North American Retail.

Source: Sara Lee Corp.

Brazilian chicken processor has sales suspended over water content

Brasil Foods SA, the world’s largest poultry exporter, had its chicken sales suspended by Brazil’s government after excess water was found in the meat, increasing the weight. The company’s chicken sales were suspended on Aug. 2 by the country’s Agriculture Ministry. Brasil Foods said it will appeal the decision while pointing out that the restriction has “no legal basis” and questioned the government’s scientific criteria for the assessment, reports Bloomberg.

“It’s really a blow for the company,” Matheus Almeida, an analyst for the poultry and hog industry at the University of Sao Paulo’s Cepea research unit, said by telephone from Piracicaba, Brazil. “The company will lose a lot of time waiting for the government to verify and liberate the product.”

The suspension will end in a week, reported an official from the Agriculture Ministry. The government has been increasing inspections to prevent them from pumping excess water into meat, charging consumers more for the product. Brasil Foods SA supplies about 30 percent of the country’s chicken and 45 percent of its exports.

Source: Bloomberg