READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 9th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USDA Working on COVID-19 Aid

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Department of Agriculture is working on a plan to allocate relief funds to farmers. In a call with reporters Wednesday, Perdue said the $14 billion allocated to the Commodity Credit Corporation, “would come later,” however, noting the CCC has only $6 billion in borrowing authority currently. The CCC can borrow $30 billion per fiscal year, and with just $6 billion left, appears to have already allocated $24 billion. The additional $14 billion authorized by the CARES Act can’t be used until July, according to USDA. Meanwhile, USDA is working to implement a plan to allocate the $9.5 billion emergency relief fund that was designated to the Office of the Agriculture Secretary. Perdue says USDA is holding daily meetings on the COVID-19 relief package for agriculture, including meeting with lawmakers. Perdue says he is hopeful a plan will be announced “sooner rather than later,” while cautioning that the process of federal rulemaking takes time.

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NCBA Requests President Trump Expand USDA Market Investigation

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is asking the Department of Agriculture to further investigate the cattle and beef markets. NCBA President Marty Smith sent a letter to President Donald Trump on the matter Wednesday. The letter requests the government to act quickly to investigate the striking disparity between boxed beef prices and cattle prices in the futures and cash markets during the current COVID-19 crisis, and following the packing plant fire in Holcomb, Kansas, last August. In his letter, Smith requests President Trump to direct USDA to expand the ongoing investigation into market activity after the Holcomb fire to include current market volatility, “in the hope of identifying whether inappropriate influence occurred in the markets.” Smith says, “we need continued vigilance and oversight of all cattle market participants.” The letter also requests the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to study the influence of speculators on live and feeder cattle futures contracts to determine whether these contracts remain a useful risk-management tool for cattle producers.

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Lawmakers Urge SBA to Provide Clear Guidance to Farmers

Two U.S. Representatives from Wisconsin are asking the Trump administration to provide clear and direct guidance for dairy farmers accessing the new Paycheck Protection Program. Democrat Ron Kind and Republican Mike Gallagher sent a letter to the Small Business Administration and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seeking the guidance. Without additional guidance on PPP, many dairy operations could lose out on this vital lifeline and may not survive, according to the lawmakers. Representative Kind says, “The Administration needs to move quickly to ensure there aren’t any more delays for our small business owners and farmers,” calling the uncertainty “unacceptable.”  The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to threaten Wisconsin’s already struggling dairy economy, with some farmers being forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk daily due to a drop in demand for dairy products typically consumed in schools, restaurants, and food services. For the past two years, Wisconsin has led the nation in farm bankruptcies with an average of two dairy farms closing a day.

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Produce Industry Proposes Market Stabilization Program to USDA

The United Fresh Produce Association and industry partners have presented a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to the Department of Agriculture. The proposal would immediately support critical financial needs in the produce supply chain. In addition, 108 members of Congress have sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging USDA to support the proposal. United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel says the industry “has come together to support a consensus proposal to USDA, and Congress has come together to let our national decision-makers know how important this is across the country and every sector of our business.” The proposal is a “roadmap” for how USDA can support the industry immediately. Next, United Fresh says, will come deep discussions and analysis within USDA in channeling resources to multiple interests. Stenzel says, “we believe there will have to be continuing additional financial relief from Congress if our economy is going to be able to pull out of this crisis and grow again.”

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Union Claims Poultry Industry Responded Slowly to Pandemic

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union says the poultry industry responded slowly to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Union says that over the past month, it has been imploring poultry industry employers like Tyson Foods, Equity Foods, JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, Koch Foods and Wayne Farms to implement critical standards to protect workers’ safety and to secure the food supply chain. The industry’s response, “for the most part has only been recent, sporadic and limited to a few locations, leaving most workers unprotected,” according to the union. The organization represents 10,000 workers across the southeastern United States, many in food processing and distribution. However, the National Chicken Council Wednesday said the industry is “doing everything they can” to keep workers safe and chicken on the shelves, in that order. National Chicken Council President Mike Brown says, “Our members are following all of the CDC and local health department guidelines, and many have consulted with infectious disease physicians to develop site plans.”

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Forecast Runoff for Upper Missouri River Basin Lower After Warm Spring

The water runoff forecast for the Missouri River basin is down slightly this month, though still projected near record highs. Gavins Point releases are forecast to remain near 35,000 cubic feet per second through the month of April. Runoff above Sioux City, Iowa, was 5.5 million acre feet in March, which is almost two times average. The above-average runoff was primarily due to plains snow melting over heavily saturated soils. Based on current soil moisture conditions, current plains and mountain snowpack, and long-term temperature and precipitation outlooks, the 2020 calendar year upper basin runoff forecast is now 35.5 million acre feet above Sioux City, Iowa. Although this forecast is a reduction of 1.4 million acre feet from the March 1 forecast, it is still in the top ten percent of the 122 years of runoff record. Soil moisture conditions continue to be very wet in much of the upper Missouri River Basin, increasing the potential for above-average runoff in the upper basin. The potential for flooding remains, particularly in the lower river stretches.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.