Tyson says it’s not yet ready to call back furloughed workers at several of its beef plants, including one in Iowa. Tyson Senior Group Vice President Gene Leman met last night with community representatives in Denison. He said a lack of cattle coming to market means not enough animals for the slaughter operation, adding imports of Canadian cattle should resume. Leman says Canadian beef products are already in the U.S. marketplace and we’re eating them. With a ban continued on importing live animals, he says jobs are being kept in Canada — and reopening imports of live cattle would mean the jobs are here along with the same amount of beef we have anyway. A vice-president of the Iowa cattlemen’s Association says packers who complain of the lack of cattle to slaughter aren’t telling the whole story. Vice President Carol Galvan is in San Antonio for the annual meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Galvan says most of the cattle producers at the Texas meeting “hear what Tyson has to say loud and clear” and understand the marketing issues but want “what’s good for the average producer.” Galvan doesn’t buy the claim that there are no cattle coming to market and that’s why slaughter operations are shut down. “Packers may be paying more than they want to pay,” she says, but it’s not true that there are no cattle coming to market. Another issue is getting Asian markets to resume their imports of US beef, and Leman told the Denison leaders that both producers and packers lose money when they can’t sell specialty products to the markets in Japan and Korea. Leman says the USDA and our officials should negotiate quickly with Japan because there are lots of cuts and “special items” sent there that meant many dollars to the cattle feeder and cow-calf operator. Galvan says one priority important to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is resuming Asian exports before we resume imports from Canada. Another thing’s guarantees by Canada that their feed ban’s in place and working, so the appearance of cattle with BSE in Canada is under control, and if there are some older cows with the ailment at least they’re not continuing the practices that may have caused it. Galvan says some older animals may have been given feed made with ground-up slaughterhouse remains before that was banned as a means of controlling Mad Cow. She says producers also think there are enough cattle in Canada to depress the market for slaughter cows here. Galvan says she thinks export barriers on cattle and beef are more political than anything else. She says it’s clearly not a food-safety issue — as Japan’s identified somewhere between fifteen and 18 animals in that country’s own herds with BSE, so to ban cattle from a country where there have been two, or three, or fewer cases is simply political. Tyson executives say they’ll review the market again in a week or two and decide then whether to call back workers at their beef plants in Iowa, Nebraska and other states.
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