READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 7th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 7th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Perdue Releases Letters on Meatpacking Investigation

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.

Meat Plant Closures Tightening Supplies

The reduction of meat processing capacity caused by U.S. plant closures and slowdowns has created a massive bottleneck in the nation’s meat and livestock supply chain. Nearly two dozen plants that process beef and pork products closed in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while many others have had to slow their production as a result of the disease. According to a new report from CoBank, even if the reduction of processing capacity is temporary, it will likely have a lasting impact on meat processors, livestock producers, retail stores and consumers. Meat supplies for retail grocery stores could shrink nearly 30 percent by Memorial Day, leading to retail pork and beef price increases as high as 20 percent relative to prices last year. This week, Midwest-based grocery chain Hy-Vee announced limits on customer purchases of meat products. Customers are limited to four packages of a combination of fresh beef, ground beef, pork and chicken when they checkout at all store locations. Costco announced similar limits earlier this week, as did Sam’s Club.

Bill Would Increase CCC Borrowing Authority

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week would expand the Commodity Credit Corporations annual borrowing authority. The legislation from Republican Representative Austin Scott of Georgia would raise the CCC’s borrowing authority from $30 billion to $68 billion. Scott says the move would give the Department of Agriculture greater flexibility to maintain farm bill programs that support farmers and stabilize domestic agricultural markets. By raising the CCC’s borrowing limit, Scott says USDA would have greater ability to address the economic effects that COVID-19, volatile markets, and other factors have had on rural America. The CCC’s borrowing authority was last adjusted to $30 billion in 1987. Since then, agriculture has faced many challenges, one of the most difficult being the economic impacts of COVID-19. Last month, an analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that if adjusted for inflation, the borrowing limit for the CCC would be nearly $68 billion, as proposed by Representative Scott’s legislation.

Gillibrand Introduces Bill to Connect Farms and Food Banks

New legislation introduced in the Senate addresses disruptions in the food supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and directly connect farms to food banks. The bill was introduced this week by Senator Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, who also sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee. As foodservice entities cease operations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, reports have emerged that millions of pounds of produce have been left to rot. Meanwhile, food banks across the country are facing unprecedented demand, as millions of newly unemployed Americans now face food insecurity. Senator Gillibrand’s proposed Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would provide $8 billion in block grants to food banks in the top vegetable and fruit producing states. Food banks will be able to use the funds to purchase fresh produce directly from farmers. They will also be able to use the funding to pay for distribution, processing, and additional staff needed to meet increased demand.

Report: Congress May Seek Oversight of NIFA, ERS Move

A new report suggests Congress may consider additional oversight of the location change of two Department of Agriculture agencies. The Congressional Research Service report out this month says, “Congress may consider exercising oversight of USDA implementation of the relocations and any benefits as anticipated by the Congressional Budget Office.” Last year, USDA relocated most staff positions at two of its research agencies, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service to Kansas City, Missouri, from Washington, D.C. The move was expected to save $300 million over 15 years, according to the CBA analysis. The report states about 75 percent of affected employees declined to relocate and left the agencies. The report says that NIFA grantees have experienced delays in receiving awarded funds, which are typically released one to two months after the start of the next fiscal year. Further reports cite USDA internal memos suggest that ERS has delayed or discontinued numerous reports.

BASF Donates $170,000 to Feeding America

BASF Corporation will join COVID-19 hunger relief efforts with a $170,000 donation to Feeding America. The company’s North America Agricultural Solutions employees in the U.S. hosted a virtual food drive in March and April to support Feeding America food banks across the country. The contribution will help their food banks secure nutritious food and resources to serve neighbors in need during the pandemic. BASF employees throughout its Agricultural Solutions division participated in the virtual food drive by making financial contributions online. BASF matched donations dollar-for-dollar for the virtual food drive. All funds raised online, including the BASF match, will be donated to Feeding America member food banks based on donor zip codes. This gives employee donors the opportunity to help their own communities and make an impact where they live. BASF will donate an additional $195,000 to Feeding America. The gift includes a $150,000 corporate donation and $45,000 from BASF’s largest facilities in Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana. In total, BASF will contribute more than $365,000 to Feeding America’s COVID-19 hunger relief efforts.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service