READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wed Dec 9th

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Vilsack Rumored as Top Choice for Second Round as Ag Secretary

Politico is reporting that Tom Vilsack may be Joe Biden’s number one choice for Secretary of Agriculture. However, the article also says the final decision isn’t made yet. The Hagstrom report quotes a source with ties to Vilsack, saying, “I think this is still very much in flux.” Vilsack was the ag secretary for eight years when Barack Obama held the Oval Office and Biden was his vice president. Vilsack is the current CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. His tenure as ag secretary was during a period of record farm income and record export numbers. His Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, spearheaded the Know Your Farm, Know Your Food Initiative. Vilsack’s USDA helped with the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which resulted in rules requiring higher quality meals at U.S. schools. Vilsack also encouraged farm groups to come together on an agreement on the labeling of foods that contained genetically modified ingredients. Progressives oppose Vilsack getting another chance at the job, saying he’s “too close to agribusiness.” More mainstream farm groups have mostly stayed out of the debate over Biden’s choice for ag secretary, but many in the past praised Vilsack’s work.

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Pork Exports Show Broad Gains in October

U.S. pork exports posted broad-based gains during October, solidifying 2020’s record pace. That’s according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Pork exports rose eight percent year-over-year to 242,536 metric tons, with the value also increasing eight percent to just over $641 million. Exports to Mexico, Japan, China/Hong Kong, Canada, and the Philippines were substantially higher than a year ago. Shipments to Central and South America were the largest they’ve been since March. October beef exports were down slightly from last year at 107,591 MT, a .4 percent drop. The October value was $646 million, down .5 percent. However, exports to China set another new record, and volumes were above year-ago levels to Japan, Taiwan, Central America, and Africa. “While the tight labor situation continues to limit the cut and variety meat specifications available for export, red meat demand is strengthening in many critical markets,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The U.S. industry is responding positively to many challenges, and the demand dynamics for red meat are quite strong as we approach the end of 2020.” Additionally, Halstrom says when the gains made at the retail level over the past several months are combined with a stronger foodservice industry recovery, the prospects for export growth are promising.

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U.S. Grains Council Issues Corn Harvest Quality Report

The 2020-2021 U.S. corn crop is entering market channels as 2020 comes to a close. The U.S. Grains Council’s Corn Harvest Quality Report says the crop has a higher average test weight, lower moisture, and lower total damage relative to each quality factor’s average of the previous five crops. While wet weather in April and May contributed to historic delays in planting and crop maturity in 2019, the 2020 corn crop was planted slightly ahead of the average pace of the previous five crops and experienced generally favorable conditions during the remainder of the growing season. “That resulted in both high grain quality and yield,” the report says. This year’s crop showed a higher test weight than the 2019 and five-year average results. It showed a lower average of broken corn and foreign material than last year. There was lower average total damage than in 2019 and the five-year average, as well as lower than average moisture content than 2019 and the last five years. The crop also showed higher-than-average protein concentration, lower average stress cracks, and lower average 100-kernel weight. “We offer this report to help buyers make well-informed decisions by providing reliable and timely information about the quality of the U.S. crop,” says USGC Chair Jim Raben.

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Chick-fil-A Sues Chicken Producers for Price-Fixing

Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is suing a number of the biggest chicken suppliers in the country, accusing them of keeping prices artificially high. The suit names 17 defendants, including Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, and Sanderson Farms. NBC News says Christopher Leonard, a business reporter who has investigated the poultry industry, points out that the suit means that the “retail side of the chicken industry is at war with the producers. If the chain’s suppliers aren’t following the basic principles of capitalism and competition, Chick-fil-A customers are paying more for a lower-quality product.” Chick-fil-A announced that it would begin serving antibiotic-free chicken at its restaurants in five years, and the suit alleges shortly after that took place, “a number of the defendants communicated via phone and text message to share and coordinate confidential bidding and pricing information,” details that came to light after a Justice Department investigation of the industry. The suit accuses chicken producers of using a spreadsheet called AgriStats to engage in bid-rigging in an “unlawful conspiracy” to ensure that chicken prices were artificially raised.

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Organic Farmers Association Launching Interactive Educational Calendar

The Organic Farmers Association is launching a National Clearinghouse for Organic Farmer Education that highlights the online education available to organic farmers across the country. The Organic Farmers Association is implementing the clearinghouse at the beginning of the winter conference season when farmers typically attend their state or regional organic farm conferences in person. But because of COVID-19, many of those conferences have shifted to an online platform. “OFA member-organizations have exceptional educational programs, and we’ve put all of these opportunities in one interactive national calendar,” says OFA Director Kate Mendenhall. “COVID-19 has provided a few silver linings, and universal online education is one of those. Now farmers have incredible access to innovative organic farmers from the entire country.” David Colson, President of the OFA and a Maine organic farmer, says, “This is an opportunity for farmers to attend their regular conference and a conference they may have always dreamed about but haven’t had the time or travel budget to make it happen.” Organic farmers can view the online calendar by visiting the National Clearinghouse for Organic Farmer Education at www.OrganicFarmersAssociation.org/events.

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Chinese Hog Producer Trying to Build World’s Largest Pig Farm

One of China’s top pig producers, Muyuan (My-YOU-ahn) Foods, is trying to raise more hogs on a single site than any company in the world. Reuters says it’s a risky investment as African Swine Fever still lingers in the country. The company began building the farm back in March and started operations at the first of 21 new buildings in September. It’s symbolic of how fast huge industrial hog facilities are replacing smaller, more traditional farms. Many of the smaller operations were wiped out by the worst animal disease outbreak in history. Corporate farms weren’t spared from ASF, but as prices rose again, they quickly recovered their losses. The company’s newest mega-farm will eventually house close to 84,000 sows and their offspring, by far the largest in the world. That’s roughly ten times the size of a breeding facility in the U.S. The company says its goal is to produce about 2.1 million pigs per year. Muyuan will spend about 40 billion yuan this year on new pig farms.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.