Foot-and-mouth virus may be over
Tuesday could be both an end and a beginning.
The first day of 2002 could also be the first day Britons are free of the foot-and-mouth virus, which caused the deaths of thousands of livestock during the soon-to-be completed year.
Health officials say Monday they will review tests on animals from four counties where the virus was still a problem. If those animals pass the tests, the "at risk" status will be lifted in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland.
"To pass this landmark will be a tremendous morale boost," National Farmers Union President Ben Gill told the London Telegraph. "It has been a long battle with the disease, but it looks very much like we have won."
Lifting the risk status is only the first step towards restoring normalcy to the British countryside, where the virus caused the massive slaughter of livestock and also resulted in tourism losses because much of the area was restricted for the year.
Blood tests will continue throughout the country until health officials are convinced the disease is gone. That could take as long as May.
Then, British officials will have to convince the European Union to lift its restrictions against British beef and livestock being shipped to other countries for sale.
Some animal product imports have resumed from disease-free areas, and cattle markets are expected to re-open in February -- one year after they originally were closed.
But Gill says the lifting of at-risk status -- which is expected to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday unless last-minute complications develop -- is a positive step.
"It brings a hope that we can start to move swiftly to regaining our disease-free status and break free of the costly straightjacket of disease restrictions," Gill said. "We have endured a year of sheer hell.
"We must pray that the New Year will bring with it better times."
Cattlemen's lawsuit gains 'class action' status
A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit accusing a beef processing company of trying to corner the market.
Senior U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom in Montgomery, Ala., granted the status to a lawsuit by cattle ranchers against IBP Inc. More than 30,000 ranchers from across the country could now join in the suit. The suit contends the company tried to corner the beef market and was engaged in a conspiracy to fix prices paid on the open market.
The lawsuit was filed in 1996 by 10 cattle ranchers who claimed the company was buying mostly packer-owned cattle and cattle committed to packers under long-term contracts. The ranchers say the cattle should have been bid on auction markets, which would have allowed ranchers to get higher prices for their livestock.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for depressed prices, and also wants limits placed on IBP -- which was purchased earlier this year by Tyson Foods Inc. -- to increase competition and boost prices.
Ag Dept upholds forest service ruling
Officials with the Agriculture Department are upholding a decision by the National Forest Service to implement its forest management plan at the Sierra Nevada Forests.
Under Secretary Mark Rey said a discretionary review is not necessary, since he sees nothing wrong with Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth's decision to implement the new plan, despite objections from 276 groups or individuals.
"I am confident that the regional forester will put forth an aggressive plan to respond to the chief's decision, and that he will continue to engage the public through an open, cooperative process," Rey said, in a prepared statement.
The Forest Service had issued the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration, a plan for managing 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada forests that integrates the latest science and a collaborative approach to national forest management.
New tool for leafy spurge, cheatgrass, other weeds
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new herbicide for use on a tide of invasive and noxious weeds that is spreading throughout the United States.
The EPA approved Plateau herbicide, manufactured by BASF, for use on pasture and rangeland for the control of noxious and invasive weeds, and also to help in the establishment of native grasses and forbs.
Researchers claim the herbicide provides 96 percent control of leafy spurge after a fall application. Existing treatments provide only 26 to 47 percent control if applied during the fall.
Also, Plateau is supposed to provide up to 100 percent control of cheatgrass and medusahead rye when applied during the fall, and up to 96 percent control of Dalmatian toadflax after a fall application.
Christmas poinsettias not poisonous
A University of Minnesota horticulturist says you don't have to worry anymore about the poinsettia you got for Christmas being poisonous.
Deb Brown says she still doesn't recommend eating the brightly colored holiday plant. But there is no need to panic if a child does chew on a leaf.
She says the "poisonous" notion probably results from the fact that poinsettias do have a milky white sap that does irritate the eyes or mouth, if ingested.
But most people don't even find the sap irritating.
(by E.W. Kieckhefer)
Grains mixed on CBOT
Grain futures were mixed at the close Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans fell on lower-than-expected weekly export sales figures and because of crop production estimates from Brazil that were higher than expected by the Agriculture Department.
Corn rose on strong weekly export sales figures and a technical rebound from oversold conditions.
Wheat were higher on followthrough buying from Thursday price gains, combined with word that Spain purchased 100,000 tons of U.S.-grown soft red winter wheat.
Oats were steady on a lack of new information that would otherwise have influenced prices.
Soybeans: Jan 4.26 1/2 off 1, Mar 4.27 1/4 off 1, May 4.31 1/4 off 1, Jul 4.36 1/2 off 1.
Corn: Mar 2.10 up 1/2, May 2.16 3/4 up 1/2, Jul 2.23 up 1/2, Sep 2.28 1/4 up 1 1/4.
Wheat: Mar 2.92 up 1, May 2.88 3/4 up 3/4, Jul 2.85 1/2 off 1/4, Sep 2.88 1/2 off 1/4.
Oats: Mar 1.90 unch, May 1.72 1/2 up 1/2, Jul 1.57 up 1/2, Sep 1.36 off 1.