Area cattle ranchers could see an increase in beef demand as consumer spending for beef set a new record during the first half of 2000. According to officials with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), industry projections of spending, consumption and overall demand are on a steady pace for the remainder of 2000. Total beef spending in 2000 is expected to grow by more than $2.6 billion making it approximately $52 billion or $6.5 billion more than 1997. With area ranchers stuck in the middle of the fifth year of severe drouth conditions, many are thinning their herds in order to minimize their chance for loss. On the national level, an attempt to do away with the government program that controls livestock predators was defeated 228-190 during U.S. House of Representatives consideration of the 2001 farm spending bill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture spends about $10 million a year killing about 100,000 predators, including coyotes, foxes, wolves, and mountain lions. LMA-VACC, a new calf preconditioning and vaccination program for livestock market owners and operators, has been introduced by the Livestock Marketing Association. LMA says that by implementing this program, market owners will help to provide buyers a more uniform animal and deter health problems as cattle are marketed and commingled. Participating markets will control their own producer data on animals sold through the LMA-VACC program. Control over this data will allow market owners to promote those producers who continuously supply calves that will perform. In an attempt to improve the health of Texas herds, most of Texas could be cattle TB-free when new federal TB regulations with more stringent requirements for moving cattle out of state goes into effect in late 2000 or early 2001. Texas, New Mexico and Michigan are the only states not already carrying the “accredited TB free” designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Cattle herds in 252 or 254 Texas counties have been free of TB infection for more than five years and we will be asking the USDA to grant Texas ‘split-state’ status, so the majority of the state’s 153,000 herd owners can continue to move cattle interstate without restrictions,” said Dr. Terry Beals, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission. “It could be tougher to transport cattle out of El Paso County and a small portion of Hudspeth County, the two counties which still have TB-infected herds.” On the upside, U.S. beef exports and imports have increased very strongly so far this year. Beef exports to all markets excluding Russia were up 9.5 percent, from a year earlier, for the first five months of 2000. Korea increased their imports of U.S. beef 37 percent; Mexico, 23 percent; and Canada, nearly nine percent. The Japanese market expanded three percent, after 1999’s 1.5 percent decrease, suggesting a renewed interest in U.S. beef by Japanese consumers. New rules to help ensure fair competition in the livestock, poultry and meat packing industries will be issued by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. The goal is to help small ranchers and farmers compete more effectively by increasing the transparency of market transactions. The new regulations are intended to: ‘Mandate disclosure of basic contract terms, ensuring that production contracts are easy to understand; ‘ Prohibit restrictions on disclosure of contract terms, preventing packers from imposing restrictions that may limit the ability of producers to obtain legal or financial advice and can constitute an unfair trade practice; ‘ Clarify record keeping requirements for packers, specifying the form and content of records that must be maintained to describe livestock procurement transactions to ensure more complete and accurate information; ‘ Prohibit conditional purchases in which the purchase of animals from one seller is tied to the purchase of animals from another seller, requiring each lot of livestock to be purchased or offered on its own merits; and ‘ Require that packers specify the basis on which they pay different prices for like quality livestock. Proposed regulations, which are based on suggestions from small farmers and ranchers and farm groups, are expected to be published in the Federal Register this fall. They will be open for public comment for a period of time before final regulations are issued.