READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 30th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Agriculture Responds to Meatpacking Executive Order

President Donald Trump’s executive order to open meatpacking plants helps ensure the food supply chain but poses risks to workers. A statement by the National Farmers Union says the organization shares the president’s concerns around maintaining food system infrastructure. However, the organization is equally concerned with the health and wellbeing of meat plant employees. NFU President Rob Larew says, “These workers work in close quarters and often lack access to appropriate protective equipment or paid sick leave, making them among the most vulnerable to coronavirus.” However, ordering the facilities to stay open ensures that producers of meat have a market for their product. National Pork Producers Council President Howard AV Roth says, “We must safely stabilize the current plant capacity challenge.” Pork and poultry producers face the tough decision to depopulate because there is no room for animals in the current supply chain. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, in a statement, says he is “hopeful” the executive order will protect workers while ensuring the supply chain for farmers and ranchers.

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Senators Seek Open Antitrust Investigation into Meatpackers Amid Plant Closures

Two U.S. Senators seek an antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry. Senators Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, asked the Federal Trade Commission to open the antitrust investigation Wednesday. They say the industry is currently dominated by just a handful of large, multinational firms that have concentrated meat processing into fewer and fewer facilities, leaving America’s food supply chain vulnerable to disruptions. In the bipartisan letter, the Senators note that the closing of three pork plants because of COVID-19 has resulted in the shutdown of 15 percent of America’s pork production “at a time when stable supply chains have become more critical than ever.” The Senators say the FTC has the power to “shed light on these growing competition and security problems.” Baldwin and Hawley say the FTC should ask probing questions about major meatpacking firms’ conduct, pricing, and contracting, as well as how their commitments to overseas interests impact the U.S. market and national security.

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Expanding Overseas Markets Key to Dairy Post-COVID-19

Expanding export markets oversees is key to helping the dairy industry recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. National Milk Producers Federation vice president for trade, Shawna Morris, says work continues on “what needs to happen over the next year or two” to help the industry recover. Despite the disruptions, Morris says trade officials need to keep long-range goals of open commerce essential to returning dairy to prosperity in mind. Morris says NMPF and others are working with the federal government and others to outline the dairy industry’s priorities for upcoming trade agreements, notably with the UK and Kenya. Additionally, NMPF is focusing on issues and policy barriers that had existed before COVID-19 and are still in place and hindering dairy trade. With the drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dairy farmers are forced to dump milk, and some experts have warned the industry needs to retract production by ten percent. However, strong export demand following the COVID-19 pandemic could help the industry quickly recover.

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COVID-19 Impacting Ag Equipment Demand, Supply Chains

More than half of U.S. equipment manufacturers believe the COVID-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on the industry, according to a survey released by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. In addition, eight out of ten executives say the federal government should prioritize a significant investment in the nation’s infrastructure to help equipment manufacturers weather the crisis and help rebuild the economy. The survey was in the field from April 16 to 27, 2020. Seven out of ten surveyed experienced a moderately negative impact on their supply chain, while a quarter said the impact has been very negative. Four out of ten said they expect the outlook for the next 30 days to get worse and said they plan to lower their financial outlook for the same period by more than 30 percent. Finally, nine out of ten cited a decline in demand for equipment as the primary impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business.

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Organic Outlook: Corn and Wheat Face Glut, Soy Demand Strong

Larger-than-expected beginning stocks and more harvested acres have placed organic corn and wheat on a bearish trend over the 2019/20 market year, according to the new Mercaris (Meh-CAR-us) Organic Commodity Outlook. Meanwhile, strong demand and lower imports have provided support to organic soybeans markets. Mercaris, the nation’s leading market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO and certified agricultural commodities, this week released its spring outlook. Despite poor planting and harvest conditions in 2019, additional certified corn and wheat farms helped push harvests above previous estimates. In addition, corn imports rose sharply at the end of the 2018/19 market year, 12 percent above projections. For organic soybeans, a collapse in imports from China and a reduction from Canada and the Black Sea Region point to supply constraints and higher prices. Meanwhile, organic corn production is estimated at 39.7 million bushels for 2019/20, up nine percent from the previous outlook but still down four percent year-over-year.

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Midwest Dairy Donated $500,000 to Food Banks

Midwest Dairy this week announced a $500,000 donation to food banks in the Midwest to purchase dairy products for those in need. The contributions will be spread across the ten states Midwest Dairy represents to help meet the increased demand for dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks across the region have been seeing an unprecedented need in recent weeks, setting records of daily and weekly food distribution and showcasing the urgency of finding resourceful ways to provide more food to those experiencing food insecurity. With unemployment numbers still climbing and schools – where many children receive most of their daily meals – continuing to be closed, the demand is expected to continue growing. Though dairy checkoff funds cannot typically be used to purchase dairy products, the USDA has granted a one-time exception at the request of Midwest Dairy. The program also offers processors an opportunity to keep their supply chains active while navigating changes in demand.

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.