September 24, 2010

Top USDA officials to speak at San Antonio International Farm and Ranch Show

Avalos and Almanza will address food safety, animal ID, more

By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-467-6575  
Contact(s): Lyle Larson, ltlarson@gvtc.com
Bryan Davis, 210-467-6575, by-davis@tamu.edu
 
SAN ANTONIO -- Two top-ranking U.S. Department of Agriculture officials will be featured presenters at the San Antonio International Farm and Ranch Show to be held Oct. 14-16 at the San Antonio Livestock Exposition and Freeman Coliseum grounds in San Antonio.

Edward Avalos, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Al Almanza, administrator for the agriculture department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, will be featured speakers at the show.

At 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 14, Avalos will give a presentation on fever ticks and animal identification, according to show coordinators.

"Fever ticks are a major livestock health concern, and animal identification is an often controversial topic among ranchers," said Lyle Larson, the show’s originator. "It will be interesting to have Mr. Avalos explain the USDA's position on this subject and for him to hear the perspectives of ranchers attending the show."

At 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, Almanza will give a presentation on the safety of America's food supply.

"The USDA, particularly through its Food Safety and Inspection Service, has the serious and onerous responsibility to ensure the safety of the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products," Larson said. "With the contamination of some agricultural products by E. coli and salmonella, as well as the possibility of some future contamination, the topic of maintaining and enhancing food safety is a top concern among many farmers and ranchers in the nation."

Larson added that presentations by the USDA officials will enhance the already strong educational and informational aspect of the show, which will provide approximately 40 additional educational opportunities.

He said additional educational offerings will address a wide variety of topics, including ground-water issues, feral hog management, grape varieties and production, the Texas AgrAbility Project, ranching along the border, using contract labor and lease considerations, benefits of the Web Soil Survey, and working with U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

"Along with various educational sessions to benefit farmers and ranchers, this year we've added some designed for individuals involved in agricultural commodities industries," said Bryan Davis, AgriLife Extension agent for natural resources for Bexar County and lead coordinator for the show's educational component.

Education credits or units will be offered for many of the programs, including beef quality assurance credits, Texas Department of Agriculture private applicator units and certified crop advisor units, Davis said.

Larson added that this year the show will host the South Texas Commodity Symposium and that new show activities will include live cattle-chute and deer-handling equipment demonstrations, ATV safety presentations, tractor pulls, free health screenings, wine tastings and other offerings.

Show admission is free, and hours will be from noon-8 p.m. on Oct. 14 and from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 16.

For more information, visit http://www.farmandranchexpo.com or call 210-226-1177.

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EDITORS NOTE:

Edward Avalos – As USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, Avalos is responsible for oversight of the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, which addresses animal and plant pests and diseases, as well as for its Agricultural Marketing Service, which provides standardized testing and marketing of commodities and specialty crops. He also provides oversight for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, an agency which promotes livestock, cereals and meats marketing, plus fair-trade practices.

Al Almanza - Almanza is adminstrator for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency most responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply. He is responsible for regulation of the nation’s meat, poultry and processed egg products. Almanza leads more than 9,500 employees in their mission of protecting public health through ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply.