Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Trade Mission to China with 40 U.S. Companies to Strengthen Business Ties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 08:32
Sales of U.S. food and agricultural products to China have grown by 80 percent in 3 years

AMES, Iowa, March 1, 2012—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will lead an agricultural trade mission to China at the end of March to strengthen partnerships between U.S. and Chinese businesses and enhance job growth in the United States. The trade mission is expected to be USDA's largest to date, with more than 40 U.S. agribusinesses and representatives from six State Departments of Agriculture set to accompany Acting Under Secretary Michael Scuse to Chengdu and Shanghai, two of China's largest cities.

In 2011, China moved into the top spot as the number one market for U.S. agricultural goods, purchasing $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports. U.S. farm exports to China supported more than 160,000 American jobs in 2011.

"This trade mission, USDA's largest to date, offers American businesses the opportunity to position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China, one of our strongest trading partners," said Vilsack. "China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to continue our in-depth dialogue on issues of mutual concern. At the same time, we want to ensure that our American farmers, ranchers and producers continue to be recognized across China and the Asia Pacific as reliable suppliers of the highest-quality food and agricultural products."

Last month, Vilsack hosted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and Agriculture Minister Han Changfu at the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines. The agriculture ministers signed a Plan of Strategic Cooperation that will guide the two countries' agricultural relationship for the next five years. The plan focuses on agricultural science, trade and education, and looks to deepen cooperation through technical exchanges and strengthen coordination in key priority areas, including food security and emerging technologies.

Scuse will lead the trade mission to China from March 23-28, beginning in Chengdu, one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in western China and home of USDA's newest Agricultural Trade Office. Participants will then travel on to Shanghai, a hub of global commerce and the most populous city in the world. The goal of the mission is to provide U.S. participants with first-hand market information, access to government decision makers, and one-on-one meetings with business contacts, potential agents, distributers, and importers so they can position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China.

While in China, Scuse will meet with Chinese government and agricultural officials and U.S. agribusiness, and will visit agricultural production and development sites. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, will also join Scuse to open the USA Pavilion at the Food Ingredients China Trade Show in Shanghai on March 28.

The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to record levels in 2011 and beyond. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers and agribusinesses. Today, net farm income is at record levels while debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.


House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Field Hearing in Galesburg PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 08:31

Washington, DC – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (OK-03) today announced a series of field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill that will take place throughout the country in March and April, with the second hearing to take place on March 23rd in Galesburg, Illinois in the district of Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17).  This hearing will give members of the Agriculture Committee the opportunity to hear firsthand from Illinois farmers and regional stakeholders about their priorities for the next farm bill. 

“This field hearing represents a great opportunity for folks on the Agriculture Committee to come out to Illinois and meet with the ‘final three feet’ – our area’s farmers and producers– to get their input on policies that will allow the U.S. to continue to yield affordable and high-quality food products for our friends and families,” Schilling said. “Many thanks to Chairman Lucas and staff on the Committee for recognizing our area’s invaluable agricultural contributions to our food supply.  From crop insurance to conservation and rural development to research, this next farm bill represents a great opportunity for rural America and I’m proud that Illinois’ 17th District will be one of the settings for this debate.”

“I am pleased to announce a farm bill field hearing in Congressman Schilling’s district,” Chairman Lucas said. “This will be a great opportunity to meet members of the agriculture community in his district, recognize the contributions our farmers make for this nation and around the world, and discuss the challenges our producers continue to face.   We need more members like Congressman Schilling who understand and appreciate agriculture because now, more than ever, it is important that we stand strongly together in support of production agriculture and rural economies.”

The schedule of upcoming field hearings can be found below.  For those unable to attend the hearings, the Agriculture Committee plans to provide a live webcast here.

Friday, March 9, 2012 – 9:00 a.m. EST
North Country Community College, Sparks Athletic Complex
23 Santanoni Ave
Saranac Lake, NY 12983

Friday, March 23, 2012 – 9:00 a.m. CDT
Carl Sandburg College, Student Center Building B
2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd.
Galesburg, IL 61401

Friday, March 30, 2012 – 9:00 a.m. CDT
Riceland Hall, Fowler Center
Arkansas State University
201 Olympic Drive
State University, AR 72467

Friday, April 20, 2012 – 9:00 a.m. CDT
Magouirk Conference Center
4100 W. Comanche
Dodge City, KS 67801

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News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Laurie Johns   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 09:05

At my last routine checkup, my doctor brought in a physician’s assistant who was ‘in training’ and there to observe.  He stood there, scribbling, as I chatted about my insomnia, my diet, my stomach issues.  I had to trust that he really was there to learn, maybe even add new information about recommended prescriptions (being a new medical school graduate, he should have the latest information, right?) or help spot impending signs of illness or concern.  I had to trust he was there to learn, not there because he might ‘dish’ about private information he learned about recognizable patients in this respected doctor’s office.

If I sound hesitant, it’s because I’ve had my medical privacy invaded many times when I was a TV news anchor in Des Moines, so have others I’ve worked with.  I’m sure you’d agree it’s absolutely justifiable to expect that everyone who helps care for their personal or family medical needs  is well-trained and professional enough to let them know immediately if they saw something ‘out of line’, ‘out of whack’ or potentially dangerous.

Putting those same concerns in another setting, it also seems reasonable to expect that if a person comes to work on an Iowa livestock farm, they’re well-trained and professional enough to let a farmer (or law enforcement agent) know immediately if they see something ‘out of line,’ ‘out of whack’ or potentially dangerous when it comes to animals that are raised for our food.

Consumers are justifiably concerned about how animals they eat are treated on farms in Iowa.  I’m not saying the Ag Protection Bill just passed at the Statehouse is perfect, but at least it gets to the heart of the matter: trust.  I want to trust that if an animal is being mistreated on a farm, the person who sees it says something, and the person who does it, is removed or punished immediately.  It would also be nice if farmers could trust that people who work on their farms know what they’re doing and stand up to correct or report bad behavior.

I understand we all are concerned about animals; we don’t have to live and work with livestock animals every day to get that they deserve good food, timely medical attention and a compassionate, safe environment during their (somewhat short) lives.   Maybe that’s why the majority of farmers speak out against bad actors when they see it because it’s not just the industry that gets smeared when some grainy, heavily-edited, undercover video emerges; it also smears the character of the 99.9% of farmers who also wonder why someone would just stand there and watch.

ASPCA Urges Iowa Governor to Veto Dangerous “Ag-Gag” Legislation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Rebecca Goldrick   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 09:03

House File 589 passes Iowa General Assembly

NEW YORK—In response to the Iowa General Assembly’s passage of House File (HF) 589 Tuesday, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is urging Governor Terry Branstad to veto the dangerous “ag-gag” bill. HF 589 would criminalize activities used to conduct undercover investigations on farms, penalize whistleblowers, and protect animal abusers instead of working to prevent such mistreatment.

This dangerous bill is aimed at preventing investigations on farms that expose inhumane and cruel treatment of animals. However, HF 589 also has the potential to suppress the exposure of child abuse, drug use, assault, theft, violations of workers' rights and other illegal or unethical activity. A broad spectrum of groups representing environmental, workers’ rights, civil liberties, public health and food safety interests have joined animal protection organizations in opposing the ag-gag legislation.

“The ASPCA urges Governor Branstad to prevent this harmful and unnecessary bill from becoming law,” said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA farm animal welfare campaign. “We need additional transparency, not less, regarding the production of our food supply. Documentation by whistleblowers exposes animal abuse, environmental dangers, and serious health problems with our food supply. Where there are problems, industry should direct its energy toward resolving them, not covering them up.”

A newly released poll commissioned by the ASPCA and conducted by Lake Research Partners reveals that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans oppose making undercover investigations of animal abuse on industrial farms illegal. Accordingly, 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, including 54 percent who strongly support the efforts. The nationwide survey also reveals that 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.

For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit

About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first humane organization established in the Americas and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animal welfare. One million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. The ASPCA, which is headquartered in New York City, offers a wide range of programs, including a mobile clinic outreach initiative, its own humane law enforcement team, and a groundbreaking veterinary forensics team and mobile animal CSI unit. For more information, please visit

To become a fan of the ASPCA on Facebook, go to To follow the ASPCA on Twitter, go to


Banning Packer Ownership of Livestock Bill Introduced PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 08:54

Grassley Works to Ban Packer Ownership of Livestock


WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said he’s introducing his bill that would make it unlawful for a packer to own or feed livestock intended for slaughter.

“The 2012 farm bill is a great opportunity to deal with vertical integration before it’s too late.  The ag concentration forums provided a real opportunity to make progress, but unfortunately the administration failed to follow through on any of the grass roots input and we’re still at square one.” Grassley said.  “Outlawing packer ownership of livestock would make sure the marketplace works for the farmer just as much as it does for the slaughterhouse.”

Grassley’s Packer Ban excludes single pack entities and packers that are too small to participate in the Mandatory Price Reporting program.  The bill also exempts farmer cooperatives where the members own, feed, or control the livestock themselves.

Grassley said that the CEO of a major slaughter house once told a group of farmers:  You wonder why we own livestock?  Well, we own livestock so that when prices are high we can kill our own and when prices are low we can buy from the farmer.

“This statement shows their intent and unfairness to the family farmer,” Grassley said.  “Vertical integration leaves the independent producer with even fewer choices of who to buy from and sell to.  And, it hurts the ability of farmers to get a fair price for their products.”

Here is a copy of the statement Grassley entered into the Congressional Record upon introduction.


Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Introduction of the Packer Ban

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation designed to help family farmers across this nation have a more level playing field when it comes to livestock markets.  The bill would prohibit meat packers from owning livestock.  The ownership of livestock by packers compromises the marketplace and hinders the ability of the farmer to receive a fair price.  It is simple, as one meat-packing executive once told me, packers own livestock so that when prices are high, they slaughter their own livestock.  When prices are low, they buy from farmers.


I would love to say opportunities for independent producers have gotten better since the last time we debated this bill during the 2008 Farm Bill.  But that simply isn't the case.  We are to the point where most farmers have to deliver their livestock to one of a few very large packers.  Farmers’ bargaining power is diminished by the sheer size and economic position of the packers.  But beyond that, farmers have to compete with the livestock owned by the packing plant itself.  The packer ban would make sure the forces of the marketplace work for the benefit of the farmer as much as it does for the slaughterhouse.


I’m sure there will be folks in the packing industry that point out that farmers are doing okay right now, and that's great that farmers are experiencing a good period.  I am pleased anytime the hard work of livestock farmers results in a good price.  But I don't want my colleagues here in the Senate to be lulled to sleep and think just because prices are good right now means we don’t have competition issues in the livestock industry that need to be addressed.  This is about ensuring farmers are able to get fair prices for years to come.  We need to work today, and implement this reform, to ensure the next generation of independent farmers has an opportunity to raise livestock and receive fair prices as a result of their hard work.



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