More information on assistance tools, beef shortage fears and a presidential response — and to round it out, shameful rumors started by radical cattle groups.
I guess I’ll start with the last one. I know there’s a lot of worry and frustration because of low cattle prices, the disconnect between those prices and beef cutout prices, and the entire situation with COVID-19. All of us at Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association understand and are working on meaningful solutions to address those things.
Unfortunately, some people use these times of worry and frustration to further their extremist agendas by spreading outrageous rumors. Their sensational claims are not only false, but they make the entire situation worse. Social media can be a wonderful way to stay connected and share information, but unfortunately, that information isn’t always accurate.
There is no flood of imported cattle or beef. The trade numbers for March that were used to perpetuate this rumor don’t even exist yet.
No one is going to make you, or even ask you, to cull your herd. Slower line speeds at the packers may back things up and mean you need to keep your cattle in the pasture a little longer, but again, no one is going to be euthanizing cattle.
And, no, mandatory country of origin labeling isn’t going to be the silver bullet that fixes the situation. MCOOL is just a government-run marketing program and not a very good one at that. I think Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association First Vice President Hughes Abell said it best in a recent article. “If the government-run MCOOL program were a television commercial, it would be more akin to a 3 a.m. infomercial than the Superbowl ad some proponents think it was.”
Please, if you hear outlandish claims, check in with us before you put too much trust in it.
For the association’s part, we remain undistracted and continue to work on real and viable solutions. Things like improving price discovery and changing rules at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to lessen the volatility of the market are being discussed by our leaders and other staff as I write this. Finding and implementing long-term solutions can take a while, but we must do it right and the wait will be worth it in the long run.
While I’m on rumors, I’ll also address the beef shortage concerns that took hold this week. There really weren’t any shortages, but a lot of the fears were sparked by an ad that Tyson ran in the Washington Post earlier in the week and news reports of packer closures and slowdowns. These things can be self-perpetuating, as concerns drive consumers to over purchase.
Fortunately, President Trump acted quickly and involved the Defense Production Act through executive order to keep the meat plants up and running. You can check out our press release here. Hopefully, the order will both keep the packers open and quell fears amongst consumers.
Finally, tools to help cattle producers stay afloat through the crisis continue to make progress. The Paycheck Protection Program is back up after more funding from Congress, and the EIDL program is expected to be taking new applications soon. USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is also moving along and expected to come on later this month.
The entire TSCRA government relations office spoke to Kristen Brown on the TSCRA Talk podcast earlier this week with details on each of those programs and more. That episode will go live early next week, so be sure to watch The Cattleman Update and our social media outlet or subscribe now via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher or iHeartRadio.
I think that’s all for this week. Y’all stay safe out there!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.