READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 26th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 26th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Ag Equipment Manufacturers Still Struggling with COVID-19

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers continues to struggle with COVID-19. AEM represents 12 percent of the U.S. manufacturing sector, which is still adjusting to challenging and changing economic conditions. Roughly 75 percent of U.S. equipment manufacturers say the impact of COVID-19 on the overall economy is still very negative. As many as 60 percent of industry executives say that the federal government hasn’t done enough to support the industry as it continues to face a decline in demand and supply chain disruptions. “COVID-19 continues to negatively impact equipment manufacturers and the 2.8 million men and women in our industry,” says Dennis Slater, President of AEM. “We have seen some improvements to the operations and financial outlook for our member companies. However, the industry still faces a long road back to normal.” Slater says even as the industry continues to build, feed, and power the country, there are far too many of the member companies running out of time. Many equipment executives say they’re still struggling to keep workers on the job, with 80 percent of them admitting they won’t be able to rehire workers laid off earlier in the year.

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U.S. Fires Back at China Linking COVID Concerns and Food Imports

U.S. health and agricultural authorities issued thinly-veiled criticism of new Chinese demands placed on food-exporting companies. Beijing is asking those companies to sign documents stating that they comply with Chinese safety standards to prevent COVID transmission. “Efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn in a joint statement. The two officials both say there is “no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or packaging.” Bloomberg says that’s in line with expert advice saying that food poses little risk of spreading the coronavirus. China recently warned global exporters dealing with outbreaks among employees by placing bans on a plant owned by Tyson Foods, which reported infections at a site in Arkansas. China’s customs authorities say companies in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil, have voluntarily halted shipments due to a rise in the number of positive COVID cases within their borders. Tyson was the first major U.S. company to sign the Chinese certificate, while others have been more reluctant to sign an affidavit due to liability concerns.

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USDA Adds Digital Options for CFAP Applications

USDA’s Farm Service Agency will take applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through an online portal. The agency’s goal is to expand the options available to producers to apply for the program, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic. FSA is also leveraging commercial document storage and e-signature solutions to enable producers to work with local service center staff to complete their applications from home. “We’re doing everything we can to serve our customers and make sure agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19 can quickly and securely apply for this relief program,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “In addition to working with FSA staff through the phone, email, and scheduled in-person appointments, we can now also take applications through the farmers.gov portal, which saves time for both our staff and producers.” Those producers who already have secure USDA login credentials can certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit them directly to the local USDA Service Center. Producers who don’t have a secure login can begin the signup process at www.farmers.gov/sign-in.

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NFU: EPA is a “Barrier” for Emission Reduction in Biofuels

The head of the National Farmers Union blasted the Environmental Protection Agency, calling it a “barrier” for reducing greenhouse gasses in biofuels. “The EPA has been the primary barrier to a lot of additional success that we can have in reducing greenhouse gasses in ethanol technology,” says Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union. “The story for grain-based ethanol, in general is the EPA continues to be a barrier, not only because of the waivers they’ve issued but also for barriers against higher blends.” Larew’s comments during a Senate hearing took place days after the EPA said it had received 52 new petitions from oil refiners asking for retroactive exemptions to requirements that they blend biofuels into their products. A court overturned three agency-issued waivers in January, which the EPA did not appeal. Biofuels are a complex issue as the Trump Administration struggles to balance the conflicting interests of farmers and the oil industry, two demographics that are key parts of President Trump’s base. The NFU President appeared during a Senate Ag Committee hearing on a new bipartisan bill designed to help farmers get carbon credits in exchange for sustainable farming practices.

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Senators Question Meatpackers About Chinese Exports, Meat Shortages

Two Democrats in the U.S. Senate are questioning top American meatpackers about past shipments to China while America went through meat shortages in grocery stores across the country. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker want to know by the end of this month how much pork, beef, and chicken those companies shipped to China during the coronavirus outbreak while warning of possible domestic meat shortages. Reuters says the inquiry increases the scrutiny on companies like Tyson Foods, JBS USA, and Smithfield Foods, after thousands of meatpacking workers were infected with COVID-19. USDA data says those companies exported 112,327 tons of U.S. pork to China in April, more than any other month before and up 257 percent from a year earlier. Those export numbers raise questions about why U.S. meat prices soared, and President Trump had to order the nation’s slaughterhouses to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply. In a letter outlining their request for information, Booker and Warren said, “This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether you are living up to your commitments to the workers who produce your pork and beef, the communities in which you operate, and the nation’s consumers that rely on your products to feed their families.”

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Largest Meatpacking Union Confirms Growing COVID-19 Impact on Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union held a press conference highlighting the impact and growing danger of COVID-19 on frontline workers. The union represents 1.3 million employees. The UFCW says that during the last 100 days, 238 UFCW frontline workers have died from COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed. UFCW International President Marc Perrone (Per-RONE) announced three new initiatives the union wants in effect. The first is establishing hazard pay and a $15 per hour wage for all frontline workers. Second is establishing a public mask mandate in all 50 states. Third, they want a new national public registry to track COVID-19 infections in frontline workers. That would require companies with more than 1,000 employees to submit monthly reports on their worker deaths, infections, and exposures. Perrone says, “100 days into COVID-19 and American frontline workers still face many of the same dangers they faced on day one. Frontline workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and healthcare facilities, are still getting sick and dying.” He also says it’s high time for America’s CEOs and elected leaders to “pull their head out of the sand” and take strong action needed to protect America’s brave workers.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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