Governor appoints one of two Board of Livestock seats

Today, Governor Schweitzer appointed Brett DeBruycker, current president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, to the Board of Livestock. His appointment filled the seat left vacant by the resignation of George Hammond in September. Meg Smith also resigned in September, but her seat remains empty for now. New appointees must be approved by the state Senate and serve six-year terms.

The Board met at 1 p.m. today for its regular bi-monthly board meeting. Quentin Kujala of the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks gave a presentation on the agency’s 2008 Elk Brucellosis Surveilance. He discussed research on elk movements in the Madison and Paradise Valley compared to data collected between 1976 and 1986. According to his data, elk are spending less time in the forest and more time in the valley bottoms on private land. He said that the agency firmly believes that elk are congregating in certain areas because of lack of hunter access to these areas. He explained that this has the effect of artificially bunching elk, making the transmission and persistence of brucellosis more likely. Kujala will make a similar presentation at the MSGA Convention and Trade Show on Dec. 12 during a joint Beef Production and Markeing-Land Use and Environment brucellosis discussion. Please join us to learn more and ask your pressing questions of FWP.

It’s a busy November for MSGA – Convention will be here before you know it

November has already shaped up to be a very busy month here at the MSGA office. With the election come and gone, we are hard at work attending important industry meetings, putting the finishing touches on planning and preparation for our 124th Annual Convention and Trade Show, and looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session.

On November 5 & 6 Errol and I attended the 5th meeting of the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners. They are holding series of meetings, open to the public for observation, to decide on “Adaptive Management” changes to the plan for the upcoming management season. MSGA has been keeping a close eye on these discussions as the partners push to allow for more and more tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park. So far, the partners have agreed to allow untested bison to be outside of the park in various areas of Hebgen basin, near West Yellowstone, during most of the year. On the North side, after the completion of the buyout of the Royal Teton Ranch grazing rights (owned by the Church Universal Triumphant), 25 head of seronegative bison will be allowed to travel north of the park through this corridor. This is explicitly outlined in the IBMP, though partners had earlier discussed allowing an unlimited number of untested bison in this area. Stay tuned as the next and final meeting will be held Dec. 17 & 18.

Many of our local affiliates will be holding their annual meetings this month. The Choteau County Livestock Protection Association meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. in Big Sandy. The Sheridan County Stockmen’s Association meeting will be on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. in the Sheridan Room of the Montana State Bank in Plentywood. The Southwest Stockmen will meet at 5 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Elk’s Lodge in Dillon. On Nov. 19, the MonDak Area Stockgrowers will hold their meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Triangle Nite Club in Sidney. The Phillips County Livestock Association will hold their meeting at 2 p.m. at the First State Bank of Malta. On Nov. 21 the Fergus County Livestock Association will meet in Lewistown and the North Central Montana Stockgrowers Association will meet at the Duck Inn in Havre. Nov. 22, the Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers will hold their meeting at 2 p.m. at the Masonic Hall in Big Timber with a Happy Hour at 5 p.m. followed by a prime rib and lamb dinner upstairs at the American Legion. Montana Rose will provide entertainment. Also on Nov. 22, the Musselshell Valley Stockgrowers will hold their meeting along with a dinner and dance beginning at 6 p.m. tentatively located at the Riverside Hall, four miles south of Roundup. The Southeastern Montana Livestock Association will meet on Nov. 28 in Miles City. On Nov. 29 the Big Horn Livestock Association will meet at 12 p.m. at Bud’s Catering in Hardin for a no-host lunch and general membership meeting to follow.

The Montana Board of Livestock will meet in Helena at the Department of Livestock on Monday and Tuesday Nov. 17 and 18. We’re still waiting to hear who Governor Schweitzer will appoint to fill the positions left vacant by the resignations of Meg Smith and George Hammond in September. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. on Monday and resume at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Dr. Zaluski will discuss the Brucellosis Action Plan, the IBMP Adaptive Management Plan and other brucellosis-related things on Tuesday morning. To see a full agenda for this meeting, click here.

Convention is just around the corner! If you haven’t signed up yet for our 124th Annual Trade Show and Convention to be held Dec. 11-13 at the Billings Holiday Inn Grand Montana, give us a call today (406) 442-3420. Registration is $150 until Nov. 28 and $175 after. Be sure to reserve your room with the MSGA room block before Nov. 28! To download a registration form, click here.

President and CEO of JBS Swift USA to speak at Montana Stockgrowers’ 124th Annual Convention

Wesley Batista, President and CEO of JBS Swift USA, based in Greeley, Colo., will speak at MSGA’s 124th Annual Convention and Trade Show at the Billings Holiday Inn Grand Montana, Dec. 11-13. Convention attendees will have the opportunity to hear Batista speak and ask him questions at the end of the Opening General Session on Friday, Dec. 12.

JBS Swift USA is a division of Brazil’s JBS S.A., currently the world’s largest beef producer and exporter with a daily slaughtering capacity of 65.2 thousand head of cattle and the largest global exporter of processed beef. The company’s operations include 22 plants located in nine Brazilian states, six plants located in four Argentine provinces, 16 plants in the U.S., 10 in Australia and 10 in Italy. After purchasing Swift & Co. last year, JBS USA became the third-largest beef processor in the U.S., behind top-ranked Tyson Foods and second-ranked Cargill.

“We appreciate Wesley Batista taking the time to travel to Billings and speak to our cattlemen,” said Errol Rice, MSGA’s executive vice president. “MSGA, first and foremost, supports free and fair competition in the marketplace and this is a great opportunity for MSGA members to hear directly from JBS Swift regarding the details of their increased ownership in the U.S. packing and cattle feeding industries.”

Last week, JBS completed its purchase of Smithfield Beef and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently blocked JBS’s attempt to purchase National Beef Packing Co. of Kansas City, Mo.—a move that would have made JBS the largest beef processor in the U.S. The DOJ and attorneys general for 13 states filed suit against JBS S.A. and National Beef. The suit claimed the deal would put 80 percent of domestic fed cattle packing capacity in the control of the top three packers in the country. The lawsuit said the buyout would hurt packers because it would likely lessen competition. This would result in higher prices for consumers and lower prices paid to ranchers and feedlots, the suit claimed.

“We disagree with the Department of Justice’s decision to try and block this transaction,” Wesley Batista said in a press release. “This transaction is highly pro-competitive and will generate significant efficiencies and synergies that will benefit our cattle suppliers and our beef customers. We believe the government’s case is misplaced and we look forward to defending this matter in court.”

Batista’s speech at MSGA’s convention will set the stage for MSGA’s committee meetings.
“MSGA has long valued the process of due diligence,” said Rice. “Our members will be closely monitoring and evaluating the impacts on the beef industry as a result of JBS’s recent acquisitions. MSGA members will also be closely evaluating the civil antitrust lawsuit filed to prevent JBS from acquiring National Beef Packing Co., LLC.”

MSGA’s 124th Annual Convention will feature committee and business meetings, Cattlemen’s Colleges, the Women of the West Fair, a 95-booth Trade Show, and the Grand Finale Banquet. For more information please visit www.mtbeef.org , or contact Rose at MSGA (406) 442-3420.

USAHA passes resolution to regionalize GYA for brucellosis

The Northern Ag Network continued coverage of the USAHA, reporting that the U.S. Animal Health Association finished their meeting yesterday and the association approved a resolution to regionalize brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. USDA is required to respond to the group.

According to Northern Ag’s report,The resolution has 5 key concepts:
1 – We must recognize that the level of risk for brucellosis exposure varies geographically in each state in the GYA.
2 – We must implement and enhance traceability and have more rigorous testing for brucellosis.
3 – Additional cases must be allowed to be found in the GYA without it affecting the free status of the state.
4 – Advancements in the elimination of brucela abortus need to be made to eradicate brucellosis from the wildlife.
5 – We need to support funding for these efforts.

According to Dr. Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian, the border of a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park would be determined by a joint effort between the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the states. Producers in this area will be required to undergo more intensive management of their livestock.

Visit http://www.northernbroadcasting.com/stories_detail.asp?ID=1281 to read the Northern Ag Network’s report and hear audio from Zaluski.

U.S. Animal Health Association considers new plan for brucellosis in GYA

The Northern Ag Network reported today that the U.S. Animal Health Association is considering a resolution that could change the way brucellosis is dealt with in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Check out the article with sound clips of an interview with Dr. Walt Cook, Wyoming’s State Veterinarian. http://www.northernbroadcasting.com/stories_detail.asp?ID=1274

According to Northern Ag Network’s report, USAHA supports the concept of regionalizing the GYA. There will be a zone around Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that will not affect the brucellosis status of the rest of the states. Cook said that increased testing requirements will be required for the zone, but did not say who would pay for it. The report mentioned that the “group did stress that there needed to be a more aggressive approach taken to help handle the problem in the wildlife,” but did not give any specifics about what they intended to do about brucellosis in wildlife.

The resolution will be voted on today. Stay tuned for more information.

Schweitzer vs. Brown: Livestock Industry Campaign Donations

Chuck Johnson wrote an article this morning comparing the campaign collections between Brian Schweitzer and Roy Brown. See the article at the following link. http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2008/10/28/news/state/25-donations.txt

It was interesting to see that Roy Brown’s second largest campaign contributing industry sector was the livestock industry whose contributions totaled $50,600. Schweitzer’s second largest industry contributors were lawyers and lobbyists who’s contributions totaled $251,000. Schweitzer did show $42,200 given to him by the livestock industry. Which is comparable to Brown’s amount. Although it didn’t show up as a top contributing industry sector.

What do people out in cattle country think about this?

Did you send in your comments on the draft brucellosis action plan yet? Comments are due Nov. 1

Last Thursday and Friday I attended two town meetings on the Department of Livestock’s draft brucellosis action plan in Ennis and Dillon. State Veterinarian, Dr. Zaluski presented the plan to a crowd of about 50 people at the Ennis Public Library on Thursday, and Dr. Linfield, who has been contracted by the DOL to develop herd plans and work with producers in the Greater Yellowstone Area, presented the plan to a crowd of about 40 in the 4-H Building at the Dillon Fairgrounds.

Both portrayed the plan as a short-term, targeted surveillance plan to help us get our brucellosis Class Free status back. Both Dr. Zaluski and Dr. Linfield were careful to say that the plan is not split-state status and it is not a regionalization plan. Both estimated that it will take 12-18 months to get our status back with this plan. The lines for the three areas, Area 1 – Special Focus Area (elevated exposure potential); Area 2 – Assurance Area (minimal or no exposure potential); Area 3 – Area of No/Unlikely Exposure Potential, were drawn according to county and other political lines to encompass hunting districts that have had brucellosis-positive elk. (However, both failed to mention that the numbers are from a 20-year period and are not scientifically or statistically sound.) Apparently Idaho has used a similar three-area system for surveillance.

In Area 1, all producers will complete a mandatory risk assessment, have the option to create a herd plan, and every herd will have an entire herd test by Dec. 31, 2009. Zaluski said DOL will submit a report and a Class Free Application to APHIS in June of 2009, which APHIS will review in July, then we can hope to get a yes or a no, no earlier than December of 2009.

Both Zaluski and Linfield also discussed how this plan fits in with the long term efforts. One example that was discussed was APHIS’s idea to regionalize the GYA in all three states and call it the National Brucellosis Eradication Zone. Other efforts discussed were the Tri-State Veterinarian meetings, changes in the Federal Rules, and efforts with the U.S. Animal Health Association. Dr. Zaluski was on his way to the USAHA meeting in North Carolina on Friday which is why he was unable to attend the Dillon meeting.

Another component of the plan that applies to the whole state is the proposal to make official calfhood vaccination mandatory. Zaluski suggested that this step would bolster confidence in our trading partners. Zaluski pointed out that states like Pennsylvania and New York still require OCV for brucellosis in their state and they do not face the same risk as Montana does. Zaluski said that since most Montana producers already OCV, this shouldn’t create a burden. It will also be consistent with what Idaho does and Wyoming is considering it as well.

During the comment times of both meetings, many people commented about the lack of an end-date for the plan. “This plan is called short term, but nothing in this plan looks short term,” said John Scully at the Ennis meeting.

Zaluski said that some testing and surveillance requirements would likely continue after Montana regains its Class Free status. “Other states are demanding additional testing,” he said.
Bob Sitz commented that the plan is going to be a problem for most of the producers in Madison County because they live in Area 2 or 3 and summer their herds in Area 1. Testing would most likely have to happen at the home ranch where the ranchers have the facilities to get the cattle in, but which requirements would they have to meet, the requirements of the area where the cattle were, or the home ranch?

Sitz also suggested that the DOL emphasize testing the high risk animals such as young, open cows that. He said Trans Ova buys most of its cows from Montana and tests 50,000 head of open 3-6 year olds, and has only found one case from Montana, the index cow from the Bridger Herd. Sitz suggested that the state rely on this type of testing instead of the onerous testing of entire herds even if there is no reason to suspect they might have brucellosis. He said later, “All this testing out in the country is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Keep it simple.” At the meeting Zaluski said the Trans Ova surveillance is “not sufficient.”

Many of the comments echoed the opinion that producers are doing everything they can and yet are bearing the burden of this mess while the wildlife agencies do nothing. One questions very pointedly asked: What is FWP going to do about the elk?

In Ennis, Pat Flowers, Director of FWP Region 3 explained the departments plan to spend nearly $100,000 on enhanced surveillance and testing efforts for elk using hunter gathered samples. A member of the audience asked: “What’s the plan after you find out where all the brucellosis is?”
Flowers responded that the money is only planned for increased surveillance.

There was a lot of talk about the problem stemming from feedgrounds in Wyoming, rather than the bison in Yellowstone National Park. (Several feedgrounds permits were recently renewed by the Forest Service for 20 years). Kurt Ault of FWP said, “The brucellosis problem is due to the 25 feedlots in Wyoming with seropositive rate of 27-70%, even higher than the Yellowstone National Park bison.”

The audience also addressed questions about finding an effective vaccine for all species.Neil Anderson of FWP told producers not to hold their breaths for an effective elk vaccine. “There won’t be an effective elk vaccine in my lifetime.”

Producers also asked what Yellowstone National Park’s plans to do to control brucellosis in bison. Zaluski explained that the park has offered draft versions of disease suppression plans and the remote vaccination Environmental Impact Statement is due out soon.

John Crumley commented, “This [plan] is pretty hard to swallow as the pool of infection seems to get larger. You’re asking these people to do some hard things but at the same time you, or we as a whole, are letting more bison roam farther into Montana.”

Rachel Endecott asked Zaluski in Ennis what the budget for this plan would be and what the Department’s personnel situation is. Zaluski explained that the budget for the plan is somewhere near $2 million for one year of testing and hiring two veterinarians and one program manager to implement the plan. DOL is seeking funding sources on the state and federal level so the department can implement the plan at no or little cost to producers, though no funding has been secured yet. Zaluksi commented that he is working to “make sure producers are not priced out of their business” by this plan.

In Dillon, Linfield said that the plan probably won’t have any real affect on producers until next fall.

Linfield discussed how Zaluski has said repeatedly that the only alternative to this plan is doing nothing and that won’t work to get our status back. In Dillon, Bryan Mussard commented that he’d rather do nothing and not regain our status because now that we are Class A, herds that are found to be infected are not required to depopulate but can test out instead.

In Dillon, Meg Smith asked Linfield why the DOL can’t force FWP to make more effort to deal with diseased elk when the DOL has statutory authority over disease in the state. After the meeting in Dillon, Bryan Mussard commented that the DOL is telling producers what to do but is asking FWP.

Overall, it seems that producers are very worried that this plan will take pressure off the wildlife agencies and place the burden squarely on their own shoulders.

PETA’s take on the Schweitzer/Brown vegetarian brouhaha

October 22, 2008

Governor Brian Schweitzer
cc: Senator Roy Brown

Dear Governor Schweitzer:

We at PETA have noticed that vegetarianism has made news lately in Montana, so we wanted to provide a little food for thought. Vegetarians might be outnumbered by cows in Montana, but that doesn’t mean you should contribute to the B.S. America’s meat habit fuels our obesity epidemic, and meat consumption has also been linked to heart disease, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. A recent U.N. report found that meat production is a leading environmental hazard: Animal waste from factory farms pollutes rivers and bays from coast to coast, and raising animals for food tops the list for causing greenhouse-gas emissions. And anyone who follows the news knows that slaughterhouses across the nation repeatedly violate the federal Humane Slaughter Act. These and many other facts show why a meatless diet is something that everyone should embrace. Please visit GoVeg.com for more information.

Sincerely,

Dan Mathews
Senior Vice President
PETA

(Read the full press release at http://www.peta.org/mc/NewsItem.asp?id=12118)

A letter from Roy Brown

Roy Brown’s campaign sent us this letter regarding recent allegations that he is a vegetarian:

“As many of you have most likely heard, the governor and his political thugs have attempted to mislead those in the livestock community to believe that I do not support ranchers with my political policy or with my diet. Both allegations are completely false. I am disgusted that anyone would attempt to manipulate any sector of our community with such lies. I am not, nor have I ever been a vegetarian, and I believe allegations that one’s personal eating habits would have a direct effect on their political policy to be ridiculous and the signature of a desperate and petty campaign. It is an obvious attempt to turn your attention from his own failed leadership on issues that have impacted agriculture in Montana.

I find it despicable that my opponent would attempt to turn attention to such a ludicrous allegation in an effort to duck responsibility for failing to protect Montana’s ranchers from brucellosis and out of embarrassment of his own efforts to hand over control of Montana’s waters to the federal government.

You’ll recall that when news of the last positive test for brucellosis came out, the Governor pointed fingers, and attacked the Montana Stockgrowers Association as the ones to blame. Even today, Governor Schweitzer refuses to consider any idea or solution to the brucellosis problem other than his own. Montana ranchers have paid for his ignorance. Instead of working towards eradication of the disease and protecting your best interest, he has unrelentingly pushed through a plan that will segregate and sacrifice portions of our ranching community. As Montana’s next Governor you can rest assured that I will focused renewed efforts on eradication of the disease and proper management of bison and elk until our brucellosis-free status is restored.

I was equally disgusted with the Governor’s support of the Clean Water Restoration Act, voluntarily cowering to the federal government and surrendering all control of our water rights. Despite his unwillingness to admit the true intention of this legislation, Schweitzer testified for Congress in support of the law that would strip us of every water way from lakes and rivers to creeks, irrigation ditches and stock ponds. He has put our ability to manage our own waters on the chopping block in what can only be seen as an attempt to further his time in the national spotlight. I believe that Montanans who have been stewards of our land and water for generations, are best equipped to continue to manage our waters, not federal bureaucrats.

While it has become obvious that my opponent does not hold himself or his political allies to the same standards of accuracy and integrity that I hold myself and my campaign to, I urge all of you to take a scrutinizing look at the information you will be bombarded with. My commitment to the agriculture industry and all Montanans has never wavered. It is important that we do not allow the governor to brush his failed leadership on brucellosis and our water rights under the rug. His ignorance of these issues corresponds to his ignorance of our needs and expectations. His continued failure must end in November. Together we will end this crude, deceitful, manipulative methodology that is steering Montana in the wrong direction.”

U.S. Department of Justice approves JBS merger with Smithfield and blocks merger with National Beef

by Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil antitrust lawsuit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago to block the proposed merger of JBS Swift and National Beef Packing Company LLC. Montana’s Attorney General Mike McGrath is joining the Department’s lawsuit. The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) is uncertain as to who requested McGrath to join the case. (more…)