Daily Archives: January 10, 2006

Report: Canada Meat Inspections Deficient

Report: Canada Meat Inspections Deficient

– By LIBBY QUAID, AP Food and Farm WriterSanFrancisco Chronicle
Monday, January 9, 2006
(01-09) 23:54 PST WASHINGTON, (AP) —
Two years ago, U.S. food safety officials warned that Canadian meat and poultry inspections were lacking, yet the Agriculture Department refused to stop the flow of imports from Canada, a department investigation found.
Since then, 4.4 billion pounds of processed meat made its way to U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, according to a report from the department’s inspector general.
The Agriculture Department said Monday it had addressed problems at individual Canadian plants, some of which lost export privileges. “In no instance was public health placed at risk,” said Richard Raymond, undersecretary for food safety.
Meanwhile, Canada has altered its system in an attempt to comply with U.S. rules. As the leading foreign supplier of fresh and frozen red meat to the U.S., Canada shipped more than $2 billion worth in 2004, according to department reports.
In a November 2003 memo to then-Secretary Ann Veneman, the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service warned that public health could be compromised if the agency didn’t respond immediately to deficiencies in Canada’s system.
Yet food safety officials postponed a review of Canada’s system the following year. According to an internal e-mail, Veneman directed FSIS to work with Canadian inspection officials to resolve the differences.
“When FSIS officials returned to Canada in May 2005, they continued to find the same types of deficiencies they found in 2003,” the report said.
The department halted shipments of beef and live cattle after the discovery of mad cow disease in Canada in 2003; those restrictions have since been lifted.
The report was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The inspector general identified three big concerns with Canadian inspections:
_Inspections were not done daily at Canadian food processing plants.
_Canada lacked adequate sanitation controls.
_Inspectors didn’t sample ready-to-eat products for listeria, which can cause deadly food poisoning.
Daily inspections are required at U.S. processing plants, and the law requires foreign countries to have equivalent inspections.
U.S. officials halted imports from Australia in June 2004 and Belgium in 2003 because those countries didn’t have daily inspections, the report noted.
A critic said the Agriculture Department seems to have a “make it up as we go” attitude in deciding which country’s standards match U.S. standards.
“This undermines the integrity of American food safety standards and consumer confidence in our meat supply,” said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Raymond noted that U.S. inspectors have doubled their testing for listeria at Canadian ports in the past two years.
Canada has made changes since last year, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency official said.
Daily inspections have been done at processing plants since late summer, said Bill Anderson, CFIA director of food of animal origin. Canada is still trying to get the Agriculture Department to accept its previous random inspection system, he said.
Canada’s tests for listeria are internationally recognized, but inspectors there have switched to the U.S. approach of testing finished products, Anderson said. And all processing plants have been ordered to comply with sanitation controls similar to those in the U.S., he said.
The Agriculture Department said it will take until 2007 to make a final decision on whether Canada’s system is equivalent to the U.S. system.

Agriculture readies for a mission

Agriculture readies for a mission
New Indiana department eyes trade with Latin America

By Norm Heikens
Indianapolis Star
Red Gold ships its Indiana-raised tomatoes to Canada, Mexico, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean but not Latin America.
That could change if the Elwood company makes contacts in Costa Rica, Guatemala or Panama next week during the state’s first agricultural trade mission under the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The state’s 9-month-old agriculture department is trying to help forge trade relationships with the Latin American nations, now that President Bush has signed the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, and most of the other nations affected have ratified it or are moving toward ratification.
Steve Smith, who arranges with farmers to grow tomatoes for Red Gold, said the company jumped at the chance to go along.
“We’re very much on the ground floor of learning what the possibilities could be for us,” Smith said.
Approximately 30 people preparing for the Central America Agriculture Trade Mission were given details of scheduling and other logistics in a meeting Thursday in Indianapolis.
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., along with other Indiana government officials, academics and industry representatives, will leave Sunday and return Jan. 13.
Burton chairs the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Skillman will return two days early for Daniels’ State of the State message.
A total of 34 are making the trip at a cost of $1,900 per person, said Skillman spokeswoman Vickie Duncan Gardner. Non-government delegates must cover their own expenses.
Kelli Selby, a Purdue extension specialist who helps local extension educators understand multicultural opportunities, said initial research shows the Central American countries might be ready buyers for Indiana soybeans and soy products because soy is used in foods.
Latin nations also could buy corn because the nations are frustrated with the poor quality of grain bought from big U.S. exporters, Selby said.
Tapping the corn market would require selling directly to the nations and bypassing terminals in New Orleans and elsewhere that could result in quality Indiana shipments being diluted with poor-quality corn, she said.
Selby also said Central American companies buy U.S. corn, grinding it into flour and exporting it back to U.S. grocers for sale to Hispanic customers for baking into tortillas. Why couldn’t a corn milling plant be built in Indiana to serve the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population? she asked.
The trade mission is important because people living in Central America are relationship- oriented; they are more inclined to buy from a person they know than operating in a strict business relationship, said Selby.
“It’s important to keep building on that,” Selby said.

RFD-TV agricultural programming captures viewers nationwide

RFD-TV agricultural programming captures viewers nationwide
“On the Farm Radio Newsletter”
RICHMOND—A not-for-profit television network, RFD-TV, is proving that agriculture in America can pull in viewers. RFD-TV is a national station that focuses on rural issues.
“We’re a bunch of farmers with a television network,” said Patrick Gottsch, president of RFD Communications Inc. in Nashville, Tenn.
The network plays host to a variety of programs geared to rural America, including “Horse Babies,” “Trains and Locomotives,” and “Farm Bureau Today,” a show produced by several state Farm Bureaus.
“We are excited to see the impact RFD-TV is having on television programming,” said Bruce L. Hiatt, president of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. VFBF produces the program “Down Home Virginia,” which airs the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. during the “Farm Bureau Today” slot. “We feel our viewers are receiving programming that is family-oriented with an agriculture base.”
The network plans to launch “Rural Evening News” this year. Gottsch says he hopes it will become “a CNN for agricultural America.” The show will be a daily half-hour broadcast that will feature reports on cattle futures, storm fronts and farming legislation. Bureaus are expected to open in Chicago, Washington and Sao Paolo, Brazil this month.
When RFD-TV went on-air in December 2000 it reached about 4 million households. In 2004 it reached 28 million households in rural, urban and suburban areas via the Dish and DirecTV satellite systems.

It ain’t over yet cattlemen

It ain’t over yet cattlemen
Canadian border beef litigation still alive
“On the Farm Radio Newsletter”
Jan. 9 – A new motion has been filed in U.S. District Court intended to overturn the July 2005 decision which reopened the Canadian border to live cattle under 30 months of age and beef from cattle under 30 months of age.
R-Calf USA co-founder and president Leo McDonnell levels accusation saying “In order to provide multinational meatpackers with cheap foreign supplies, USDA has left the U.S. with some of the least protective BSE mitigation requirements of any developed country, turning the U.S. into a dumping ground for meat and livestock other modern nations have banned.

See full story here >>

Nearly half of all farmers have Internet

Nearly half of all farmers have Internet
“On the Farm Radio Newsletter”
Washington – A recent USDA survey found that 48 percent of the nation’s 2 million farms have Internet access, compared to 43 percent in 2001.
The Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report also found that 54 percent of all U.S. farms own or lease a computer, up from 50 percent in 2001. Farms with more than $250,000 in annual sales showed a higher percentage of computer usage when compared to small farms. More than half of all small farms (annual sales of less than $250,000) reported access to computers, 46 percent have access to the Internet, but less than 30 percent use computers for farm business.