The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges in Nebraska’s agricultural economy, especially for cattle, pork, and poultry producers.
These areas have been particularly affected by both price decreases as well as significant logistical challenges connected to the slowdown or closure of meat processing facilities due to the pandemic.
Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) is urging Congress to support additional funding for agriculture in any pandemic response package that moves through Congress.
“For pork and poultry producers, the possibility of needing to euthanize animals is quickly becoming a reality due to the closure of packing plants across the country,” said Steve Nelson, NEFB president. It is hope President Trump’s recent Executive Order will provide for the safe reopening of those plants, as soon as possible.”
In this next round of funding, NEFB would strongly support three specific efforts that would help the entire agriculture industry.
“We hope more funds can provide any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to meat packing facilities to ensure the safety of those who are working so hard to process the livestock produced by our members and needed by the rest of the nation and world. Additional funds are needed to support an indemnity program to help compensate producers who have had to euthanize animals. Also, funds are needed to provide monetary assistance to those contract producers who don’t own the animals but are contracted to care and feed them. Those producers were unfortunately left out of the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) but will likely still see monetary losses due to fewer or even no animals running through their facilities,” said Nelson.
Cattle and dairy producers are also experiencing significant economic loss during this crisis as market downturns and packing plant slowdowns are hitting their bottom lines.
According to a recent analysis conducted by a number of agricultural economists and led by Dr. Derrell S. Peel from Oklahoma State University, the U.S. cattle industry is expected to experience losses of $13.6 billion due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, those losses are expected to largely occur within the cow-calf sector with losses totaling an estimated $3.7 billion, or $111.91 per head for each mature breeding animal in the United States.
NEFB broke the analysis down further and found that Nebraska revenue losses alone would equal $823 million or 10 percent of the state’s cattle receipts in 2018.
NEFB also estimates that Nebraska dairy producers stand to lose $69-87 million depending on the class of milk. While cattle and dairy producers will likely see some support from USDA’s CFAP, it will likely fall short of covering the needs of these important industries.
“We hope Congress can include another round of funding for our state’s cattle and dairy producers who make up billions of dollars in economic activity in our state, and ensure any payment limits, if needed, would be significantly increased to realistically capture the capital needed in all segments of the livestock industry,” Nelson stressed in his letter.