Agriculture officials want the Kansas attorney general's office to investigate whether market manipulation took place following rumors foot-and-mouth disease had been found among the state's cows.
Kansas Animal Health Department officials conducted tests at the livestock market in Holton, Kan., after they first heard about the possibility of the livestock disease on March 12, and those tests showed the cattle were disease-free.
But until the tests came back, cattle futures prices fell for three days straight and National Farmers Organization officials in Kansas estimate the cattle industry lost nearly $50 million.
Harold Walker, president of the NFO chapter for Kansas, said he wants the attorney general's office to determine if anyone benefited financially, at the expense of cattle ranchers.
"A number of livestock producers I've talked with believe that (Kansas) Attorney General Carla Stovall should look into the circumstances surrounding this debacle and determine whether someone with considerable influence stood to gain financially from what occurred," Walker said.
The organization noted that since March 12, the cash prices for cattle has dropped between $6 and $7, and based on an 800-pound carcass, producers have lost nearly $50 per head.
"I question whether or not the powerful packing industry is taking advantage of producers during a time when they suspected there was a potential crisis in the making," said Brian Harris, a livestock director for the Kansas National Farmers Organization.
Walker said he has heard reports that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange knew of the foot-and-mouth rumors before officials in Kansas did.
Some ranchers have said they believe someone should compensate them for financial losses suffered due to the rumors, although they will not specify who should have to pay.
The threat of foot-and-mouth has particularly scared agriculture interests in the United States during the past two years, since the disease has spread throughout livestock in Britain and Europe, causing the mass slaughter of millions of cattle and other farm animals.
The United States has been free of the disease for decades and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have boosted their inspections and other health safety measures to try to ensure the situation remains that way.
University, Ill. trying to promote 'agri-tourism'
University of Illinois professors are working with their state's officials on a program that creates art that could also be used to attract international tourists to rural communities.
Leisure studies professor Bruce Wicks does landscapes of rural life and rural scenes, including many with an agriculture theme.
Officials with the university's extension service, along with the state agriculture department, the tourism bureau and Department of Commerce and Community Affairs hope his work could help promote "agri-tourism," which could range from farm tours to harvest festivals and other events that could bring people to rural Illinois.
Wicks said he thinks his idea is one that could work throughout the Midwest since he said many international tourists already have seen the coastal cities.
"We have kind of a hit in agricultural resources that is second to none," he said.
China studying permits for genetic crops
Officials in China are accepting applications for temporary import permits for soybeans and oilseeds, even if they come from genetically modified crops.
Officials say permits will be ruled on within 30 days although U.S. officials wish they could come sooner.
The permits are needed to maintain current business practices between the United States and China because the Asian nation last week imposed a ban on imports of genetic crops, citing potential health risks for people. Without the permits, current trade would be restricted and U.S. business economic losses could total in the billions.
Feds provide $38 million to apple, potato farmers
The USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. will provide nearly $38 million in aid to apple and potato farmers who suffered financial losses due to natural disasters during 1999 and 2000.
Claims were filed by farmers in excess of $129 million, so farmers will only receive 27.8 percent of their qualifying losses. But agriculture officials note other programs have provided those farmers with some financial aid previously.
In a separate matter, the Agriculture Department will buy up to $10 million in meat products from domestic bison ranchers during the next few months, for use in federal nutrition distribution programs.
Golf tees now made from corn
Corn cob pipes seem to have disappeared again lately. But corn-processed tees are becoming increasingly popular on the nation's golf courses.
ECO golf tees are made by Todd Baker of Indianapolis. The company began as a sort of rainy-day hobby for Baker seven years ago. This year, he expects his "hobby" to result in sales of more than $100 million.
The big advantage for the corn tees is that they are biodegradable. They disappear in about a year and don't damage mowers like traditional birch tees often do.
(by E.W. Kieckhefer)
Grains mixed on CBOT
Grain futures were mixed at the close Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans rose on commercial-led buying and talk China would approve the import of some U.S.-grown soybeans, despite new rules against the importation of genetically altered crops. Financial problems in Argentina that could result in more U.S. exports also helped prices.
Corn fell because of a lack of information that could otherwise have helped prices go up. Many traders were reluctant to take chances prior to the coming of a weekend.
Wheat fell because of late-day sales as investors disregarded concerns about crop-damaging cold weather.
Oats were mostly higher on a lack of negative information.
Soybeans: May 4.64 1/2 up 5 1/4, Jul 4.67 3/4 up 4 1/2, Aug 4.67 up 3 3/4, Sep 4.65 up 3.
Corn: May 2.04 3/4 off 3/4, Jul 2.11 1/2 off 3/4, Sep 2.17 1/2 off 3/4, Dec 2.25 1/2 off 3/4.
Wheat: May 2.81 3/4 off 1/4, Jul 2.84 3/4 off 1/4, Sep 2.89 3/4 off 1/2, Dec 3.00 1/4 off 1.
Oats: May 2.02 1/2 up 2 3/4, Jul 1.73 1/4 up 3/4, Sep 1.44 unch, Dec 1.44 1/2 off 1/4.