Tag Archives: food

The Department of Agriculture last week approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program is designed to connect excess meat, dairy and produce on farms with families facing food insecurity.

The funding far exceeds the $100 million per month the department initially planned for the program, due to high interest and need. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy, $258 million in meat and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger relief organization, sent a letter to the USDA requesting a nimble approach to quickly and effectively get food from America’s farms to the nation’s food banks and others addressing food insecurity. USDA is authorized to spend up to $3 billion through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. These initial contracts will distribute food from May 15 through June 30, 2020.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he’s forming a Republican “China Task Force,” citing Chinese ownership of Smithfield Foods as part of the reason behind the move.

The Hagstrom Report says McCarthy found it interesting that “China owns a processing plant in South Dakota” and wondered if that could be a challenge for the U.S. food supply. McCarthy says the task force will include representatives from 10 congressional committees and will look deeper into the U.S.-China relationship. There were Democrats included in the original formation, but they dropped out, which McCarthy criticized them for.

The task force recommendations could influence the agricultural trade relationship between the two countries because trade is typically more robust when the relations with China are solid. The Hagstrom Report quotes a senior Democratic aide who says those on that side of the political fence are “very cognizant of the need to hold China accountable for its actions.”

However, the aide says, “To that extent, this is going to be the Trump Administration’s scapegoat for its utter failure, we are not going to go along with any of that.”

Underpinned by record production, U.S. pork exports completed a tremendous first quarter with new March records for volume and value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports also trended higher year-over-year in March, establishing a record first quarter pace.

“March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related headwinds facing customers in many international markets at that time,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ foodservice sectors, several key currencies slumped against the U.S. dollar and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets – yet demand for U.S. red meat proved very resilient.”

Some recent events, including temporary closures of several U.S. processing plants, are not reflected in the first quarter export data. Halstrom cautioned that April and May exports could slow as a result, but his outlook for 2020 remains positive.

“These are truly unprecedented circumstances, creating an uncertain global business climate,” Halstrom explained. “The U.S. meat industry has spent decades developing a loyal and well-informed customer base throughout the world, which has embraced the quality and value delivered by U.S. red meat. Their commitment to U.S. products during this crisis is much-appreciated.”

Strong demand from China/Hong Kong continued to drive U.S. pork exports to new heights, but March exports also increased significantly to Mexico, Japan and Canada. Export volume reached 291,459 metric tons (mt), up 38% from a year ago and topping the previous record set in December 2019. Export value increased 47% to $764.2 million. Through the first quarter, pork exports increased 40% from a year ago to 838,118 mt, valued at $2.23 billion (up 52%).

Pork export value per head slaughtered reached $63.99 in March, up 32% from a year ago. The January-March per head average was $64.66, up 40%. March exports accounted for 31.6% of total pork production and 28.4% for pork muscle cuts – each up about six percentage points from a year ago, even as March production increased by 12%. Through the first quarter, exports accounted for 31.4% of total pork production and 28.5% for muscle cuts, up from 24.4% and 21.3%, respectively, in 2019. U.S. pork production was up 9% in the first quarter, with industry expansion fueled by strong international demand, especially in several key Asian markets still battling African swine fever (ASF).

Driven by solid growth in Japan, where U.S. beef is benefiting from reduced tariffs under the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, as well as South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan, March beef exports totaled 115,308 mt, up 7% from a year ago, valued at $702.2 million – up 4% and the highest monthly value since July. First quarter beef exports climbed 9% from a year ago to 334,703 mt, valued at $2.06 billion (up 8%).

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter was $308.21 in March, down 8% from the very high March 2019 average. For the first quarter, per-head export value increased 2% to $317.06. March beef exports accounted for 13.9% of total production and 11.3% for beef muscle cuts, down from 14.8% and 12%, respectively, a year ago. Exports accounted for 14% of first quarter beef production and 11.4% for muscle cuts, each up slightly year-over-year. U.S. beef production increased by 14% in March and 8% in the first quarter as export growth continued to make a critical contribution to carcass value even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global foodservice sector.

USMEF’s full first quarter summary for U.S. pork, beef and lamb exports, including market-specific highlights, is available online.

Planting progress.  USDA report next week on the 12th.  Delivery against the May futures starting to roll in.  Will we see some changes to exports, ethanol and what could be on the balance sheet for old crop?  Will there be a corn vs. bean war?  War with China again?  Livestock…rolling positions.  Cash prices & box beef movement.  So how does Wendy’s/McDonald’s COSTCO/HyVee limiting meat purchases.  How is this long/short term going to affect the markets?  How do you market your cattle?  Weight concerns going into summer?


This week, President Trump signed an executive order that will utilize the Defense Production Act to declare meat-processing plants as critical infrastructure. This action allows plants in Kansas and across the country to remain open, preventing further disruptions to our food supply and ensuring the continuation of the nation’s livestock industry.

It is extremely important for our state and everyone involved in the livestock industry that our packing plants remain open. I applaud President Trump’s actions and the work by the administration to not only ensure the safety of our front-line employees, but also the continuation of the processing plants across the U.S.

The CDC, State of Kansas, Kansas National Guard, local communities and private industry are all doing an exceptional job to ramp up testing efforts and establish additional procedures to protect the health and safety of front line employees across the state.




President Donald Trump Tuesday announced an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President will use the Defense Production Act to order companies to stay open as critical infrastructure, as meatpacking plants over the past couple of weeks closed with spikes in coronavirus cases among employees.

The plan allows the federal government to supply additional personal protective equipment to meat processing facilities, according to Bloomberg News. The supply chain slowdown presents dire factors for farmers, with poultry and pork producers left with no alternative other than euthanizing animals.

The order will affect processing plants for beef, chicken, eggs and pork. Republican U.S. Senators from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, this week, urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. The Senators asked for assistance for processing plants, assistance for euthanizing animals, indemnity payments for depopulation costs and mental health assistance for all affected.

Saint Paul, Minn. – On behalf of 6,500 dairy farm families across the Midwest, Midwest Dairy announced they will donate $500,000 to food banks in the Midwest to purchase dairy products for people who are in need. The contributions will be spread across the 10 states Midwest Dairy represents, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, to help meet the increased demand for dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food banks across the region have been seeing unprecedented need in recent weeks, setting records of daily and weekly food distribution and showcasing the urgency of finding resourceful ways to provide more food to those experiencing food insecurity. With unemployment numbers still climbing and schools – where many children receive the majority of their daily meals – continuing to be closed, the demand is expected to continue growing.

“Dairy farmers work tirelessly day in and day out to help feed the world, so this tremendous contribution puts our values in action to help our hungry neighbors,” said Allen Merrill, Midwest Dairy Corporate board chairman and a dairy farmer from Parker, South Dakota. “As a farmer and Midwest Dairy leader, I am proud of our work to make this donation possible to provide dairy products to people who otherwise may not have access to these nutrients during this challenging time.”

Though dairy checkoff funds cannot typically be used to purchase dairy products, the USDA has granted a one-time exception at the request of Midwest Dairy to help meet this need and get dairy into the hands of people who are food insecure. Midwest Dairy is partnering with dairy processors to determine what products they have available and then will provide a list of interested processors to food banks that have both a need and the capacity to increase their dairy inventory and distribution.

“During this extraordinarily challenging time, food banks throughout the Midwest, including the eight Feeding America food banks and their local networks of community agencies that serve Illinois, are working relentlessly to ensure that nobody in local communities goes hungry,” said Steve Ericson, executive director for Feeding Illinois. “The need for nutritious foods, such as dairy, is growing exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects. Thank you to Midwest Dairy and dairy farmers for leading this effort to access additional dairy products to help residents in need across our state and region. This donation will make an immediate impact.”

This program also offers processors an opportunity to keep their supply chains active while navigating dairy demand shifts due to recent school, restaurant and other business closures. The following cooperatives and processors have been invited to participate in the program: Agropur, AMPI, Anderson Erickson Dairy, Bel Brands, Bongards, Cass Clay, Dairy Farmers of America, Dean Foods, First District Association, Hiland, KanPak, Kemps, Land O’Lakes, Midwest Dairymen, Plainview Milk Products/Hastings, Prairie Farms, Valley Queen and Wapsie Valley.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to partner with Midwest Dairy and interested regional food banks to bring dairy products to people in need throughout our communities,” said Steve Schlangen, chairman of the board of directors for dairy farmer-owned processing cooperative Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) of New Ulm, Minn., and a dairy farmer from Albany, Minn. “This effort helps ensure the milk dairy farmers work so hard to produce continues to move through the supply chain and into the hands of those who need it.”

For more information, please visit www.midwestdairy.com.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Friday evening. The $19 billion relief program will provide support to farmers and ranchers, and the food supply chain, to ensure “every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.” CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the CARES Act, among other funding streams.

The program includes $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for farmers and ranchers. The program will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year. USDA will also partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of food service businesses, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat.

USDA will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The relief package does not include biofuels, a sector facing plant shutdowns amid low fuel demand.

Further details regarding eligibility, rates and other implementation will be released at a later date by USDA.

Agriculture Groups Respond:

The American Farm Bureau Federation applauds the economic aid package. AFBF Federation President Zippy Duvall says the program will “help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather.”

The National Farmers Union says the relief cannot come soon enough. NFU President Rob Larew recently urged Secretary Perdue in a letter to “swiftly and efficiently implement assistance and distribute resources.” Larew expressed appreciation for the agency’s efforts and reiterated the importance of dividing aid fairly and establishing longer-term solutions to market challenges.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Marty Smith welcomed the aid package, saying cattle producers “desperately need help during this national emergency.” A study commissioned by NCBA estimated that cow-calf producers stand to lose $8.1 billion as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, while the stocker/backgrounder sector losses will reach $2.5 billion and feedlot losses will total $3.0 billions a result of COVID-19.

And, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, says, “Delivering this much needed relief expediently and efficiently will help producers manage their operations, as well as put food on the tables of folks who need it most.”

However, for pork producers, the aid may not be enough. National Pork Producers Council President Howard “A.V.” Roth says, “We fear the lifeline so desperately needed will fall short of what is truly needed.” While the direct payments to hog farmers will offset some losses for some farmers, Roth says “they are not sufficient to sustain the varied market participants.”

Another week closer to whatever the new norm will be.  Mind sets are starting to change.  Tough week was the corn market, folks are getting anxious to get back into the field.  Will there be big acres & supplies?  How is the basis holding out for corn & beans?  How is the ethanol market faring?  cattle started to stabilize-there is a long way yet to go.  Cash trade on cattle has slowed down.   What does all this pricing mean to the consumer as they head to the grocery store?  How did cash fair for cattle & hogs?


Food security is top of mind for many across the globe. Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic consumers have rushed to the store to stock up. As the shelves clear the supply chain is quickly trying to re-tool to meet the rising retail demand vs. the dropping food service demand. Still images of milk being dumped, produce being plowed under and meat cases cleared show the transition isn’t happening quickly.

So in the greater definition of food security do consumers have ample choices to ensure that food supply? That was the key question that Jacob Wingebach asked himself long before the pandemic. “See a need. Fill a need. That is what my Grandpa always use to say” with that the philosophy Jacob Wingebach saw a need for more choices of meat. He also happened to know of a small beef processing plant for sale in Mullen Nebraska. Wingebach made the entrepreneurial jump leaving behind a job as a federal inspector for nuclear power plants. Wingebach has now been operating Sandhills Beef Company for over five. He is currently trying to put the final touches on a plan that would help his business and give local ranchers and cattle feeders the opportunity to market their beef directly to the consumer.   Hear the plan first hand from Wingebach himself right here: