Foot-and-mouth scare indeed scary

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Earlier this month, the United States got a taste of the devastation a paralyzing livestock disease could bring. Rumors of foot-and-mouth disease flourished after mouth blisters were discovered on five cattle at a livestock market in Holton, Kansas. Almost immediately, prices dropped $1.50 per hundredweight for market cattle, the daily allowable trading limit on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The ripples spread to processing and food companies, as well as other agricultural commodity markets. Even McDonald’s shares lost 45 cents the day the rumor surfaced.

One source is pegging the fallout of that costly experience to be approximately $50 million.

Ultimately, state agriculture department investigators determined the sores to be feed related.

On Monday, the Kansas National Farmers Organization called for an investigation into alleged market manipulation in the wake of the Kansas rumors to “determine whether someone with considerable influence stood to gain financially from what occurred.”

“In the past, there’s been several other routine cases that have been investigated where this situation has not occurred,” said Harold Walker, Kansas state president of the National Farmers Organization.

The farm group is claiming the Chicago Mercantile Exchange knew the rumors were false before Kansas state ag officials did. Some producers are even clamoring for remuneration for their losses.

Foot-and-mouth disease, which is not harmful to humans, has not been seen in the United States since 1929, but it caused billions of dollars in losses in Britain last year.

No Darby refuge. With very little fanfare, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this month that it is withdrawing its proposal for the Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge west of Columbus.

In October, U.S. Reps. David Hobson and Deborah Pryce, both from central Ohio, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gail Norton requesting that the Interior Department withdraw its proposal to establish a 50,000-acre wildlife refuge in Madison and Union counties.

In a written response, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Craig Manson said, “We agree with you that it is best that the refuge proposal be formally withdrawn, and that all interested parties proceed with other alternatives for the conservation of the Darby watershed.”

The central Ohio region is now home to yet another brewing debate: big dairy farms. Farm and Dairy has learned from industry sources that 11 new large-scale dairies are in the planning stages for the Madison County area.

Cheers! The beverage world brings news that new single-serving sizes of organic milk is now available from Horizon Organic. Starbucks, the company that renewed the coffee world, started offering the milk in its stores nationwide in January. Other specialty retailers and select groceries will also be carrying the milk.

It’s available in four flavors – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and plain – and is packaged in 8-ounce, octagonal-shaped containers with a straw.

And Coca-Cola is also trying to cash in on the milk market. On April 1, Coca-Cola subsidiary Minute Maid will begin national distribution of its new vitamin D fortified orange juices. The juices will be fortified at the same level as vitamin D-fortified milk.

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