Weekly livestock news for November 25: USDA moves, immigration, and antibiotics

Perdue reaffirms decision to move USDA research offices

Following a recent tour of the new space, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he had no regrets about relocating the offices of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City, Missouri. The building will be the headquarters for 500 employees who work at the two departments. Current employees who have relocated are working out of a temporary office nearby, according to Meat + Poultry. “The people in the room may not know how much opposition we faced in D.C.,” Perdue said during a media briefing. “I was surprised, myself, by how much opposition—I thought we were literally doing the right thing, and I am convinced today even more so, having been here and seeing where we’ll be on the ground that we did the right thing.” Many department employees, as well as the Office of the Inspector General, questioned the decision to relocate, but Perdue said it would help farmers by bringing researchers closer to the agriculture industry.

Groups support ag immigration bill

More than 300 agricultural groups sent a letter to leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives supporting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bill that would establish a program for agricultural workers who have immigrated to the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy. It would also reform the H-2A program (which allows for temporary foreign agriculture workers to enter the country) to provide more flexibility for employers while ensuring critical protections for workers, according to the announcement, featured in Feedstuffs. The letter was signed by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the United Egg Producers, dairy groups, farmers unions and many produce sectors. Several individual county farm bureaus signed, but the American Farm Bureau Federation has not offered its support for the proposal as it currently stands. The bill was scheduled for a House Judiciary Committee hearing November 20.

Despite expected rise, farm income struggles

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting a rise in farm income, agricultural lenders continue to report a decline in income compared to year-ago levels, Feedstuffs reports. The Federal Reserve banks in Chicago; St. Louis; Kansas City, Missouri; and Minneapolis recently released updates on farm income, farmland values and agricultural credit conditions for this year’s third quarter. Ani Katchova, an associate professor at Ohio State University, said USDA’s forecast for farm income in 2019 is up about 5% from last year, but this is with reductions in crop receipts that mostly would be compensated by increases in direct government payments as well as other farm-related income, including crop insurance and prevented planting payments. She noted that bankruptcy and loan delinquency rates are still near historic lows. Farm Credit Administration CEO and board chair Glen Smith said current capital levels in the Farm Credit System are “well poised to deal with the struggling ag economy,” although a continued conservative approach to lending is advised.

Corn Belt avoids climate change effects now, but climate change will catch up

While most regions of the world have warmed by an average of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, the American Corn Belt has actually seen temperatures decrease, resulting in a 5-10% increase in U.S. corn yields, according to a recent study. Researchers estimate that increase is worth $1.5 billion a year. But according to one coauthor on the report, this “warming hole” appears to be due to factors other than climate change, like widespread agricultural expansion and increased use of irrigation in the region. Furthermore, he doesn’t believe this trend will last forever. “Increased agriculture has started to level off. The amount of installed irrigation has started to level off,” said the researcher, Jonathan Winter. “The effect is going to level off, but climate change marches on.” Feed Strategy reports on the story.

Scientists will research ASF in Vietnam

A group of scientists from the United States and Canada will work with the Vietnam government, diagnostic laboratories, veterinarians and pig producers to help prevent and control African swine fever in the country, Feed Strategy reports. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It includes two parts. The first will train veterinarians, laboratory workers and farm advisers or managers on ways to prevent and control the spread of the virus. Training will include in-person workshops and online courses that focus on epidemiology, diagnosis and surveillance; biosecurity; and ASF preparedness, response and animal disease regulation. The second part will include on-farm investigations to learn more about how the virus behaves in a farm environment, how to isolate the virus, ways to clean and disinfect the virus and to find out how quickly an infected site can be repopulated.

Groups launch antibiotic guidance

The International Poultry Council, together with the World Organisation for Animal Health, has launched new best practice guidance for reducing the need for antibiotics in poultry meat production. The announcement came during World Antibiotic Awareness Week. The guidance, which aims to raise awareness of management approaches that can reduce the need for antibiotics in poultry farming, follows the council’s 2017 decision to adopt a position statement on antimicrobial use and antimicrobial stewardship principles. Meanwhile, members of AnimalhealthEurope, an association made up of 13 of Europe’s animal medicine manufacturers and 20 national industry associations, have signed on to a multibillion-euro pledge to support development of vaccines, diagnostics and other measures to prevent animal disease, WattAgNet reports. The “25 Global Actions by 2025” pledge is part of a global “Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics” initiated by the global veterinary medicines industry association HealthforAnimals.