Jul 30, 2012


USDA Releases Adaptation to a Changing Climate Report

 An 84-page report from the USDA Economic Research Service, “Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S.Region” , suggests that farmers have considerable flexibility to adapt to changes in local weather, resource conditions, and price signals by adjusting crops, rotations, and production practices. Such adaptation can partially mitigate the impacts of climate change on national agricultural markets but may have significant implications for both regional land use and environmental quality.  The report summary and full report can be found online at http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/848748/err136.pdf

Report on Locally Sourced Meat Marketing Released

   Lack of slaughter facilities is a key reason why more producers do not participate in  local direct to consumer sales of meats, according to a recently released report from the USDA Economic Research Service. 

 The report titled, “Slaughter and Processing Options and Issues for Locally Sourced Meat”  evaluated “the availability of slaughter and processing facilities for local meat production and the extent to which this may constrain or support growth in demand for locally sourced meats.”

   The report found that while per capita meat consumption has been declining in the U.S., beef produced in alternative systems (i.e. natural, certified organic, grass-fed) has grown about 20 percent per year for several years.  Sales of foods sold direct-to-consumer have doubled in the past decade, yet, direct-to-consumer meat and poultry sales have not kept similar pace.

  The report indicates a “chicken or egg” scenario, in which local markets need slaughter plants to supply local meats and build demand, while steady, demand is necessary to attract or keep small  processing companies. The report focused on small slaughter facilities since  larger plants do not offer  custom fee-for-service slaughter.

   According to the report, local, direct-to-consumer sales accounted for just 0.4 percent of total agricultural sales in 2007. However, they accounted for $1.2 billion in current-dollar sales in 2007, compared with $551 million in 1997, a growth rate of 118 percent.

   The report’s authors also note that slaughtering animals at smaller state-inspected plants can limit marketing potential, since they are restricted to intra-state commerce. As of June 2012, no states participate in the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program, which would allow shipments across State lines. Three States, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, are in various stages of development and training to be eligible for the program.

  The report also discussed alternatives that small producers can consider when they cannot access appropriate slaughter facilities.  Mobile slaughter units (MSUs) are small facilities than can be transported to individual farms or collective gathering sites where farmers can have their livestock processed in small quantities.  Though faced with a different set of challenges, MSUs can fill a role for small livestock growers who lack access to nearby or appropriately sized slaughterhouses.

    The report also suggests that farmers form cooperatives or aggregate their livestock in order to meet larger facility requirements.  Operating under a set of shared production guidelines, these producers can provide a small- or mid-scale processor with consistent steady business, as well as brand themselves for more effective local or regional marketing.

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