December 20, 2014

West Coast Port Worries

Increasing congestion in West Coast ports, where longshoremen have been working without a contract for nearly six months, is a growing concern for the U.S. meat industry and export trade.

About one-third of U.S. beef and pork exports travel to Mexico and Canada by ground transportation, the remainder relies almost entirely on ocean freight.

U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng says the red meat industry is watching the developments carefully…

Trouble Brewing

On a monthly basis, waterborne red meat exports moving through West Coast ports amount to more than $600 million.  Seng notes that meat importers have customers to serve, and they need reliable suppliers.


A six-year labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired this summer – and negotiations have recently become contentious.

The congestion crisis has been most pronounced at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Port officials recently said the number of ocean freighters kept waiting outside the two ports has fluctuated from about eight to 18 on any given day since the slowdown began around mid-October.



Dairy Sign Up Extended Again

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced that the application deadline for the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) will be extended until Dec. 19, 2014. The program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, protects participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below levels of protection selected by the applicant.

Vilsack pointed out this safety net is not automatic. Producers must visit their local Farm Service Agency office to enroll before December 19.  Vilsack said, “Despite the best forecasts, weather and markets can change, so a modest investment today can protect against unexpected losses tomorrow.”

“For just $100, a farmer can cover 90 percent of production at $4 margin swings, and with affordable incremental premiums, dairy farmers can cover up to $8 margin swings,” said Vilsack. “Those who apply this year will receive a slight increase in production protection that will not be available in the future. Farmers who do not sign up for the Margin Protection Program for 2015 will forfeit the 1 percent base production increase. For a 400 cow operation, this would equate to an additional 80,000 pounds of milk that are eligible for coverage. It’s a small step to take to ensure your business is covered.”

Vilsack encourages producers to use the online Web resource at to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. They can type in specific operation data and explore price projections and market scenarios to determine what level of coverage is best for them. They can also compare the data to see how the program would have helped in previous years, such as 2008, when margins dropped from $8 to $3 in just three months.


Cattle Producers Gather in Aberdeen

Members of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association are discussing plenty of timely items at this year’s 66th annual convention with issues brewing on both the state and federal level.

The EPA’s proposed waters of the U.S. rule concerns the group.  They worry that the new definition would require cattle producers to get the permission from the federal government for routine ranch activities.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced it was his intention to create a supplemental beef checkoff under authority granted to his office by Congress.  Cattle groups and interested parties have been trying for three years to agree upon a way forward to enhance the beef checkoff.

Producers also discussing ongoing road needs across the state — especially on county and township roads and bridges. The cattlemen are concerned that the road system is deteriorating faster than the budget can cover rehabilitation.

The Trade Show has a good turn out this year of  vendors and exhibitors at the Aberdeen Ramkota. Among them – first year exhibitor – Dr. Dale Miskimins, Professor and Veterinarian/Pathologist for South Dakota State University Extension.  We visited about the South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory…

Dale 1   :38  Q: all types of animals…

The lab also serves as the “front line” – so to speak –  in the case of a foreign disease outbreak –  like foot and mouth disease.  Miskimins says the lab would like to expand its resources…

Dale 2    :52  Q: control any outbreaks…
The lab’s website says its staff performs a full range of diagnostic testing services that provides area veterinarians and health officials with the information they need to protect and improve animal and therefore, human health….