Wythe Willey passes

The U.S. beef industry lost a major talent and advocate on Dec. 19, 2010, with the passing of Wythe Willey in Cedar Rapids, IA. Willey succumbed after a two-year battle against cancer. He was 68 and is survived by his wife Susan and five children.
Willey was a unique mix of producer and legal professional. While his work venue as a lawyer was a courtroom and he mingled professionally with and advised governors, senators and a U.S. president, he preferred the beef business.

He was cited by BEEF magazine in 1997 as the fourth recipient of its annual Trailblazer Award. Willey was recognized for his legal work on behalf of the U.S. beef industry in equalizing federal inspection protocols between red meat and poultry (see “Fighting For Fairness” at beef
magazine.com/mag/beef_fighting_fairness/.

Urban outreach

Rural South Dakota is reaching out to urban New York via the continuation of a South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) program. The program partners with the New York Beef Industry Council to increase understanding of beef within urban areas. SDBIC will help sponsor farm tours in New York State in May, giving influencers, such as dietitians, chef instructors and food service and retail managers a face-to-face look at modern beef production.

This is the second year for the rural/urban partnership. In May 2010, more than 50 influencers were given an up-close look at how beef producers steward their animals and their land.

“We realize there’s a lot of misinformation out there and we want these influencers to learn about science-based information regarding the beef industry,” says Merrill Karlen, SDBIC president.

Organic growth

The North American organic food and beverage market has overtaken Europe as the world’s biggest organic market, says a new report from Organic Monitor. See the report, “Global Organic Food & Drink Market,” at www.organicmonitor.com/.
Despite fast growth in the amount of organic farmland in North America, production hasn’t kept up with demand. Thus, Latin America in particular has become a major source of organic fruits, vegetables, meats, seeds, nuts and ingredients for the North American market.

Globally, the organic food and drink market has seen growth rates slow during the recession to less than 5%. The report says consumer perception that organic foods are expensive continues to hinder growth in the sector.

Five security tips

Today, America’s food producers are under attack. The Animal Ag Alliance offers these five security tips:

1. Identify your facility’s vulnerabilities. Make employee safety your first priority. Provide good lighting in parking areas. Do you use video cameras as part of your security system? Create a plan for working with local law enforcement and media if you become a target.

2. When hiring, check references closely. If you work with a temp agency or labor office, educate them about the threat activists pose. Most infiltrators are young and often use their university ID instead of a driver’s license when applying for a farm job.

3. Ask straightforward questions during interviews. Has the applicant ever changed his or her name? Do they currently work for an organization that’s paying them to collect information about your company? Ask if they intend to use any equipment that can collect audio, video or still photographs. Establish a policy that either prohibits their use or requires that all such tools be declared upon being hired and can’t be used without prior consent. Provide these questions and have them answered in writing, and ensure the application is signed.

4. Require that all new hires sign an animal-care agreement. Train all employees in animal handling and specify that any employee who observes or receives information about animal mistreatment must immediately report that information to a supervisor. Failure to do so should be cause for dismissal and potential criminal charges.

5. Watch for suspicious activity. Do certain employees come in unusually early or late? Pay attention to cafeteria or break-room discussions about new hires who don’t fit in or t seem overly curious about your company.

Nebraska feeding on camera

The Nebraska Department of Ag and the Nebraska Corn Board have released a video featuring cattle-feeding opportunities available in Nebraska. The six-minute video is entitled “Consider the Possibilities – Cattle, Corn and Co-Products.” View it at http://www.nebraskacorn.org/.
The video features University of Nebraska Extension beef specialists discussing the economic benefits of feeding distillers grains, risk-management decisions, and the parameters cow-calf producers can utilize to evaluate and select a feedyard.

Free synchronization planner

The Bovine Estrus Synchronization Planner is now available free of charge from the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) at http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/estrus_synch.html. Made possible by a grant from the Beef Reproduction Task Force, which is comprised of Extension beef and other specialists from eight universities, the Microsoft® Excel compatible spreadsheet assists herd managers in making the right management decisions and establishing a program calendar for each day and task.

10 factors for 2011
Here are Troy Marshall’s 10 factors to watch in 2011:

  • Record cattle prices and higher prices on nearly every class of cattle.
  • Lots of talk of expansion (will weather patterns and higher prices for feeder heifers allow expansion to begin?)
  • Increased export demand – as market-access issues continue to improve, the value of the U.S. dollar declines, and consumer confidence grows.
  • Renewed pressure on obesity (thanks to Obama Care).
  • An improving economy and lingering questions about whether the message of the last election registered with politicians.
  • Animal welfare issues continuing to increase.
  • The final GIPSA rule will be issued, either resulting in insignificant changes or a complete rejection of the value-based marketing revolution and a return to commodity production rules.
  • Washington, D.C. continuing to expand its reach, while the world views of those inside and outside the beltway continue to diverge.
  • Higher input costs with energy and feed-grain prices being key drivers.
  • Higher prices will cause a shift away from value creation toward risk management.