September 1, 2014

Study: Deadly hog disease PEDV can travel in feed

A deadly virus that’s driving up pork prices as it’s wiped out as many as one in every ten piglets in Nebraska in the past year can be spread through hog feed, according to new research.

Dr. Scott Dee, the study’s lead author and research director at Minnesota’s Pipestone Veterinary Services, says they were stunned to learn Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PEDV, can travel through livestock feed.

“That’s why I think the industry is a little reactive to that, because it’s new, it’s a surprise,” Dee says. “Again, no blame on the feed industry because we’re partners and we have to work together, but we have to realize that it is a potential risk, so we can manage that risk.”

In a little over a year, the virus has killed as many as seven-million pigs nationwide. There have been more than 4,100 cases reported in 26 states, including about 50 cases in Nebraska.

Dee isn’t sure where the virus originated but believes the study’s findings can help deter future outbreaks. He says the revelation that PEDV travels through feed has shaken the pork industry.

“The feed’s the wild card because historically feed hasn’t been a risk factor for disease transfer,” he says. “Now, all of the sudden, we have a pathogen that does. The fact that the feed could potentially be a vehicle was a big surprise.”

The study is being published in the BMC Veterinary Research Journal. Later this month, Dee’s team will release a paper on commercially-available feed additives which he says will help in the prevention of PEDV.

Nebraska is the nation’s #8 hog producer in an industry worth more than $1-billion dollars to the state’s economy.


EPA claims it seeks clarity, not power grab in Clean Water Act proposal (AUDIO)

A top administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency claims proposed changes to the Clean Water Act won’t harm agriculture, but understands that message is a difficult one to make in farm country.

Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water with the EPA, Ken Kopocis, denies proposed changes to the Clean Water Act aim at extending the EPA’s reach onto the farm.

“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers. So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction,” Kopocis tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview from this Washington, D.C. office.

Yet, Nebraska farm groups don’t believe such assurances and staunchly oppose the proposal.

Sen. Mike Johanns, the former Secretary of Agriculture, has flatly stated the EPA lacks credibility with him.

Johanns, during a recent news conference hosted by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, rejected suggestions by the EPA that its proposed change won’t make a difference in enforcement of the act.

“Quite honestly, they don’t have a lot of credibility with me. I don’t trust them. I think they have given me reason over the past six years not to trust them,” Johanns replied. “And we have to get them to write the rule in a way that says that they’re not expanding their jurisdiction.”

We quoted Johanns and asked Kopocis if the EPA has a trust issue in Nebraska.

“I don’t know whether there’s a trust issue. I won’t speak on behalf of that,” Kopocis stated. “I do know that we have not had the best relations with the agricultural community and both this office and the administrator (Gina McCarthy) in particular are very interested in trying to address that.”

Kopocis says the proposal to change the Clean Water Act seeks to provide greater clarity and predictability to enforcement of the act. He insists the EPA has moved to relieve confusion in wake of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling on the act.

Kopocis says the EPA has heard the complaints from farm country and is reaching out to address those concerns.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Farmers seem now to be taking a cautious financial approach

A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Midwestern agricultural lenders discloses some wary farmers out there.

Nathan Kauffman with the Omaha branch office of the Fed’s seven-state Tenth District in Kansas City says not too many are worried about this year, but 2015 is another matter.

“Thinking about 2014, the crop insurance price for corn, for example, was set at $4.62, which is quite a bit higher than where cash prices are right now,” Kauffman tells Brownfield Ag News. “Going into early next year, February will be another important month, just thinking about what the crop insurance price might be set going into next year.”

Kauffman says most rural bankers reported solid credit conditions, but also say farmers are being very cautious about making equipment purchases or other capital outlays.

Kauffman says the survey discloses strong credit positions in the second quarter of the year, but some very cautious approaches into the latter part of the year.

“The important thing to note for now is that it looks like credit quality is still strong. Repayment rates, though they have softened a little bit, are still relatively strong, although that does present some concerns going forward,” according to Kauffman.

A western Nebraska lender sees a difference.

Todd Adams, CEO of Ogallala, Nebraska-based Adams Bank & Trust, says farmers are already tightening their belts.

“We’re already seeing that they’re holding onto to their billfolds a little tighter,” Adams says. “And I think some of the first places that it will show up is with them upgrading their equipment a little the last several years is they’ll back off their equipment purchases, maybe back off some their vehicle purchases and tighten their belt a little bit on some of the other spending that they do that is discretionary.”

The Federal Reserve Tenth District includes Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and western Missouri.

Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this story.

Nebraska’s cattle industry could see a boost from Asian markets

Nebraska’s cattle industry is among the nation’s largest, worth some $12-billion, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is talking with cattle producers in the region about developing opportunities overseas.

Ambassador Froman says he’s cautiously optimistic about the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership, and about getting Japan to drop its tariffs to zero, although he is unsure about a specific timeline.

“We’re deeply engaged with them on an ongoing basis,” Froman says. “We have reached an agreement with them that there would be no product area exclusions, so everything’s on the table, all product areas are to be covered and that’s a big deal.”

The TPP is a proposed regional free trade agreement being negotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico with several nations in the Asia-Pacific region, including: Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

Froman also talked about the Russian ban of all U.S. ag products and he says the market impact is negligible.

“It’s unfortunate that they decided to go down this path,” Froman says. “It further isolates them internationally. It won’t affect us that much. It affects, we think, less than one-half of one-percent of our ag exports, but it’s already having an effect on prices in Russia. Prices are going up there. It’s going to damage the purchasing power of their own people.”

He believes Russia is using the ban as an excuse as the U.S. has had ongoing issues with that nation, including the recent unrest in Ukraine.

Froman made his comments at the Iowa State Fair.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Russian threat to cut off farm imports not seen as big to Nebraska (AUDIO)

A threat from Russia to cut off agricultural imports from the United States isn’t seen as significant for Nebraska.

Sen. Mike Johanns says exports to Russia have declined over the years as Russia has proven to be an unreliable trade partner.

Johanns, the former Secretary of Agriculture, adds the problem could be resolved rather quickly.

“This can be solved tonight, today, this morning, if Putin just says, ‘Look, we’re not going to invade Ukraine. We’re not going to try to take over Crimea. These are sovereign areas that we’re going to leave alone,’” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network.

If that were to happen, normalized trading between Russia and the United States could resume, according to Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the threat in retaliation to economic sanctions imposed because of Russian aggression toward Ukraine. Putin has ordered Russian authorities to draw up a list of agricultural products from countries that have participated in the economic sanctions against Russia, purportedly banning all products from the United States.

The biggest impact in Nebraska would be the sale of dry beans. Nebraska is a major producer and has a substantial market share in Russia. Other Nebraska farm exports to Russia, such as beef, have declined over the past few years.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson doesn’t perceive the threat as substantial.

“It could become a bigger issue, but I guess at this point, I’m not sure that it’s going to be that big of an issue,” Nelson tells Nebraska Radio Network.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]