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Published March 31, 2014, 09:46 AM

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U.S. meat groups challenge to COOL denied, N.D. still first in honey production and U.S. drug firms move to bar antibiotic use.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

US meat groups challenge to COOL denied

• A U.S. appeals court on March 28 rejected a challenge by meat producers to a federal regulation that specifies labeling requirements for certain meat products, a move applauded by rancher and consumer groups. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit says a 2013 regulation covering the so-called country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for muscle cuts of meat, can be enforced. The American Meat Institute and related trade associations from the beef and pork sectors had attempted to prevent the rule from taking effect, arguing that COOL raises the cost of meat production. The rule requires retailers such as grocery stores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs to list not just the country of origin, but also information on when and where animals were born, raised and slaughtered. It strengthened the previous 2009 regulation.

ND still first in honey production

• FARGO, N.D. — Honey production in 2013 from North Dakota producers with five or more colonies totaled 33.1 million pounds, unchanged from 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. North Dakota ranked first in the nation for honey production for the tenth consecutive year. There were 480,000 honey producing colonies in North Dakota during 2013, unchanged from 2012. Yield per colony was 69 pounds, unchanged from 2012. Producer stocks were 6.96 million pounds on Dec. 15, up from 5.96 million pounds a year earlier. Prices for the 2013 crop averaged 204 cents per pound, up from 192 cents in 2012. This is the highest price on record. Prices were based on retail sales by producers and sales to private processors and cooperatives. Total value of honey produced in 2013 was $67.6 million, up 6 percent from 2012.

US drug firms move to bar antibiotic use

• U.S. regulators on March 26 said 25 out of 26 drugmakers who sell antibiotics used in livestock feed for growth enhancement have agreed to follow new guidelines that will make it illegal to use their products to create beefier cattle, heftier hogs and other outsized animals. The companies — which include Eli Lilly & Co.’s Elanco Animal Health unit, Bayer Healthcare LLC’s animal health division and Zoetis Inc. — have agreed to start the process of removing any growth promotion claims on their products’ labeling, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administra- tion. The FDA announced the guidelines in December, as part of an ongoing bid to stem a surge in human resistance to certain antibiotics. Although the guidelines are voluntary, agency officials say they expect drugmakers to fully adhere and to narrow their products’ use. This labeling shift will ultimately mean that while farmers, ranchers and other agriculture groups can continue to use such drugs to treat sick animals, they will be banned from using them for promoting growth in livestock, according to regulators. Critics argue that the guidelines give drugmakers too much discretion in policing their own use of antibiotics and provide no mechanism for enforcement, and were unconvinced by the announcement. “This plan is likely to lead to label changes, not a reduction in use,” says Avinash Kar, health attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The companies have also agreed to require antibiotics typically added to animals’ food or water, to be made available only through a veterinary prescription or via a veterinary feed directive status — instead of being available for sale over-the-counter at feed stores and other retail outlets, according to regulators. The agency says there are currently 26 drug companies and a total of 283 affected products or applications that fall under the voluntary guidance.

Foundation awards $200,000 in disaster funds

• The North Dakota Stockmen’s Foundation awarded nearly $200,000 in relief to North Dakota and South Dakota ranch families through its Aid for Atlas Disaster Relief Fund. The NDSF issued the last of its relief checks to producers who suffered catastrophic losses in the infamous winter storm, Atlas, which ravaged southwest North Dakota and western South Dakota Oct. 4 and 5, and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of cattle, sheep and horses in the region. Recipients were selected by a special selection committee, which evaluated the applications and selected recipients based on need. Of the total dispersed, approximately $163,000 was provided in direct aid to North Dakota livestock producers. The NDSF also contributed approximately $30,000 to the South Dakota Ranchers Relief Fund to assist neighboring producers who were hard hit in the storm.

Briefly . . .

Price inflation: Various measures of U.S. food price inflation are expected to rise by 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2014, roughly in line with the historical norm after price increases were tepid in 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. The agency evaluated expected increases in overall food, food-at-home and food-away-from-home prices. USDA says its forecast was based on an assumption of normal weather conditions, but the ongoing drought in California could have “large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices.”

Corn rejected: China’s quality watchdog at the northern city of Tianjin turned away 21,800 metric tons of U.S. corn after detecting an unapproved genetically modified corn strain, the official Xinhua news agency reports. The latest incident put the country’s total rejection of corn shipments from the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, at 908,800 metric tons since November. The corn was turned away because the shipments contained MIR 162 corn, a GMO strain developed by Syngenta AG that is not approved for import by China’s agriculture ministry.