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Tucker Brown selected as beef’s 2022 Advocate of the Year

Each year, the Beef Checkoff-funded Master of Beef Advocacy program recognizes an individual who’s successfully engaging in conversations with consumers about beef and how cattle are raised. The winner for advocacy work throughout 2022 is Tucker Brown, a sixth-generation cattle rancher from Throckmorton, Texas, who has been using social media platforms to tell his ranching stories.

Well respected across the industry, Brown is active in his family’s operation, R.A. Brown Ranch and serves on the Leadership Development Committee for Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association. As a “farm gates always open” type of person, Brown said he doesn’t hesitate to answer hard questions about the beef industry and loves showcasing their West Texas multi-generational ranch.

@tuckerbrownrab Here is some cowboy science for you. There are lots of people on Tik Tok that will disagree with me. But there are many different ways to make ranching work. I could just lighten my herd and not feed at all. They would lose some weight but would make it through winter. But just supplementing 3 times per week, I can increase my heard without hurting the grasses. This helps spread my cost. Since we have registered cattle, there is more value per animal compared to commercial cattle. (Not dissing commercial cattle, I am just showing you my logic) #ranching #cowboy #cattle #redangus #angus ♬ The Home Depot Beat – The Home Depot

“Our goal is if we can help consumers understand where their food comes from, they will have a deeper sense of trust,” said Brown. “Having people come to the ranch and ask questions helps us move forward and do better.”

As a modern-day influencer, Brown has a knack for creating intriguing and approachable social media content that bridges the gap between consumers and producers, reaching millions of viewers. With more than 176,000 followers on TikTok and 52,000 followers on Instagram, Brown receives, on average, a combined 5 million to 6 million views per month on his videos and uses his influence to show what it’s like to raise beef.

“I like to use a word I call ‘edutainment’ which means entertaining viewers so much they didn’t realize they learned something until after the video is over,” Brown said. “There’s so many of us that post about the beef industry, so finding ways to keep viewers watching has been the most fun for me as an advocate.”

@tuckerbrownrab Calving season is one of my favorites. New life brings new energy! It is amazing to watch God’s miracles in live action! Lots of work and preparation has already happened. From planning what bull each cow would be bred to, to figuring out their due date so we can watch them closely. This is a small reward for me to watch our plans come together. Now we continue to develop these animals for another couple years before they are sold as breeding stock. I LOVE IT! Also, why hasn’t @CBS Sports called me yet? 😂. #ranching #cbssports #sportsbroadcasting #cowboy #cattle #babycalves #babycows #angus #redangus ♬ NFL CBS Theme – Dr. Cover Band

Brown said along with sharing beef facts and ranching stories, his passion goes beyond simply reaching consumers. He also strives to get more youth involved in the industry. As a graduate of the Masters of Beef Advocacy program, Brown emphasized the importance of development programs like these in identifying and preparing the next generation.

“I think it’s important to tell our story, but I think much of the industry hasn’t been trained on how to do that,” said Brown. “With these recent programs it’s been easier to get more young people involved and teach them how to be an advocate of truth in a way where more people are willing to listen.”

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CattleFax predicts producer profitability and drought relief for 2023

Cattle producers may see a more profitable year in 2023, while consumers will likely incur higher prices at the store due to drops in production. The popular CattleFax Outlook Seminar, held as part of the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in New Orleans, shared expert market and weather analysis. 

Prices and profitability will again favor cattle producers in 2023. The cattle industry is entering 2023 with the smallest cattle supply since 2015 as drought caused the industry to dig deeper into the supply of feeder cattle and calves. While the exact path to drought relief is unknown, improvements are also expected to translate to moderating feed costs, especially in the second half of 2023. Combined with increased cattle prices, cattle producers, especially the cdrow-calf operator, will continue to see an improvement in margins for the next several years, according to CattleFax.

Meteorologist Matt Makens said the latest forecast for La Niña has only a 14 percent probability of existence this spring and down further by the summer, which means a pattern change comes our way this year. A neutral phase will take control of the pattern as La Niña weakens and may last several months before giving El Niño a chance to grow this summer and into the fall.

Makens said putting this latest La Niña episode in the review mirror suggests improving drought conditions, more favorable growing seasons, and healthier soils.

“I’m not trying to imply that doing away with La Niña fixes everything. An El Niño can cause drought across the northern states. There is no win-win for everyone in any weather pattern,” Makens added. “But moisture conditions should improve for the West in the second half of this year.”

Kevin Good, vice president of industry relations and analysis at CattleFax, reported that U.S. beef cow cattle inventories have already fallen 1.5 million head from cycle highs. The 2023 beef cow herd is expected to be down about another million head to nearly 29.2 million.

“Drought affected nearly half of the beef cow herd over the last year, exacerbating the liquidation in 2022. Drought improvement and higher cattle prices should drastically slow beef cow culling through 2023,” Good said.

Feeder cattle and calf supplies outside of feed yards will be 400,000 to 450,000 head smaller than in 2022 at 25.1 million. After being full for most of the past three years, cattle on feed inventories are expected to begin 2023 at 300,000 to 400,000 head below last year, at 14.3 million head, and remain smaller. Commercial fed slaughter in 2023 is forecast to decline by 750,000 to 800,000 to 25.6 million head.

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Image courtesy Colorado State University

“With drought-forced placement and culling, beef production was recorded large in 2022 at 28.3 billion pounds. Expect production to drop over the next several years — declining 4 percent to 5 percent in 2023 to 27 billion pounds,” Good said. “The decline in production in 2023 will lead to a 2.2-pound decline in net beef supply to 57 pounds per person.”

Good forecast the average 2023 fed steer price at $158 per hundred., up $13 from 2022, with a range of $150 to $172 per hundredweight. throughout the year. All cattle classes are expected to trade higher, and prices are expected to continue to trend upward. The 800-lb. steer price is expected to average $195 with a range of $175 to $215 per hundredweight, and the 550-lb. steer price is expected to average $225 per hundredweight, with a range of $200 to $245 per hundredweight. Finally, Good forecast utility cows at an average of $100 per hundredweight. with a range of $75 to $115 and bred cows at an average of $2,100 with a range of $1,900 to $2,300 for load lots of quality, running-age cows.

When looking at domestic beef demand, the U.S. economy will be a driving factor going in 2023. CattleFax said inflation, rising interest rates, and general economic uncertainty will continue to impact consumer purchasing decisions as many look to limit spending. Inflation reached a 40-year high in 2022, triggering the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates seven times last year with intentions for further rate increases until inflation falls. Through the Federal Reserve’s hopes to accomplish a “soft landing” and avoid recession, the U.S. economy is expected to slow in 2023 with most economists calling for a mild recession in the second half of the year.

Good noted that though beef demand has softened, it remains historically strong, and consumers have shown a willingness to continue to buy beef in a new and higher range. He expects the 2023 USDA All-Fresh Retail Beef prices to average $7.35/pound, up 4 cents from 2022.

He also said wholesale demand will appear to be softer, as prices will not go up at the same rate of inflation despite tighter supplies. The cutout value should move higher to an average $270/cwt. for 2023.

Image by GrAl, Shutterstock

Global protein demand has continued to rise around the world and tighter global protein supplies should broadly support prices in 2023. After more than 20 percent of growth across the last two years, U.S. beef exports are expected to moderate, declining 3 percent in 2023 to 3.5 billion pounds. Japan and South Korea remain the top U.S. beef export destinations with stable exports in 2022. Meanwhile, Chinese demand has continued to grow with tonnage up 20 percent last year, likely with continued room to grow.

Mike Murphy, CattleFax vice president of research and risk management services, said National Dec. 1 on-farm hay stock was down 9 percent from a year ago at 71.9 million tons with hay prices averaging $216/ton in 2022.

“Last year was the smallest U.S. hay production year since 1959,” Murphy said. “Hay prices will likely continue to be high in the first part of 2023, but we expect weather patterns to improve pasture conditions as early as this spring which should help stabilize and soften hay prices throughout 2023.”

CattleFax said corn stocks-to-use are just under 9 percent and will continue to support the market above $6 per bushel, and provide resistance near $7.50 per bushel into the summer with a yearly average price of $6.50 per bushel expected.

Blach concluded the session with an overall positive outlook, expecting improvements in the weather pattern and a tighter supply to distribute more money though all sectors of the cattle industry.

Diversity in Agriculture
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Chinese wet corn mill project halted due to national security

A Chinese wet corn mill project in North Dakota has been halted due to national security concerns based on the mill’s proximity to U.S. air and space operations.

In 2021, the Chinese food manufacturer purchased the 370 acres of land for the wet corn milling plant. The Fufeng USA plant’s location is within 12 miles of the Grand Fork Air Force Base and has stirred up controversy since the group’s purchase.

This week, the Air Force issued a letter to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven stating their concern about the threat the foreign-owned land poses. Listing near- and long-term risks to operations in the area, they wrote, “Grand Forks Air Force Base is the center of military activities related to both air and space operations.” 

Gov. Doug Burgum also issued a statement to senators.

“We joined with city leaders in asking the federal government for clarity on any national security implications related to the Fufeng project, and now we finally have that clarity,” he wrote.

And while North Dakota says they support investments from allies, China hasn’t made the cut. At least, not that close to military bases.

“As our farmers who compete in global markets know, agriculture is a global business, and North Dakota welcomes investment from domestic companies and our friends and allies,” Burgum said.

Hoeven and fellow North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer responded, stating that Grand Forks would cut ties with the Chinese group.

“We believe the city should discontinue the Fufeng project and instead we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project,” said the senators.

Concern for foreign land-ownership has been growing in recent years. Federal law currently requires foreign entities to disclose foreign investment and ownership of U.S. land to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

But, it’s not just about who owns the land, it’s about what the investor’s intentions are. Earlier this year, a Wyoming bill HB8 was introduced to end foreign land ownership in the state. Last year, a USDA-FDA funding bill was introduced to block Chinese and other non-friendly foreign countries from purchasing U.S. farmland. 

According to a 2021 report from the USxDA, foreign investors owned about 40 million acres of U.S. agricultural land across 50 states — a number that’s doubled between 2010 and 2020. 

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Gene discovery could protect sorghum against anthracnose

A gene discovered by a scientific team from the Agricultural Research Service and Purdue University could help fortify the defenses of sorghum to anthracnose, a disease of the cereal grain crop that can inflict yield losses of up to 50 percent.

The discovery, to be reported in an upcoming issue of The Plant Journal, opens the door to breeding disease-resistant sorghum cultivars that are less reliant on fungicides to protect them, reducing growers’ production costs, and safeguarding grain yields and quality, among other benefits.

Sorghum is the fifth-most widely grown cereal grain crop worldwide, providing consumers not only with a source of food containing 12 essential nutrients, but also forage for livestock and material for bio-based energy. However, unchecked with fungicides or other measures, anthracnose will attack all parts of a susceptible cultivar, often forming reddish lesions on leaves and the stem as well as causing damage to the plant’s panicles and grain heads.

Genetic-based disease resistance is the most effective and sustainable approach to combating anthracnose in sorghum. However, how this resistance actually works in the plant is poorly understood, according to Matthew Helm, a research molecular biologist at ARS’s Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit in West Lafayette, Indiana. That knowledge gap is worrisome because of the genetic variability among different races (or types) of the anthracnose fungus and their potential to overcome a cultivar’s resistance genes over time. Additionally, anthracnose resistance can be temperature-dependent, potentially leaving a sorghum crop vulnerable to infection if temperatures soar above a certain threshold.

Fortunately, Helm and a team of Purdue University scientists led by Demeke Mewa have begun to close this gap. They identified a disease-resistance gene that orchestrates a series of defense responses to early infection by the anthracnose fungus, preventing its spread to the rest of the plant and grain heads.

Additionally, sorghum plants carrying the resistance gene, known as “ANTHRACNOSE RESISTANCE GENE 2” (ARG2), successfully withstood the fungus even when greenhouse temperatures were increased to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature stability could be a potential boon for sorghum production regions of the world where growing season temperatures can reach those levels.

The team also determined that ARG2 helps make (or “encodes for”) a protein that is concentrated in the plasma membrane of resistant sorghum cells. There, it acts as a kind of intruder alert that’s triggered by certain proteins used by the anthracnose fungus to infect the plant.

“These results significantly advance our understanding of how sorghum detects fungal pathogens and opens the door for engineering new disease resistances against plant pathogens of cereal grains,” the team writes in an abstract summarizing their findings in The Plant Journal paper.

ARG2 and its protein don’t protect sorghum from all races of anthracnose. However, combining ARG2 with other similar genes could help broaden that protection — either through conventional plant breeding methods or biotechnological ones. With ARG2’s discovery, scientists now have a key to unlocking a fuller understanding of how the mechanisms of anthracnose resistance work and making the best use of them as a disease defense that growers worldwide can count on.

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