Tag Archives: COVID-19

In response to the increasing number of Coronavirus cases in the state, the Nebraska Farm Bureau 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention will be limited to a one-day, in-person, voting delegate session. The voting delegate session will be held Tuesday, December 8. There will not be a Member Benefit trade show, nor will there be informational breakout sessions this year. Other activities such as the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Grower’s Gala will be held as virtual events. For more details, please refer to the schedule of events.

A Note from the President

Dear Farm Bureau Leader,

In response to the increasing number of Coronavirus cases in the state, the Nebraska Farm Bureau 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention will be limited to a one-day, in-person, voting delegate session. The voting delegate session will be held Tuesday, December 8. There will not be a Member Benefit trade show, nor will there be informational breakout sessions this year. Other activities such as the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Grower’s Gala will be held as virtual events.

Please know these decisions are not easy. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors recognizes there are wide-ranging thoughts and opinions amongst our members as it relates to the coronavirus. We respect them all. With that said, our obligation to protect the health and safety of our members and staff in these unprecedented times is a top priority.

Electing leadership and developing policy are critical functions of our delegate body. As such, the board and I felt it important these functions continue be held in person, if allowed by health directives. We are committed to operating the delegate session in a physically distanced fashion and will strongly encourage the wearing of masks for all in attendance during the time they are not seated and properly distanced at their delegate table. All Nebraska Farm Bureau staff will be required to wear masks during times in which they are not distanced. Please note, participation during the one-day session will be limited to county Farm Bureau delegates, the State Board of Directors, State Legislative Policy Committee members, and staff.

As noted, other components of the 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention will now be held virtually including the Nebraska Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet to be held Friday, December 4. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Grower’s Gala will also be held virtually, Monday, December 7.

Please refer to the information below to learn more about the ways in which you can engage in Nebraska Farm Bureau’s 2020 Annual Meeting and Convention.

Any future changes in the Annual Meeting resulting from increased state or local restrictions will be posted on the 2020 Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Meeting and Convention webpage.

As always, thank you for being a Farm Bureau member!

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson
President

ST. LOUIS (October 30, 2020)— Commodity Classic has announced it will transition its annual conference and trade show, originally scheduled for March 4-6, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas, to an alternative digital format. The change was necessary due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The new format is expected to be offered the first week in March 2021.

“This is about doing the right thing for our farmers, exhibitors, stakeholders, and the broader community in terms of health and safety—which is our top priority,” said Anthony Bush, an Ohio corn farmer and co-chair of the 2021 Commodity Classic representing the National Corn Growers Association.  “After careful deliberation among our farmer-leaders and industry partners, the COVID-19 restrictions would prevent us from delivering the type of high-quality experience Commodity Classic attendees and exhibitors have come to expect and enjoy for the past 25 years.”

According to Brad Doyle, an Arkansas soybean farmer and co-chair of the 2021 Commodity Classic representing the American Soybean Association, directed health measures due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic such as social distancing guidelines would prevent Commodity Classic from conducting the trade show, educational sessions, and farmer networking—each of which are hallmarks of Commodity Classic.  “Farmers and agribusiness companies rate Commodity Classic highly because of its unique energy, excitement and one-on-one engagement with agribusiness companies and fellow farmers,” he said. “The health and safety restrictions required will simply not allow us to provide a productive in-person event that is in keeping with our 25 years of being the nation’s best farmer-led, farmer-focused ag experience.”

The transition of the 2021 Commodity Classic offers an attractive opportunity for farmers who have never attended Commodity Classic, Doyle added.  “Now farmers from across the nation and even around the world can get a taste of the Commodity Classic experience without ever leaving their farms,” he said.

Jerry Johnson, Ag Sector Chair of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers said, “Agribusiness companies put Commodity Classic at the top of the list when it comes to opportunities to engage with farmers from across the nation,” he said.  “However, our concern for the health and safety of our customers and our employees takes precedence, so all of us in agribusiness will work with the farmer-leaders at Commodity Classic to find innovative ways to connect in 2021.”

Commodity Classic is now redirecting its efforts to developing alternative methods of connecting farmers and agricultural stakeholders.  “We realize the total Commodity Classic experience cannot be completely replicated online. Yet a key benefit of Commodity Classic is the educational sessions and presentations from agricultural thought leaders, which are even more important in today’s challenging environment,” said Bush. “We are already exploring ways in which we can deliver high-quality content in unique ways that allow farmers to get the information they seek from the experts they trust.”

The transition to an alternative experience is already underway.  More information on the transition will be available in the coming weeks.  To keep up to date, sign up for email updates at CommodityClassic.com.  More information on the 2021 Commodity Classic will also be available on the website.

The 2022 Commodity Classic will be held in New Orleans on March 10-12, 2022.  “Like everyone else in agriculture, we are really looking forward to reconnecting with everyone face-to-face,” Doyle added.  “We urge everyone to get these dates on their calendar and plan to join us in-person in New Orleans in 2022.”

Brad Kooima joins Susan Littlefield to talk about the fund influence on the cattle market, how current are we in the country, the effects of the COVID-19 ramping back up & how do we add the dollars back into this market.

 

The Department of Agriculture has paid more than $7 billion in assistance to farmers as part of round two of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Known as CFAP 2, the program provides farmers with financial aid to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “the funding builds upon the over $10 billion disbursed under the first round.” Since CFAP 2 enrollment began in September, the Farm Service Agency has approved more than 443,000 applications.

The top five states for payments are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas. Through CFAP 2, USDA is making available up to $14 billion for farmers and ranchers. CFAP 2 is a separate program from the first round of funding.

Farmers and ranchers who participated in the original program are not automatically enrolled and must complete a new application for the second round of funding. FSA will accept applications through December 11, 2020.

Senate Ag Committee Member Debbie Stabenow is leading a group of 15 senators asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to reverse a decision that excluded dairy farmers from getting coronavirus aid for losses from meat produced from breeding animals.

The Hagstrom Report says the senators point out that losses from meat produced from breeding animals were included in the first Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, but not in the second, which is known as CFAP 2. “This change will affect the livestock industry and will be particularly harmful to dairy farmers, who often operate at extremely tight margins,” the senators wrote in the letter. “The decision is even more troubling considering that USDA clearly has sufficient resources to cover these losses.”

Additionally, they say the move would avoid confusing farmers. “It will be less complicated for both USDA and livestock farmers to cover all livestock and avoid confusion about what animals are covered or excluded,” they add. The senators say dairy farmers were struggling with prolonged market uncertainty, unfair trade practices, and the Administration’s “chaotic trade policies” long before COVID-19 hit.

Considering the industry’s tight margins, the decision to exclude dairy farm losses related to meat production will be a significant blow.

This year has been stressful for everyone, but COVID-19 has caused excruciating issues for the pork industry. From market disruptions due to plant closures and decimation of the food-service sector, to pork producers having to make incredibly difficult decisions because of over-capacity, it’s been a year for the ages.

“Meat sales rocketed in the spring with panic-buying,” said Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, during a keynote address at the recent 2020 U.S. Animal Health Association virtual annual meeting. “But as the restaurant industry was shutting down, the supply chain became out of balance. We ended up with a lot of product destined for food service that wasn’t packaged for sale at retail grocery.”

The Checkoff, along with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), quickly went to work to address industry concerns associated with COVID-19.

Common sense, collaborative response

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) established the National Incident Coordination Center in May. The Center provides “direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19,” according to a USDA news release. “Going forward, APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.”

Additionally, APHIS said it would “mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) also “provided state-level technical assistance to producers and cost-share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), in line with program guidelines for disposal,” the release said.

“The Pork Checkoff was committed to doing everything possible to also assist in the response,” Even said, including:

 Resources for producers and states

 Representation of the industry to consumers

 Collaboration across the supply chain to address unprecedented market disruptions

“Our three main goals during the crisis were to: 1. Help processing plants continue to operate; 2. Help producers and states with emergency depopulation and disposal and; 3. Help protect pork’s image from farm to fork,” Even said.

Eye of the hurricane

The pork industry was in the eye of the hurricane, Even said, so action to help producers was swift and decisive. The Checkoff worked with state pork producer associations to keep members comprised of the situation by producing factual resources including 13 weekly webinars, a weekly e-newsletter, an online packing capacity map, and emergency depopulation and disposal field research, including 7 research projects totaling $240,000. In addition, the Checkoff provided state pork association support with reallocation of $3 million in Checkoff funds.

The Checkoff also worked closely with the North American Meat Institute to provide support for the packing industry, Even said. “We provided resources for [essential food worker] employees through public health expertise and created digital ads thanking food workers who were deployed during the pandemic,” Even said. “We invested $500,000 and had more than 20 million views in U.S. communities that had packing plants.”

“We turned on a dime and completely revamped our domestic marketing strategy, too,” he added. “Real-time research helped us re-direct our marketing programs by understanding consumer behavior, sentiment, and buying habits.”

Lessons learned

In June, Even and the Checkoff staff did an after-action review. “We realized we really weren’t prepared for large-scale emergency depopulation and disposal,” he said. More resources would be needed to respond efficiently and effectively if another crisis – like a foreign animal disease – were to enter the country.

“We learned farmer-led solutions worked best, and that more research is needed on viable emergency depopulation and disposal methods,” Even said. Knowledge gained from the COVID-19 pandemic will help the pork industry better prepare for an FAD, Even said. Important components include:

 Effective response plans with identified and available resources

 Validation of diagnostic tests and sampling methods finalized prior to an outbreak

 Effective vaccines on-the-ready and stockpiled

 Contact tracing to reduce the spread of disease

The feral swine issue must be addressed, too, Even said. It’s estimated there are more than 6 million feral swine in the U.S. “We saw what happened in Germany, where their pork industry lost more than one billion dollars in a 24-hour period when feral pigs tested positive for ASF,” he pointed out. “We have a little bit of a breather right now with international travel dropping off so significantly [in terms of an FAD being brought in through an illegal food product].

Regionalization benefits

An FAD would cause immediate closure of export markets, to the tune of an estimated $15 billion in losses to the pork industry over a 2-year period, according to Iowa State University economist Dermott Hayes. That number would rise to $50 billion in losses over 10 years. “The USDA is working on regionalization with our trade partners,” Even said. “Animal movement tracing is an important factor in regionalization with trade partners,” Even said. “USDA is working with major pork export markets to make sure a US regionalization plan would be recognized by key partners.”

Even said a web-based technology solution called AgView would provide a rapid, informed response – vital for containing an FAD outbreak. “It adds a new level of practical benefits to the Secure Pork Supply, and the software will provide near- real-time disease status to facilitate disease trace-back,” Even said. “With producer permission, AgView can quickly share with animal health officials the type and size of farms, animal movements, positive tracing and lab results. It integrates with database systems and an Excel upload option is available.”

“The voluntary program is funded by the Checkoff and USDA, and will be available at no cost to producers,” he added, noting the program is scheduled to launch around mid-November. “You’re always going to have some gaps because [the program] is not mandatory but we want to start with as many people as possible. By doing so, producers put themselves in a better position with animal health officials – if they can show their herd is ASF negative, they will likely be able to move pigs more quickly,” Even said.

Work in progress

Even said the industry will never be completely prepared because a plan can easily become obsolete over time, but the more knowledge gained from experiences like the COVID-19 pandemic, the more tools the industry has at its disposal to deal with an FMD or other unusual circumstance.

“Every month that goes by, we get a little better at hardening our defenses,” Even said. “COVID-19 has really shown us our strengths and weaknesses and we can’t back off. I was a volunteer firefighter for 17 years in my home town so I know how important it is to constantly ‘sharpen the saw’ and be prepared.”

Editor’s Note: The USAHA covers topics ranging from zoonotic diseases, to regulations, to specific diseases in cattle, horses, sheep, cervids, poultry and pigs, and much more. Leaders from government, industry and academia work alongside producers to find solutions to health issues that can help animal agriculture thrive.

The National Pork Producers Council calls for immediate relief for the nation’s hog farmers. U.S. hog farmers are facing $5 billion in collective pandemic-related losses this year following two challenging years due to trade retaliation.

NPPC President Howard AV Roth says, “We’ve lost hog farmers of all sizes due to the COVID pandemic and need additional relief to preserve a highly competitive pork production system.” Without further assistance, Roth says, “we will lose more hog farmers and see our farm sector consolidate.” Among the provisions NPPC is seeking, they include compensation for euthanized and donated hogs.

Additionally, the organization asks for modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding. The organization also seeks additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction, and an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it accessible to more producers. NPPC also calls for additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners.

Agriculture work sites, shared worker housing, and shared worker transportation vehicles present unique challenges for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. Consistent application of specific preparation, prevention, and management measures can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The Agri-Safe Network has put together a webinar to help identify best practices in Covid-19 testing and contact training that will help agricultural producers identify strategies for responding on their farm. The CDC Covid-19 prevention guidance for agriculture will also be shared to assist employers in adopting recommendations to protect workers.

Objectives: At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to gain an understanding of:
– current CDC/OSHA guidelines for COVID-19 prevention in the agriculture industry
– airborne transmission characteristics of SARS-Cov-2
– the principles of testing for infectious diseases
– the difference between the various tests currently available for SARS-COV-2
– COVID19 contact tracing protocols

Register for the AgriSafe Webinar here… https://learning.agrisafe.org/products/lessons-learned-in-covid-19-prevention-efforts-among-agriculture-workers-and-employers.

 

 

The National Milk Producers Federation urges all dairy farmers to sign up for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. Enrollment in the program administered by the Department of Agriculture opened Tuesday.

NMPF cites the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the expectation of volatile dairy margins in the next year, in the need for DMC protection. NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “Coronavirus-related volatility in dairy markets is expected to continue well into 2021, with DMC payments a possibility.” DMC, the main risk-protection tool for dairy farmers enacted in the 2018 farm bill, is designed to promote stable revenues and protect against financial catastrophe on some or all of a farmer’s milk.

Despite forecasts in late 2019 predicting that DMC assistance would not be needed by farmers in 2020, margins instead fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade in the first half of this year, triggering payments that kept many dairies afloat. NMPF says DMC coverage offers certainty in times of need, allowing for better financial planning and faster payment when necessary.