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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for February 4th…

Posted by Brian Allmer on February 4, 2013

CLICK HERE to listen to TODAY’s BARN Morning Ag News with Brian Allmer…

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

“CME Looking at Changing Trading Hours Again”

Based on customer feedback and a formal survey of market participants – CME Group Inc. has decided to reduce trading hours for its grain and oilseed futures and options contracts. This will reverse the decision made last year to extend electronic trading hours from 17 to 21 hours each day. According to a letter to CME customers – more specifics will be released in the coming weeks. The exchange is vetting alternatives because there were varying opinions on what the reduced hours should be. There is also an indication that CME Group supports a market pause during the release of USDA reports. The CME Group says it understands the frustration of many of its customers – and is open to considering a market pause allowing participants to evaluate the data if all exchanges and trading venues would do the same.

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“Senators Call for Work to Bring U.S. COOL Into Compliance”

A bipartisan coalition of Senators is calling on USDA and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to work with consumers, ranchers and meatpackers to ensure American families know where their food comes from. Montana’s Jon Tester is leading the coalition. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson is thanking Tester for his work in garnering support for country-of-origin labeling – or COOL – compliance. Johnson says consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and U.S. farmers and ranchers what to be able to tell them.

The World Trade Organization is requiring USDA to adjust its COOL rules. According to the WTO – the U.S. can require labeling of meat, but the current rules don’t meet WTO standards. The U.S. was given until May 23rd of this year to bring its COOL rules into compliance. NFU’s Johnson says USDA and USTR should take even stronger regulatory actions to make sure COOL provides meaningful information about the origins of meat and other products.

The coalition of Senators – in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk – say Congress intended that COOL provide as much information as possible about the origin of all meat cuts to consumers. They say some flexibility is needed – but such flexibility can’t come at the expense of providing reliable information to families about the national origin of meat products. The bipartisan coalition also is encouraging USDA to host a public comment period so ag workers and consumers can weigh in on any new proposals.

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“USDA Efforts to Knock Down Trade Barriers Preserves Billions in Exports in 2012”

USDA freed up an estimated four-billion dollars in U.S. agricultural and forestry exports in 2012 – protecting roughly 30-thousand American jobs in the process. The department’s work is highlighted on performance dot gov (http://performance.gov). U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA staff are monitoring more than 160 markets to ensure an open system of trade – free from unwarranted and unjustified barriers. Since 2009 – he says the department has acted to remove hundreds of unfair barriers to trade for American companies and is providing businesses with the resources they need to reach new markets. According to Vilsack – these efforts have resulted in the most successful period in history for American agriculture and a boon for the nation’s rural economies and ag-related businesses.

A USDA news release notes that America’s agricultural sector is playing a key role in helping to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. Fiscal years 2009 through 2012 generated more than 478-billion dollars in ag exports. Agricultural exports in 2013 are on track to set new records. U.S. ag exports support more than one-million jobs across the country. Overall – American agriculture supports one in 12 jobs in the U.S. and provides American consumers with 83-percent of the food we consume – while maintaining affordability and choice.

USDA notes strong agricultural exports not only support the National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014 – but also contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs and boost economic growth.

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“U.S. Cattle Herd at 61 Year Low”

According to USDA’s 2013 Cattle report – the nation’s total cattle inventory dropped another two-percent during 2012. The herd totaled 89.3-million head and marks the lowest January 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since 1952. At 29.3-million head – beef cattle are down three-percent from a year ago. Also down three-percent from 2011 is the 2012 calf crop – which the report estimates at 34.3-million head. That’s the smallest calf crop since 1949. There was a two-percent increase from a year ago in beef replacement heifers at 5.4-million head.

The overall decline in the U.S. cattle herd was not unexpected. Bloomberg News reported Thursday that the average estimate of eight analysts surveyed was 88.92-million head as of January 1st. North Dakota State University Livestock Economist Tim Petry said drought in the Southern Plains in 2011 and expanding to the Corn Belt and other northern areas last year is instrumental in the numbers being down.

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“USDA’s Opens Comment Period on Smart Snacks in School Proposal”

The public comment period has opened on new standards proposed by USDA to ensure children have access to healthy food options in school. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success. He says providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will complement the gains made with the new, healthy standards for school breakfast and lunch so the healthy choice is the easy choice for kids. The proposal promotes the availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients. It also ensures snack food items are lower in fat, sugar and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need. Other highlights of the proposal include targeted standards, flexibility for important traditions, reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply, flexibility for state and local communities and significant transition period for schools and industry.

USDA is required to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This Smart Snacks in School proposed rule is the first step in the process to create national standards. These proposed standards draw on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country and healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace.

The public is encouraged to review USDA’s proposal and provide comments and information for the department’s consideration. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register next week. Once that happens – the public can provide feedback through www dot regulations dot gov (www.regulations.gov). The comment period will be open for 60 days.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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