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April 10, 2014

Calling All Members!

The current edition of News and Information for Animal Agriculture, the official newsletter of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.

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NIAA Newsletter

Four Presented Awards at NIAA Annual Conference

Four individuals— Dr. Richard Raymond, Colorado; Dr. Hailu Kinde, California; Dr. Karen Jordan, North Carolina; and Jim Fraley, Illinois; —were asked to step into the spotlight at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture during the organization's annual conference on Tuesday, April 1, in Omaha, Nebraska. NIAA's membership —representing the aquaculture, beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goat, equine and poultry industries—honored the four for their outstanding service and leadership to the organization.

NIAA membership includes government regulatory personnel, academia, researchers, extension specialists, veterinarians, producers, allied industry businesses and national and state livestock, aquaculture, equine and poultry association leaders.

Individuals recognized and their respective awards include:

  • Dr. Richard Raymond, a food safety and public health consultant and former USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety, was given NIAA’s Advocate for Animal Agriculture Award for building bridges with consumers by delivering strong, positive messages about animal agriculture.

    Dr. Hailu Kinde, (right) with NIAA Chief Operating Officer, Katie Ambrose

  • Dr. Hailu Kinde, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory and co-chair of NIAA’s Emerging Disease Council, was presented the organization’s President’s Award that recognizes an NIAA committee or council chairman or co-chairman for exemplary leadership and dedication to the organization.

    Dr. Karen Jordan (left) with Dr. Annette Jones, NIAA Chairman.

  • Dr. Karen Jordan, a veterinarian and dairy farmer from North Carolina who serves on NIAA’s board of directors, was given NIAA’s Chairman’s Award for her unselfish dedication and tireless devotion to the advancement of animal agriculture.

    Mr. Jim Fraley (right) and Dr. Peter Timoney, 2012 Award recipient.

  • Jim Fraley, livestock program director for the Illinois Farm Bureau and chair of NIAA’s Animal Care Council, was presented NIAA’s Meritorious Service Award in recognition of his leadership, dedication and contributions to the organization and animal agriculture.

Moving from Precautionary Principle to Sustainability

Most regulatory systems—including that of the United States — utilize a precautionary approach to regulation. And, while most people would agree that precaution is a good idea, two key questions arise: Is the precautionary approach working? Can overzealous precaution actually halt innovation?

Several speakers zeroing in on the Precautionary Principle at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s 2014 Annual Conference, "The Precautionary Principle: How Animal Agriculture will Thrive," in Omaha, Neb., April 1–2, unanimously agreed that an overabundance of precaution can impede innovation and stifle progress. Another speaker stressed to the 225–plus conference attendees that sustainability—and not the Precautionary Principle—should drive decisions.

NIAA's Opening General Session speaker Mark Walton, PhD, Chief Marketing Officer for Recombinetics said the Precautionary Principle, which is based on a "better to be safe than sorry" approach to regulation, is not a "bad idea." But, when the Precautionary Principle becomes twisted and diverts progress due to prejudices, he contends that it is not accomplishing what it was designed to do.

Walton identified several challenges associated with policy being set when the Precautionary Principle is taken to the extreme. Among the challenges he shared are "who gets to decide what risks warrant not moving a product forward" and why do fear–-instilled, perceived risks voiced by activist groups take precedence over fact–based evidence such as research and science findings. Adding to the concern is that "there is no single, generally agreed–to definition of the Precautionary Principle."

While NIAA's Closing General Session speakers Ron Stotish, PhD, president and chief executive officer of AquaBounty Technologies, and Dave Edwards, PhD, director of Animal Biotechnology, agree that the Precautionary Principle applied to the extreme can halt progress, Edwards didn't leave those in animal agriculture off the hook. He stressed that it is animal agriculture's job to be open and transparent, communicate with consumers and convince others than the technology used is safe. Bovine Veterinarian, NIAA News Release, 04/08/2014

Successes and Challenges in Genetic Technologies

Last week’s National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual conference in Omaha focused on the "Precautionary Principle," examining how a bias toward extreme caution can hamper development of tools to improve agriculture and food production.

Mark Allen, PhD, director of marketing and genomics with TransOva Genetics described how assisted reproduction tools (ARTs), coupled with genomics, can accelerate the rate of genetic progress by two to eight times. Several of these tools already have contributed dramatically to genetic progress –- artificial insemination (AI) since the 1950s, embryo transfer since the 1970s, in–vitro fertilization and cloning since the 1990s and sex–-sorted semen since the early 2000s. Activists have resisted the implementation of ARTs, and that resistance has increased as new tools such as genetic engineering and gene editing become available.

Allen presented a formula for the rate of genetic gain, saying it equals (variation x accuracy x selection intensity) divided by the genetic interval. Accuracy and intensity of selection have increased significantly with the use of genomic predictions, AI, embryo transfer and sexed semen. In–vitro fertilization meanwhile, has reduced the genetic interval by allowing production of multiple calves per year from elite cows, and production of embryos from elite heifers as early as six months of age.

Allen says his company uses these technologies to qualify donor cattle using high–density genomic chips, collect ova from juvenile donors, conduct in-vitro fertilization using sexed semen and gestate all the resulting embryos in recipient animals.

The company also engages in cloning of elite beef and dairy cattle through its Viagen division. Cloning, Allen says, can provide a valuable alternative in multiple situations. By John Maday, Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/08/14

From NIAA Annual Conference: Speer Says Changes Coming in Antibiotic Use

Western Kentucky University animal scientist Dr. Nevil Speer tells Brownfield the new FDA guidelines will bring changes to the livestock industry.

"I don't think there’s probably any denying that there’s going to be more oversight," Speer says. "We’re going to have veterinarians more involved. A lot of things that maybe we take for granted today is going to change.

"That's probably true in everything we do–there's going to be more regulation no matter what–but on the other hand, maybe that's better that we’ll have a longer–term license to continue to operate."

Speer was one of the presenters at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture conference in Omaha. Listen to Audio Interview HERE. By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 04/09/14

Precautionary Principle Was Focus on NIAA Meeting

The "Precautionary Principle", a controversial risk management strategy developed to cope with possible risks where scientific understanding in still incomplete, was the focus of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s (NIAA) annual conference in Omaha.

The Precautionary Principle has been a topic of discussion for several years.  It describes a "better safe than sorry" approach to policymaking and regulation.  It is standard practice in Europe and it's also picking up steam in the U.S. as evidenced by growing protests over the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production, as well as animal welfare and GMOs.

But Dr. Mark Walton, chief marketing officer for Recombinetics, warns that in Europe and many other countries, the burden of proof under the Precautionary Principle has become so high that many people and companies have stopped trying to develop new products.  Walton says the principle is being "twisted and perverted" to prevent progress from taking place, which he says has potentially negative implications for the U.S. livestock industry.

Walton was one of the speakers at the NIAA conference.  We spoke with him following his presentation. Listen to Audio Interview HERE. By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 04/07/14

Seeking Harmony on Trich Standards

At the Trichomoniasis Forum last week in Omaha, much of the discussion centered on standardizing testing protocols and state regulations for testing cattle shipped between or within states. Currently, 22 states have some regulations regarding testing cattle for trichomoniasis or "trich," but the specifics of those regulations vary. That variation can complicate cattle marketing, particularly for seedstock producers who sell bulls to customers in multiple states. In some cases, transport of purchased bulls can be delayed by several days while the seller arranges for appropriate testing based on the bulls’ destinations.
Discussion points included several specifications that differ between states with trich regulations.

Most participants seemed to agree that some variation between laboratory protocols and policies is understandable and acceptable, based on differences in their facilities, staffing and other factors.By John Maday, Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/07/14

Trich Economics

When a third or more of a rancher's cows turn up open, which can happen when trichomoniasis infects a herd, the rancher obviously takes a significant economic loss. But due to the sporadic nature of trichomoniasis, commonly known as "trich," quantifying losses the disease causes across a region or across the country presents a challenge. During the Trichomoniasis Forum last week, hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), Texas A&M University economist David Anderson, PhD, provided some estimates.orki

Working with Texas A&M veterinarians, Anderson developed a set of assumptions to calculate the annual losses across the Texas cow-calf sector attributable to trich. He estimates that 20 percent of the 150,000 beef herds in Texas have some degree of trich infection in any year. Based on research, he used an average calving rate of 85 percent for the 80 percent of herds that do not have trich and a 73 percent calving rate for herds that do have it.

For this model, he based the estimates on a 90-day calving season. When cows are exposed to trichomoniasis from bulls during breeding, they often conceive but lose the fetus 50 to 80 days into gestation. Over time, cows typically clear the infection and return to near-normal fertility in two to five months. So, with a 90–-day breeding season trich-infected cows probably will be open at the end of breeding. With a longer breeding season, some of those cows might produce late calves, but those calves would be much lighter than earlier calves at weaning, also resulting in financial losses. By John Maday, Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/04/2014

Pork Board Veterinarian Provides PEDv Update at NIAA Conference

A veterinarian with the National Pork Board is optimistic that the industry will get the PED virus under control. Dr. Paul Sundberg says there has been a slight downturn in the number of PEDv infections in recent weeks.  And he expects that trend to continue throughout the summer.

"This type of virus doesn’t like hot and doesn’t like dry," Sundberg says, "and so we’re hopeful that as we get warmer weather, the incidence and number of infections will decrease."

Longer–term, Sundberg says he's optimistic that heightened biosecurity and checkoff–funded research will help get the disease under control.

"If we can keep it down over the summer, and expect that it may come back again next winter but at a lower level, we’re going to optimistically see the end of this in the next year or two," Sundberg says.

Experts estimate PEDv has killed four to five million piglets since last summer. Sundberg's comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s annual conference in Omaha. By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 04/07/14

Fish Tale

Anglers all talk of the big one that got away. The AquAdvantage salmon has not exactly gotten away, but it isn't in the pan either. This week's National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual conference in Omaha focuses on the "Precautionary Principle," and a presentation from Ronald Stotish, PhD, executive director of AquaBounty Technologies, provided a case study of how a bias toward caution can prevent implementation of food technologies that could help feed the world.

Nineteen years ago, Aqua Bounties Technologies introduced the AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified variety of Atlantic Salmon with a single gene from a Chinook salmon spliced into its genome and accounting for a total of about one ten–thousandth of its DNA. This fish grows dramatically faster than other Atlantic salmon, reaching market size in half the time with 20 percent better feed efficiency and 5 percent better nitrogen retention. Because of its superior performance, it can be grown in tanks rather than in ocean pens.

The federal government, of course, has a process for reviewing and approving genetically modified plants and animals. The Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, finalized in 1986, specified that genetically engineered organisms would continue to be regulated according to their characteristics and unique features, and not according to their method of production.

Studies on fourteen generations of the AquAdvantage salmon led to the FDA in 2010 determining the fish is an Atlantic salmon, as safe to consume as food as any other Atlantic salmon and that it represents no significant risk to the environment under conditions of use in application an approval. Those conditions for use in the application include growing the fish only in FDA–approved physically contained fresh–water culture facility and maintaining a population of only female fish for food production, to avoid any crossbreeding with wild populations.

From the beginning though, environmental groups and other interests, including the Alaskan wild–caught Pacific salmon industry, opposed and lobbied heavily against approval of the AquAdvantage salmon, citing concerns over food safety, crossbreeding and environmental damage.

Stotish points out that wild populations of Atlantic salmon are severely depleted, and in fact the species is listed as endangered in Maine. There is almost no commercial fishery for the species. Virtually all the Atlantic salmon on the market come from aquaculture facilities and the United States imports large quantities from several countries.

Nevertheless, the AquAdvantage salmon remains unapproved after 19 years in regulatory review, three years since the FDA disclosed its findings showing no food-safety or environmental risk, two years since FDA published an environmental assessment, one year since the close of a public comment period and more than $70 million invested toward approval.Regarding the opposition to biotechnology, Stotish says "the precautionary principle has become the weapon of choice to prevent innovation." By John Maday,  Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/02/14

Florida Organic Aquaculture's Grand Opening Celebration for Shrimp Production Facility

Florida Organic Aquaculture (FOA) will be having its Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting Celebration on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. Located in the rural town of Fellsmere, Florida, FOA is the largest closed-water, shrimp production facility in the U.S. It encompasses 180,000 sq. ft. or 4.13 acres–roughly the size of 3½ football fields. The shrimp are grown in an environmentally-safe, energy–efficient system, and raised without any chemicals or preservatives. This fresh, never frozen shrimp is highly sought after by restaurants, charter shipping lines, and grocery chains.

The $22 million project is expected to bring 512 direct and indirect jobs to the Treasure Coast region. Worldwide demands for seafood continue to rise dramatically, and the American consumer still prefers shrimp as their seafood of choice. Roughly 90% of shrimp consumed in U.S. is imported. However, FOA is positioned to meet this need as a Made In America and Fresh from Florida commodity. In addition, the economic impact, job creation, and educational opportunities of this project is significant. Digitial, 04/07/14

Vet Focuses on Stewardship of Livestock

Consumers want a deeper understanding of the livestock production system and its practices such as the feeds that are fed, procedures that are performed such as castration and dehorning, and confinement versus free range, an Oregon State University veterinarian says.

Being proper stewards of animal health and still making a profit was the message Charles Estill presented to a gathering of livestock owners at the annual Douglas County Livestock Spring Conference.

Estill is the Oregon State University Extension Service veterinarian and is an associate professor for rural veterinary practice.The veterinarian’s message to the group of about 120 people was not entirely new information, but was a reminder that some practices in handling livestock can ease stress on the animals who in turn will recover quicker from the situation and continue their growth, which means more pounds and more dollars. Estill emphasized that proper stewardship is not only good for the animal, but also improves the image of the producer with the consumer."It's not just producing more pounds of calf and more pounds of milk," he said. "You also need to have a satisfied consumer. There’s pressure from the consumer to do what is right and we need to be proactive in getting our stewardship story out to the consumers." By Craig Reed, Capital Press, 04/04/14

American Farm Bureau's Stallman Calls for Tax Changes

Farmers and ranchers need tax certainty to thrive in a modern economy, and making permanent deductions that expired in 2013 is a good first step, the American Farm Bureau Federation told the House Ways and Means Committee today.

"One of the major goals of tax reform should be to provide stable, predictable rules for businesses so that they can grow and create jobs," American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said. "Farm Bureau believes that Congress should end its practice of extending important business tax provisions for one or two years at a time. This practice makes it very difficult for farmers and ranchers to plan and adds immense confusion and complexity."

Stallman addressed the committee as part of a hearing addressing the economic disruption caused by the end of a series of tax deductions over the past several years. Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R–Mich.) recently introduced a discussion draft of the Tax Reform Act of 2014 in an effort to stimulate discussion of how the tax code could be simpler and fairer, while at the same time aiding economic growth, job creation and wages.

In written testimony submitted to the Committee, Stallman called for extensions of several now–expired deductions to benefit the economy as a whole. American Farm Bureau News Release, 04/08/14

Not Much Support for PEDv Compensation

The question of whether the federal government should provide financial assistance to pork producers impacted by the PED virus is being discussed in the nation's capital.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the USDA's disaster assistance programs don't really apply in this case.

"The Livestock Indemnity Program is really designed when Mother Nature causes a problem," Vilsack says. "The ELAP program is really focused on sort of niche areas of trees and honeybees—and there’s only 20 million dollars in that account—and if you were to suggest that that's a source of compensation, it would have to be ten times that size to deal with the losses that have occurred."

Vilsack says it would be up to Congress to approve disaster assistance for pork producers.  But Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, is doubtful that will happen."I have not heard enough talk among members of Congress on this issue—or even on the ag committee—that I can say that there’s a nucleus to move it along," Grassley says. By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 04/08/14

Vilsack: FSA Office 'Realignment' Likely in 2015

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says no closings of Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices are planned for this year.  But he says some realignment of the system will likely take place starting in 2015.

"We need to modernize our system and there are a couple of reasons for that," Vilsack says. "Number one, we have 20 percent fewer workers than we did several years ago. The budget that I'm working with at USDA is now one billion dollars less than it was when I became secretary in terms of the operating budget, so with a 20 percent reduction in workforce, you obviously have to realign where folks work and what they do."

As of today, 30 Farm Service Agency offices nationwide do not have an employee assigned to work there and over a hundred other F–S–A offices have just one full–-time employee.

"So what we are suggesting is, over time, fewer offices but better offices," Vilsack says. "We’re doing right now a work study to try to determine exactly where the work is being done, to make sure that we have adequate people doing the work that needs to be done, and then in 2015 we will probably suggest a realignment of some of the offices and a strengthening of those offices with additional investments." By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 04/08/14

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The National Institute for Animal Agriculture provides a forum for building consensus and advancing proactive solutions for animal agriculture-the beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goats, equine and poultry industries-and provides continuing education and communication linkages for animal agriculture professionals. NIAA is dedicated to programs that work towards the eradication of disease that pose risk to the health of animals, wildlife and humans; promote a safe and wholesome food supply for our nation and abroad; and promote best practices in environmental stewardship, animal health and well-being. NIAA members represent all facets of animal agriculture.