May 8, 2020
As another week draws to a close, I’m increasingly optimistic about what the future holds. We’re still a long way from being out of the woods, and even further from normal, but I think there were some encouraging signs this week.
As of today, and only a little more than a week after President Trump’s executive order, all but one of the beef packing plants are operational. They’re still running slower than usual, but just getting them running again is a big step in the right direction. We’re hoping for continued improvements in the weeks to come and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Also, as we reported on Monday, the long-awaited Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program at the Small Business Administration came back online. Even better, they are only accepting applications for agriculture at the moment. The program offers $10,000 forgivable advances for operational expenses. Availability is first-come, first-serve, so if you are interested, I recommend that you act fast. To learn more about eligibility and apply, click here.
It would also appear that the recent trade deal with Japan is proving beneficial. New USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation showed that March beef exports were up 7% over a year ago. Much of that was due to stronger Japanese demand, fueled by the lower tariffs implemented as part of the trade agreement. Fortunately, and unlike many other industries, demand for beef has remained strong even amid the COVID-19 pandemic and restaurant closures. These reports are good news because a slump in demand would only worsen the problems we’re encountering with cattle prices.
In Texas, Gov. Abbott continued to relax restrictions on what non-essential businesses could reopen amid his phased plan to restart the economy. Those of us in agriculture have been considered essential and stayed on the job since the very start, so while it may seem underwhelming, it’s still a great step toward normalcy.
Within TSCRA, those of us at the government and public affairs office are continuing to work with your association leaders, other cattle organizations and government officials to address the challenges that you are facing. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. We must be diligent in finding and assessing every option to ensure they are both meaningful and practical. We are committed and will continue fighting for you, and what we know is right!
Until next time.
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.