The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case (National Meat Association vs. Harris), which challenges California's 2008 law that requires euthanizing "downed" livestock (cattle, swine, sheep, goats) at federally inspected facilities to keep the meat out of commerce. California's law bars the purchase, sale and butchering of animals that cannot walk and requires slaughterhouses under the threat of fines and jail time to immediately euthanize non-ambulatory animals. The National Meat Association's lawyer and the U.S. Solicitor General on behalf of the USDA argued that California was pre-empting federal law. The Federal Meat Inspection Act says a state can't impose slaughterhouse protections "in addition to or different" from federal requirements.
Record Agriculture Exports in FY '11 —U.S. agricultural exports reached a record high of $137.4 billion for fiscal year 2011, exceeding the previous high by $22.5 billion. The agricultural trade surplus was a record $42.7 billion. China was the largest export market for U.S. agriculture with nearly $20 billion in purchases of soybeans, cotton, tree nuts and hides. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "Strong export performance means higher incomes for farmers and ranchers, more opportunities for small businesses owners and jobs for folks who package, ship and market agricultural products. Thank you to all of America's farmers, ranchers and producers who continue to make U.S. agriculture a bright spot in our nation's economy."
USDA's 150th Anniversary —USDA is planning a year-long celebration of its 150 anniversary in 2012. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced: "Through our work on food, agriculture, economic development, science, natural resource conservation and a host of issues, USDA still fulfills President Abraham Lincoln's vision as ‘The People's Department,' touching the lives of every American, every day. As we commemorate 150 years, we will look for lessons from the past that can help us strengthen USDA in the future, to address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America." Throughout 2012, USDA will recognize important events, such as President Lincoln's signing of the act to establish the Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862, and the July signing of the Morrill Act, which established public land grant universities. Employees in USDA field offices across the country will celebrate this landmark throughout the year.
Thanksgiving Dinner Will Cost More —According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), this year's Thanksgiving Day dinner will cost about 13% more. A dinner for 10 will cost $49.20, compared to last year's cost of $43.47. AFBF's dinner includes turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and the basic trimmings. The biggest share of the increase will be the cost of the turkey. This is the AFBF's 26th annual price survey for a Thanksgiving Day dinner.
P. Scott Shearer