Tag Archives: COVID-19

A modernized North American trade pact officially took effect last week, providing some continuity for manufacturers and agriculture.

Reuters says the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is facing multiple disputes that still need to be resolved, exposing cracks in what was supposed to be a stronger North American “fortress of competitiveness.” The deal takes effect with all three countries mired in a COVID-inspired recession. April trade flow of goods between the countries is normally about $1.2 trillion every year, but the disease cut trade to its lowest monthly level in ten years.

The Trump Administration is currently threatening to implement new tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. Issues currently nagging at the USMCA also include hundreds of legal challenges to Mexico’s new labor laws that ensure workers can freely organize and grant unions full collective bargaining rights. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calls the agreement the most “far-reaching” trade agreement in history.

However, he also says he won’t hesitate to file dispute cases “early and often” to enforce USMCA provisions. He says Mexico’s failure to approve U.S. biotech products is an example.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) wishes to issue an important reminder to those applying for grants under the following programs: Small Business Stabilization, Livestock Producer Stabilization.

Be reminded that there are two major steps to completing an application. After filling out an online eligibility form, those who are eligible will receive a confirmation email containing a confirmation number and a link to the full application. You are not finished applying at this point. You must use the link to then complete a full application. Those who do not complete a full application will not receive a grant.

Remember that there is still time to apply for each of the grant programs listed and described below, which are intended to provide support and assistance to Nebraskans negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov for more information or to begin the eligibility confirmation and application process. Call the Get Nebraska Growing hotline at 855-264-6858 if you encounter technical difficulties.

  • The Small Business Stabilization Grant Program provides grants to small businesses of 5-49 employees that were impacted by the coronavirus and meet certain eligibility requirements. Applications are due on June 26 at 5:00 p.m. CDT.

  • The Livestock Producer Stabilization Grant Program provides grants to eligible livestock producers of 1-10 employees that have endured revenue or employment losses due to the pandemic. Grants for both programs can be used to cover business operating expenses. Applications are due on July 1 at 5:00 p.m. CDT.

  • The Workforce Retraining Initiative will provide funds to all of the state’s community colleges for scholarships and workforce training enhancements. In turn, the community colleges will award scholarships to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed due to the coronavirus, in order to prepare them for employment in high-demand career fields. Prospective students will be able to apply for the scholarships online through Nebraska community college websites starting in July. More information is forthcoming.

  • The Rural Broadband Remote Access Grant Program will result in new internet connectivity in communities where work-from-home, tele-education and telehealth opportunities have been limited due to inadequate or non-existent high-speed internet service. Broadband providers, with the support of local community officials, can apply for the grants through July 2, 2020.

  • The Gallup Back to Business Learning Journey will fund admission to a Gallup-led leadership training course for a total of 75-100 leaders from eligible small businesses. The course promotes skills that will help businesses refocus and thrive following the pandemic. Businesses can apply through July 2, 2020.

 

China Sunday suspended poultry exports from an Arkansas Tyson Food’s processing plant where workers tested positive for COVID-19.

China’s General Administration of Customs announced the suspension after Tyson Foods confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases at its facility in Springdale, Arkansas.

A Tyson spokesperson told Reuters the company is investigating the matter, adding, “It is important to note that the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”

China also halted exports from a pork processing facility in Germany following an outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant. China has stepped up food inspections for the novel coronavirus in recent weeks. Reuters says Beijing began testing meat, seafood and fresh produce for the coronavirus last week, and some ports were opening all containers of meat to carry out coronavirus tests.

The backlog of hogs in states hit hardest by the meatpacking industry crisis is just now easing up somewhat. Hundreds of thousands of hogs were killed by producers who had nowhere to send the animals for processing.

While that number is short of the initial slaughter estimates of millions of hogs, the pork industry still needs financial assistance to cover the cost of euthanizing animals as well as for the price losses from COVID-19. They’re also asking for help getting mental health resources for farmers who were understandably disturbed by having to kill their animals for disposal. “The drain on equity and the financial and emotional crisis that farmers are facing is not resolved,” says Dave Preisler, CEO of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

Producers have gone to great lengths to reduce the backlog and avoid on-farm slaughter. Some have been shipping hogs to processors out of state or selling directly to individuals looking to stockpile meat. Others have started contracting with smaller processors, who’ve seen an unprecedented rise in their business. Still, Politico says those measures haven’t fully solved the large pileup of excess hogs.

House Ag Chair Collin Peterson and several subcommittee chairs sent a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighting concerns about the implementation of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

The letter talks about the continued loss in both value and demand for agricultural products related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, they say CFAP doesn’t include commodities under contract, even though several of the most-impacted crops are typically grown under contracts, such as potatoes and malting barley.

USDA chose to cover livestock sales between January 15th and April 15th when COVID-19-related livestock market declines didn’t start until February of this year. Some of the lowest market prices also persisted well beyond April 15th, effectively and arbitrarily picking winners and losers based solely on when livestock was sold without regard to actual market conditions.  Another concern is the wool crop.  Price differences between graded and ungraded wool has raised a flag with sheep producers as cooperatives and individual buyers are not purchasing wool right now do to lost sales with China.  So for many the wool sits in sheds.

The House Ag Committee Chairs also say CFAP doesn’t recognize the cost premium of organic crops by differentiating organic prices for certified organic producers. USDA also used data not fully representative of the farmgate value of some specialty crops to determine their eligibility for CFAP and CFAP payment rates.

In addition to several other concerns, the Chairs point to lingering concerns over staffing levels and the existing workload at Farm Service Agency county offices, as well as what delays those factors may cause in distributing CFAP assistant.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau conducted an analysis recently on the impact of Covid-19 in agriculture. It found Nebraska could face a cumulative potential estimated loss of $3.7 billion this year in agriculture.

“We have seen debt loads increasing with problems in repayment, bankruptcies are creeping up, and working capital is low. So farmers are having some financial struggles coming into this year,” said Jay Rempe, senior economist with the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Covid-19 has delayed or halted many typical transactions for producers in agriculture. Farmers were not able to sell their grain as they usually do, and ranchers also had problems with livestock of sales as the economy ground to a halt. 

In early May, the livestock industry received another blow when Covid-19 hit meatpacking facilities. At the beginning of 2020, both the cattle and the pork side were expecting record production. Demand was growing both domestically and overseas, and there was a large inventory of animals.

“When Covid came along, and we saw the demand shock from the restaurant and retail sector along with the processing industry, it was a double whammy to the livestock sector in Nebraska,” Rempe said. 

The major commodities in Nebraska ranged from a 5 percent drop with feeders to a 23 percent drop for corn. For corn, the potential estimated loss: $1.17 billion; cattle, $971 million; pork, $166.5 million; wheat, $8.7 million; ethanol $1.303 billion; and in dairy, $66.1 million.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau says the amount of time it might take for Nebraska’s agriculture to recover depends on two factors.

“Our economy is consumer-driven, 70 percent of our economy is related to consumer purchases,” Rempe said. “So we need folks to get back out and eating (at restaurants) and get back to normal. The other big factor is international trade and how quickly we can get our export markets up and going.”

Rempe added the estimates do not account for any financial assistance agriculture might receive through the CARES Act, farm program payments, or other means of financial assistance. The impacts are also not all-inclusive. There are other sectors of Nebraska agriculture acutely affected by the outbreak that is not included in the analysis. 

For more information visit  www.nefb.org/covid-19.

 

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A program that helps to equip women with resources to manage their farm interests effectively will be hosting a free webinar on June 17 to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. and global economies.

Women Managing the Farm, a program housed at Kansas State University, will be hosting agricultural economist David Kohl for a one-hour talk beginning at 7 p.m. The talk, titled ‘Transforming the Black Swan into a Phoenix,’ will dig into how consumer demand may shape agriculture’s macro view in the coming decade.

Kohl is professor emeritus and member of the Academic Hall of Fame in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech University. In a career spanning five decades, he has dealt with agriculture’s “black swans” routinely, helping to guide the industry and related business through the economic whitewater.

The title of his talk is a reference to one of his main points: describing how agriculture can move past the current conditions and “rise like a phoenix, the mythical bird for regeneration,” according to information about the webinar.

Kohl will present specific strategies to producers, agribusiness owners and ag lenders, including time-tested strategies of resilience and agility to reenergize business decision-making.

There is no cost to view the webinar, but interested persons are asked to register in advance on the website for Women Managing the Farm.

Women Managing the Farm helps prepare farm women to successfully participate in multiple farm roles by having training, risk management tools and professional resources available to them through conferences, workshops and other opportunities.

For more information on the June 17 webinar, contact Debbie Hagenmaier at debbieh@ksu.edu  or 785-293-2100.

ARLINGTON, VA – The National Milk Producers Federation, the largest U.S. dairy group, today applauded the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act introduced in the U.S. Senate, calling it an important step toward reducing agricultural carbon emissions that aligns well with dairy’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality or better by 2050 through the industry’s Net Zero Initiative.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), encourages sustainable farming practices by making it easier for farmers to participate in carbon markets. The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers that make it difficult for farmers and forest landowners to participate in carbon credit markets.

“We commend Senators Braun and Stabenow , as well as Senators Graham and Whitehouse, for their bipartisan work to facilitate greater farmer participation in environmental markets,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Dairy farmers are environmental stewards who value proactive approaches to sustainability, and this legislation will provide a welcome boost to their efforts. We look forward to working with Senators Braun, Stabenow, Graham, and Whitehouse to advance this bill in Congress.”

Mulhern noted that carbon markets will play an important role in the dairy sector’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, an industry wide effort that will require public-policy support. “Net zero is good for dairy farmers, good for consumers and good for the planet,” Mulhern said. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act is part of how Congress can be leaders in this effort, and we are excited to see lawmakers sharing our goal of a climate-friendly future.”