READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 29th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Trump to Use Act to Keep Meatpackers Open

President Donald Trump Tuesday announced his intention to sign 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.

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Growth Energy Praises House Bill to Boost Biofuel Infrastructure

Growth Energy Tuesday announced the association’s support of the Clean Fuels Deployment Act. The legislation authorizes $500 million over five years for the Department of Transportation to provide grants that incentivize the deployment of fueling infrastructure for ethanol and biodiesel. The bill specifically focuses on ethanol blends greater than ten percent, and biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent. The bill was introduced by U.S. House Democrats Abby Finkenaur of Iowa, Angie Craig of Illinois, and Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas and Don Bacon of Nebraska. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the legislation “offers a roadmap for the next wave of growth that will revitalize rural communities.” The program could also be used to enhance pipelines and terminals to blend and carry ethanol and biodiesel. Funding from the clean fuels grant program could be used to incentivize the deployment of biofuels infrastructure and convert existing infrastructure to deliver the higher blends.

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Think Tank Outlines Steps to Help Rural America

A progressive Washington, D.C. think tank recently issued a policy brief on ways lawmakers can help rural communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for American Progress is self-described as a progressive, independent, nonpartisan policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans. The brief released this week finds that many rural communities are less prepared than their urban counterparts to handle an influx of virus cases because they have fewer health care facilities, their populations tend to have more chronic health issues, and residents face transportation challenges. The organization suggests rural communities would benefit from Medicaid expansion, a national stay at home order, and dedicated funding for communities with a population under 50,000. An economist with the organization says, “Rural communities have been left behind by the government’s coronavirus response,” adding, policymakers should recognize “those communities are, in many ways, less equipped than big cities to manage the crisis.”

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New Guidelines to Keep Poultry Processing Employees Safe and Protein Available

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control will help keep poultry processing workers safe and ensure the supply chain, according to the National Chicken Council. Responding to the new guidance this week, NCC President Mike Brown says, “We appreciate the administration’s new guidance in an effort to further keep our workers safe and keep food on the shelves.” CDC recommends facilities take measures to reduce COVID-19 risks.  Specifically, the new guidance reiterates many already identified mitigation measures, including social distancing, engineering controls to minimize potential contact, protective gear and face coverings, shift staggering, health screenings, training and awareness, and financial incentives not to report to work sick. Brown says the biggest problem processors face is inconsistencies among state and local health departments and government officials who, in many circumstances, are developing their own criteria for maintaining operations. NCC says there must be a uniform approach across all states. NCC is urging states to adopt guidelines by the CDC and other federal agencies immediately.

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House Members Request Swift and Fair Implementation of Relief for Farmers

More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives want COVID-19 related relief for farmers as effective and as immediately as possible. A letter this week to the Trump administration led by Republican Representative Rick Crawford or Arkansas, Austin Scott of Georgia, Rodney Davis of Illinois and Tom Emmer of Minnesota outlined the request. Specifically, the letter highlights concern that there will be a severe gap between producers’ losses and Department of Agriculture aid. The letter implores USDA to include all producers and to not limit payments simply based on income, risk management practices, or past USDA payments. Further, the letter notes Congress’s $14 billion replenishment of the Credit Commodity Corporation and requests USDA to include the funds in the relief package. Representative Davis says, “Protecting our nation’s food supply is critical during this pandemic to ensure food is available now and in the future.” Representative Crawford adds, “Our nation’s agricultural producers are fighting new challenges every day due to the current pandemic, and obtaining assistance shouldn’t be added to their plate.”

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NCBA Applauds Effort to Provide Flexibility to Livestock Haulers

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this week applauded Senators seeking flexibility for livestock haulers. A bipartisan letter from 24 Senators outlined the need to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. NCBA Government Affairs Director Allison Rivera says, “Hauling livestock is inherently different than hauling typical consumer goods, and we continue to look for flexibilities within Hours of Service to safely haul livestock around this country.” The letter says that as the Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdictional oversight over Hours of Service regulations applicable to commercial motor vehicles, “we respectfully request that your committee work with us to provide greater flexibility for haulers of agricultural products.” The unique circumstances involved in the transport of perishable and live goods warrant flexible laws and regulations to ensure a safe environment, the lawmakers say, for animals and drivers. The letter states, “It is important that Hours of Service regulations provide for a commonsense framework for drivers, rather than a one-size-fits-all model.”

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.