March 20, 2020
This week, of course, all eyes remain focused on the developing COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic.
As predicted, almost all government resources are being devoted to managing the national crisis at hand. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and especially our volunteer leaders and government affairs staff, are heavily engaged to ensure the best possible outcome for cattle producers during these challenging times.
Chief among these priorities is maintaining the beef supply chain. From feed stores to livestock markets to processing plants and retailers, we are committed to keeping the supply chain stable. This is vital not only for the economic good of cattle producers but, more importantly, to ensure adequate food supply for the general public as consumers stock up to weather the crisis.
To that end, TSCRA assisted numerous other Texas agricultural organizations in drafting a letter to Gov. Abbott encouraging agricultural operations to be exempted from any statewide business closings or lockdowns. You can read that letter here. I’m happy to report that the executive order issued by the governor Thursday provides precisely the flexibility we requested, and agricultural operations can continue. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security released guidance Thursday on who are considered to be “critical infrastructure” workers. Their guidance includes agriculture in broad terms. That guidance document can be viewed here.
We are staying in close contact with federal and state officials to ensure this flexibility continues.
To further aid in the process, federal officials announced yesterday that they are waiving hours of service rules for livestock haulers. No in-truck documentation is required.
USDA also communicated their commitment to keeping inspectors and graders at meat processing plants to ensure continuity of operations and preservation of the supply chain.
We are also working with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and members of the Texas Congressional delegation as they consider stimulus measures to combat the effect of COVID-19. Our goal is to ensure cattle producers have the tools necessary to withstand the crisis. We are highly focused on developing a response that will provide rapid market-driven protections to producers.
These initiatives are developing rapidly, so we will continue to keep you apprised of the situation as more information becomes available.
I know it’s a challenging time, but I am encouraged by the tremendous level of collaboration that I’ve seen in recent days. Cattle organizations from across the nation are working together with all levels of government to ensure we can weather the storm as industry and as a nation.
Until next time, we’ll keep fighting for y’all!
Jeremy Fuchs is Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s director of public affairs.