March 15, 2004
Mar/Apr 2004 --
Agricultural Management Assistance
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced on Feb. 23, 2004, the release of $14 million for Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) for fiscal year 2004.
AMA provides cost-share assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management or transition to organic farming.
Fifteen states are approved for this program. They include: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. For more information on the funding available in each state, go to: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ama/
Prairie Dog Poisoning Ban Lifted
The Associated Press reported in late February that the U.S. Forest Service has decided to lift its ban on poisoning prairie dogs on five national grasslands in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Nebraska National Forest Supervisor Don Bright said this move will help control the spread of prairie dogs onto private land from federal grasslands. Some western South Dakota ranchers say the animals are streaming from federal lands onto their property, ruining grazing land, causing erosion and damaging roads.
Fall River County State's Attorney Lance Russell said he is skeptical about the new ruling's effect. Most of the prairie dog control restrictions included in the ban are now part of revised management plans in the states. The Forest Service has deferred to its new management plan, which is contingent on the states adopting a state prairie dog management plan.
Sheep and Goat Producers Approve Checkoff
Alabama sheep and goat producers in early January voted 101-43 in favor of a voluntary checkoff program for promotion and research into their industry.
The 50-cents-a-head checkoff will begin as soon as collection systems can be put into place by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
A committee of producer-elected farmers will determine how the checkoff money will be spent.
Changes Sought for Identifying Lamb
The Australian Stud Merino Breeders Association (ASMBA) would like the Sheep Meats Council to change the definition of a lamb, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Under the current guidelines, a lamb is defined as having "no permanent teeth erupted." The ASMBA wants that definition changed to "no more than one permanent tooth erupted." The association says the change will not change the taste of lamb, but will bring enormous benefits to producers.
"As it is now, a producer can lose somewhere between 20 to 40 percent of the value of the animal if a tooth is erupted," says John Gray of the ASMBA. "This new guideline lets the producer run to a slightly older lamb so that you can get the maximum carcass weight out of those animals."
Canadian Sheep, Cattle Populations Increase
Statistics Canada released on Feb. 11, 2004, its annual livestock inventory estimates for cattle, sheep and hogs. As of Jan. 1, 2004:
Jury Finds Against Tyson
- Sheep numbers posted a year-to-year increase (up 21,000 head or about 2 percent), but remained just under 1 million head.
- Canadian cattle climbed dramatically during 2003, to a record 14.7 million head. Beef producers reportedly had 1.2 million head more cattle on farms and ranches than a year ago. That 8.7-percent annual increase was mostly due to reduced marketing, resulting from Canadian cattle being banned from export and limitations on beef exports.
- The hog and pig inventory was slightly smaller than a year earlier, down 0.4 percent to 14.6 million head.
A federal jury in Alabama returned a $1.28 billion verdict against Tyson Foods on Feb. 17, 2004, in a class-action suit about alleged price-fixing in the cattle industry.
The jury found that Tyson illegally depressed cattle prices between 1994 and 2002 by using privately contracted supplies of cattle bought outside daily auctions - termed "captive" supply -- as leverage against market prices.
The eight-year-old, class-action lawsuit was brought by six cattle producers.
Tyson objected to the verdict and said that "it will essentially ask the judge to set aside the verdict and rule in favor of the company."
It will appeal the decision if it is not set aside.