Business Beat: Ag Sec'y Vilsack and cattle-feeding additive

Dec 18, 2013

Some 6,500 Holsteins are “finished” at this 2,000-acre Ordway, Colo., feedlot, where the growth promotion drug Zilmax is no longer used because it was pulled from the market by its manufacturer.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

There will be no farm bill until Congress returns in the New Year. But it turns out, dairy prices won’t surge on January 1st as some farm bill supporters have suggested. Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China this week. It’s a trade visit that happens every year, but this time there is added interest for American farmers. China has rejected 5 loads of corn from the U.S. in recent weeks. The corn contained an insect-resistant trait from the seed company, Syngenta, that’s approved in the U.S. but not China.

China was the top market for farm exports from the U.S. last year, but Vilsack says the country’s slow approach to regulating biotech crops is a regular point of friction. He says China basically does not start its regulatory process on new events until a country like America or Brazil or Argentina has finished their work. Vilsack will ask Chinese regulators to start the process when the U.S. does, even if it takes longer to complete. Syngenta has reportedly resubmitted an application to have its trait approved in China.

In a move that shook the beef industry last summer, four of the largest U-S meat companies decided they would no longer buy cattle treated with a popular growth promoter. The companies cited welfare concerns about animals fed a product called Zilmax. But feedlot owners liked the way it bulked up cattle and want to use it again. Harvest Public Media’s Peggy Lowe reports that all this has focused attention on a feed additive that most people have never heard of but is a big part of beef production.