March 27, 2020
It’s been another busy week for the TSCRA’s government and public affairs staff as we continue to address the wide array of issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some areas of the country, consumers have been unnerved by the sight of empty meat cases. In case you missed it, TSCRA President Robert McKnight penned an editorial earlier this week to reassure consumers of our commitment to keeping beef on store shelves. As he stated, maintaining the beef supply chain is our number one priority.
Thus far, thanks to the efforts of those up and down the beef supply chain, those retail shelves are getting restocked regularly, so consumers can continue to get the beef they need. Interestingly, one thing that isn’t flying off store shelves is fake meat — even in California, where this photo was taken. I’ll just let that speak for itself.
As part of our efforts to maintain the beef supply chain, we have been working with government officials to ensure agriculture maintains its designation as an essential industry or critical infrastructure.
Those efforts have also been successful so far. On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance including ag as critical infrastructure.
Likewise, we have received confirmation from Gov. Abbott that his executive order does not include any limitations on agriculture. Even most local stay-at-home orders have provided clear exemptions for food and agriculture.
Here in Hays County, where I live, we are under a stay-at-home order, but fortunately, the local sheriff’s office has indicated that they will not pull people over just to check if they’re part of essential industry. Hopefully others across the state are acting in a similar fashion.
Even so, if you live in an area impacted by a local stay-at-home order and want some extra reassurance in the event you’re asked by anyone, you can print the DHS guidance and a letter from the Texas Department of Agriculture, both available here.
Another area that we’re working on extensively is providing the protections necessary for producers to weather this storm and the market uncertainty it has caused.
Earlier this week, the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, which includes about $9 billion in assistance for certain ag commodities, including livestock. If it is passed and signed by President Trump in its current form, the discussion will move to USDA. They will be charged with figuring out how to get it to producers. TSCRA will remain actively engaged in those conversations to ensure our members are represented.
We will also continue to work with government leaders, lawmakers and our fellow cattle producer groups to address the challenges faced by ranchers, particularly with respect to the market uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.
Thanks to a lot of work behind the scenes, Tyson and National Beef have increased their payments to suppliers, as reported in this article by Drovers. On Monday, the CME also announced a three-day expansion of 2020 feeder cattle futures contract price limits to aid in the convergence of the feeder cattle index and futures.
Dozens of other conversations have and continue to take place to ease as many burdens as possible. These range from hours-of-service exemptions for livestock haulers to a temporary halt in EPA enforcement actions. For the latest news, be sure to keep an eye out for our emails and check out our Coronavirus Info page.
Until next time, stay safe out there!
Jeremy Fuchs is Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s director of public affairs.