Tyson's Trading Activity?

A July article in the Washington Post inaccurately reported that Tyson Foods Inc. shipped $250,000 worth of frozen chicken parts to Iraq through a broker in Jordan. This statement is a misrepresentation of the facts, says Tyson.

The statement appeared in an article reporting on alleged embargo violations by several U.S. companies.

Tyson says the transactions in question were made by Hudson Foods in 1996. Tyson acquired Hudson Foods in 1998, two years after alleged violations occurred. Though Tyson had no knowledge of any violations at the time of the acquisition, Tyson nonetheless acquired the liability and, therefore, elected to settle the matter in 2001.

Tyson claims the conglomerate strictly complies with all U.S. trade embargoes.

Brand Name Joint Venture

Excel Corp. and Hormel Foods have signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture to market nationally branded, fresh, case-ready beef and pork under the Hormel Always Tender brand name. The products will be sold in supermarkets and club stores.

The joint venture, Precept Foods LLC., will be based in Hormel's headquarters in Austin, MN. Excel will supply the fresh beef and pork. Each company will independently maintain existing fresh case-ready programs and other meat programs, such as Excel's branded premium meat products. — TCFA

Russians May Ban More Chicken

It's no secret that this year's poultry trade disruptions with Russia have increased domestic supply and pressured poultry and red meat prices. Now, it's being reported that the Russians may ban U.S. poultry again as of Aug. 1.

Developing a veterinary certificate that meets safety standards, as defined by Russian leaders, is still a major problem. Russian media reports imply the U.S. has done little to date to address their issues. Some U.S. poultry industry people say there are still many unresolved issues on this trade dispute.

A USDA team is in Russia this week working on this issue. The U.S. has raised concerns about Russia joining the World Trade Organization due to the poultry trade problems. U.S. officials, however, seem hesitant to strain relations with Russia too much as the nation is a key oil-producing country and is supporting the U.S. war on terrorism. — Livestock Marketing Information Center

Effect Of Exchange Rates

U.S. farm exports have been shut out of key international markets and some foreign farm products are stronger competitors in our domestic marketplace due to the strong value of the U.S. dollar. That's what American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president Bob Stallman recently told the Senate Banking Committee.

The comparative advantages that U.S. producers generally enjoy — abundant, fertile natural resources, access to high-quality inputs and technology, for example — are offset by the rising value of the dollar against other currencies.

“Exchange rate is the single most important determinant of the competitiveness of our exports,” says Stallman.

The overall economic health of U.S. agriculture depends on more stable exchange rates that do not overvalue the U.S. dollar.

AFBF doesn't advocate isolation as a shield from the economic forces that shape world trade. However, Stallman says it's tough for U.S. producers to manage their enterprises in a world where competitors' exchange rates suddenly depreciate.

AFBF also is concerned about countries that devalue their currency to gain an export advantage for their producers. Stallman says trade-weighted exchange rates for agricultural exports from all of the major competitor-countries — Canada, Australia, Argentina, China and Malaysia — have exhibited a long-term trend of depreciation against the U.S. dollar, contrary to market fundamentals.

Agriculture is one of the most trade-dependent sectors of the U.S. economy. It's maintained a trade surplus for more than two decades, but the surplus is shrinking. The strong U.S. dollar is one of the primary factors.

“U.S. farmers and ranchers have lost export sales for the past three years because the dollar is pricing our products out of the market, both at home and abroad,” Stallman says. “In addition, the U.S. dollar's higher exchange rate has resulted in rising agricultural imports due to increased purchasing power.”

Controlling E. coli

A simple electrolyte water treatment technology first developed in Russia may enhance food safety by improving the control of E. coli O157:H7.

The treatment uses water containing 0.1% electrolyte solution, which is put through a process that changes the solution's pH levels.

“Preliminary research suggests we can totally clear E. coli O157:H7 from a water trough using this technology,” says Sam Stevenson, a PhD student studying the technology. She's working at Agri-Food Canada's Lethbridge Research Centre.

“Further research is planned to see how it works under normal feedlot conditions, but we are very optimistic about the positive results,” she says.

The major food contamination risk is the transfer of the pathogen from the animal's intestine to the carcass during the slaughtering process. But scientists increasingly view farm management strategies, such as keeping feed bunks and water troughs clean, as a crucial component of reducing E. coli in the environment and further up the food system.

Lethbridge researchers got the idea from Russian researchers who have been investigating the electrolyzed oxidizing (EO) water treatment for more than two decades to control a variety of pathogens. Developed by the Canadian/Swiss company Biostel North America, the latest technology is under evaluation in Canada and may be introduced into commercial livestock facilities in a few years.

“A big advantage is that it's potentially very easy and economical to use — only a small concentration of treated water is enough to kill the bacteria in cattle drinking water troughs,” says Stevenson.

Further study is also important to fine-tune the technology under normal feedlot conditions, she says. “In a regular water trough, the ‘bugs’ can hide in protective material such as scum or fecal contamination, so studies will consider this factor.”

Potential applications include using the technology as part of multi-step controls to reduce pathogen loads in feedlots or packing and processing plants.

For more information, contact Stevenson at 403/317-3469.

Compiled by Clint Peck, senior editor. Submit contributions to 406/896-9068, 406/896-9069 (fax) or cpeck@primediabusiness.com.