Agriculture news

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USDA taking action to protect the U.S. from tomato virus

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is taking immediate action to prevent the introduction of the tomato brown rugose fruit virus into the United States and to protect U.S. tomato and pepper production worth more than $2.3 billion annually.

APHIS has issued a Federal Order imposing restrictions on imports of tomato and pepper seed lots and transplants from all countries where the virus exists as well as restrictions on tomato and pepper fruit imported from Mexico, Israel, and the Netherlands. Because Canada imports tomato and pepper fruit from Mexico that may be re-exported to this country, USDA will also require Canada to inspect tomato and pepper fruit to ensure it is free of disease symptoms prior to export to the United States. These actions will be effective Friday, November 22. In addition, APHIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will increase inspections of tomato and pepper seed, plant, and fruit imports entering from countries where the virus is known to occur and Canada, and will take action to keep any infected products out of the country.

Tomato brown rugose fruit virus can cause severe fruit loss in tomatoes and peppers. It is easily spread through the use of contaminated tools, hands, and plant-to-plant contact. It was first reported in tomatoes in Israel in 2014. Since then, it has been reported in China, Mexico, Germany (eradicated), Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Turkey, and the Netherlands. The virus was detected and eradicated from a California tomato greenhouse in 2018.

Per the Federal Order, APHIS will:

  • Require all tomato and pepper seed lots imported from countries where the virus exists to be officially tested and certified free of the disease.
  • Require all tomato and pepper transplants imported from countries where the virus exists to be officially tested and certified free of the disease.
  • Require all tomato and pepper fruit imported from Mexico, Israel, and the Netherlands to be inspected at the point of origin to ensure it is free of disease symptoms.
  • Require Canada to inspect all tomato and pepper fruit prior to export to the United States to ensure it is free of disease symptoms.

In addition, Customs and Border Protection will:

  • Increase inspections at U.S. ports of entry to ensure imported tomato and pepper fruit entering from Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands does not show any signs of disease upon arrival.
  • Together, these actions will safeguard the United States against the introduction of this virus while facilitating the safe trade of healthy tomatoes.
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Kansas Tyson beef plant to resume operations in December

Following the Aug. 9 fire that disrupted operations at its Holcomb, Kansas, beef complex, Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., announced reconstruction of the facility is near completion. Efforts to resume harvest operations will begin the first week of December, with intentions to be fully operational by the first week of January.

“We recognize the disruption the fire caused for our suppliers and our customers and are more than pleased to announce we are in the final stages of reconstruction,” stated Steve Stouffer, group president, Tyson Fresh Meats. “Our team is ready to begin the process of ramping back up, recognizing that there will be testing and adjustments over the first few weeks to ensure equipment functionality while maintaining our commitment to team member safety and food safety.”

The fire severely damaged a critical part of the plant containing the hydraulic and electrical systems that support the harvest floor and cooler areas. Reconstruction included completely replacing support beams and the roof, hydraulic piping and pumps, installing over 50,000 feet of new wiring and the reconstruction of all new electrical panel rooms and equipment.

Since the fire, cattle have been diverted to the company’s other beef facilities, where they were able to offset some of the production volume losses and to help mitigate disruption to cattle producers and customers. The company has continued to pay active, full-time team members for 40 hours per week. Team members have been instrumental in helping with clean-up and the reconstruction process.

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U.S. pig farmers embrace responsible antibiotic use every day

The National Pork Board says that America’s 60,000 pig farmers are dedicated to raising healthy animals to ensure a safe food supply. Today, that commitment means placing a high priority on using antibiotics responsibly for the health of people, pigs, and the planet. As this year’s U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week (Nov. 18 to 24) gets underway, America’s pig farmers want to highlight their ongoing efforts to achieve excellent antibiotic stewardship and their determination to always seek improvement.

“Using antibiotics responsibly is something that pig farmers are doing every single day,” said David Newman, a pig farmer from Arkansas and the National Pork Board president. “Antibiotic Awareness Week is a good time to reinforce this stewardship by reviewing herd-health plans and the best practices found in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification program. It’s also a good time to involve all animal caretakers and continue to raise their awareness about the role they play in responsible antibiotic use.”

Directed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week raises awareness of antibiotic resistance risks and the importance for all sectors — human health, animal health, and the environment — to use antibiotics responsibly. An estimated 300 organizations participate in Antibiotic Awareness Week, including federal agencies, health departments, professional societies, corporations, and advocacy groups. The CDC’s year-round effort includes its education program — Be Antibiotics Aware: Smart Use, Best Care — that addresses all antibiotic uses (#BeAntibioticsAware).

“Resolving antimicrobial resistance is a shared goal across human, animal, and environmental sectors and a great example of the One Health global initiative,” said Heather Fowler, DVM, director of producer and public health for the Pork Board. “All of the different antibiotic-user groups came together and are committed to addressing antimicrobial resistance. For their part, U.S. pig farmers are thinking innovatively about how they can help ensure that antibiotics remain effective for everyone.”

Fowler points to the industry’s PQA Plus program as a practical way to address all areas of on-farm pig production, including a section dedicated to responsible antibiotic use, public health, and animal care. Now in its third decade, PQA Plus trains and certifies pig farmers and their employees on best practices.

Antibiotic research is another priority for U.S. pig farmers, the Pork Board said. Through the national Pork Checkoff, nearly $2.5 million has been dedicated to antibiotic research over the past five years. Just this year, $400,000 in Checkoff funds were dedicated to research antimicrobial resistance and on-farm antibiotic use.

To further leverage research dollars, the Pork Board recently joined the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private partnership created by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Among its objectives is to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture. 

Throughout the year, the Pork Board maintains a direct relationship with the CDC, participating in meetings, presentations, and direct dialogue on antimicrobial issues. In fall 2018, the CDC established the AMR Challenge, asking organizations to commit to specific plans to combat antimicrobial resistance. The Pork Board designated education and outreach activities, which included a farm tour this past summer for public health officials.

The Pork Board continues to work on developing metrics to document responsible antibiotic use on pig farms. The goal is to benchmark use, identify areas to improve, reinforce training, and show progress in overall antibiotic stewardship.

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