The drought problems seem almost universal. Elevators in Kansas are expecting such a puny wheat harvest that some aren't even emptying their bins. All 64 counties in Colorado have been designated disaster areas amid an ongoing drought there. Temperature extremes and a fast-moving fungus have killed about 60 percent of the Vidalia onion crop in Georgia. And on the border between Texas and Mexico, a burgeoning water crisis has cost the region billions of dollars in lost agricultural revenue.
Much of that lost revenue is in the livestock industry, where farmers have had to sell off entire herds. Indeed, from price pressure to labeling issues, the livestock sector is under siege on a number of fronts.
Country of origin labeling for meat, fruits, vegetables and farm-raised fish was reaffirmed this week by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. The labeling is a part of the recently enacted farm bill and is yet another provision which has raised the ire of the trade officials in other countries.
Canadian cattle producers proposed a "grown in North America" label as a response to what they consider the protectionist action of country of origin labels. Veneman originally intended to give the proposal consideration. But, heat from legislators in D-C prompted this week's response that there would be NO North America label and the U-S-D-A would implement the country of origin label as directed by Congress.
Supporters of country of origin claim the law helps consumers make educated choices about their food. Exporters to the U-S assert the labels are simply trade barriers.
Labeling is the least of the concerns for livestock producers. Prices are still suffering from the recent Russian poultry embargo which backlogged supplies of chicken and other meats. The massive cold storage stocks are putting pressure on an already oversupplied beef market that continues to slaughter heavy cattle…and an overproduced pork market that is continuing to see a plethora of pigs. Adding insult to injury is what seems to be a continuously widening gap between the producer and retail prices. Over the past two years, the spread has increased by more than 20 percent for beef and nearly 25 percent for pork.