Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday April 30 Ag News

Tyson Fresh Meats Temporarily Pausing Production at Dakota City, Neb, Beef Plant

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), is currently winding down production and will temporarily pause operations Friday, May 1 through Monday, May 4 at its Dakota City, Neb., beef facility to complete a deep cleaning of the entire plant. The company has been working closely with the local health department and is also in the process of screening plant team members for COVID-19 this week, with assistance from the Nebraska National Guard.

The facility, one of the largest beef processing plant in the country, employs a workforce of 4,300 and normally produces enough beef in one day to feed 18 million people, however with increased absenteeism over the last few weeks the company has scaled back production. While the plant is temporarily idled, and in collaboration with UFCW Local 222, team members will continue to be compensated and asked to continue following CDC guidance such as social distancing, persistent hand washing and wearing of facial coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Team member safety has and continues to be top priority for us and we’re grateful for our team members and their critical role in helping us fulfill, to the best of our ability, our commitment to helping feed people in our community and across the nation,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president & general manager beef enterprise, Tyson Fresh Meats. “We’ve been focused on COVID-19 since January when we first formed a company coronavirus task force.  Since that time, we’ve implemented numerous measures to protect workers and, at times, have gone beyond CDC guidance.”

Tyson Foods was one of the first food companies to start taking worker temperatures and has installed more than 150 infrared temperature scanners in its facilities. The company started efforts to secure a supply of facial coverings before the CDC recommended them and now requires and provides them for all team members in all facilities.

Last week a team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, working with local health officials, toured the facility and were able to see preventive measures the company has implemented to enhance the safety of its team members.

“We have a dedicated health and safety team working with local, state and federal health officials and our facility operations team to make timely decisions about operations,” said Miller. “Our decisions on resuming operations during this challenging time will continue to be based on team member safety.”

Tyson Fresh Meats voluntarily idled its pork facilities in Waterloo and Perry, Iowa, and Logansport, Ind. and beef facility in Pasco, Wash. while team members undergo screening and plants complete deep cleaning of the facilities. The company’s other meat and poultry plants currently continue to operate, but some are running at significantly reduced levels of production due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions.

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine experts develop guidelines for meat processing facilities regarding COVID-19

Infectious disease and public health experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Global Center for Health Security and College of Public Health have developed a set of guidelines for meat processing facilities that include strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while the facilities continue to operate.

The guide is intended to provide best practices and recommendations for meat processing facilities to minimize the risk that COVID-19 poses to employees and the community.

Experts at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine developed the recommended measures following an “exhaustive literature search to see what was out there in terms of best practices and industry-specific information” said Jocelyn Herstein, Ph.D., infectious disease expert for the Global Center for Health Security. Dr. Herstein and a team of experts toured 10 meatpacking plants over the past two weeks to provide technical assistance and further develop the guidelines, titled “Meat Processing Facility COVID-19 Playbook.”

“The recommendations are based on the ‘hierarchy of controls,’ a hazard mitigation framework that outlines controls from most to least effective: engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of emergency management and biopreparedness for Nebraska Medicine and executive director of emergency management for the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC.

James Lawler, M.D., executive director of International Programs and Innovation for the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC, said the team worked to adapt infection control measures and practices commonly implemented in a health care and field environments to identify COVID-19 control measures that could be implemented in meatpacking plants.

“For engineering controls, we were looking at strategies such as physical barriers and ventilation systems to protect workers,” Dr. Lawler said. “These are purposeful interventions to limit the spread of the virus.”

Administrative controls might include worker screening strategies, policies, such as a non-punitive, paid sick-leave policies during this pandemic, staggered break schedules, or systematic cleaning and disinfection schedules. PPE strategies include all workers wearing masks before entering the plant and throughout their shift.

“We recommend processes to provide masks, screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms, perform temperature checks, stagger breaks and shift changes, and maximize opportunities for social distancing,” Schwedhelm said.

Experts from the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, based at UNMC, helped develop the playbook and checklist and are working to adapt these resources to guide COVID-19 safety measures for workers in other agricultural sectors.

“It is our top priority to protect the health of workers and their families who are braving the COVID-19 pandemic to put food on everyone’s tables.” said John-Martin Lowe, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for Health Security Training and Education at UNMC.

The training reference materials for meat processing facilities can be found here: (

OCM Calls for Breakup of Big Four Meatpackers

Today, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is calling for the breakup of the “Big Four” meatpacking companies: Cargill, JBS, National Beef, and Tyson.  Together, these four companies control over 85% of the United States beef supply.  Recent packing plant closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused supply-chain disruptions that have had severely harmful consequences for producers, including meatpacking workers, farmers, and ranchers.

“What the COVID-19 pandemic response has shown us is that the biggest links in our food supply chain are the weakest,” said Ben Gotschall, Interim Executive Director of OCM.  “In the interest of our economic, food and national security, the United States needs to remove these weak links by breaking up the Big Four meatpackers and taking steps to ensure that we never again reach today’s harmful level of market concentration.”

According to a recent blog post on the OCM website, breaking up the Big Four meatpackers is one of several actions that could be taken now to strengthen the agriculture and food system.  Those actions include mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, Reform of the commodity checkoff system, and enforcement of the 1921 Packers and Stockyard Act.

OCM’s suggestions come at the same time Senate and House members are calling for antitrust investigations into the meatpacking industry as well as a moratorium on agribusiness mergers.

“The United States needs to move toward a more decentralized food system—a system based on fair, transparent, and competitive markets so that we can have more farmers and ranchers on the land, producing food with more value in more places,” said Gotschall.  “Consumers and producers alike can benefit from a system designed not to extract profits for a few large corporations, but to enrich our rural and urban communities and nourish our nation’s people.”

UFCW Calls on Nebraska Governor Ricketts and All U.S. Governors to Enforce CDC Guidelines to Protect Food Supply and Meatpacking Workers From Coronavirus Outbreak

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the country, sent a letter to National Governors Association as well as Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts calling to protect meatpacking and poultry workers during the coronavirus outbreak. The letter from UFCW International and UFCW Local 293 in Nebraska was sent as it was reported that President Trump was taking executive action to mandate that meatpacking and poultry plants remain open.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“Meatpacking and poultry workers have been working tirelessly through this health crisis so that millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need. President Trump’s executive order now mandates that they continue to do so, without any language that ensures their safety. Let me be clear, the best way to protect America’s food supply, to keep these plants open, is to protect America’s meatpacking workers.

“Every governor has the ability to take key steps and additional safety actions to protect these workers and it is imperative that they do so immediately. To protect our food supply and workers, strong, enforceable safety standards must be implemented in every meatpacking plant. These safety standards must ensure all workers have access to testing and personal protective equipment, social distancing is enforced, and paid sick leave is provided to all workers so that no one comes to work sick.

“In order to protect our nation’s food supply as President Trump is calling for us to do, we must work together to keep the hard-working men and women in these plants safe. Now, more than ever, this must be a priority for all of our state and national leaders"

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines on April 26 for meatpacking and poultry workers and employees. In the new letter to governors, UFCW calls the guidelines a step in the right direction but asks governors to both enforce those guidelines and issue additional protective measures.

The complete letter which can be seen here calls on U.S. governors to enforce CDC guidelines and to issue the following additional measures to protect:

    Enforce Physical Distancing: Plants must reconfigure the workplace to achieve physical distancing of at least 6 feet, between workers, both on the production floor and off.  Barriers, such as plexiglass barriers, should be used only to reinforce the 6 feet distancing, not as a substitute for 6 feet distancing.  CDC/OSHA does not make this statement, but this type of distancing may require the speed of the line to be reduced, in order to achieve a reduction or minimization in the spread of the virus.

    Provide Respirators: All workers on the production floor should be provided with N-95 respirators, which will provide the level of protection needed to protect workers from inhaling virus particles.  Employers must additionally do the following to maintain the integrity of the respirators;
a. Provide a new respirator at the beginning of every shift.
b. Provide fit-testing.  Replace respirators if damaged or contaminated.
c. Follow the current CDC guidelines for disinfecting and storing respirators, if respirators are reused.
d. Provide training on proper donning and doffing procedures, in languages workers understand.
e. Provide additional time for hand hygiene and for proper donning and doffing of respirators.

    Provide Testing: All workers, including management, who are currently working in the plant, should be tested for COVID-19.  Ideally, rapid testing of workers, as they enter the workplace, would ensure that workers carrying the virus are not entering the workplace. 

    Provide Mandatory Paid Quarantine: Should a positive case of COVID-19 be identified in the workplace, those in close contact with the infected individual should be identified as well and paid to stay home for the full two weeks.  This would ensure more workers are not infected, or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

    Protect Workers From Retaliation: The UFCW believes that strong, anti-retaliation protections must be in place in order to ensure that workers who feel ill, or who are suffering from COVID-19, can remain at home, in quarantine for the full period of time recommended by the CDC, until it is safe to return to work.  Workers must be encouraged to report any symptoms of illness, or of COVID-19, while at work, as well as any other safety and health hazards, and not suffer any negative consequences for doing so.

Ranch Group Supports Presidential Order to Keep Beef Packers Operating

Responding to Tuesdays executive order by President Donald J. Trump in which he invoked the Defense Production Act to declare meatpacking operations critical infrastructure that must remain open, R-CALF USA said today that Trump's action was necessary to prevent further collapse of the United States' meat supply chain.

In a letter sent yesterday to Trump and congressional leaders, R-CALF USA stated the current meat supply chain lacks resiliency and redundancy and threatens the food security interests of the United States. The letter stated this interest was "arguably the most vital of interests to all of America.

R-CALF USA has urged congressional and regulatory reforms of the nation's beef supply chain for decades, including in a 2013 South Dakota Law Review article in which it stated the industry underwent a period of "merger mania" from 1980 through 2010, resulting in just four major beef packers controlling 85% of all cattle raised specifically for beef production. R-CALF USA argued then that this level of concentration was the highest level of concentration of any industry in the United States.

In yesterday's letter, the group urged a review to consider whether a physical and geographical restructuring of the meatpacking industry is required to disaggregate and decentralize beef processing capacity. It specifically urges the development of a strategic, national food production, processing and distribution policy that can meet America's food security interests.

"Until this current crisis is over, and the President and Congress can conduct such a review and develop such a strategic plan, our nation must administer triage to ensure that our highly centralized and concentrated beef processing system keeps providing our citizens with nutritious food. We simply must keep the current system running through this crisis," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"And that is precisely what the President did and we support it," Bullard added.

Peterson Statement on Task Force to Protect Worker Safety and Re-Open Meatpacking Facilities

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson issued a statement supporting efforts to create local task forces to provide a framework to safely and efficiently reopen meatpacking facilities in a way that protects worker health and safety and begins to reduce the backup of hogs for processing in Minnesota and nationwide. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota is convening such a task force to determine what steps are necessary to keep workers safe and get plants like JBS Worthington back on-line. As part of this effort, the Governor’s office will work with representatives from the JBS facility in Worthington, local leaders from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“Workers need to feel confident they can remain healthy and safe at work; farmers need plants like JBS Worthington up and running to keep hogs moving through the supply chain; and consumers need and want meat on the shelves in the grocery store. Those things can’t happen without one another, so the efforts by JBS, by the UFCW, and by the state to come together and talk this through will help us get there.

“First, we’ve got to have testing done broadly enough to know exactly the scale of the infections. Second, workers need masks, faceshields and other PPE, as well as a plan that keeps them a safe distance apart from each other. Our USDA meat inspectors need to be provided with the PPEs necessary to keep them safe and healthy as well. Finally, the plants need to run at a scale and a speed that accounts for the reduced workforce levels we’ll have as we get started. Only after workers are confident those needs are met can plants reopen safely.

“JBS, UFCW and the state are all committed to working through these steps together to get back on-line as soon as possible, which will begin to help clear the backup of hogs and make sure our grocery shelves are stocked. I hope that other plants, unions, and states can use the task force and its plan as a model to keep their employees safe and get their plants back up and running too.”

IDALS Launches Resource Coordination Center to Assist Livestock Producers

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced today that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has formed a Resource Coordination Center (RCC) to support Iowa livestock producers affected by the COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. COVID-19 outbreaks in the workforce are causing many meat processing facilities to run below normal operating capacity. That’s creating challenges for producers who are trying to convert livestock to food products.

“COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of our lives, including our food supply chain,” said Secretary Naig. “This is creating numerous challenges for producers and forcing them to make unimaginable decisions. We want producers to know they’re not alone. We have assembled a team of people who are here to connect producers with information and resources as they work through this difficult time.”

The Department is collaborating with public and private partners to operate the RCC, including the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), the Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“We have pulled together some of the best resources in the state to help those Iowa pig farmers working through difficult circumstances. Decisions that will be made in the coming weeks must be the solution that can work best for individual farm situations. We encourage those farmers to call in with questions or go to the website to look at the resources available,” said Mike Paustian, IPPA president and a pig farmer from Walcott.

“The creation of the RCC will allow both public and private organizations to mobilize their resources efficiently and effectively to help pork producers make well-informed decisions during this extremely difficult time,” said Jay Harmon, associate dean for extension and outreach for ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for agriculture and natural resources extension and outreach at Iowa State.

Through the RCC, livestock industry experts, state agencies and technical specialists will help producers explore every option to harvest livestock and meet the protein needs of Iowans. The RCC will also connect producers with technical resources as they work through difficult and emotional decisions, including animal welfare euthanasia and disposal.

Iowa livestock producers can call the RCC at (515) 725-1005, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., or fill out a help form anytime at

COVID-19 has caused supply chain disruptions that are forcing producers to make emotional and stressful decisions. If producers are feeling overwhelmed, they can call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 1-800-447-1985 to get free, confidential support, 24/7.

Meat Animals Production, Disposition, and Income 2019 Summary

Total 2019 production of cattle and calves and hogs and pigs for the United States totaled 85.3 billion pounds, up 1 percent from 2018. Production decreased 2 percent for cattle and calves but increased 5 percent for hogs and pigs.

Total 2019 cash receipts from marketings of meat animals increased slightly to $88.3 billion. Cattle and calves accounted for 75 percent of this total and hogs and pigs accounted for 25 percent.

The 2019 gross income from cattle and calves and hogs and pigs for the United States totaled $88.7 billion, up slightly from 2018. Gross income decreased 1 percent for cattle and calves but increased 5 percent for hogs and pigs from previous year's gross income.

Cattle and Calves: Cash receipts from marketings of cattle and calves decreased 1 percent from $67.0 billion in 2018 to $66.2 billion in 2019. All cattle and calf marketings totaled 58.4 billion pounds in 2019, down 1 percent from 2018.

Cash Receipts by State, 2019

Nebraska ...:  $10,547,095,000         
Iowa ..........:   $3,931,942,000         

Hogs and Pigs: Cash receipts from hogs and pigs totaled $22.0 billion during 2019, up 5 percent from 2018. Marketings totaled 41.6 billion pounds in 2019, up 5 percent from 2018.

Cash Receipts by State, 2019

Nebraska .....:    $872,183,000             
Iowa ............:    $7,770,797,000        

Milk Production, Disposition, and Income 2019 Summary

Milk production increased 0.4 percent in 2019 to 218 billion pounds. The rate per cow, at 23,391 pounds, was 241 pounds above 2018. The annual average number of milk cows on farms was 9.34 million head, down 62,000 head from 2018.

Cash receipts from marketings of milk during 2019 totaled $40.5 billion, 14.9 percent higher than 2018. Producer returns averaged $18.63 per hundredweight, 14.4 percent above 2018. Marketings totaled 217.4 billion pounds, 0.4 percent above 2018. Marketings include whole milk sold to plants and dealers and milk sold directly to consumers.

Income from Milk Sales, by State, 2019

Nebraska ......:            $232,146,000         
Iowa .............:            $866,745,000         

An estimated 1.02 billion pounds of milk were used on farms where produced, 0.3 percent more than 2018. Calves were fed 91 percent of this milk, with the remainder consumed in producer households.

2019 Nebraksa Poultry Production and Value

The value of egg production in Nebraska during 2019 was $140 million, down $58.4 million from $199 million in 2018, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Egg production in 2019 was estimated at 2.66 billion eggs, up 269.2 million from the previous year. Average number of layers for 2019 at 8.87 million was up 1.03 million from 2018.

Value of U.S. Poultry Production and Sales Down 13 Percent

The combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens in 2019 was $40.4 billion, down 13 percent from $46.2 billion in 2018. Of the combined total, 70 percent was from broilers, 19 percent from eggs, 11 percent from turkeys, and less than 1 percent from chickens.

The value of broilers produced during 2019 was $28.3 billion, down 11 percent from 2018. The total number of broilers produced in 2019 was 9.18 billion, up 2 percent from 2018. The total amount of live weight broilers produced in 2019 was 58.3 billion pounds, up 3 percent from 2018.

The value of turkeys produced during 2019 was $4.30 billion, up 14 percent from the $3.79 billion the previous year. The total number of turkeys raised in 2019 was 229 million, down 4 percent from 2018. Turkey production in 2019 totaled 7.43 billion pounds, up slightly from the 7.42 billion pounds produced in 2018.

The value of sales from chickens (excluding broilers) in 2019 was $37.6 million, down 24 percent from $49.4 million a year ago. The number of chickens sold in 2019 totaled 187 million, down 2 from the total sold during the previous year.

Value of all egg production in 2019 was $7.70 billion, down 28 percent from $10.7 billion in 2018. Egg production totaled 113 billion eggs, up 3 percent from 110 billion eggs produced in 2018.

Retail Fertilizer Prices Mostly Flat

Retail fertilizer prices remain flat compared to last month, with the average price of all eight major fertilizers moving by $3/ton or less, according to prices tracked by DTN for the third week of April, 2020.

Six fertilizers were higher in price compared to last month, but none of them were up a significant amount, which DTN considers 5% or more. DAP has an average price of $410/ton, up $1; urea $385/ton, up $3; 10-34-0 $468/ton, up $2; anhydrous $492/ton, $1; UAN28 $236/ton, up $1; and UAN32 $279/ton, up $1.

The remaining two fertilizers had a slightly lower price with MAP averaging $433/ton, down $1, and potash $370/ton, down fractionally from last month.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.30/lb.N, UAN28 $0.42/lb.N and UAN32 $0.44/lb.N.

Retail fertilizers are now all lower in price from a year ago. Both DAP and MAP are 18% lower, anhydrous is 17% less expensive, UAN28 and UAN32 are both 12% lower, urea is 6% less expensive, potash is 5% lower and 10-34-0 is 3% less expensive from last year at this time.

ASA, USB, Soy States Offer #SoyHelp to Overcome Farm Stress

The American Soybean Association (ASA) COVID-19 Task Force conducted a survey in April regarding the effects of COVID-19 on soy growers, their operations, employees, and families. Stress reported by the 86 farmer respondents from across the soy-producing states was high. ASA, state soybean affiliates, and the United Soybean Board (USB) want to help.

This May, during Mental Health Month, ASA is launching a proactive communications campaign to combat #FarmStress and offer #SoyHelp. Help comes in many forms and from many sources, and ASA has researched a range of options that will be shared both nationally and by state soybean affiliates:
-    National mental health resources, including suicide hotlines and crisis centers
-    Agriculture-specific resources for farmers and farm families, both national and state
-    COVID-19-specific resources for stress and other concerns, both national and state

“Stress levels have crept up out there in farm communities for some time now,” said Kevin Scott, soybean farmer from South Dakota and chair of the ASA C-19 Task Force. “As farmers, we are all faced with varying levels of anxiety resulting from a host of concerns - the coronavirus pandemic, weather issues, China trade problems, and other farm stressors. But, knowing there are issues compounding out there and knowing how to talk about them and work to reduce them are two different things. This survey cast a light on ASA’s responsibility to try to help,” Scott explained.

The #SoyHelp campaign will include the following outreach:
-    #SoyHelp social media posts throughout May on ASA Facebook and Twitter
-    A social media toolkit for each soybean state and USB to participate and share resources
-    Related stories in ASA’s weekly eBean email newsletter and content for state newsletters
-    Editorials from soy growers on #FarmStress
-    Expert advice on the subjects of farm stress and seeking emotional support

Wendy Brannen, ASA Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications and C-19 Task Force member said, “Emotional struggles are not one-size-fits-all. Our team has researched resources to accommodate an array of individuals and their needs, and how they or their families can seek qualified help – and we are hopeful this campaign can melt away a bit of the stigma that sometimes still exists in talking openly about the tolls of stress and seeking help.”

Resources and guidance are available to address concerns ranging from temporary stress to ongoing struggles with anxiety and from depression to thoughts of suicide. Options exist for men, women, beginning farmers, veterans and other groups with specific needs or commonalities, including language and disability barriers. Some are specific to disasters, including COVID-19 and how the pandemic has increased instances of or worsened levels of stress. States have local and regional resources available, including information on telehealth options, financial resources, and government offices able to assist with farm operation issues.

“We want these resources to resonate regardless of age, location, gender, or what circumstances have led to needing a hand. It could be a long-time farmer who feels trapped by the current situation, a young person just starting out with concerns about financial hardships, or family members out there trying to navigate how to help in any number of scenarios,” said Brannen.

Included in the resources are links to self-assessments, professional services and local health care facilities; hotlines for urgent needs, warmlines for helpful advice, chat and text lines for instant access; and articles on symptoms, solutions, and opening uncomfortable discussions.

ASA hopes the campaign will get a boost outside the soy family: Toolkits are available for individuals or others interested in sharing directly, or they may repost and share ASA and state association materials.

ADM Reports First Quarter Earnings of $0.69 per Share, $0.64 per Share on an Adjusted Basis
Net earnings of $391 million

ADM (NYSE: ADM) today reported financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2020.

“I’m extremely grateful to our 38,000 global colleagues, whose commitment, ingenuity and agility are powering ADM as we support the global food supply chain and provide nutrition around the world,” said Chairman and CEO Juan Luciano. “Our performance is a testament to the resilience of our people, the strength of our business model, and the breadth and depth of our capabilities to fulfill customer needs, even in a market environment that is changing rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our first priority during this extraordinary time is supporting our colleagues, and we are focused on that every single day. We’ve put into place detailed guidelines and protocols to help protect our teams and support continuity of operations, and I’m proud that we are operating around the globe with very minimal disruptions. We’ve also taken steps to bolster our already strong balance sheet and liquidity position to further enhance our ability to run our business.

“Even amid the challenge of COVID-19, the team is doing a great job advancing our important work to make ADM a better company. From improving underperforming businesses, to driving Readiness, to harvesting our investments — particularly in Nutrition — we remain committed to delivering our strategy and focusing on the business drivers under our control. There are many unknowns, and ADM isn’t immune from some of the negative effects of this pandemic, but we are confident in the ability of our great team to shift to whatever our customers need, and continue to deliver nutrition around the globe.”

First Quarter 2020 Highlights

Ag Services & Oilseeds delivered strong results that were in line with the year-ago period.
    Ag Services results more than doubled versus the first quarter of 2019, which was negatively impacted by high water conditions in North America. Global trade performance was driven by strong results in destination marketing and structured trade finance. Robust farmer selling in Brazil drove higher year-over-year origination volumes and margins, which were partially offset by weaker results in North America.
    Crushing results were lower than the prior-year-period. Volumes were strong, and execution margins were solid, though below the high realized margins in the first quarter of 2019, which benefited from the short crop in Argentina. The prior-year quarter also benefited from about $75 million of positive timing impacts.
    Refined Products and Other results were higher than the first quarter of 2019. Higher margins in both biodiesel and refined oils in North America were offset by lower biodiesel margins in EMEAI. Peanut shelling results were significantly improved versus the prior-year period.
    Wilmar results were significantly higher year over year.

Carbohydrate Solutions results were lower than the first quarter of 2019.
    The Starches and Sweeteners subsegment, including wet mill ethanol results, was down year over year, largely due to about $50 million in negative mark to market impacts on forward sales of corn oil, much of which could reverse over the balance of the year. Absent those impacts, results were higher due to better operating performance at the Decatur complex, strong results in wheat milling, and improved conditions in EMEAI.
    Vantage Corn Processors results were slightly higher than the prior year. Effective risk management, combined with the lack of the severe weather impacts seen in the first quarter of 2019, helped offset weak industry ethanol margins caused by significantly decreased demand.

Nutrition results were once again substantially higher year over year.
    Human Nutrition businesses, including flavors, specialty ingredients and health & wellness, delivered strong performance and growth across the broad portfolio. Increased sales revenue in North America and EMEAI flavors, continued sales growth in alternative proteins, and additional bioactives income helped drive improved results.
    Animal Nutrition continued its growth trajectory. Improved year-over-year results were driven by a strong performance from Neovia, good volumes and margins in feed additives, and solid sales in pet care. Amino acids were negatively impacted by a year-over-year decline in the global pricing environment.

Wednesday April 29 Ag News

New names - Same great shows

The Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association is excited to announce a big change to the second and third largest indoor farm shows in the U.S. – new names! The Nebraska Power Farming Show is now called the Nebraska Ag Expo and the Iowa Power Farming Show is the Iowa Ag Expo.

“These name changes better reflect the evolution of agriculture and our farm shows,” states Tom Junge, show director. “Today’s growers come to our farm shows to engage with the familiar brands they know, but also to discover emerging companies with technology and innovation that will make them even better at what they do.”

According to Junge, there have been three major agricultural evolutions over the years. One of the biggest was the mechanization of agriculture. “In 1918, the Iowa farm show had an unimaginable 43 tractor brands on display,” emphasizes Junge. “Then, while U.S. tractor sales peaked in the early 1950s, the horsepower or ‘power’ of tractors continued to increase to help farmers cover more land in less time. This evolution brought about the names “Iowa and Nebraska Power Farming Shows.”

Precision agriculture has been a key component of the third wave of modern agricultural advancement. The first precision ag brought satellite and aerial imagery, weather prediction, variable rate fertilizer application and crop health indicators to growers. This was followed by aggregating the machine data for even more precise planting, topographical mapping and soil data. Today, precision agriculture has grown to include biologicals, robotics and autonomous vehicles.

Farm shows have experienced these evolutions as well. “At one time, only ag equipment companies were allowed to exhibit at our Iowa show,” explains Junge. “Now our ‘pure-ag’ shows include the expansion of ALL ag-related products. Today, more than ever before, growers are hungry for knowledge and eager to adopt innovation and new technology. Our new names reflect the changes happening in agriculture today and illustrates our commitment to provide the best attendee and exhibitor experience possible.”

The Nebraska Ag Expo ( will be held December 8-10, 2020 at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, NE. The Iowa Ag Expo ( will be held February 2-4, 2021 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, IA.

ICA Board Supports Mandatory 50% Cash Trade

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) Board of Directors reaffirmed its desire for 50% negotiated cash trade in all major cattle feeding regions this week as a way to increase price discovery and bring more leverage to independent producers in the fed cattle markets nationwide.

Iowa’s cattle producers participate in the cash market with higher frequency than other regions of the United States, setting the base price for formula transactions that are much more commonplace in large feedyards in southern states like Texas. In most weeks, more than 50% of Iowa’s fed cattle are traded through cash negotiation, compared to about 5% in Texas.

In June of 2016, the ICA board put in place a policy encouraging 50% cash trade. Since that time, however, there have not been significant increases in cash trade in other parts of the United States. The new policy passed by the board supports a regulatory approach to ensure increased negotiated trade and price discovery by mandating packers to purchase at least 50% of their cattle through negotiated cash trade at the plant level. ICA also supports a 14 day delivery period. It also aligns closely with the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association’s policy.

“Traditionally, the cattle industry does not support increased regulation,” says Matt Deppe, CEO of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “But at this point, we have exhausted all other options, and we cannot allow Iowa’s cattle producers to continue carrying the burden of price discovery for the entire industry.”

In addition to the lack of price discovery caused by this disparity, Iowa’s cattle producers have recently had to bear the brunt of the challenges caused by decreased packing capacity due to COVID-19. Formula cattle have filled nearly all available slaughter space, leaving Iowa’s market-ready cattle in the feedyards.

ICA’s full policy is as follows:

CP-LCM-44 Increasing Price Discovery 2020

    WHEREAS, the Iowa cattlemen who sell their cattle on the open market rely on competitive price discovery to get a fair price for their cattle; and

    WHEREAS, most independent Iowa cattlemen wish to avoid vertical integration that is evident in the pork and poultry sectors; and

    WHEREAS, the popularity of packer formula pricing based on the weighted average limits negotiations on the open market;

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association work with its membership, as well as other cattle industry stakeholders, to require packers in all major cattle feeding regions to purchase at least 50 percent of their cattle through negotiated cash trade at the plant level, with a 14 day delivery period.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and NCBA encourage members to utilize voluntary price reporting of fed cattle prices.

Fischer, Sasse, Smith Urge AT&T to Improve Local Broadcast Programming Access for Rural Nebraskans

U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Representative Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) today wrote a letter to AT&T urging the company to provide local broadcast programming to all of its subscribers in Nebraska. This includes subscribers in the North Platte and Scottsbluff media market areas who currently lack access to local broadcast channels on AT&T’s satellite TV platform, DIRECTV.

“It is imperative that your subscribers located in rural markets, where there is an increased reliance on satellite services, can receive local news, weather reports, and emergency alerts,” the letter reads. “Given the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency, the availability of local broadcast programming is more important now than ever. All Nebraska residents, no matter their location, need to be able to stay informed on statewide and local efforts to combat the pandemic.”

More information:

The recently passed Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act (P.L. 116-94 “STCPPA”) that became law in December 2019 seeks to incentivize satellite TV carriage of local broadcast signals in every media market nationwide, including the smaller, rural markets that AT&T/DIRECTV historically has failed to carry. Effective May 31, 2020, the STCPPA requires carriage of local broadcast stations in all 210 local markets as a precondition to be able to continue using distant signals. Currently, subscribers in and around North Platte and Scottsbluff lack access to local news programming on AT&T’s DIRECTV satellite service.

Webinar to Discuss Evaporative Cooling Pads for Swine Facilities

Heat stress can have major negative impacts on pig production. As outdoor temperatures begin to warm up, evaporative cooling pads need to be fully functional to provide a cooled environment for pigs.

A 20-minute webinar to help those in the pork industry understand evaporative cooling pad principles has been scheduled for May 1 at 11 a.m. An opportunity to ask questions will be included in the webinar.

Topics to be discussed include operation principles and design considerations.

Presenters will include Brett Ramirez, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University, and Jay Harmon, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach at Iowa State.

“Producers can expect to increase their understanding of the principles of evaporative cooling pads and will be able to apply this information to improve their operation,” said Ramirez.

Participants must pre-register online here....  Viewing details will be sent to registered participants prior to the webinar.

Weekly Ethanol Production for 4/24/2020

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol production scaled back by 4.6%, or 26,000 barrels per day (b/d), to 537,000 b/d—the lowest level since the EIA began reporting ethanol production statistics in 2010. Production was 48% below the same week in 2019. The four-week average ethanol production rate dropped 11.5% to 585,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 8.97 billion gallons.

Ethanol stocks contracted for the first time in five weeks, dropping 4.9% from last week’s record high to 26.3 million barrels. Stocks lowered across all PADDs, with larger movement in the Gulf Coast (PADD 3) and West Coast (PADD 5) regions—down 9.5% and 10.1%, respectively.

The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market, a measure of implied demand, grew 10.3% to 5.860 million b/d (89.83 bg annualized) yet was 37% lower than a year ago.

Refiner/blender net inputs of ethanol followed, jumping 11.5% to 583,000 b/d, equivalent to 8.94 bg annualized but 37% below the year-earlier level.

There were no imports of ethanol recorded for the seventh straight week. (Weekly export data for ethanol is not reported simultaneously; the latest export data is as of February 2020.)

Peterson, Conaway Mark 200th Anniversary of House Agriculture Committee

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway of Texas, issued a statement Wednesday commemorating the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the House Committee on Agriculture.

On April 29, 1820, Congressman Lewis Williams of North Carolina introduced a resolution to the House to create a committee to oversee the nation’s agricultural sector. The full House later approved the resolution, formally establishing the Committee on May 3, 1820.

“For 200 years, the House Agriculture Committee has brought the issues facing farmers and ranchers and the rural communities they call home together with the needs of consumers in the city, to make sure all Americans have food, fiber, and fuel,” said Peterson. “The work we do has seen us through challenges on the farm and in our nation more broadly, ranging from the Civil War and Reconstruction, to two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the farm crisis in the 1980s, and now to our current challenge with this pandemic. We’ve never shied away from the tough tasks before us, and we won’t start now. Americans need policy that ensures their food is available and their communities are strong. That was our job 200 years ago, and it’s still our job today.”

“Today marks 200 years of service from the House Agriculture Committee to America’s farmers and ranchers, who have dedicated themselves to this country for far longer,” said Conaway. “American agriculture has kept this nation fed and clothed through many difficult times in our history, including the global health pandemic we are currently facing. Now more than ever, we are reminded of the important role these hardworking individuals play in our daily lives, and our duty to stand with them as Members of the House Agriculture Committee.”

Expanding Overseas Markets Key to Dairy Post-Coronavirus, NMPF’s Morris SaysEven as U.S. dairy struggles to meet the immediate challenges of coronavirus, its work on expanding overseas markets continues “not with an eye on what’s going to happen necessarily in the next week, but what needs to happen over the next year or two” to help the industry recover, said Shawna Morris, vice president for trade at the National Milk Producers Federation.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in China was an international trade concern before it became a major domestic issue in the U.S. The global response to coronavirus has had some hopeful aspects, Morris said – the importance of agriculture to the world’s economy is in the spotlight, and governments have responded to pressing needs by taking more practical approaches to regulations that have unnecessarily impeded trade, she said.

Despite the disruptions, trade officials need to keep long-range goals of open commerce that will be essential to returning dairy to prosperity in mind, she said. “We’re working with our government and others to outline the dairy industry’s priorities for upcoming trade agreements, notably with the UK and Kenya for instance, as well as ongoing work -- issues and policy barriers that had existed prior to COVID-19 and are still in place that we’re working with our government allies and with other counterparts in other countries to try to help address,” she said.

Europe Rebuked for Unfair Dairy Trade Practices in New USTR Report

The U.S. dairy industry applauds the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for firmly rebuking the European Union (EU)’s protectionist dairy trade policies in its annual U.S. Special 301 Report, released today.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) endorse USTR’s findings that the EU has erected a complex regime of trade barriers that harm opportunities for U.S. exports to Europe. In addition, the EU has aggressively sought to restrict U.S. exports in global markets by weaponizing geographical indications (GIs) protections and blocking the ability of U.S. suppliers to use common names to market cheeses such as fontina, gorgonzola, asiago and feta.

“USTR has rightly taken Europe to task for their destructive and unfair campaign against American-made dairy exports, and in particular the high-quality cheeses produced by the dedicated men and women of the U.S. dairy industry,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “I commend USTR for its recent actions to defend U.S. dairy and successfully negotiate groundbreaking GI provisions in both USMCA and the Phase One deal with China. USTR must continue to build upon this excellent precedent by making it a top priority to secure further commitments from our trade partners in future trade negotiations.”

The Special 301 Report found that “…the EU pressures trading partners to prevent all producers, other than in certain EU regions, from using certain product names, such as fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, asiago, or feta. This is despite the fact that these terms are the common names for products produced in countries around the world.”

“Rather than trying to compete on a level playing field, Europe has tried to effectively institute a blockade of U.S. dairy,” Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “This is unacceptable and harms America’s dairy industry and the rural communities our farmers and processors support.

The dairy industry stands in full support of USTR’s efforts to confront EU’s anti-trade and anti-competitive policies and we will continue to proactively press for the full dismantlement of these trade barriers.”

USDEC and NMPF filed comments with USTR urging the U.S. government to confront the EU’s trade agenda against U.S. dairy in order to protect American jobs as well as the legitimate rights of U.S. food manufacturers, farmers and exporters.

NMPF Calling for Adequate Aid for All Dairy Producers, Citing Analysis

A new economic analysis projecting a 58 percent decline this year in net cash income for U.S. dairy farms due to coronavirus-related market disruptions further demonstrates the need to eliminate a proposed $125,000 payment cap in federal disaster assistance, according to Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

As highlighted at the Texas Ag Forum yesterday, dairy losses will outpace those for cattle, cotton, and feed grains and oil seeds, with catastrophic losses for all producers. For example, a dairy of 1,000 cows in Wisconsin will see net cash income decline by $500,000, while larger operations in Texas and Idaho could see losses in the $1.2 million range, according to the analysis.

Average net cash income losses in dairy would be $345,000. The USDA assistance package for agriculture announced April 17 caps payments to producers at $125,000 per commodity. Many dairies only produce milk.

“Analysis shows what the dairy community already knows – the COVID-19 crisis presents grave danger for all dairies, from small operations to the producers whose milk nourishes the majority of U.S. consumers and keep supply chains running,” Mulhern said. “We have raised our concerns over payment limits with both President Trump and USDA, and with the Administration making important decisions in how it allocates aid, it’s important to highlight the very real impacts that lower support levels will have on dairy producers and the communities they serve.”

NMPF is supporting efforts by lawmakers and allied organizations to increase aid to producers and estimate losses and compensation in ways that reflect the true scale of damage to the farm economy. Last week, a bipartisan group of 126 House members and 28 Senators sent letters to the administration urging that this problem be solved.

The letters were spearheaded by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Jim Costa (D-CA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Fred Upton (R-MI), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

Ranch Group's Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling Petition Gains 250K Signatures in 7 Days

Launched Thursday morning by R-CALF USA and several of its rancher-members, the petition urging the President and Congress to immediately pass Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef, pork and dairy products has gained 250K signatures in just 7 days. R-CALF USA states in the petition that MCOOL will strengthen national food security and help stimulate economic growth. The petition can be viewed at

R-CALF USA member Kerry Cramton, a Kansas cattle producer who, among several other grassroots cattle producers, was instrumental in launching the petition and said the goal is to demonstrate to the President and Congress that they have been deceived into believing that neither consumers nor cattle producers wanted a mandatory law to provide consumers information as to where their beef, pork and dairy products actually originate.

"There is a handful of very powerful lobbying groups that have held the President and Congress at bay on this critically important initiative and our petition clearly shows that our government has been misled," said Cramton.

"Consumers want to know where their beef is produced and they deserve the opportunity to support American ranchers by purchasing beef exclusively born, raised, and harvested in the United States," she added.

R-CALF USA has strongly supported MCOOL ever since it helped pass the original law in 2002. The meatpacking lobby fought aggressively to repeal MCOOL for beef and pork ever since - failing to do so in a U.S. federal court in 2013, but ultimately succeeding in 2015 with the help of an adverse ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

As the COVID-19 pandemic backs up United States cattle due to processing plant slow-downs and shut-downs, leaving many American ranchers with no access to the marketplace, meatpackers are continually sourcing cheaper foreign cattle to the detriment of U.S. cattle producers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that during the last two weeks U.S. meatpackers sourced over 12,000 live cattle from Canada to be harvested in the United States.

"This is unconscionable," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard who said his group has members who have not been able to get a bid for their cattle for the past five weeks."

Bullard said if MCOOL were in place today, consumers could immediately correct this situation by choosing to buy beef that is exclusively born, raised, and harvested in the United States, which he said would help American ranchers.

Bullard said MCOOL would also help consumers avoid beef produced in foreign countries with ongoing animal disease problems and unknown animal husbandry practices.

In February the USDA announced it would begin allowing imports of raw beef from Brazil. The USDA then welcomed the first shipment of raw beef into the U.S. from Namibia, Africa on April 17. Both countries are known to harbor foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the most contagious disease known to cattle, hogs, sheep, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals. In addition, in recent years the Brazilian food inspection system was cited for corrupt practices.

Bullard said there was a 22% surge in the combined volume of beef and cattle imports from mid-March to early April.

"While American ranchers are unable to access their own market, importers and meatpackers are increasing the volume of imported beef while simultaneously depriving U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers' access to their own markets. This has to stop and MCOOL will put the choice in consumers' hands as to where they want their beef to be born, raised and harvested," said Bullard adding, "We are confident that most consumers will want USA beef."

Given the hugely successful petition drive for MCOOL, R-CALF USA has now established a 'Demand USA Beef' Fundly crowdfunding page in an effort to raise $50,000 so it can bolster the group's promotional and lobbying efforts to secure the passage of MCOOL for beef, pork and dairy products as quickly as possible.

Last month, R-CALF USA launched a new Website, a free platform for cattle ranchers and farmers who raise and sell cattle or beef that is exclusively USA born, raised, and harvested directly to consumers. The site is growing daily and currently includes 335 farms, ranches and businesses from 41 states. Consumers can call the beef providers on this list to obtain USA beef produced in their state.

Ranch Group Urges President and Congress to Determine if Packing Industry Should Be Decentralized

In a letter delivered today to President Trump and House and Senate congressional leaders, R-CALF USA states the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the United States' beef supply chain lacks resiliency and redundancy and urges a review to consider whether a physical and geographical restructuring of the meatpacking industry is required to disaggregate and decentralize beef processing capacity.

The group explains that the ongoing restricted market access and seriously depressed prices for America's cattle farmers and ranchers, lack of available beef in some or many of America's grocery stores, and near record to record beef prices charged to America's consumers, reveal that the United States must immediately begin the development of a strategic, national food production, processing and distribution policy that can meet America's food security interests.

The letter states that food security interests are arguably the most vital of interests to all of America and that the high level of physical and geographical concentration of America's vital beef supply chain is intuitively and inherently contrary to those food security interests.

The letter states the requested review should consider whether a fundamental restructuring of the United States' multisegmented beef supply chain is required to ensure that never again will the closure of one or a few plants destroy the livelihoods of America's cattle farmers and ranchers, or disrupt America's access to an abundant supply of an important protein source: safe, wholesome and nutritious beef.

It also states that such a restructuring appears necessary to ensure that never again will America's cattle farmers and ranchers require an infusion of taxpayer subsidies to substitute what a robust, competitive marketplace could and should have continually provided, even in the face of a pandemic. 

The group urges two immediate "triage reforms" to rebalance the cattle market to prevent the loss of the critical mass of cattle farmers and ranchers essential to achieving America's food security interests.

Those reforms include empowering America's consumers to begin supporting America's cattle farmers and ranchers with a new Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) law for beef. The group states MCOOL will reignite the flame of competition extinguished by importers who lessen demand for USA-produced beef with their cheaper, undifferentiated foreign beef products.

The second urgent reform requested is designed to restore the integrity of the cattle market's most important price discovery market - its cash market. The group suggests the current Congress reintroduce the 110th Congress' Senate Bill 786 and modify it to require beef packers to participate in the price discovery market at a level greater than half, i.e., above 50%. The group states this reform will help to immediately reignite competition in the marketplace itself.

The group makes clear that more reforms are needed but acknowledges that additional comprehensive reforms would be outside of the specific investigation it was asking Congress to consider now and should be discussed later.

In conclusion, the group pledges to work with the President and Congress to rebuild America's economy and offers its organization's expertise in identifying the deficiencies hamstringing a robustly competitive beef supply chain that is resilient and maintains redundancy at all times, even in the face of crisis.

USDA To Implement President Trump’s Executive Order On Meat and Poultry Processors

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released the following statement after President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency.

“I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful. Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” said Secretary Perdue. “Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount. I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor have put out guidance for plants to implement to help ensure employee safety to reopen plants or to continue to operate those still open. Under the Executive Order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, USDA will work with meat processing to affirm they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidance, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate to produce the meat protein that Americans need. USDA will continue to work with the CDC, OSHA, FDA, and state and local officials to ensure that facilities implementing this guidance to keep employees safe can continue operating.

Additional information and details will be released soon.

IPPA Supports Implementation of Defense Production Act

On April 28, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to extend much-needed federal support to the U.S. pork production system. By triggering the DPA, the federal government will prioritize the continuity of pork processing plant operations. The following statement may be attributed to Mike Paustian, a pig farmer from Walcott, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

"Iowa's pig farmers appreciate the President taking this first important step to provide uniform and consistent solutions and all available resources to address the unprecedented crisis we are facing.

"We must safely stabilize the current plant capacity challenge and overcome other major hurdles facing our nation's pork production system. According to Decision Innovation Solutions, Iowa has more than 142,000 workers involved in the pork production and processing. All these Iowans are being emotionally and financially impacted by the disruptions to the supply chain and this pain will quickly spread across all parts of rural Iowa.

"It is also critical to ensure the health and safety of all the courageous people that work in our processing facilities. Their work is paramount to ensuring an on-going supply of safe and plentiful protein for consumers.

"We also want to thank Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, and our two U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, for reaching out to the President to share our message with him about the need for a coordinated effort to deal with this crisis."

President Trump Signs Order to Keep Beef Plants Operating

Today, President Trump signed an executive order that orders beef packing plants to remain open and employees in those plants to remain at work through the COVID-19 pandemic. The action taken by President Trump will help keep the beef supply chain intact, ensure beef remains available to consumers and ultimately provide the food that American consumers will need to reopen the nation.

"While there are currently no widespread shortages of beef, we are seeing supply chain disruptions because of plant closures and reductions in the processing speed at many, if not most, beef processing plants in the United States. We thank President Trump for his recognition of the problem and the action he has taken today to begin correcting it,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “American consumers rely on a safe, steady supply of food, and President Trump understands the importance of keeping cattle and beef moving to ensure agriculture continues to operate at a time when the nation needs it most.”

Protecting the flow of cattle through the supply chain was among the first priorities for NCBA at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The mounting problems facing cattle producers as the supply chain slowed, led NCBA to redouble its effort to keep cattle and beef moving. Today's action comes because of the association's work on behalf of the entire industry. NCBA's work on this topic is critical to reducing the damage being inflicted upon cattle producers who are unable to get cattle shipped or processed because of unprecedented supply chain interruptions.

“We understand and appreciate the difficulties facing processing plant workers during this crisis, said Woodall. “Processing plant employees play a role that is critical to the security of this nation and America’s cattle producers offer their sincere gratitude for the work they are doing to keep food shortages from compounding the complex issues we’re facing.”

North American Meat Institute: Executive Order Will Protect Against Meat Shortages

The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) today said President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to ensure the ongoing production of meat and poultry to feed Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.

“By keeping meat and poultry producers operating, the President's Executive Order will help avert hardship for agricultural producers and keep safe, affordable food on the tables of American families,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “The safety of the heroic men and women working in the meat and poultry industry is the first priority.  And as it is assured, facilities should be allowed to re-open. We are grateful to the President for acting to protect our nation’s food supply chain.”

The industry has and will continue to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance released Sunday. These measures include: testing, temperature checks, face coverings, social distancing of employees where possible and much more. To support employees many Meat Institute members are raising pay, offering bonuses, providing paid sick leave and increasing health benefits.

NPPC Statement on Implementation of Defense Production Act

President Trump last night invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to extend much-needed federal support to the U.S. pork production system. By triggering the DPA, the federal government will prioritize the continuity of pork processing plant operations. The following statement may be attributed to Howard "A.V." Roth, NPPC president and a producer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin.

"We are thankful for the support extended by our federal, state and local government leaders. As we all work together to protect workers and the nation's food supply, we need uniform and consistent solutions and all available resources to address this unprecedented crisis.  We thank President Trump for taking this step.

"We must safely stabilize the current plant capacity challenge and overcome other major hurdles facing the nation's pork production system, one that employs 550,000 workers and generates $23 billion in personal income across rural America. Hog values have plummeted to virtually zero and hog farmers are facing liquidation of their farms and other assets without immediate relief, including expanded financial aid without payment limitations.

"While getting pork packing plants back online is foundational, the tragic reality is that millions of hogs can't enter the food supply. We need coordinated partnership between the industry and federal, state and local authorities to euthanize pigs in an orderly, ethical and safe way."

USMEF Statement on Executive Order to Help Ensure Safe, Stable Meat Production

On April 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ensure that meat production can continue during the COVID-19 crisis. More details on the executive order are available in this White House fact sheet.

U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued the following statement:

The executive order will help ensure a steady, reliable supply of high-quality U.S. protein - not only for customers in the United States, but across the globe. The U.S. meat industry is already taking extraordinary steps to ensure worker safety, including COVID-19 testing, temperature checks, use of personal protective equipment and social distancing of employees. But further action is needed to stabilize our meat supply chain, and USMEF greatly appreciates the Trump administration's prioritization of safe and consistent meat production and processing during this difficult time. The executive order comes as welcome news not only to consumers but also to U.S. livestock producers, who have endured severe economic hardship as a result of this pandemic.

Lack of COVID protections threatens Nebraska workers, communities, food production

On Wednesday, April 29, Nebraska community advocates, food production workers, and public health organizations held a virtual press conference featuring Nebraska worker stories and perspectives. A letter was sent to Nebraska Governor Ricketts, urging him to address critical missing COVID-19 protections for meatpacking and poultry workers without delay. We must ensure workers, their families, and communities are safe, and food production can continue in Nebraska.

Nebraska food production worker:
“I have been working for 20 years. At home, we are all stressed. A coworker called me and said: "get tested, I tested positive and the only place I go is work." I went to the doctor and I am awaiting the results.

Although the company has taken some measures, with the way the work area is structured, it is difficult to keep our distance. There are many jobs where employees are working very closely and that closeness is what can infect us. Now there are quite a few employees who have the virus. At this time, going to work is a risk that we are facing every day.”

Among the protections in the letter, we urge Governor Ricketts to take swift action by:
-    Implementing 6-foot distancing between workers on the processing floor, not just in lunch and break areas.
-    Requiring paid sick leave, job protection, and shutdown pay so people can afford to stay home and monitor symptoms or care for family members with symptoms.
-    Requiring provision of appropriate protective equipment, including masks.
-    Ensuring transparency about cases connected to the workplace and information to employees in the languages most prevalent in each worksite.
-    Increasing inspections to guarantee worker safety and compliance with best practices.

Becky Gould, Executive Director, Nebraska Appleseed:
“As meatpacking plants in Nebraska become the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus outbreak, the struggles faced by the people working inside are apparent and alarming.

It’s time for Nebraska to get ahead and implement essential protections for essential workers, their families, and communities. By doing so, we can help slow the spread of the virus to protect all Nebraskans and ensure food production can continue safely in our state.”

Rose Godinez, Legal and Policy Counsel, ACLU of Nebraska:
“It’s one thing to say meatpacking plant workers are essential and appreciated; it’s another thing to show it. Nebraska’s essential workers are in critical need of paid leave, personal protective equipment, transparent information of positive COVID-19 cases, and accessible public health information which includes language equity, translation, and interpretation services so they can protect themselves and their families. Protecting workers protects our state. All Nebraskans face increased risk if essential workers go to work unprotected or because they can’t afford not to.”

Gladys Godinez, Community Organizer, Center for Rural Affairs:
“For the last month, we have worked side by side with meatpacking employees and their family members. We spoke to the son of an individual who works at Tyson Foods in Lexington, Nebraska. He asks for the following: 'Provide our essential meatpacking workers with paid leave, hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and free COVID-19 testing for employees and their families.' As meatpacking plants close throughout the country, facilities are becoming national hotspots for COVID-19. Companies, as well as state and federal governments, need to step up and offer their essential workers real and meaningful solutions to keep everyone safe and economically secure.”

Sergio Sosa, Executive Director, Heartland Workers Center:
“Meatpacking plants - big and small, union or non-union - need to understand that there is a life and family behind each worker considered an “essential employee,” many of whom are immigrants and refugees. If each and everyone of us does not do our part - in both our workplace and in the community - we will not only see a decline in our economy but also an increase in cases and likely deaths.”

Alexis Steele, Policy Staff Attorney, Immigrant Legal Center:
“Sixty-six percent of Nebraska’s meat-processing workers are immigrants, many of whom are unjustly denied access to unemployment benefits and not allowed to receive stimulus money through the most recent CARES Act. Immigrants are valued and essential members of our communities who pay state and federal taxes. We must enact safe and humane policies that value the dignity of every person in our state. Immigrants and all food-processing workers should not be forced to work under conditions that violate CDC public health guidelines and local public health directives.

The safety and well-being of our communities is directly correlated to how we treat immigrants and minorities. We must do better.”

Executive Order Ignores Well-Being of Workers, Farmers Union Says

Invoking the Defense Production Act, President Donald Trump announced today that he plans to sign an executive order requiring meat processing facilities to continue operating through the coronavirus pandemic. The order, which will designate such facilities as “critical infrastructure,” is expected to absolve the companies who own them from liability for illnesses or deaths among workers.

The decision follows the closure of more than a dozen plants due to coronavirus outbreaks. As a result, national meat processing capacity has fallen by 20 percent, costing family farmers and ranchers key markets and risking meat shortages at grocery stores. Though National Farmers Union (NFU) shares the president’s concerns around maintaining food system infrastructure, the organization is equally concerned with the health and wellbeing of meat plant employees, as NFU President Rob Larew emphasized in a statement:

“Meat processing facilities are critical for farmers’ livelihoods and national food security – something that has become especially clear as dozens of these plants have closed or slowed production in recent weeks. We are immensely worried about the financial implications for rural communities and the nutritional and economic implications for American consumers, and we sincerely appreciate efforts to address those issues.

“That being said, such efforts should not occur at the expense of meat plant workers. These workers work in close quarters and often lack access to appropriate protective equipment or paid sick leave, making them among the most vulnerable to coronavirus. More than 4,000 have tested positive for the virus, and at least 19 have died. Their health and lives are not an acceptable tradeoff for our meat supply, nor are these things mutually exclusive – we must find solutions that protect both.

“Most immediately, meat plant workers need personal protective equipment and other safeguards, access to testing and treatment, and paid sick leave. But in the longer-term, we need to completely rethink this economic model. Both the abuses that workers are enduring as well as the disruptions farmers and consumers are experiencing are a direct result of extreme consolidation in the meat industry. The good news is that the best mechanism to secure our food supply and protect workers is one and the same: antitrust enforcement. National Farmers Union has been calling for greater oversight for years, to little avail. We hope that this current crisis finally compels Congress and the administration to address the issue of market power in the agriculture industry and promote a diverse and resilient food system.”

Report: JBS, Smithfield Worst Slaughter Plants in US

Amid reports of COVID-19 outbreaks at the largest meat processors in the United States, a new analysis of government documents by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has found that, over a three-year span, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods had the worst animal welfare records among livestock slaughter plants. The Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, SD, had the largest number of animal welfare violations for a single plant, while JBS USA had the highest total by far for any meat company in the United States. In total, these seven JBS-owned plants had 132 incidents, including 18 violations classified as “egregious.”

AWI’s analysis focused on the number of humane handling incidents documented from 2016 through 2018, the most recent years for which data is available. Based on this metric, JBS, a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest meat producer and a majority owner of the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry brand, operates seven of the 10 worst large livestock slaughter plants in the country. In total, these seven JBS-owned plants had 132 incidents, including 18 violations classified as “egregious.” The violations included multiple incidents of failing to stun animals before shackling and hanging them to be dismembered, likely causing the animals excruciating pain. Rounding out the top 10 worst large plants was the Smithfield South Dakota plant (41 violations), a Tyson pork plant in Waterloo, IA (30 incidents), and a New Angus beef plant in Aberdeen, SD (21 incidents).

The three slaughter plants with the worst animal welfare records (the Smithfield South Dakota plant, the Tyson Iowa plant, and a JBS USA plant in Worthington, MN) have all indefinitely suspended operations due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among plant workers.

“We are not at all surprised to see a correlation between worker welfare and animal welfare at slaughter plants,” said Dena Jones, AWI farm animal program director. “In our experience, plants that don’t treat animals well often don’t treat workers well. It’s a reflection of management placing profits over the well-being of the living resources that make those profits possible.”

AWI’s conclusions are summarized in a new report, “Humane Slaughter Update: Federal and State Oversight of the Welfare of Farm Animals at Slaughter.” The report examines the enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act by federal and state departments of agriculture at more than 2,700 plants across the country that slaughter cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. (Poultry, which represent the vast majority of the approximately 9.6 billion land animals killed for food each year, are covered in other AWI reports and excluded from this analysis). This is AWI’s fourth comprehensive report since 2008 on the enforcement of humane slaughter laws at US livestock slaughter plants.

Data was obtained through public records requests to federal and state agriculture departments and from records posted on the USDA website. The USDA routinely delays releasing public records — for months, if not years — which poses a real risk to public health and compromises the humane treatment of animals. In 2018, AWI and Farm Sanctuary sued the USDA to compel the department to proactively post slaughter plant records. The lawsuit is pending.

Other key findings in the report:
·       Federal humane slaughter enforcement has remained relatively stable, while state enforcement continues to rise, but the level varies dramatically by state. For instance, nearly half of the states operating meat inspection programs have issued no plant suspensions for humane slaughter violations since at least 2002, when AWI began monitoring state enforcement. Louisiana has provided no evidence that it has issued any noncompliance records for humane slaughter violations in nearly two decades.

·       Repeat violators continue to present a major enforcement problem, though the USDA is taking stronger administrative actions, such as entering into consent orders with persistent violators, in the absence of criminal prosecution.

·       Federal and state inspection personnel continue to demonstrate unfamiliarity with humane slaughter enforcement rules, as evidenced by their failure to take appropriate enforcement actions, particularly in response to egregious violations. Egregious inhumane treatment includes dragging injured animals to slaughter, running them over with equipment, and skinning them alive.

·       Federal suspensions of slaughter plants have increased dramatically since 2008, following the largest beef recall in US history — spurred by video footage documenting workers at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in California abusing downed animals. Nevertheless, humane slaughter enforcement remains low in comparison to other aspects of food safety enforcement. Resources devoted to humane handling oversight at the federal level represent less than 3% of total funding for food safety inspections.

Among AWI’s recommendations:
·       The USDA and state agriculture departments must significantly increase funding for humane handling and slaughter enforcement. The USDA should more closely monitor state enforcement programs to verify that they are complying with the law.

·       To deter repeat violators, federal and state enforcement agencies must establish escalating penalties and, when necessary, pursue criminal animal cruelty charges.

·       The USDA must revise federal humane slaughter regulations, which have not been updated since 1979, to address the most common noncompliance issues at plants (e.g., faulty animal stunning devices and inadequate worker training).  

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday April 28 Ag News

LPP Announces Additional Cases of COVID-19

Lincoln Premium Poultry announced 9 additional cases of COVID-19 over the past week.  They last reported a total of six cases cases one week ago and as of today have also registered 26 negative cases among employees.

“We have been working tirelessly to obtain testing for any of our team members who either had a known direct contact or who show any symptoms” said Jessica Kolterman, Director of Corporate and External Affairs. “We have very much appreciated our relationship with Three Rivers Health and local medical facilities who have helped to test every team member who has wanted or needed a test.”

This brings the total number of confirmed cases at the company to fifteen.  Lincoln Premium Poultry has provided the opportunity for at-risk individuals to self-isolate at home, with pay.  Individuals who test positive as well as individuals with known direct contact with a person who has tested positive are also self-isolating at home with pay.

Lincoln Premium Poultry has implemented additional protection measures recommended by UNMC, including additional screening, strict mandatory use of masks, and additional deep cleaning.  The company had previously limited visitors to the facility, stopped food service and installed dividers on tables, provided further space between workers, implemented nightly intense cleaning interventions, is taking the temperature of all entering their facilities and had provided masks to their workforce.  They have also provided a $2/hour increase to all hourly workers, which began in March, and are providing chicken for their team members.  This virus is not foodborne and cannot be transmitted through food or potable water.

“We recognize that these numbers can be considered significant by some, but we have been extremely aggressive in fighting for tests for our team members,” said Kolterman, “which is why we believe we have seen these positives.  During the last group of mass testing in Fremont, 90% of those testing positive showed that their cases were from ‘close contacts previously lab-confirmed’. Because we have removed anyone that is positive from our facilities prior to their lab-positives, the data indicates most cases are from spread outside of our facility.”

Kolterman stated “We continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing at home as well as at work, the importance of mask use, hand washing, and other interventions.  We will keep working hard to communicate with our team members on ways we can work together to protect each other and our communities.”

Lincoln Premium Poultry was founded in 2016 in Fremont, Nebraska and began operations on September 9, 2019.

Groundwater Levels Reach an All-time High Following Floods

Thanks to an unusually wet 2019, groundwater levels in the Lower Loup Natural Resources District have reached all-time highs.  Following the record floods of the previous year, groundwater levels rose, on average, 1.82 feet.   In Platte County, where record water levels were recorded last spring, the overall average actually decreased, on average, at -0.31 feet.

NRD General Manager Russ Callan said that the NRD data comes from annual spring monitoring of groundwater levels, a practice done by NRDs since their formation in 1972.   Callan stated that NRD personnel have recorded groundwater levels at 444 sites and are also collecting long-term pressure transducers that record a reading every 8 hours.

He said that the groundwater level rises in 2019 and 2020 are notable, but said the past decade also includes significant declines, including the drought of 2012.  The drop in groundwater levels during that drought took over 5 years to recover in some places.  Additionally, Callan said that groundwater levels in the eastern portion of the lower Loup River Basin declined slightly this year when compared to Spring, 2019.

NRD Assistant Manager Tylr Naprstek said that many of the groundwater levels in the spring of 2020 were the highest readings ever recorded by the LLNRD, which began measurements in 1975. Despite the recovery, Naprstek stated that southern and western areas of the District had been seeing a longtime downward trend and only within the last 3 spring readings has the trend been broken. In other areas of the District, Naprstek stated that the trend has continued upward.

Naprstek said that the largest decline from the previous year’s reading was 3.62 feet located in Platte County, while the largest increase was 12.95 feet higher in eastern Nance County.

Callan said that the data from the NRD’s groundwater level monitoring and transducer report was available on the NRD web site,   

NCGA Welcomes Ethanol Infrastructure Legislation

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today welcomed the introduction of the Clean Fuels Deployment Act of 2020, legislation from Reps. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., to incentivize the deployment of fueling infrastructure for ethanol blends greater than 10 percent and biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent.

“The National Corn Growers Association appreciates the leadership of Reps. Finkenauer, Craig, Marshall and Bacon to help grow the market for higher blends of ethanol,” said NCGA President Kevin Ross, an Iowa farmer. “Expanding infrastructure for higher blends will help to increase future demand for farmers and ensure biofuels will continue to be included in federal efforts to provide consumers with cleaner, affordable fuels.”

The bill authorizes $500 million over five years to help retailers offer higher ethanol blends, expand the geographic area selling ethanol blends, support biodiesel fuel markets, and accelerate the deployment of fueling infrastructure. The legislation will work alongside the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to accelerate growth and open new economic opportunities for American farmers and biofuel producers. A vital market for corn farmers, ethanol producers have idled nearly half of their production capacity due to the fallout from COVID-19. Spurring new demand for higher ethanol blends will be an important part of an economic recovery for the ethanol industry and farmers, and this infrastructure deployment will help support that growth.

“The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) thanks Representative Abby Finkenauer for her work on the Clean Fuels Deployment Act that will expand long-term economic opportunities for farmers and biofuels producers,” said Kelly Nieuwenhuis farmer from Primghar, Iowa and chair of Iowa Corn’s Industrial Usage committee. “Additionally, this bill will allow consumers to have greater access to homegrown, cleaner-burning fuels.”

Growth Energy Praises House Bill to Boost Biofuel Infrastructure

Today, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor announced the association’s support of the Clean Fuels Deployment Act, introduced by biofuels champions and U.S. Representatives Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Angie Craig (D-Ill.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.). The legislation authorized $500 million over five years for the Department of Transportation to provide grants that will incentivize the deployment of fueling infrastructure for ethanol and biodiesel, with a focus on ethanol blends greater than 10 percent and biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent.

“The strong support of rural champions like Reps. Finkenauer, Marshall, Craig, and Bacon has never been more important, and we are grateful for their continued leadership on behalf of American farmers and biofuel producers,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “Through the original Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership grants and private fundraising, Growth Energy and Prime the Pump shattered the status quo and supported the installation of E15 at more than 2,000 retail locations. As we emerge from the COVID-19 downturn, this legislation offers a roadmap for the next wave of growth that will revitalize rural communities and expand cleaner, more affordable options at the pump for millions of American motorists. We urge House and Senate leaders to embrace this opportunity to support low-carbon biofuels and propel higher blends into the next decade.”

IDALS Assists Pork Producers Impacted by Meat Processing Plant Closures

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today announced several initiatives underway to assist Iowa pork producers impacted by meat processing plant closures related to COVID-19.

“The disruptions at the meat processing facilities have a ripple effect on the entire livestock industry and food supply chain,” said Secretary Naig. “We are working to get Iowa livestock producers the technical and financial resources they need as they look at all options to market and care for their animals.”

State-Level Resources Coordination Center

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has launched a Resources Coordination Center (RCC) to provide technical resources to pork producers impacted by meat processing plants that are running at limited capacity or have shut down.

The RCC brings public and private resources together to explore every option to help producers harvest livestock and meet the protein needs of Iowans. However, livestock farmers may need to explore euthanasia as a last resort to prevent animal welfare issues. Through the RCC, the Department is working with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to provide technical assistance to impacted pork producers. Additional details will be released in the coming days.

Coordination with USDA-APHIS

The Department last week requested technical and financial assistance from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The requested financial assistance would help livestock producers recover a portion of the euthanasia and disposal costs they may incur due to disruptions in the supply chain.

“We appreciate USDA’s announcement on Friday to launch a coordination center to help bring needed resources to the states,” said Secretary Naig. “We will continue to work with our federal partners to implement solutions that meet the needs of Iowa livestock producers.”

Webinar to Discuss Options for Carcass Disposal for Pork Producers

Over the last couple weeks, several pork processing plants have either been shut down or have reduced processing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the processing plants are focusing on getting themselves running again, pork producers are faced with near-term critical problems needing attention now.

In the current situation, pork slaughter capacity has become a limiting resource; and pork producers may be faced with an unfortunate situation of having to destroy what they have cared for and raised.

A webinar for the pork industry has been scheduled to understand potential options for emergency disposal of animal tissue for April 29 at 8 a.m. Six topics will be discussed:
    Environmentally sound disposal options.
    How compost works.
    Above-ground burial.
    Carbon feedstocks (types and amounts).
    Windrow construction (space requirements, design and layout).
    Windrow management and troubleshooting.

Presenting during the webinar will be Mark Hutchinson, extension educator with the University of Maine; Gary Flory, agricultural program manager with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; and Craig Williams, dairy team educator with Penn State Extension. There will also be opportunities to ask questions of presenters.

Interested participants must pre-register Viewing details will be sent to the registered participants prior to the webinar.

The webinar is being sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

NCFC on Invocation of the Defense Production Act for Meat Processing

President Chuck Conner

“The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives would like to commend the Trump Administration for invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to keep meat processing facilities across the country open during this crisis. Protecting our country’s food supply is a key national security issue—making sure Americans have access to enough food has been a priority of our government since the founding. The situation faced by meat processors is unprecedented and without action today, there is a very real threat of severe disruptions to the food supply chain. In addition, inaction will have impacts far into the future, as the inability to sell the animals they have raised and fed threatens the financial viability of farmers and ranchers across the U.S.

“The Department of Homeland Security recognized the importance of the food supply chain in declaring its workers as essential employees in their recent guidance on responding to the pandemic. In addition, recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if followed, will help to protect workers at meat processing plants and reduce the chance of transmission of the virus.

“Having lived through the BSE crisis while at USDA and having had to make some tough calls at that time, I know that today’s decision, while necessary, was not easy. In the days ahead, there will be more hard choices to be made. NCFC and our co-op members remain committed to doing everything within our abilities to protect our food supply and ensure the viability of our farmers and ranchers.”

NCBA Applauds Bipartisan Senate Effort to Provide Flexibility to Livestock Haulers

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director, Government Affairs, Allison Rivera, today released the following statement in response to a bipartisan letter from 24 U.S. Senators to U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) --

"Now more than ever, we can see how vitally important it is for haulers to have the flexibility they need to get live and perishable goods to market as quickly and as safely as possible. Hauling livestock is inherently different than hauling typical consumer goods, and we continue to look for flexibilities within Hours of Service to safely haul livestock around this country. As we look toward an infrastructure package we are grateful for the continued support on Hours of Service flexibilities."

Midwest Dairy Donates $500,000 to Food Banks

On behalf of 6,500 dairy farm families across the Midwest, Midwest Dairy announced they will donate $500,000 to food banks in the Midwest to purchase dairy products for people who are in need. The contributions will be spread across the 10 states Midwest Dairy represents, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, to help meet the increased demand for dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food banks across the region have been seeing unprecedented need in recent weeks, setting records of daily and weekly food distribution and showcasing the urgency of finding resourceful ways to provide more food to those experiencing food insecurity. With unemployment numbers still climbing and schools – where many children receive the majority of their daily meals – continuing to be closed, the demand is expected to continue growing.

“Dairy farmers work tirelessly day in and day out to help feed the world, so this tremendous contribution puts our values in action to help our hungry neighbors,” said Allen Merrill, Midwest Dairy Corporate board chairman and a dairy farmer from Parker, South Dakota. “As a farmer and Midwest Dairy leader, I am proud of our work to make this donation possible to provide dairy products to people who otherwise may not have access to these nutrients during this challenging time.”

Though dairy checkoff funds cannot typically be used to purchase dairy products, the USDA has granted a one-time exception at the request of Midwest Dairy to help meet this need and get dairy into the hands of people who are food insecure. Midwest Dairy is partnering with dairy processors to determine what products they have available and then will provide a list of interested processors to food banks that have both a need and the capacity to increase their dairy inventory and distribution.

“During this extraordinarily challenging time, food banks throughout the Midwest, including the eight Feeding America food banks and their local networks of community agencies that serve Illinois, are working relentlessly to ensure that nobody in local communities goes hungry,” said Steve Ericson, executive director for Feeding Illinois. “The need for nutritious foods, such as dairy, is growing exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects. Thank you to Midwest Dairy and dairy farmers for leading this effort to access additional dairy products to help residents in need across our state and region. This donation will make an immediate impact.”

This program also offers processors an opportunity to keep their supply chains active while navigating dairy demand shifts due to recent school, restaurant and other business closures. The following cooperatives and processors have been invited to participate in the program: Agropur, AMPI, Anderson Erickson Dairy, Bel Brands, Bongards, Cass Clay, Dairy Farmers of America, Dean Foods, First District Association, Hiland, KanPak, Kemps, Land O’Lakes, Midwest Dairymen, Plainview Milk Products/Hastings, Prairie Farms, Valley Queen and Wapsie Valley.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to partner with Midwest Dairy and interested regional food banks to bring dairy products to people in need throughout our communities,” said Steve Schlangen, chairman of the board of directors for dairy farmer-owned processing cooperative Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) of New Ulm, Minn., and a dairy farmer from Albany, Minn. “This effort helps ensure the milk dairy farmers work so hard to produce continues to move through the supply chain and into the hands of those who need it.”

USDA Dairy Product 2019 Production Report

Total cheese production, excluding cottage cheeses, was 13.1 billion pounds, 0.8 percent above 2018 production. Wisconsin was the leading State with 25.6 percent of the production.

Italian varieties, with 5.67 billion pounds was 1.8 percent above 2018 production and accounted for 43.2 percent of total cheese in 2019. Mozzarella accounted for 79.3 percent of the Italian production followed by Parmesan with 7.3 percent and Provolone with 6.8 percent. Wisconsin was the leading State in Italian cheese production with 30.0 percent of the production.

American type cheese production was 5.23 billion pounds, 0.4 percent below 2018 and accounted for 39.8 percent of total cheese in 2019. Wisconsin was the leading State in American type cheese production with 19.2 percent of the production.

Butter production in the United States during 2019 totaled 1.99 billion pounds, 1.3 percent above 2018. California was the leading state in Butter production with 29.8 percent of the production.

Dry milk powders (2019 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2018)
Nonfat dry milk, human - 1.85 billion pounds, up 4.1 percent.
Skim milk powders - 573 million pounds, up 2.2 percent.

Whey products (2019 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2018)
Dry whey, total - 978 million pounds, down 2.2 percent.
Lactose, human and animal - 1.23 billion pounds, up 6.0 percent.
Whey protein concentrate, total - 491 million pounds, down 4.5 percent.

Frozen products (2019 United States production, comparisons in percentage with 2018)
Ice cream, Regular (total) - 861 million gallons, up 1.1 percent.
Ice cream, Lowfat (total) - 465 million gallons, up 1.0 percent.
Sherbet (total) - 42.7 million gallons, up 11.6 percent.
Frozen Yogurt (total) - 62.1 million gallons, up 12.8 percent.

Organic Outlook: Corn, wheat face supply glut; soy market expected to remain strong

Larger-than-expected beginning stocks and more harvested acres have placed organic corn and wheat on a bearish trend over the 2019/20 market year, according to the new Mercaris Organic Commodity Outlook. Meanwhile, strong demand and lower imports have provided support to organic soybeans markets.

Mercaris, the nation’s leading market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO and certified agricultural commodities, today released its spring outlook.

Despite poor planting and harvest conditions in 2019, additional certified corn and wheat farms helped push harvests above previous estimates. In addition, corn imports rose sharply at the end of the 2018/19 market year, 12% above projections.

“Feed-grade organic corn prices have experienced a lot of pressure since last August, as harvest exceeded the industry’s expectation,” said Ryan Koory, Director of Economics for Mercaris. “With buyers expecting tighter 2019/20 supplies, a lot of organic corn was imported and stored at the end of 2018/19 putting corn markets in a perpetually long supply position this year.”

For organic soybeans, a collapse in imports from China and a reduction from Canada and the Black Sea Region point to supply constraints and higher prices.

“With China and the Black Sea Region sending less organic soybean meal to the U.S., domestic organic soybean crush has picked up the slack, tightening the overall U.S. soybean supply situation,” Koory said. “We may see this pressure back off this fall if we experience a good organic soybean harvest. But, through the remainder of 2019/20 organic soybean prices look firmly supported.”

Additional findings from today’s report include:
-    U.S. organic corn production is estimated at 39.7 million bushels for 2019/20, up 9% from the previous outlook but still down 4% year-over-year.
-    Organic soybean production is estimated at 7.6 million bushels, also up 9% from the previous outlook, but down 4% year-over-year.
-    Organic feed demand is projected at 31 million bushels, with organic wheat and organic corn silage making up a growing percentage of overall feed.
-    Organic wheat production saw a 15% year-over-year increase in 2019 at 20 million bushels, driven mostly by an increase in acres in the High Plains.

Shifting Priorities: COVID-19 and the New Face of Sustainability

In the midst of COVID-19, new sustainability priorities are emerging. Focus on health and safety is first and foremost. Packaging and single-use plastics are less of a concern as convenience, necessity and safety drive a dramatic spike in take-out and home deliveries. Worker health and safety is front and center with a focus on essential workers – doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, food production line workers, and the like. How will shifting priorities continue to shape the sustainability landscape now and as the pandemic subsides?

“When it comes to environmentalism, in particular, I think a lot of people are putting it on the back burner,” said Kevin Ryan, founder of Malachite Strategy and Research and a founding member of The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) Consumer Trust Insights Council. “We can only handle one big crisis at a time, but I think the issue might come back with a sharper edge.”  

Ryan is a featured panelist on a free webcast “Shifting Priorities: COVID-19 and the New Face of Sustainability,” Thursday, May 14, 11 a.m. CDT. Hosted by CFI CEO Charlie Arnot, the webcast also includes Ujwal Arkalgud, an award-winning cultural anthropologist, co-founder of MotivBase and a member of the CFI Consumer Trust Insights Council.

“For the first time now we're seeing a change,” said Arkalgud, who points to the entry of issues around the labor force and, in particular, being responsible toward wealth inequalities that exist. “We’ve seen specific discussions among consumers about everything from ensuring companies pay a living wage to providing full sick pay, generous health care benefits and job training programs to support workers who may face loss due to automation in the post-coronavirus world.”

The webcast will cover current shifts in sustainability, the potential increase in sustainability demands post-pandemic, the new non-negotiables for food companies and brands moving forward and an approach for navigating sustainability tradeoffs and making values-based decisions that are truly sustainable.  

“With so much at stake, the food system must cautiously consider tradeoffs before caving to demands that are deemed sustainable, but may fall short and stifle the technology and innovation that’s truly helping produce more food, more sustainably,” said Arnot. “Dedicate the resources necessary to make decisions that result in real sustainability and that you can confidently stand behind for the long-term.”

Register at The webcast is funded by the United Soybean Board.

Radicle Growth and Syngenta Launch The Radicle Protein Challenge by Syngenta to Invest $1.25m in Technologies to Support the Future of Protein

Radicle Growth, an acceleration fund, and Syngenta, a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security, today announced the launch of The Radicle Protein Challenge by Syngenta. Together, Radicle and Syngenta will identify two companies with novel solutions to support the future of protein (which could include new or experimental protein sources, or protein conversion technologies) that are solving challenges spanning from plant-based ag to the regenerative side of agriculture.

Radicle and Syngenta are seeking entrepreneurs representing companies of all stages from around the world to apply for the $1.25 million in investment—$1 million for the Challenge winner and the $250k for the second-place winner—to accelerate the growth of their technologies. Applications are open through May 29, 2020. The winners will not only receive a significant investment and custom accelerator program from Radicle Growth but will have access to Radicle and Syngenta’s broad agriculture expertise and global agtech networks to advance and promote their technology.

“Innovative protein sources are increasingly important for a growing population. We are excited to be collaborating with Radicle and entrepreneurs from around the world to accelerate innovation and I am looking forward to seeing lots of creative ideas,” said Erik Fyrwald, CEO, Syngenta. “Our mission at Syngenta of helping farmers to make the best use of available resources and grow the crops we need in an environmentally friendly and healthy way, includes providing them with the best products, technologies and agronomic advice.”

After entries close, several months of due diligence work will begin and 4-6 finalists will be identified from the pool of applicants. The finalists will participate in a Pitch Day competition this Fall. Each company will have the opportunity to present in front of a leading panel of judges, including Erik Fyrwald, who will deliberate and select the two winners.

“Recent Gallup data confirms that nearly a quarter of Americans are eating less meat than ever before. This has increased the demand for plant-based and cellular agriculture alternatives to traditional protein sources,” said Kirk Haney, Managing Partner of Radicle Growth. “Many companies focused on this space have been hard at work with plans to launch in the near-term. Getting the product right to meet consumer demand is only half the battle, the pricing also needs to be right. We look forward to seeing the companies emerging in, and looking to grow, in this space and providing them the capital they need to overcome the challenges of growing this segment and staying ahead of consumer demands.”

For more information on The Radicle Protein Challenge by Syngenta, visit