Twenty-six new beef and veal products have been added to the marketplace by Sysco, the country's largest foodservice distributor. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Sysco worked together to develop the lines which include Oven Ready Roasts, Specialty Beef Steaks, Smart Cut Veal, Veal Bacon and beef and veal appetizers.

Sysco requested NCBA's assistance in developing and bringing the new products to the marketplace.

Sysco, which sells more than 2% of the nation's total beef, expects the new beef and veal product lines to have a positive impact on its total sales, which hit nearly $15 billion in 1997.

Drought losses continue to mount in Texas. Continued hot, dry weather in parts of the Lone Star State is hitting ranchers hard. Ernie Davis, Extension ag economist, says that since May the drought has cost livestock producers $451 million in losses. An estimated $126 million involves direct revenue losses as ranchers have liquidated herds and sold lighter-weight cattle. The remaining $325 million is the estimated extra feed bill that producers have paid.

If you're looking for hay, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) reinstated its free Hay Hotline at 877/429-1998. The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to help connect farmers and ranchers who need hay with those who have hay for sale. The list of hay suppliers is also on TDA's Web site at www.agr.state.tx.us.

In addition, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK, is compiling a free hay directory to help producers find hay buyers and sellers. They're also providing no-charge hay testing to sample the hay's nutrient quality. For information, call 580/223-5810 or check their Web site at www.noble.org.

The vesicular stomatitis quarantine has been lifted in Texas, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Livestock in Texas are now free to move unhindered to other states with appropriate documentation. However, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado are still embargoed. For more information, call TAHC at 800/550-8242.

BeefAmerica has announced it's closing its only plant in Norfolk, NE, effectively putting the company out of business. BeefAmerica officials site a labor strike as the reason for the closure. The company was the sixth largest beef packer in the nation last year, with a daily capacity of 2,500 head.

NCBA's Board of Directors has set its new budget at $64 million for fiscal 1999, which begins October 1. Of that total, $8.18 million comes from dues and will focus on increased action in policy areas including environmental issues. These costs must be paid for with dues dollars, because checkoff funds cannot be used for policy issues, according to federal law.

The $55.9 million checkoff portion of the NCBA budget will be funded by the Beef Board and state beef council investment in national checkoff programs. Checkoff-funded programs must be approved by the Beef Promotion Operation Committee of the Beef Board, an independent body created by law to approve individual program authorizations.

A USDA judge has issued a ruling that one provision in IBP's Beef Marketing Agreement with a group of Kansas feedlots violates the Packers and Stockyards Act. The judge dismissed the case and allowed the marketing agreement to stand as long as the "right of first refusal" provision was removed.

The right of first refusal, which allows IBP to obtain livestock by simply matching the highest previous bid, has the effect of reducing competition, according to the ruling. Under the legal process, IBP has the right to appeal the ruling regarding right of first refusal to Federal District Court.

Northern Plains Premium Beef, a rancher-owned beef processing and marketing cooperative, reached its deadline of July 15 and was 70,000 shares short of its goal to break escrow and launch the cooperative. Their board has voted to extend the stock offering until September 15 to give producers a final chance at purchasing shares.

So far, about 300 producers have committed the equity for approximately 30,000 shares. If the cooperative's 101,000-130,000 share goal is not reached, it will dissolve on September 21.

Iowa Quality Beef, a new management tracking and marketing division of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, began last month. The new program offers producers opportunities to learn more about the quality and consistency of the beef they produce through creation of a data base which tracks calves from birth to box. Producers will be able to buy into the new system, including electronic eartags, access to data and a marketing manual describing a variety of fed and feeder cattle marketing options, for a per head fee.

U.S. consumers enjoy low food prices compared with the rest of the world. USDA compared the cost of selected staple items, including a gallon of milk, 2 lbs. of sirloin, a dozen eggs, a 5-lb. bag of sugar, 1 lb. of cheddar cheese and a 2-lb. bag of apples. U.S. consumers would pay $18.79, versus $23.19 in England, $30.10 in France and $74.23 in Japan.