News bites, April 2004

This article was originally published in April 2004

Price fixing

The nation’s largest beef packer, Tyson Fresh Meats, is being ordered by a federal court to pay $1.28 billion in a dispute over price manipulation. Six beef producers had filed a class action suit in 1996, saying Tyson created a “captive” cattle supply with contracts and used the leverage to depress cattle prices.

Ranchers say the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forced a civil suit in federal court by refusing to exercise its authority under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, which regulates practices in the meat industries. Tyson operates in all but nine states and has facilities in Washington State. (Capital Press)

Sewage sludge “compost?”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a change in the definition of “compost” to include sewage sludge. The rule change reportedly is in a Federal Register notice dated December 10, 2003 about proposed revisions to the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines. The proposed change reportedly would consolidate various compost designations into one, called “compost made from recovered organic materials.”

Sludge is the byproduct of waste materials removed from sewage by wastewater treatment plants. It includes human waste and a mix of chemicals. (

Fewer dairies

The number of licensed dairy operations in the United States is declining. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that almost 4,000 fewer dairies were operating in 2003 compared to 2002. States with the largest decreases are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, New York and Kentucky. California and New Mexico were the only states with more dairies last year than before. (Capital Press)

BSE investigation comes to an end

The USDA has ended its investigation into the country’s first BSE case after failing to find 52 cattle from the imported herd. “The paper trail has gotten cold; we have not been able to trace those animals,” said the USDA’s chief veterinary officer. An international panel of experts supported the decision. The USDA hopes that announcing an end to the investigation will persuade other countries to lift bans on U.S. beef. (The Washington Post/Food Marketing Institute)

Chemical-free salmon buffers

In Washington state, a federal judge has banned the use of pesticides near rivers and streams that support Northwest salmon. Retail stores in urban areas of Washington, Oregon and California also are required now to post warnings about the most common and dangerous pesticides.

The ruling is being viewed as a landmark decision that will help limit the most hazardous pesticides from polluting streams and rivers. It reportedly sets a precedent for how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protects endangered species from pesticides. (Washington Toxics Coalition/Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Organic milk better

An organic dairy co-op is urging the British government to recommend organic milk after a study found organic milk has 64 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic milk. Some nutritionists suggest many consumers worldwide do not get an adequate amount of the beneficial fats. The study was published in the Journal of Dairy Science. (FoodNavigator/Food Marketing Institute)

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