Tester Announces Bill to Ban Brazilian Beef

Senator Calls for Import Ban Following the Sale of Rotten Meat

 

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced legislation to temporarily ban the importation of Brazilian beef to protect American consumers from consuming rotten meat.

 

Following news that Brazilian meatpackers have been exporting rotten beef and trying to cover it up with cancer-causing acid products, Tester’s bill will place a 120-day ban on Brazilian beef imports. A 120-day ban will provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture time to comprehensively investigate food safety threats and to determine which Brazilian beef sources put American consumers are risk.

 

“We must take decisive action to ensure no family in Montana or anywhere else in this country is exposed to the danger of deceptive Brazilian beef processors,” said Tester, who butchers his own beef on his farm near Big Sandy, Mont. “Montana producers raise the best beef in the world and are held to the highest safety standards.  We cannot allow harmful food to come into our markets and endanger our families.”

 

I applaud Senator Tester’s decisive action,” said Errol Rice Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The safety and integrity of our beef products is important for ranchers and consumers and we cannot have this dangerous product flooding our markets.”

 

In August of last year, Tester criticized the USDA’s decision to allow Brazilian beef imports to flood America’s markets.  He expressed fears about the safety of Brazil’s product.

 

In 2015, Tester successfully blocked the importation of Brazilian beef from regions where foot-and-mouth disease was prevalent.

 

Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 4, 2016

 

Marneé Banks | 202.604.5521

Dave Kuntz     | 202.224.8544

Luke Jackson  | 406.702.5484

 

Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

Senator Stands Up for Montana Agriculture Producers and Consumers

 

(Big Sandy, MT) – Senator Jon Tester called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase transparency and address safety concerns regarding the importation of Brazilian beef.

 

This week USDA announced a policy change allowing Brazil to send raw beef to the United States.  Tester sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack on behalf of Montana consumers and hard-working cattlemen and women outlining his concerns about Brazil’s food safety standards and its meat industry’s recent history of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).  Tester pushed the USDA for answers on what the Administration has done to improve the emergency response to an animal disease outbreak such as FMD.  Additionally, he called for more transparency in how this decision was made and how these food safety standards would be verified in the future.

 

“Montana cattle producers have the best beef around, and they are held to the highest food safety standards,” Tester wrote.  “We should expect no less from Brazilian producers.”

 

In light of this decision, Brazil is expected to send 60,000 tons of beef to the United States this year.

 

“Montana ranchers cannot afford to jeopardize our state’s world renowned cattle herds to possible Foot and Mouth Disease exposure as a result of USDA’s recent announcement to import fresh chilled or frozen beef from Brazil,” said Errol Rice of the Montana Stockgrowers.  “We appreciate Senator Tester’s urgent inquiry into USDA’s decision and we look forward to working together to ensure that all possible risks to FMD have been thoroughly analyzed and addressed with rigorous scientific protocol by USDA.”

 

“USDA’s announcement falls in line with the number of obligations currently directed by agreements within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the US.  The problem is that too often Brazil adheres to a “do as I say- not as I do” type of policy.  Brazil has a lengthy history of WTO violations that continue to undercut all sectors of US production agriculture.  Despite this, Brazil is the first to leverage the WTO when it works in their favor,” said Leo McDonnell, Director Emeritus of the US Cattleman’s Association.  “Senator Tester’s letter and ongoing efforts to combat such abuses ensures that both Montana and US cattle producers will not be run roughshod over by a country that continues to fail on every level in living up to international commitments.”

 

Tester’s letter to Secretary Vilsack can be found HERE.

USDA value-added producer grant funding available

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA, Rural Development State Director John Walsh today April 8th that USDA is making up to $44 million available to farmers, ranchers and businesses to develop new bio-based products and expand markets through the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

 “Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry and adding value to this industry’s products will only help Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and rural business owners increase economic opportunities for their families and communities” said Walsh. “The Value-Added Producer Grant program is an under-utilized program in Montana.  This program can help expand agriculture markets and deliver a higher dollar return to producers.”

Value-Added Producer Grants help eligible applicants enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based value-added products.  Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program.  These grants support planning activities, such as developing a business plan, as well as provide working capital to implement viable value-added business plans.  Grants are awarded through a national competition. The maximum grant amount for planning grants is $75,000 and $250,000 for working capital grants.  Matching resources are required.

 More information on how to apply is on page 20607 of the April 8 Federal Register. The deadline to submit paper applications is July 1, 2016. Electronic applications submitted through grants.gov are due June 24, 2016. Additional information and assistance is available through the USDA Rural Development Office serving your county.

   Since 2009, USDA has awarded 1,126 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $144.7 million. USDA awarded 205 grants to beginning farmers and ranchers.

  In Montana, Poor Orphan Creamery, located in the Laurin community, received a $15,750 grant in 2014.  The working capital grant helped the sheep dairy to produce value-added hand-crafted farmstead cheeses from milk harvested from their flock of Icelandic dairy sheep.  The cheese is now sold throughout the United States and Internationally.

Congress increased funding for the Value-Added program in the 2014 Farm Bill. That law builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.

Montana Stockgrowers Association Comments on Removal of Brucella abortus

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Montana Stockgrowers Association Comments on Removal of Brucella abortus

Helena, MT – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing updates to the select agents and toxins registration list, as required every two years by the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002. APHIS has completed its fourth biannual review and is proposing to remove certain select agents that no longer need to be regulated as select agents, Brucella abortus (brucellosis) is included in the list. The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) is in support of the removal of B. abortus as a select agent that no longer needs to be regulated under this list.

MSGA and its members have significant and long-standing interest in the management of Brucella abortus, due mainly to the high rate of exposure in wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park (YNP).  As many are aware, this disease is highly regulated in domestic cattle and bison and has broad implications for the marketing of cattle and genetics from Montana. The regulation of B. abortus by USDA APHIS has led to the implementation of strict testing and management protocols for cattle in an area surrounding YNP known as the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA).

MSGA does support the proposed removal of Brucella abortus as a select agent that no longer needs to be regulated under this list. MSGA agrees that by removing B. abortus from select agent regulations, will allow for additional research into vaccines for brucellosis.  “Our organization sees this as an essential step in the development of new or enhanced vaccines to control this disease in cattle and wildlife in the GYA,” says Gene Curry, President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The current regulations and restrictions have nearly eliminated the efforts to further vaccine research and other aspects of B. abortus control.”

Due to the extent this disease impacts our state, MSGA recommends APHIS moving forward to remove Brucella abortus from this select agents and toxin registration list.

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The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.

 

 

 

USDA Offers Help to Fire-Affected Farmers and Ranchers

United States Department of AgricultureWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers and ranchers affected by the recent wildfires in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington State that USDA has programs to assist with their recovery efforts.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) can assist farmers and ranchers who lost livestock, grazing land, fences or eligible trees, bushes and vines as a result of a natural disaster. FSA administers a suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program.

In addition, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

“Wildfires have caused devastating losses for many farmers and ranchers,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “Over the past several years, wildfires have increased in severity, intensity and cost as the fire season has grown longer, and drought and increased temperatures contribute to dangerous conditions. Natural disasters such as wildfires are unavoidable, but USDA has strong safety-net programs to help producers get back on their feet.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist producers with damaged grazing land as well as farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who find themselves in emergency situations caused by natural disasters. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial assistance to producers who agree to defer grazing on damaged land for two years. In the event that presidentially declared natural disasters, such as wildfires, lead to imminent threats to life and property, NRCS can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing conservation practices to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

“After natural disasters such as wildfires, it is critical that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have financial and technical resources available to protect their natural resources and operations,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “Conservation practices protect the land and aid recovery, but can build the natural resource base and may help mitigate loss in future events.”

Farmers and ranchers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss losses due to fire or other natural causes of loss. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator.

When wildfires destroy or severely damage residential property, Rural Development (RD) can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, RD can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. RD also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.

For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of USDA, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation’s wildfires.

Today, fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s. Since 2000, at least 10 states have had their largest fires on record. This year, there have been more than 46,000 fires. Increasing development near forest boundaries also drives up costs, as more than 46 million homes and more than 70,000 communities are at risk from wildfire in the United States.

Visit https://go.usa.gov/3eDeF to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center go to http://offices.usda.gov.

–USDA Press Release

Livestock Forage Disaster Program Triggered in 15 Montana Counties

(BOZEMAN) – Montana Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Bruce Nelson announced on Tuesday, July 14, that the 2015 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) triggered eligibility in 15 Montana counties based on the U.S. Drought Monitor report released on July 9, 2015.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire on federally managed land. Eligible producers must own or lease grazing land physically located in a county affected by a qualifying drought during the normal grazing period for the county.

The following counties met the extreme drought (D3) criteria; qualifying producers with land in these counties will be eligible for three monthly payments: Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow.

“Montana livestock producers who own or lease grazing land or pastureland physically located in these 15 counties should contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to begin the enrollment process,” said Nelson. “This is an important program for livestock producers affected by the drought. LFP provided almost $60 million in disaster relief to more than 4,100 Montana livestock producers for the 2012 and 2013 crop years.”

Producers must complete an application and provide supporting documentation for 2015 losses by Jan. 30, 2016.

For more information, contact your local FSA office and visit Montana FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov/mt.

USDA Approves Beef Imports from Argentina and Brazil Despite Industry Concern

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

WASHINGTON – On Monday, June 29, USDA APHIS released their final rules for the Importation of Fresh Beef from Northern Argentina and a Region in Brazil. With this step by the Administration, these areas with a known history of Foot-and-Mouth disease would be allowed to begin the inspection process to import fresh and frozen beef products into the United States. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association stands firmly opposed to this regulation, not on the basis of trade but on the basis of animal health concerns; no trade is worth jeopardizing our herd health.

“FMD is a highly contagious and devastating disease, not just for the cattle industry, but for all cloven-hoofed animals and it can be introduced and spread through the importation of both fresh and frozen products,” said NCBA President and Chugwater, Wyoming, cattleman, Philip Ellis.. In 1929, our industry took profound and personally devastating steps to eradicate this disease and the United States has been FMD free ever since. But the actions of this administration for purely political gain threaten the very viability of our entire industry and threaten hundreds of thousands of American cattle-producing families.”

NCBA has demonstrated through numerous public comments and in person through meetings with staff and members, our concerns regarding the importation of fresh and frozen product from Northern Argentina and these 14 states in Brazil. There is a long history of repeated outbreaks in many of the neighboring South American countries, as well as a history of problems in both Argentina and Brazil with compliance to animal health and food safety regulations. Despite this long history of such an economically devastating animal disease, the Administration did not conduct an objective quantitative risk analysis for this rule, as was performed in 2002 for Uruguay.

The effect of an FMD outbreak in the United States would be devastating to animal agriculture and our entire economy with estimates for total economic losses ranging from $37 billion to $228 billion, depending on the size of an outbreak. Moreover, innumerable losses would occur through the closure of export markets, lost domestic sales, lost opportunities, and a loss of consumer confidence in beef.

USDA APHIS has worked for over 80 years to keep our country free of FMD, now is not the time to give up on that commitment simply to fulfill a political legacy.

Read NCBA’s full release here.


Montana Stockgrowers did submit comments regarding this USDA rule change in 2014.

MSGA supports opening foreign trade relations, utilizing science-based standards to facilitate trade. However, we do not support this proposal for importation of fresh (chilled or frozen), maturated and deboned beef from the specified 14 regions in Brazil into the United States. The risk and potential for catastrophic impact due to the introduction of FMD into U.S. cattle herds is not worth the small amount of trade that would be gained.

With 2.55 million head of cattle, making an economic impact of $1.4 billion annually to the state, the proposed rule will have a large impact, on not only cattle ranchers, but also the well-being of the state of Montana.

Limited Cattle Offerings in Holiday Week – Montana Markets Week Ending May 30

Montana Weekly Auction Summary for Week Ending May 30, 2015

Market: Billings Livestock Commission, Miles City, Public Auction Yards

Receipts: 4,247; Last Week 2,606; Last Year NA

Compared to last week: Feeder cattle were all too lightly tested last week for an accurate market trend, however higher undertones abounded. Feeder cattle were of average to attractive quality this week, with a few consignments of very attractive cattle. Demand for feeder cattle this week was good to very good at times.

CME futures contract prices have gained every day since last Thursday. Starting Tuesday August contracts gained 5.35 to close at 224.95 and September gained 4.725 to close at 223.25 as of Thursday nights close. The 7 day running average CME feeder cattle index closed at 222.45 as of Wednesday’s sales (the latest available settlement). The CME index has trended higher all week as CME futures prices give support to buyers bidding in sale rings across the 12 state region.

Limited offerings of feeder cattle in recent weeks have buyers worried of the volume of cattle left in the country side and many bid accordingly pushing all feeders higher this week. Of note, some buyers this week were particularly aggressive in purchasing 600-750 lbs heifers and in many cases were willing to pay replacement price or even above replacement price in order to fill feedlot orders.

Weigh-up cows sold with good to very good demand this week on mostly moderate offerings. Slaughter cows sold generally steady to firm on all classes offered this week. Feeding cows sold mostly firm. Weight-up cows are seeing demand from slaughter, replacement, and feeding cow buyers which has yet again pushed all cow prices higher. Packer buyers continue to buy cows to put on feed again this week as many are hoping to help curb shorted summer supplies.

Young aged 2-3 year olds sold sharply higher with many buyers looking for replacement cows to both ship to the southern plains as well as rebreed and fill local pastures. With heavy rainfall at times this week many buyers were very aggressive in bidding as pasture and range conditions are in great shape in and around the Yellowstone river valley. Cow/calf pairs saw much of the same strong demand as many local ranchers were in the stands this week actively bidding. Middle age (solid mouth) and aged (broken mouth) cows sold on the best demand again this week with ranchers searching for short keep cows to run on grass this summer.

Read more from USDA’s May 29 Montana Weekly Auction Summary.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – Week Ending May 29, 2015

Receipts This Week: 162,400 Total – 104,000 (Auctions); 36,700 (Direct); 21,700 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week, a light holiday test of yearlings and calves sold fully steady to 5.00 higher. The official start to the summer grilling season was followed by continued good demand for all classes and in many cases no signs of top-side pressure. Many major early–week auctions were idle this week, but buyers picked up where they left off at mid-week sales, as demand remains very good for calves and yearlings. Calve markets continue to trade on limited supplies with enough localized demand to offset supplies. The best advance continues to be on the heavier yearlings over 800 lbs as demand remains very good on yearlings.

  • Auction Receipts: 104,000 Last Week: 168,000 Last Year: 111,800
    • Montana 4,200. 78 pct over 600 lbs. 54 pct heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s May 29 National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


 

Weekly Montana Hay Report – May 29, 2015

Compared to last week:  No changes were seen this week as farmers continue to wait on first cutting. No new contracts have yet to been seen for western dairy hay. Demand for Alfalfa hay is light on very light supplies. Many parts of central Montana received between 1.0 to 3.0 inches of additional rain this week which helped improve both pasture and range conditions as well as hay crop conditions.

Many ranchers in the Central and Eastern parts of the state have turned cattle out for the summer which has further lightened demand for grass hay. Ranchers buying hay to stock has slowed to a near halt with rain curbing drought concerns. Light demand was seen for grass hay marketed within the state, however steady prices continue to move light supplies. Good demand was seen for hay to ship to other areas of the country, particularly drier regions, both east and west.

  • Alfalfa
    • Supreme: Small squares, 200.00
    • Premium: Large squares, 150.00-155.00
    • Good: Large squares, 120.00
    • Small squares, 138.00-150.00
    • Fair: Large squares, 90.00-130.00
  • Grass:
    • Good: Large Rounds, 90.00-100.00;
    • New crop contract, 110.00-120.00; Large Squares, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 240.00.
    • Good: Small Squares, 160.00-180.00.
  • Straw:
    • Large Squares and Rounds, 35.00-40.00.

Read more from the USDA’s May 29 Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Cattle on Feed Up 1 Percent, USDA Montana Reports Week Ending May 23

United States Cattle on Feed Up 1 Percent

Click image to view larger version.

Click image to view larger version.

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.6 million head on May 1, 2015. The inventory was 1 percent above May 1, 2014.

Placements in feedlots during April totaled 1.55 million, 5 percent below 2014. Net placements were 1.48 million head.

During April, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 320,000, 600-699 pounds were 240,000, 700-799 pounds were 348,000, and 800 pounds and greater were 640,000.

Click image to view larger version.

Click image to view larger version.

Marketings of fed cattle during April totaled 1.64 million, 8 percent below 2014. April marketings are the lowest since the series began in 1996.

Other disappearance totaled 66,000 during April, 20 percent below 2014

Read more from the USDA’s May 22 Cattle on Feed report.


 

 

Montana Weekly Auction Summary for the week ending May 23, 2015

Market: Billings Livestock Commission, Miles City, Public Auction Yards

Receipts: 2,606; Last Week 5,452; Last Year 2,671

Compared to last week: Feeder cattle were all too lightly tested this week for an accurate market trend. Feeder cattle were of mostly plain and average quality this week, with a few small packages of attractive cattle scattered throughout the sales. Demand for feeder cattle continues to be moderate to good, however demand for high quality feeders is good to very good on very light offerings.

Weigh-up cows sold with good to very good demand this week on mostly moderate offerings. Slaughter cows sold 1.00-2.00 higher on all classes of slaughtercows offered this week. Packer buyers continue to have to fight for offerings as buyers looking forcows to feed and breed push prices higher yet again this week. Quality this week was overall very good which gave buyers even more reason to fight over offerings.

Buyers searching for breeding stock purchased young aged cows on moderate to good demand this week. Young aged 2-3 year olds sold mostly higher with increased interest from all buyers. Feeding cows sold higher this week as well. Cow/calf pairs continue to be offered across the state. Most offerings sold with very good demand. Aged broken mouth cows sold on the best demand this week with many ranchers searching for short keep cows to run on grass this summer.

Read more from USDA’s May 23 Montana Weekly Auction Summary.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – Week Ending May 22, 2015

Feeders this week total – 204,700; Included Auctions-168,000; Direct-29,900; Video/Internet-6,800.

Compared to last week, yearlings sold fully steady to 3.00 higher with instances 5.00 higher as advance continues to be on heavy yearlings over 800 lbs.  Demand remains very good on yearlings as the draw of steady fed cattle prices on light trade Wednesday in Kansas at 161.00 continues to bring additional interest back to feeder cattle.

Steer and heifer calves traded steady to instances 5.00 higher where tested (mostly throughout the Midwest).Production areas farther north and west simply don’t do enough fall calving to test the market this time of the year, and the old crop calves are long gone.

Friday’s Cattle on Feed Report had May 1 inventory at 101 percent; placements at 95 percent and marketings at 92 percent.  Inventory was close to expectations, with placements significantly smaller than expected and marketings close to expectations.  Corn and soybean planting have had one of the nicest planting starts in several seasons, as corn planting is now 85 percent complete ahead of the 5-year average of 75 percent. Soybeans are 45 percent planted ahead of the 5-year average of 36 percent.

Auction Receipts:  168,000   Last Week:  147,500   Last Year:  172,200

  • Montana 2,600.  89% over 600 lbs.  40% heifers.
    • Steers:  Medium and Large 1  700-750 lbs (736) 238.20; 750-800 lbs (778) 228.90.
    • Heifers:  Medium and Large 1  600-650 lbs (625) 236.91; 700-750 lbs (721) 216.21.
  • Video Internet Receipts:  6,800    Last Week:  29,600   Last Year:  38,000; (86% over 600 lbs, 20% heifers)
  • Western Video Market: 5,900.  86% over 600 lbs.  23% heifers.
    • Northcentral Region (CO-WY-NE-MT-ND-SD-IA)  Steers:  Medium and Large 1 Sep few loads 425 lbs 350.00.

Read more from the USDA’s May 22 National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report

Compared to last week:  Very little change was seen in the hay market this week as farmers just wait on the new crop to come in. What little bit of hay moved was moved at steady money. Western dairies still have no new contract prices. Demand for Alfalfa hay is light on very light supplies.

Many parts of central Montana received between 1.5 to 3.0 inches of much needed rain last weekend, which was a welcomed sight for all hay farmers. This rain did help curb the worry of an all-out drought, as well as, curb some demand for ranchers buying hay to stock up in case of a drought.

In western Montana hay continues to be sold to cover needs until cows can be turned out. Central Montana range conditions improved drastically with the recent rainfall and many ranchers are busy turning out cows.

Additionally, new crop hay contracts continue to filter in with slightly lower prices since the last rain. Light demand was seen for grass hay marketed within the state. Good demand continues to be seen for hay to ship to other areas of the country.

  • Alfalfa:   Supreme:  Small squares, 200.00
    • Premium:  Large squares, 150.00-155.00
    • Good:     Large squares, 120.00
    • Small squares, 138.00-150.00
    • Fair:     Large squares, 90.00-130.00
  • Grass:  Good:  Large Rounds, 90.00-100.00; New crop contract, 110.00-120.00; Large Squares, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:  Premium:  Small Squares, 240.00.  Good:  Small Squares,160.00-180.00.
  • Straw:  Large Squares and Rounds, 35.00-40.00.

Read more from the USDA’s May 22 Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Looking Forward: What Does the Cattle Market Have in Store for 2015?

United States Department of AgricultureBy Brett Crosby, Custom Ag Solutions

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) cattle inventory report for January 2015 confirms that beef herd expansion is underway.  The number of beef cows that have calved increased over 600,000 head in 2014 to 29.7 million head.  The increase in beef cow numbers is the largest since 1994 and the second largest increase in over 30 years.  The herd expansion was impressive by any measure, but especially remarkable given the cost of replacement animals and the smaller number of replacement females available compared to 1994, when there were 34.6 million beef cows in the U.S.  While increased herd numbers have been expected by many, the new inventory statistics and rapid growth leave many producers wondering what this means for cattle prices going forward.

While a 600,000 head increase is sizeable, the U.S. beef cow herd is still small by historical measures and has decreased by over 3.9 million since 1996.  Nearly half of that decrease, 1.7 million head, came in 2012 and 2013 alone, when a drought ravaged the Southwest and forced massive herd liquidations.  Even if cattle numbers continue to increase at the 2014 rate, it will take several years just to get the U.S. herd back to the size it was only four years ago.  Clearly, total per capita beef supply in the US will remain at historically low levels for several years while the U.S. population continues to grow, resulting in per capita beef supply and beef prices remaining at or near their current levels.

While the current herd expansion suggests that calf prices likely hit their high water mark in the fall of 2014, prices should remain strong in 2015.  The 2015 calf crop is likely to be 10 to 15 percent higher than 2014, but calf supplies will likely remain tight while producers retain inordinately large numbers of heifers during this expansion phase.  As a result, deferred feeder cattle futures suggest calf prices holding very close to the levels seen last fall.  Of course, there is still a long time between now and the fall, and corn prices and winter wheat conditions this fall will play a large part in determining calf prices late in the year.

Feed cost and forage availability aren’t the only sources of uncertainty for this year’s calf prices.  Exports have been incredibly strong and a strengthening economy has also supported domestic beef demand.  Therefore, a U.S. recession or a global economic slowdown could have a substantial adverse impact on cattle prices.  With the U.S. beef herd expanding and a strong dollar and soft oil prices indicating global economic uncertainty, there is more downside risk for cattle prices than upside potential.

With increased downside market risk, this is a good year to consider carefully managing price risk.  Forward contracts, futures, options, and RMA’s Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance are all worth considering.  If fundamentals hold steady, the calf market is expected to remain strong, so producers should consider a risk management strategy that limits or softens unexpected downside market moves.  Also, because a repeat of 2014’s explosive upside move is unlikely, 2015 is probably a good year to consider early forward contracts at current price levels.

Despite national herd expansion, the next several years should remain profitable for cow/calf producers.  Beef demand domestically and abroad is strong, and heifer retention that is fueling expansion will help offset the effects of larger calf crops in the coming years.  With prices still near historic highs, however, a price risk management strategy should be employed to protect against downside movements triggered by high feed costs or macroeconomic issues.  For 2015, the old adage “Nobody ever went broke locking in a profit” is a good one to remember.

Custom Ag Solutions (CAS) is a USDA/RMA education partner that works to promote risk management tools, including Federal crop insurance programs such as the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) program.

CAS neither sells nor services crop insurance policies.  For a list of crop insurance agents, please visit www.USDA.RMA.gov/tools/agent.html.  For more information, visit the RMA website at www.USDA.RMA.gov.