Tag Archives: USDA

Senate Democrats want Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide more worker safety protection to meat processing employees. A group of 29 Senators, led by Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, penned a letter to Perdue outlining recommendations for ways the Department of Agriculture should improve worker safety.

The Senators wrote, “While we recognize the importance of keeping these plants running, it is wrong and shortsighted to use the Defense Production Act to mandate plants to stay open without effectively addressing worker safety issues.” The group says that while the Trump administration has applauded the reopening of several plants, USDA officials in congressional briefings could not confirm that the plants were operating in accordance with CDC and OSHA guidance.

The Senators urged USDA to ensure that meatpacking plants take sufficient actions to protect worker safety before opening, including reconfiguring the plants to allow for social distancing, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, instituting ongoing testing, ensuring that infected employees are not coming to work, and making other necessary changes to keep workers safe.

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.

The door is open for U.S. sorghum exports to flow into Vietnam for high-value uses like pet food and liquor, as well as feed for the aquaculture, poultry, and swine industries.

A new pest risk assessment has been approved by both the USDA and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture. The opening is a result of almost five years of work by the U.S. Grains Council, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, and the National Sorghum Producers, as well as the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service and APHIS.

“We are excited to see our hard work and collaboration pay off in Vietnam,” says USGC President and CEO Ryan LeGrand. “It’s been a long time coming but it is a model of how by working together with industry and government, good things can happen for U.S. commodities.” The pest risk assessment outlines how U.S. sorghum must be handled to meet regulations in Vietnam.

The assessment became even more critical after a shipment of sorghum destined for China in 2018 was diverted to Vietnam but couldn’t be delivered because there was no pest risk assessment protocol in place.

Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week sent two letters to Governors across the nation and leadership of major meat processing companies regarding the reopening of meat processing facilities.

The letters establish the Department of Agriculture’s expectations for the implementation of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order signed last week. The President’s Executive order directs plants to follow the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance specific to the meat processing industry to keep facilities open while maintaining worker safety.

USDA expects state and local officials to work with meat-processing facilities to maintain operational status while protecting their employees’ health. USDA has also directed meat and poultry processing plants currently closed and without a clear timetable for near-term reopening to submit to USDA written documentation of their protocol, developed based on the CDC/OSHA guidance, and resume operations as soon as they are able after implementing the guidance.

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4, 2020 – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today applauded the announcement that agricultural producers, for the first time, are now eligible for the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.

 

“America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers need the same help that other American businesses need during this unprecedented time,” said Secretary Perdue. “This significant new authority signed by President Trump will make a tremendous difference for America’s agricultural community.”

 

SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15. However, the Agency is able to reopen the portal today, in a limited capacity, as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act. The legislation, which was signed into law by the President one week ago, provided additional critical funding for farmers and ranchers affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

 

In order to help facilitate this important change to EIDL Loan and EIDL Advance assistance eligibility, SBA is re-opening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. For agricultural producers that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted prior to April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

 

For more information, please visit: www.sba.gov/Disaster.

Overland Park, Kan. – To say times are tough in cattle country would be an understatement. Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) member livestock auction owners and their producer customers are speaking up with significant concerns about volatility, the futures market, and especially, livestock producers not getting their fair share of the beef dollar. While COVID-19 and the Holcomb, Kan. packing plant fire last August are bringing these issues further to the forefront, they are illustrations of long-standing concerns regarding pricing and competition.

 

Livestock auction markets are an integral part of the process of price discovery, but our value is totally dependent on the success and profitability of the cow-calf producer, and the cattle feeder.

 

LMA supports the ongoing efforts by livestock organizations and individuals to bring about a pricing mechanism that would better serve the cattle feeder, and thereby the cattle producer. Our businesses are rooted in achieving competitive prices for cattle producers, and we want to see this occur throughout the beef supply chain.

 

To help bring that about, LMA is focusing on the investigations of the differential between the wholesale price of beef and the price that cattle feeders are receiving for their cattle. Beyond encouraging these investigations, LMA is conducting independent research and having additional discussions to pinpoint specific areas of concern for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, and hopefully, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This includes looking at futures market issues in addition to issues with fed cattle pricing.

 

The cattle industry needs answers regarding what is behind the dramatic spread between live cattle and boxed beef prices, and these investigations are critical in answering these questions. Our goal is long-term solutions that will address problems within finished cattle marketing, and a pricing mechanism that results in profitability for all segments of the industry.

 

These are uncertain times, and this is a difficult task. But with every challenge also comes opportunity. Consumer attention is on the fundamentals of life – and ready access to high-quality protein is one of them. Congresspeople are hearing from their cattle country constituents, and they want to help.

 

At LMA, we are dedicated to working with our legislative and industry allies for the betterment of the livestock industry and our consumer customers. If we focus on this, and we are successful, we’ll be setting up cattle producers to enjoy the good times and weather the tough ones for generations to come.

 

Larry Schnell

LMA Vice President

 

USDA’s Risk Management Agency made some changes to the Forage Seeding and Forage Production crop insurance programs that will start during the 2021 crop year.

The changes will include expanding coverage to new regions and counties, expanding coverage to fall-planted forage, as well as changing the method for loss adjustment. “These changes will expand coverage to new places, better reflect current agricultural practices, and better protect forage producers from losses,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “This will also enable forage producers to better secure loans and provide continuity to their forage production operations.” T

he specific changes include establishing coverage of forage seeding for producers in an additional 186 counties. Coverage is expanded to fall-planted forage and aligns forage seeding cancellation and termination dates with the dates of other fall-planted crops in each state. RMA will revise loss-adjustment procedures to rely upon the number of live alfalfa stems rather than the number of live plants for making loss determinations for forage containing more than 60 percent alfalfa.

Changes are listed in a final rule on the Federal Register at regulations.gov. Interested people are invited to comment on the rule for 60 days.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says meatpacking plants that have been slowed or shut down due to coronavirus will open again in days, not weeks. Slaughterhouse employees are set to receive additional protective gear and will have access to COVID-19 testing “virtually immediately.”

The Hill Dot Com says Perdue expects the shortfall in meat production is likely as high as 30 percent but will drop to between 10 and 15 percent within 10 days. However, Perdue does say that production likely won’t return to the pre-pandemic pace as new safety procedures are put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus. “There will be some less production, some inefficiency based on line speeds, some employees that will not be able to come back to work,” Perdue says. “We want to assure the workers and their community of their safety.”

As the virus continued to spread across the country, more than a dozen meat processing plants have been temporarily shut down due to outbreaks. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union reported at least 6,500 workers who had directly been affected by the coronavirus, as well as 20 deaths at plants across the country. The USDA will require processors to submit plans to operate packing facilities safely and review those measures with local officials.

On Friday, April 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the establishment of a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures.

APHIS is also mobilizing the National Veterinary Stockpile and will deploy assets as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide state-level technical assistance to producers and will provide cost-share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in line with program guidelines for disposal.

Additional details are available on the USDA website.

The National Pork Board will provide additional details to stakeholders as they become available.

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.”