Well, it has been another busy week as we continue to spend the majority of our time working on coronavirus response efforts, and it’s been an important week on several fronts.
Efforts at both the state and federal level have begun to focus on when and how to get the economy restarted. President Trump announced changes to guidelines in a press conference yesterday, and Governor Abbott addressed the issue today. While those efforts need to be balanced with health concerns, it is welcome news to see those discussions begin.
The narrative also seems to be shifting in the news media. Katrina Huffstutler, TSCRA’s communications director, and I have been fielding more and more press inquiries about how the virus is impacting cattle producers. Since the very beginning, we have talked a lot about these issues, but it’s good to make the general public aware of the challenges we face, and resources we need to be able to persevere.
That impact has been dramatic, but this week we finally got a look at some economic loss numbers put together by a team of prominent ag economists, led by Derrell Peel at Oklahoma State University. Their work estimates that cattle industry losses will reach $13.6 billion as a result of COVID-19, with $3.7 billion attributed directly to cow-calf producers. You can check out the full study here.
Having that data from respected academic sources is important as we go to federal and state policymakers and ask for inclusion in loan programs and appeal for continued regulatory flexibility. They will also be important in determining how USDA allocates funding appropriated by the CARES Act.
All those discussions are ongoing, and we are staying in regular contact with U.S. and Texas lawmakers and government officials. The Paycheck Protection Program at the Small Business Administration has already run out of money, but efforts are underway in Congress to replenish the funding. Pressure on SBA is also continuing to allow the inclusion of agriculture in their EIDL loans.
Of course, the biggest thing right now is keeping the packing plants open. Further closures could worsen the market conditions and losses we’ve already experienced. We’ve been talking to officials about these concerns and the need for more testing and personal protective equipment for plant workers so they can stay on the job. The situation continues to develop rapidly, but those conversations will continue, as maintaining a stable supply chain will remain our number one priority.
There are a lot of challenges out there, but history tells us that you can never underestimate the determination and resiliency of the American rancher. Y’all keep up the fight out there, and we’ll keep fighting for you in Washington and Austin!
Until next time.
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Associ